Once Upon a Dream is a nighttime pamper routine series where each post will center around a different theme/location. For some posts, we may will escape to a dreamy night in Paris, others, a quiet evening walk through an woodland forest. My goal for this series is to give you different ways to relax and wind down while feeling like you've traveled without even having to leave your bedroom. Thanks for checking out this edition of Once Upon a Dream!
“Ghosts are real, this much I know...”
With this edition of Once Upon a Dream, we are switching gears completely! Outside of my love for fairytales and Parisian aesthetics, I am also intrigued by all things dark romanticism and dark Victorian. Since I love dark historical aesthetics, it’s no surprise that I instantly felt drawn to the film Crimson Peak, the dark Victorian movie of my dreams! If you haven’t heard of Crimson Peak, it’s a gothic horror film about a woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) who marries a charming but mysterious man (Tom Hiddleston) and moves into his dark, gothic manor. It’s clear that there is something dark going on in her new home, and Edith, who can communicate with ghosts, must find out the truth behind her husband’s mysterious family.
Though it doesn’t match the theme of this blog, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire Once Upon a Dream post to the gothic Victorian aesthetic, mainly inspired by Crimson Peak. Whether you are a governess of a dark manor who gets caught up in a dangerous curse, a wailing spirit left to wander the dark halls for all of eternity, or simply someone who is fascinated by all things strange and sublime, this post will help you escape to a darker, stranger time for the night.
Step One: Light The Halls Of Your Haunted Manor
There’s a reason we feel safer in the light; most hauntings happen in the dark. Whether or not the light actually keeps the spirits at bay, any added light and warmth will be much appreciated in your cold and drafty manor. Here are the candles that I recommend:
Spireside Candles: Ghostly Castle
According to the reviews, this candle smells like an actual haunted castle. I myself have never been to a haunted castle so I have nothing to compare it to, but I do own this candle and it smells exactly as I’d imagine a haunted castle would smell like.
The Darkling: Wick and Fable
This candle is actually based on a character from a dark fantasy young adult novel, but it’s perfect for this night routine. This candle is described as smelling of “darkness” and “moonlight”.
Yankee Candle: Midnight Jasmine
This is the sweetest, scent of the bunch, so if you want something more floral, this is your best bet!
Step Two: Channel Your Inner Edith Cushing
If you’ve ever seen Crimson Peak, you’ll know that Edith wanders the dark halls of the manor in a long, flowing, white chemise. So of course, you’ll need a chemise of your own!
To purchase a chemise or any sort of old timey type clothing, your best bet is usually Etsy. That is where I purchased my medieval chemise, and it’s my favorite thing to wear to bed on chilly autumn nights because it’s so long and thick. Here are a couple screenshots of the chemise I purchased:
Unfortunately, I purchased this a couple of years ago so this seller no longer sells on Etsy. Though you can’t get this exact chemise anymore, there are other options on Etsy. Just search “white chemise” or “medieval chemise” and you’ll find plenty of other sellers.
Step Three: Make Your Own Magic Potions
During this part of a Once Upon a Dream post, I typically list some teas that fit the theme. This time, I am doing something a bit different by giving you the ingredients you’ll need to make a “magic potion”.
*These drinks will be alcoholic but I’ll discuss some nonalcoholic alternatives as well, for underage readers
The main ingredient that you’ll need is Viniq, which will be the base of your drink. When making “magic potions”, Viniq is key! If you’re not familiar with this sparkly concoction, it’s a shimmery, glittery liqueur that makes pretty glitter swirls when you shake the bottle.
*If you are underage, replace the Viniq with a juice or soda of your choice, and stir in some edible glitter for the same sparkly potion effect.
You can get different colors/flavors of Viniq. My personal favorite is red, which is perfect if you want to make a blood red “magic potion”. The purple liquor would also work well!
From then on, you can choose to add whatever you’d like to your Viniq. Get creative with it! Here are some things that you could add:
Apple juice (for a “poison apple” drink)
Don’t be afraid to mix and match by adding more than one of the ingredients on this list. Here are some drink ideas I’ve come up with:
Sparkly Spiked Shirley Temple
Mix equal parts ginger ale or Sprite with red (cherry flavored) Viniq, along with some grenadine syrup. It tastes just like a spiked Shirley Temple, but better because the drink will have a magical, sparkly appearance!
*for a non alcoholic alternative, just use Srite and grenadine syrup. Add edible glitter for the sparkle effect
Essence of Poison Apple
Mix a couple ounces of sour apple schnapps with equal parts apple juice and red Viniq. It tastes like apple juice, but with a kick!
*for a nonalcoholic alternative, replace the Viniq and Apple schnapps with fruit punch. Add edible glitter for the sparkle effect
Inspired by everyone’s favorite Disney villain!
Mix equal parts cranberry juice and purple Viniq. Add a couple shots of raspberry vodka to the mixture.
*for a nonalcoholic alternative, replace the Viniq and vodka with grape juice. Add edible glitter for the sparkle effect
Step Four: Settle In with a Haunting Movie
Now that you’re lounging in your nightgown and sipping on your magic potion, why not settle in with a creepy film? Turn out the lights, light your candles, and get cozy. Here are my recommendations:
This one is a given, and the most obvious since the entire blog post is based around this movie. If all else fails, you could always just watch Crimson Peak, a classic! If you haven’t seen it yet but you’re reading this blog post because you love dark Victorian horror, then now is your chance!
Picnic At Hanging Rock
This next movie is a strange one. It isn’t gothic exactly, but I included it because it is a historical film and is definitely creepy. This movie is about schoolgirls in the early 1900s who venture off during an outing to Hanging Rock, but things turn strange once the girls and one of the teachers disappear.
I included this because this movie does have a bizarre and creepy tone to it, but it’s also really slow and confusing. It also dances around the conflict but never gives any straight answers. If you’re ok with not getting all the answers in the end and you enjoy bizarre, arthouse type films, give this a try.
The Others is about a woman who is caring for her two children who have a rare disease that causes them to be harmed by sunlight. This movie takes place in World War II, so the woman is waiting for her husband to return from the war front. Meanwhile, strange things start to occur around the house, including appearance of apparitions.
If you’ve heard of this movie, then you might already know that what this movie is mainly known for is its twist ending. I don’t know if it’s from reading too much horror or mysteries, but I saw the ending coming from the very beginning. However, people who go into the movie blind seem to generally be shocked by the twist, so you might enjoy this one as well!
If you want something a bit lighter, then this movie will be perfect. The Addams Family are everyone’s favorite macabre and unusual family! This movie about a family with dark and ghastly interests has a humorous and whimsical undertone to it. Though the reasoning behind their macabre lifestyle is not given an explanation (other than that it seems to be inherited), their personalities are entertaining and infectious. This movie will always be a classic and one of my favorites.
Step Five: Wind Down with Gothic Fiction
I absolutely adore dark, historical horror. Horror in general is one of my favorite genres to read (after fairytales of course). For this post, I’ve decided to skip the more obvious classics that you’d probably expect (such as Frankenstein) and instead, I will suggest some dark, otherworldly fiction that you may not have heard of.
Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire
All of the children at Eleanor West’s boarding school have something in common: they have all stumbled into a magical land and are having difficulty recuperating being returned to the real world. These accidental stumbles into a magical land can happen various ways, whether it’s from climbing too deep into the shadows under a bed or stumbling into a shadowy corner. Sometimes, these children will find a door, and if they choose to enter, they will find themselves in a mysterious and usually dark, land. These magical lands can be anything from the halls of the dead to a dark and bloody land of vampires and mad scientists. Just as these children accidentally stumble upon these lands, sometimes, they can stumble right back into the real world.
Our main character Nancy is the newest arrival to Eleanor West’s school. Some of the children who have returned from their fantasy land are traumatized by their experience and would like nothing more than to forget it ever happened. Nancy is not one of them. Like many of the other students, she would do anything to be returned to the underworld, where she served the Lord of the Dead. When one of the students ends up murdered, the students must get down to the bottom of it.
This little novella is a quick read, perfect to read in one sitting before bed. The book is creepy, bloody, and full of magic. If you enjoy this one, there are three sequels for you to pick up next, which I also highly recommend. This first book is actually my least favorite of them all, which proves that these books get better and better as you go on!
We Have Always Lived At The Castle by Shirley Jackson
I know I said that I was gonna avoid the obvious in this post, but this book is the one classic that I just had to mention. Shirley Jackson’s gothic fiction is legendary. The Haunting of Hill House is another great one, but We Have Always Lived At The Castle will always be my favorite.
There used to be 7 Blackwoods, but after that fateful night where the sugar bowl was laced with arsenic, only 3 Blackwoods remain living. What happened that night, and who is the culprit?
And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich
Rotting in your skin
Rotting in your mind
You are rotting in this house
In this house you’ll die
Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s manor, where something clearly is very wrong. Who is the tall man with no eyes in their basement, and is it their imaginations, or are the woods creeping closer and closer to the house each day?
This book is titled “The Creeper Man” in the UK, but they are both the same book despite the differing titles.
Don’t ever discount horror just because it’s YA! From my experience as a reader, I actually prefer YA horror over adult horror. There’s no fluff or slow buildup; it just jumps straight to the scares. My experience with adult horror novels have mainly been extremely long, slow, and generic reads. This YA horror novel is one of my absolute favorites, and unlike the majority of horror I’ve read, yes, this book is actually legitimately scary!
If you don’t like tension, then this book isn’t for you. From the very beginning, that sense of foreboding does not disappear and there is no relief from it until you reach the end. There is no slow buildup, and no respite from the bleak, tense, uneasy feeling you’ll have while reading this. My only complaint is when that level of tension starts that early on, you start to get too used to the feeling of uneasiness. However, I much prefer that over a slow and boring buildup, and it just makes this book that much more engaging. Give this book a try if you like reading horror; the ending will blow your mind!
Step Six: Wind Down With Unsettling Music
The perfect way to end your night is to listen to dark, unsettling music. I personally love listening to dark music before bed, whether it’s dark indie or horror movie scores. If you don’t know where to start or where to find that kind of music, I’ve got you covered.
Here is a link to one of my absolute favorite Spotify playlists that I’ve made, called Good Night, Sleep Well. This is actually one of the first playlists I’ve ever made, and is geared towards creepy, haunting music to help you wind down before bed.
If you want to find some songs to make your own dark indie playlist, here are the artists I recommend:
Even though this post was different from the girly/fairytale posts I usually do, I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless! I’m starting to run out of ideas for this series, so comment below if you have any requests that you would like to see for the next edition of Once Upon A Dream.
Now, it’s time to settle in for an uneasy, fitful sleep. Good night, sleep well.