First Short Horror Film: The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)

Often credited with inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison also produced the world’s first short horror film, The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. This very short work — which is only about 17 seconds — was directed by Alfred Clark and depicts exactly what you’d expect.

“Mary” (Robert Thomae, secretary and treasurer of the Kinetoscope Company) is blindfolded and led to the executioner’s block. The executioner’s hand is raised, which (apparently) magically transforms Mary’s body into a mannequin. The ax blade is then forcefully dropped, severing the supposed head from the body. In little time at all, the executioner lifts Mary’s head up and displays it for us, in a monumental Kodak moment.

While not the scariest scene ever filmed, it would have certainly shocked audiences of its day — assuming more than a few people saw it back then. It is also considered the first use of professional actors on film, and features the first film editing effect (replacing the actor with a dummy).

Modern horror audiences might lament the lack of blood flow, but they should remember that decapitated heads didn’t bleed in the 1500s, so the film was quite historically accurate. It’s true! Human heads just popped right off like doll heads and didn’t create any mess (other than confetti, which was not depicted in this film due to time and budgetary constraints). It wasn’t like the stupid decapitated heads of today, which require at least a bucket and a mop to clean up after.

Finally, I urge you to try something: Late at night, get into your bathroom, or any dark room with a mirror next to a light switch. When you feel ready, turn off the lights while facing the mirror and chant “Mary, Queen of Scots” 3 times. Then quickly switch the light back on. You should see Thomas Edison standing behind you, pointing up to the light bulb and moaning “I invented that,” before an ax is swung into your neck. When police respond to calls about your blood-curdling scream, they’ll be baffled to find nothing but a life-sized doll in your place, missing a head but with confetti strewn about the floor. History does repeat itself.

Go ahead. I dare you to try this. You have been warned, therefore we are not liable for anything that may happen if you dare whisper those words.

About wadewainio

Wade is a wannabe artist and musician (operating under the moniker Grandpa Helicopter), and an occasional radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton. He is an occasional writer for Undead Walking, and also makes up various blogs of his own. He even has a few books in the works. Then again, doesn't everyone?

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