The First Horror Movie Was Made In 1896

By Karen Harris
The early French cinematographer Georges Melies playing the role of a magician with a female assistant. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

It's easy to forget just how old movies are as an art form, and that goes double for horror movies. The genre relies so heavily on modern special effects that it might seem like it couldn't have existed before their advent, but horror did not begin with Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. It all started with a mostly forgotten clip called Le Manoir Du Diable, produced by Georges Méliès, which dates all the way back to 1896.

Georges Méliès

Paris-born Georges Méliès was trained in stage design, play writing, and puppetry from childhood. After becoming a successful businessman, he purchased his own theater and devoted himself to the entertainment business just as those there "moving pictures" were growing in popularity. Unsatisfied with merely screening others' movies, he soon bought a camera and got down to the business we call show.

With his background in theater and stage design, Méliès understood the limitations of live theater and the exciting possibilities of film, experimenting with different techniques to create special effects. One of his most important findings was the result of his camera jamming, which caused objects on the film to appear and vanish. Méliès replicated the effect to produce ghostly images in films of the newfound horror genre, of which Le Manoir Du Diable was the first.