Goth Night. Photo courtesy Danica Avińa.

Subcultures are inherently a part of how we relate to one another. Broadly defined, a subculture is made up of a group of people that have beliefs or interests veering away from the larger culture they are already a part of. Often, a subculture is seen as a rebellion to the mainstream culture

Take Humboldt’s goth scene.

The goth subculture emerged from the New York punk rock scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rumor has it that goth culture landed in Humboldt County somewhere in the 1990s, but it is tough to say precisely when. Regardless of when goth made it to Humboldt, there is a pattern that keeps it alive and it goes like this — there is no goth scene, goths start to find each other, some of them start holding local goth events, then something stops the goth scene. Repeat.

The interesting part of all this is that goth people are always here. The thing that changes is whether or not spaces are opened up to goth events. With each iteration, the goth scene is reborn with the same soul but a different personality.

Some of the earlier public gatherings of the goth community began with Marjhani BellaMorte. BellaMorte, 48, moved to Humboldt County in 2008 to help some friends with the opening of a tattoo studio in Arcata but it was in 2009 when she began to meet more goths like herself. They would meet at the Greenwood Cemetery in Arcata to hang out, listen to music and drink wine, all while being goth.

In 2011, BellaMorte decided to take it a step further. She wanted more gothiness. At first Bella Morte approached a few places to see if it was even possible to hold an event, but was met with resistance. So instead, this small group of goths started what was called Weirdo Wednesdays, where they would take over the Alibi in Arcata.

“They really didn’t want to support anything goth so we just showed up in our gothy goodness with 40 bucks and took over the jukebox,” BellaMorte said.

Marjhani BellaMorte dancing at Club Deliverence. Photo courtesy BellaMorte.

Weirdo Wednesdays consistently saw about 10-16 people every week, and it lasted for approximately five months. There were attempts to do something similar at The Shanty in Eureka, but the turnout was not enough. Soon after, The Jambalaya in Arcata let the goths hold a monthly goth night. They called it Club Deliverence.

BellaMorte would decorate the interior walls and tables to transform The Jam into a goth club. This all lasted roughly four to five months before some changes at The Jam forcibly stopped Club Deliverence.

After that, the club found a new home at the Nocturnum Nightclub in Eureka. Within only two months in this new home, the Nocturnum Nightclub permanently closed its doors and Club Deliverence died with it.

BellaMorte kept goth alive as long as she could while her career as a professional belly dancer was taking off. She created a gothic dark fusion style of belly dancing and began teaching it internationally. That, coupled with her son graduating high school in 2014, led to her decision to move back to SoCal.

The goth scene didn’t end with BellaMorte. It pivoted into the hands of a young man named Ian, and he held a goth event over at Siren’s Song Tavern in Eureka. Twenty-one years old at the time, Ian held the ranks for a few years while he went to school. By the time he was done with school — roughly 2016 or 2017 — he decided to move away and to another local goth scene. This reporter attempted to get in contact with Ian but was unable to reach him for comment.

Jovanah Martinez-Hoboo, 47, also known by her DJ name Dastbunny, inherited goth night and kept it going for four years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, at which point, of course, everything stopped.

“We tried to have it online but we realized that we weren’t gathering anybody new, so I decided to stop,” Martinez-Hoboo said. “Then, in the middle of the pandemic, I saw a flier for Danica and Jamie’s Goth Night and was so excited to see new baby bats coming out!”

That is when Jamie Cocking, also known as fauxvelvet, had a plan to start a goth night at the Richard’s Goat Tavern. She saw the need for a goth night and put out a flier inviting people to show up, listen to her playlist and dance the night away. At this point, Danica Avińa, 32, caught wind of Cocking’s flier and immediately contacted her. Avińa was starting out as a DJ and she already had a setlist she wanted to perform. Cocking agreed and next thing they knew, they were partnering together for regularly scheduled goth nights at The Goat.

Each Goth Night Arcata has its own theme and everyone involved brings their aesthetic and creative talents to put together an event full of life. Avińa has the creative direction on how they will advertise. She sets up photoshoots with herself and Cocking in full goth dress and leans heavily into the theme they have chosen. They also have a light technician that sets the ambiance and tone during the event.

“We were surprised to see so many goths come out of nowhere after just the first night,” Avińa said. “Some people say we’ve already outgrown The Goat but we don’t intend on hosting anywhere else.”

Cocking has since moved away to San Diego, but still returns to Humboldt just to co-host Goth Night Arcata. Avińa and Cocking’s collaboration continues and they regularly post to their gothnightarcata Instagram account.

Another goth in the ranks is Gini Noggle, 49. Also known as Outlaw Jamie B on the stage, Noggle moved it to Humboldt in 1991. She quickly integrated into the community through the local production of the Rocky Horror picture show at the Arcata Theater Lounge and after a year or so, she began to organize it. She took part in the local haunted houses every halloween and made the effort to be a part of the fringe goths existing here. Over the years Noggle has used her networking skills to help with all manner of local events, starting troops of burlesque performers, and generally holding spaces for people to enjoy themselves.

Scenesters at last year’s World Goth Day event at the Old Steeple. Photo: Susan Kent.

Then in 2021, Noggle had the idea to celebrate World Goth Day at the Old Steeple in Ferndale.

“It’s the perfect place for an event like this, it’s an old gothic architecture church next door to a cemetery and it’s historical,” said Noggle.

The event took place last year and the turnout was approximately 500 people, including vendors and their plus ones. This year, Goth Day Revisited is an eight-hour event and it is suitable for all ages. There are two important elements to this event that distinguish it from most goth nights in the past: The fact that this event is all-ages friendly, and takes place all day to include anyone and everyone in the community at large.

“Parents that came with their kids and teenagers were thanking our people at the doors,” Noggle said. “I heard things like, ‘I feel like I understand my kid better’ and ‘I haven’t seen my kid this happy in months’.”

Goths are often mischaracterized as abrasive, scary, and sometimes even violent. The reality is that they are kind, inclusive and accepting. They are also protective and in some ways introverted, especially in Humboldt.

Goth communities have historically been made up of people of color, queer people, and anyone else who sees themselves as an outcast. Although being goth means different things to different people, goth is often associated with things having a dark and macabre theme.

Goth music is not limited to one genre. There is goth rock, post-punk, industrial and pretty much anything that has a dark and brooding sound. Most recently, the scene here has a mixture of darkwave, synthwave and death rock. Then there is goth fashion, often characterized by black clothing, leather, lace, and other dramatic styles.

While all of these things help tie the goth subculture together, many goths embrace individuality and uniqueness. Goths may express themselves in a variety of ways that might not fit the traditional mold that we perceive to be goth. Lots of sub-categories exist within the goth umbrella that play with the general dark theme but they can still be distinguished from one another. Some examples include dark steampunk, goth cottagecore, gothabilly, fetish goth and the list goes on.

Ellie Abate, 31, is a local goth that never misses an opportunity on the scene. Often donning the fashion elements mentioned earlier, she sums up what it takes to be a goth regardless of whether you fall into a subcategory or not.

“There isn’t a uniform, just come as you are. If you’re interested in understanding the beauty that exists in the darkness or just want to be around wonderful people, just show up.”

Being goth in Humboldt County is also about finding a sense of belonging and acceptance. While the area is generally progressive and open-minded, there are still many parts where goths may face discrimination or stigma. With that said, goths have been here and it looks like they are never leaving. Even when they do.

Goths of yore. Photo courtesy Marjhani BellaMorte.