Haunted Houses: Why they’re still scary, even after being done a million times.
I’m pretty sure that everyone who enjoys reading horror novels is a fan of haunted houses as well. I mean, they’re just fun right? Fun and really, really scary. Because they’re a bit closer to home than the old ax-murderer tale or the story about the old woman who enjoyed snacking on young children’s bones or the one about a hundred year old grandmother actually sucking her grandchild’s soul right out of his body because he happened to yawn in front of her as she was dying – that is an old superstition where I come from, and I’m pretty sure it could actually happen. Some old ladies are just plain mean.
So what is it about haunted houses that they manage to scare us approximately ten times more than the local serial killer legend or the thought that your ex-best friend who is acting all weird and anti-social right now is in fact a zombie? I mean, serial killers are nasty business, and it’s not nice when your friends turn into zombies, but on the scare-level, that’s all pretty low level. Trust me that neither of those are going to freak me out while I’m curled up on my couch reading about them in the latest horror book I got my hands on. But if it mentions ghosts, eerie occurrences, things going missing without any rational explanation, voices that came out of nowhere, footsteps that walk to the walls…Then I’ll probably start looking around wondering where the heck I left my Holy Bible to perform a banishing ritual, totally freak out when I can’t find it, and eventually blame its disappearance on my own personal poltergeist. I’ll probably find it the next day on some place I least expected, and because I will probably have forgotten all about how I chose to hide it in a safe-spot so I could easily access it in case of emergency – you know, the weekly demon-possession stuff, the occasional cleaning a house from evil spirits business, or maybe just trying to avoid the apocalypse - I will totally go berserk over the fact that it’s all of the sudden under my bed instead of in the drawer I usually put it in.
No, but seriously, haunted houses have managed to scare thousands of people ever since the day some brilliant fellow had the most amazing idea to write a frightening tale and make it all happen in one house. A haunted house. I don’t know if I have Dickens to blame for it (after all, he wrote the book “The Haunted House”, with a most original title), The Castle of Otranto (supposedly the first gothic novel ever, but not all that well known) or the creators of that marvelous movie “Poltergeist”. Now don’t me wrong, “Poltergeist” doesn’t scare me. A lot. It’s a bit over the top, with the entire graveyard beneath the house business (corpses coming up from the floor, that’s more funny than scary on the big screen, take my word for it). Or maybe I should just blame H.P. Lovecraft. “The Rats in the Walls” still keeps me up at night. But then again, so does Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lost” (Part one, mind you, the vampire business kind of took the fun out of it) and “Rose Red”. A dude actually loses an arm in that movie, which by the waysolves the question once and for all: ghosts can indeed make you lose limbs. Ghastly.
Haunted houses are really frightening. Every small town in the entire world has a local haunted house legend, and they’re all equally terrifying. I should know. I’m the one who came up with our own local haunted house legend. True, I had the perfect location. An old, abandoned and reportedly haunted house. But that’s quite boring, isn’t it? You have to spice things up a little, think outside of the box. Add murdered virgins, shallow graves in the backyard, some zombies in the basement, a mad doctor and a soul-sucking grandmother. Because trust me, those are scary as well.
But no matter how much a haunted house scares me – and it does scare me a lot, with the awkward screeching sound from doors opening in the middle of the night, the persistent voices apparently coming out of the walls and the idea of dead people still walking around and well, haunting, the house – I absolutely love to write about them. I loved it when I write something and manage to scare myself by doing so, if I have to glance behind me occasionally just to make sure no ghostly apparition is standing behind me, whispering in my ear.
I’m not exactly sure why I love to write about haunted houses, ghosts and the likes, but I have some morbid fascination for them.
So, what about you? Do you enjoy reading books about haunted houses, ghosts, etc.? Did “Poltergeist” scare you to death, or did you find it funny? Do you have any local haunted house legends – if so, I would love to hear them? And the most important question: what is it about haunted houses that you find appealing, or not appealing at all?
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