The Haunted House Movie is one of my favorite types of horror movies. Multiple factors contribute to my appreciation, but the biggest thing for me is what a haunted house movie accomplishes as a trope. Haunted house movies may not be the scariest genre, but it is certainly the most unsettling in my book. These movies are about the pollution of the sacred sanctuary of a home. Otherworldly forces beyond human control destroy the integrity of a house as a protective dwelling, which terrifies me on a deep level.
This visit to the Winchester Mystery House is the latest entry in Project: Haunted House, a series of posts where I visit “haunted” places and write about my experiences. Read more here!
The crazy, reclusive woman is a well-worn archetype in literature and film. Emotionally and psychologically unstable, she is damaged goods, unable to escape from a painful past. She is isolated from others. Those around her define her by sorrow, anger, and “insanity.” Her behavior is misinterpreted, and her motivations are ignored. She might start off as a psychologically stable character, but cruel psychological manipulation breaks her down. Sometimes, she really is insane, but her mental illness is far more complex than portrayed, and we’re never given her full story. These portrayals twist her into something both delicate and dangerous
You know this archetype. The most famous example is Bertha Rochester in Jane Eyre, but she shows up in different versions as the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, and Jennet Humfrye in The Woman in Black. She also appears in films like Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Gothika, and The Ring. Some of these works are my all-time favorites. I’ve always been intrigued by these characters, probably because I’ve always seen them as very misunderstood.
The Crazy Lady also shows up in tons of myths legends, and ghost stories. One of the most famous examples of a weird, reclusive, possibly bat-shit lady is Sarah Winchester, mistress of the infamous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.
Halloween is only a few days away! In case you aren’t yet in the spirit, or if you are and you want to add a bit more scary fun to these last few days, consider picking up one of these classic horror books!
There are a lot of scary stories out there, too many to read. However, if I have to recommend some good scary books, I’ll recommend the following eight classics of the genre. These books are essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in horror fiction because they are 1) thoughtfully written and well-crafted; 2) unsettling, creepy, and horrifying; and 3) insanely influential. Stephen King wouldn’t be famous at all if it weren’t for Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and Robert W. Chambers.
Also, its worth noting that while you may “know” about these classics, if you haven’t read them, you’re missing out. So run to your nearest bookstore, library, or Amazon account and get yourself any one of these for a spooky read. If you’re pressed for time, you might like some of the short story collections, which are quick, morbid reads. Enjoy!
*Beware of some spoilers!*
Every once in a while, I find a hidden gem of a horror film. Something with a low but meticulously managed budget. Something that prefers spooky lighting to buckets of blood. Something inventive, moody, and unsettling. Something that I can’t stop thinking about, even a week later.
The most recent movie to make me feel this way was 2013 Venezuelan psychological thriller/gothic horror film La Casa del Fin de Los Tiempos, or The House at the End of Time. Written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo, this movie is old-school gothic horror, in the same vein as The Others (which is one of my favorites).
Odds are, Dear Reader, that you own a least one IKEA item. Odds are even higher that you’ve visited an IKEA at least once in your life. Those stores are everywhere—a quick Google search tellls me that IKEA operates 351 stores in 46 countries on 5 continents. Its furniture is endemic to college dorms and first apartments because its relatively good furniture for being dirt cheap. While IKEA furniture is ridiculously easy to assemble, the shopping at IKEA is like running a gauntlet. Huge crowds, a maze-like showroom floor, and a massive warehouse are only some of the obstacles you must overcome to get your Klippan sofa home.
Seriously, you don’t know the meaning of existential frustration until you go to IKEA for one thing, but you are funneled into the showroom labyrinth through no design of your own, and for two hours you are stuck behind a family that takes up the entire width of the path and stops to touch every. Single. Thing.
I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home,
I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read—I tell you where you are.
Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look.
Home. There place where we belong. Where we put our things, our emotions, our past. More often than not, it is a dwelling of some sort—a room, an apartment, or a house. You know every room, every door, all the corners, the way the fourth step from the top creaks, and the way the sunlight enters the windows. You know it intimately. You will carry this knowledge with you forever.
I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction between a person and the building she inhabits. It is a relationship, and both person and dwelling provoke change in each other. I’ve written about it before on this blog, particularly to examine the ways in which purportedly haunted buildings physically interact with the people who move about inside.
Even after we have left, we carry the physical presence of home. It is part of us, and we have become a part of it. Home is a record of our lives. We dirty it. We wear it down. Sometimes we break it or fix it up. Home is the intersection of our past, present and future.
Which brings me to my new favorite book, White is for Witching.
Alcatraz. The Rock. The most infamous prison in America.
Ask anyone about it, and almost everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about. Even though Alcatraz only operated for twenty-nine years, its impact on the popular consciousness is legendary. It’s inspired many films, most notably the 1979 classic Escape from Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood, and the 1995 classic The Rock, starring Nicholas Cage.
It even had a TV show, Alcatraz, a few years ago (my personal favorite, due in no small part to the amazing Sam Neil).
Gone too soon.
The story of the prison looms large in our collective history, an archetypal prison made real. We’ve heard about the freezing, shark-infested waters surrounding the island. We’ve heard that the United States Prison System ran the prison with an iron fist. We’ve heard about the men who stayed there—Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, Jr., to name a few. We’ve heard that it was a “super prison,” an inescapable, impenetrable fortress. We’ve heard about the failed escape attempts, including the six men who broke out and were never seen again. Did they drown in the frigid, black waters? Or did they make it the Mexico after all?
And we’ve also heard that the prison is haunted.
I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas time! I love the songs, the holiday parties, the food, and spending more time with family and friends. As much as I love my family, however, sometimes it’s nice to wander off to a quiet corner with a cup of hot cocoa and curl up with a good book.
And given that Christmas occurs around the winter solstice, when the days shrink at the onslaught of frozen nights, this is the perfect time to branch out into some scary wintery tales.
I’ve done some research and compiled a list* of horror novels related to Christmas or wintertime. In no particular order:
For the first installment of Project: Haunted House, I decided to pay a visit to one of my favorite bars in Houston—La Carafe.
Built in 1847, the building that would eventually host La Carafe stands at the corner of Travis Street and Congress Avenue in the heart of downtown Houston’s Market Square Historic District. It is a narrow and long structure, slouching to one side and threatening to topple over. The balcony porch, door and window trim, and drainpipes are painted a rich green, which contrasts nicely with its practical yet charming brick exterior.