You’re walking down the road of your all-too-familiar town, the wind cool in your hair, leaves rustling at your feet. You look up as you realize that you’re passing that house. The house no one goes to. The one people whisper about.
What do they say about it? The story changes from person to person. A legendary lothario getting frisky with female inhabitants. A debauched tyrant creating his own debased kingdom. A lovelorn widow waiting for her lost soldier. The quiet boy next door being found with a freezer full of human tongues. The father who went mad and killed his family. It’s always different.
Almost without realizing it you start walking toward it. Your feet drawn to the dark of its doorway. As you walk toward it the facade shifts. It looks like a large, sprawling mansion, designed by a fevered imagination. A four bedroom suburban townhouse. An urban twelve story apartment building. A lonely farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.
The haunted house is constantly shifting. We’ve seen haunted space ships, oil rigs, ocean liners. The hauntings themselves are always changing. Is it the ghost of a former tenant? Or is it someone slowly losing their mind? Is it the house itself that’s evil? Why? Was it tainted from the start, born of bloody ground? Or was the madness built in by the owner?
The haunted house genre is one of my favourite sub-genres in horror. It is an old trope, going back to Pliny the Younger. The first accounts were generally true reports but the ghost story and the haunted house have existed with us for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
A house is where you’re supposed to be safe. Where you can come home, lock your doors and hopefully leave stress outside. To have this turned upside down, to be the place that you can’t run from is downright terrifying. It reminds me of Intruder Horror. Intruder Horror is basically the same premise, just more grounded in reality rather than the supernatural. But when you take them both down to their bare bones they are very much alike.
You are home, sometimes alone, sometimes not. An invading force enters your home that you then have to either fight or flee from. I do think the supernatural has an edge to it over human intruders, though. They’re not bound by physical laws and guns and bats won’t hurt them. You can’t beat a spirit up and if you flee that’s no guarantee that it won’t follow you.
In short, the haunted house will always be lurking in the real estate of horror. Sowing discord and death for as long as we can tell stories about them. Haunting our dreams and nightmares.
Let me know your favourite haunted houses, cars, or ships down below! Do you like the haunted house genre or do you prefer the more reality based horror?
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.