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Why WeLove Haunted House Stories

Author: Jack Brant
by Jack Brant
Posted: Jun 13, 2016

"...silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

So begins Shirley Jackson's brilliant novel, The Haunting of Hill House, one of the first novels to explore our modern concept of haunted houses stories. This concept—that houses can retain the evil done within their walls—has revolutionized our understanding of haunted houses in popular culture.

Like True Ghost Stories, tales of haunted places have the power to encaptivate us because they are a representation of a lost past. None of us can ever get our past back. So what could be more optimistic than to realize that our past can be preserved without any effort on our part?

Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize how this can go wrong, and that's where haunted house stories start becoming—let's face it—fun. And we like to believe them, whether they are made up or true ghost stories.

Think about it. Evil is preserved within a structure, a fortress, a brick and mortar representation of our soul, if you will. In this regard, the very idea of the haunted house is a way for us to atone for our sins. They are a constant reminder that deeds done even in secret will be remembered in some form, and have the potential to affect us or our fellows even in the years after our death. Haunted houses are morality tales you can live in, and they call for us to behave accordingly, lest we be condemned to have our transgressions replayed in full view of, and subject to the judgement of, future generations.

Ah, you say, but what about the popular idea that houses aren’t haunted, people are haunted? Let's examine this for a moment.

The Freudian fear of death can be translated as a fear of not having control over our lives. This is a very real fear and not one to be sneezed at. We all have it. In tales of the haunted house, that very fear is exploited to its logical extreme: death is waiting for us all whether we like it or not. It is the only thing we can count on, and yet we have yet to harness it. It is there in the place where we live, where we feel at our most comfortable, and also at our most vulnerable.

After the rickety stairs are navigated, after the cobwebby attic is explored, and after the flickering form in the corner is revealed to be nothing more than a wagging cat's tail, we still have that moment where we didn’t feel safe. It was a moment, even just for a second, when our adrenaline glands kicked in according to their primal function, and our fear of the unknown was triggered by the impetus of self-preservation. In that moment when we were afraid to stick our foot out from under the covers, we were once again in the infancy of our species. This may be the core of our attraction to haunted house stories: the idea that we are still subject to our most basic and fundamental terrors. Furthermore, we will not escape these terrors, no matter how many lights we turn on or how loudly we whistle in the dark. Chilling Stories of Poltergeists of poltergeists or Unexplained Phenomenon stories can easily rattle our bones.

So the next time you have to go down into the basement, and you turn on the light only to have it flicker and blow out, and you feel that snake-like slither of fear around your neck, remember: you are merely responding the way human beings have responded for thousands of years before you. You are one with them.

And they're glad to accept your unspoken invitation for a visit.

Simon Murik

Author of True Ghost Stories and Hauntings: Chilling Stories of Poltergeists, Unexplained Phenomenon, and Haunted Houses

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Author: Jack Brant
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Jack Brant

Member since: May 31, 2013
Published articles: 2727

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