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"Boo!": A Guide to Haunted Houses in Literature

"Boo!": A Guide to Haunted Houses in Literature
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Palina Dolia

What could be more attractive and at the same time intimidating to the reader than haunted houses? For more than a hundred years, we have witnessed many sad stories where the main characters make the deal of the century and buy a house in which they themselves are unexpected guests. The dream turns into a nightmare, and the home walls no longer seem safe. Here's a guide to the most mystically dangerous real estate in literature!

So where does any ghost story in someone's room begin? That's right, from a new home! Acquisition of a cursed house follows a variety of scenarios. The hero escapes from his dark past and buys a house for himself, which should become a saving refuge. The family inherits a luxurious old mansion from their recently and very mysteriously deceased grandfather. Maybe a persistent realtor convinces the newlyweds to buy a stunning home for a ridiculous price. No, no, don't pay attention to the cemetery outside the window. Take a better look at what a cosy basement there is!

It would seem a simple and a bit naive plot, obviously, you shouldn't buy an apartment if its walls are bruised, and the mirror says “Get Out”. But the heroes of today's guide are desperate and fearless, and they don't even care about the proximity of Indian cemeteries. So what is it about the concept of a haunted house that makes us reopen such books over and over again?

Let's start simple: we love to be scared while safe. Any watching a horror movie or reading a creepy book is "voluntary interaction with negative stimuli that cause heightened arousal." From a psychological point of view, such an experience allows us to feel in control of the situation. From a biological point of view, a rush of adrenaline, endorphins, oxytocin and other things. An excellent shake-up for any organism!

When we encounter danger in the pages of a book, be it the ghosts of twin girls calling us to play, or a very real call from a serial killer, we experience a "fight or flight" situation. Our brain receives a signal of danger, our heart begins to beat faster, and goosebumps run down our skin. A good old defensive reaction from our cave ancestors. And although our body feels anxiety and danger, in fact, we are comfortably hidden from all the hardships of life under a blanket. All troubles are there, outside, and we are inside, our refuge. And this is where the main difference between the haunted house stories begins.

A home is no longer a safe place.

When a monster catches up with you in a dark alley, you run to hide in your apartment and, having locked the door, finally feel calm. But what if the monster is already in your apartment? Where, in this case, to run?

Even when you close the book about the haunted house, the anxiety will not leave you. Now you can get an adrenaline rush even from a window slammed in a draft. Harsh sounds, creaks and rustles, and now the nightmare passes from the pages of books straight into your life. This is the simple secret to the appeal of this plot.

And now is the time to take a short trip to the most famous haunted houses - in literature and... the library.


The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. Many haunted house books are based on well-established bikes, and this book is the most striking example. The story is this: Ronald DeFeo killed his family in 1974, for which he received a life sentence. In the same year, the Lutz family acquired a house, and just 28 days later they fled from there in the middle of the night. Mysteriously? Yes, it is. Scary. For sure. The real story may be more prosaic, but in Anson's book it gets much darker. So what scary creatures are waiting for us in the dark?..


House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danilevsky. Let's be honest: this book is a unique experience in every sense. It all starts spooky with a house that is slightly larger inside than outside. But the deeper you plunge into history, the stronger the feeling of doom, imminent death, and general insanity becomes. Paranoia captures not only the heroes but also the reader himself. Danilevsky does it masterfully through images, sounds and even the layout of the book itself. Reading upside down, counting letters in a sentence, snatching words from an almost blank page, listen: who is behind your back?


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. This novel comes closest to classical Gothic. A mansion falling into decay, unexplained events, illness, madness and, of course, restless ghosts. The Ayres family is struggling to establish their lives in a slowly dying house, while something ominous, something frightening begins to haunt each of them. And no matter how the main character tries to find a rational explanation for everything, the truth always turns out to be scarier.


House of Hunger by David Mitchell. A whole series of stories are woven into a common gloomy universe, fascinating and eerie. Once every nine years, outcasts, losers, "superfluous" people receive an invitation to their dream, which, if you just want to leave, turns into a real nightmare. The small black door in the house on Westwood Road slams like a mousetrap behind its guests. The Graders twins are happy for everyone because they are endlessly hungry.


The Shining by Stephen King. Yes, the book is not really about a house, but about a hotel. Nevertheless, it was the Overlook Hotel that became the new home of the Torrens family and is one of the eeriest stories about how a building possessed by ghosts gradually drives its inhabitants crazy. Isolation, coldness, and a lost battle against your own demons. A loved one who turns into a monster. Although the immediate danger here is not ghosts at all, the supernatural side of the Overlook Hotel is impressive, and the image of the dead twins in blue dresses will not soon disappear from your memory.

When your house ceases to seem like a safe haven, when the creak of the door leaves goosebumps, when the obsessive whisper of something ominous begins to seem everywhere, run. Where? The library, of course! The only ghost in the NLB is the spirit of unfulfilled book plans, but you can overcome it.

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