Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
In previous posts, I have presented ideas concerning how to haunt a house, but I haven’t offered any ideas about residential nooks and crannies--the furniture, utilities, and décor.
Films and novels do include references to and depictions or descriptions of such items among their catalogues of haunted objects. So can you.
For example, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, the stairs down which Nancy Thompson flees from Freddy Krueger turn to goop, retarding the protagonist’s progress, just as might happen during a bad dream.
In The Others, ghost children occupy a bed that the boy, Victor, who lives in the house, claims is his; a piano seems to play of its own accord; and curtains appear to tear themselves from windows throughout the house. (In reality, the apparent ghosts are the house’s flesh-and-blood residents and the apparent flesh-and-blood residents are the actual ghosts, so the ghosts occupy the bed, but the human residents play the piano and remove the curtains.)
An episode of the Angel television series offers an interesting take on the folklore that holds that vampires have no reflection. Cordelia Chase’s knowledge of this “fact” alerts her to the fact that her date is a vampire as she realizes that there are no mirrors in his house. Although vampires aren’t ghosts, this incident does apply a supernatural quality to a commonplace household item.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman manages to write an entire, brilliant horror story concerning yellow wallpaper that may or may not be more than it appears to be. Her protagonist, however, is haunted by her own incipient madness, rather than by a ghost as such.
Stephen King’s novel It includes a boy’s terrifying journey into his house’s basement, to tend to the ravenous furnace that glows as if it were burning with hellfire rather than with coals.
One story--the title of which I have forgotten--shows (or perhaps describes) a portrait in which one of the family members stares in stark terror while everyone else in the photograph looks calm and composed. King’s The Shining features a lobby gallery of ghosts, but this scene doesn’t really count for our purposes, since the story is set in a hotel rather than in a house per se.
A few years ago, a newspaper featured an article concerning a house in Chicago which was allegedly haunted. Fire was said to shoot forth a good three feet from wall sockets. The house succumbed, alas, to a bulldozer when it was later razed.
In my own novel, Mystic Mansion, windowpanes rebound like miniature horizontal trampolines; carpet rears, rolls, and crashes like surf; and books in the library take flight, their covers flapping as if they were wings.
Think of the furniture, utilities, appliances, and décor in the average house and what could go “wrong” with it--not merely in an electrical or a mechanical, but in a paranormal o supernatural, way--and you have the raw material for a haunting or, at least, many possibilities for enhancing and complementing the more fundamental trappings of the haunted house.
Imagine a clock running backward or striking thirteen hours! Or a flight of stairs converting themselves instantly into a steep ramp. Or the hideous gargoyle lamp that a character’s mother-in-law gave a couple for their previous anniversary coming to life to attack the wife who stole a mother’s son from her.
The possibilities are virtually endless, and, best of all, new furnishings, appliances, and décor can be added as needed to freshen the horrific effects throughout the course of the story.
Remember the haunted mask that Joyce Summers hung upon her bedroom wall, the one that summoned demons and zombies. . . .