Haunted houses are a blight on the landscape, because nothing blossoms or flourishes in the yards that surround them: the grass is sparse, trees are stunted and twisted, and no animals dare to set foot (or paw) on the premises unless they are rabid, wild, or possessed by the spooks and demons that haunt the property.
The house itself may be in bad repair, with sagging porch, missing roof tiles, detached or absent shutters, and crooked doorways and broken windows. Sometimes, the house has halitosis or flatulence that smells like brimstone, and cases of psoriasis and eczema are not altogether unknown, especially in arid climates. If male, the house is apt to experience erectile dysfunction or suffer from impotence; if female, it will almost certainly be a nymphomaniac.
Even the weather is affected by the haunted house. Thick fog clings to the dead earth, especially if the property boasts its own cemetery, and a black cloud hangs over the troubled edifice. Thunderstorms are frequent, especially when threats to residents are imminent and, due to a limited budget, more sophicticated and expensive special effects cannot be afforded.
Although the reality of haunted houses, like the reality of ghosts and demons (and mothers-in-law) is questionable and many apparently paranormal or supernatural phenomena may have natural causes, those who want to believe that they live in a haunted house will be likely to do so. Hearing noises late at night when one is alone in a house may lead one to imagine all sorts of horrible and otherworldly causes of these noises when, in fact, they might be caused by nothing more paranormal or supernatural than the settling of the house, a draft, or animals on the roof or in the walls or attic.
Likewise, hallucinations and the misinterpretation of objects observed in dim light may prompt the observer to believe that he or she has seen a ghost when all that was observed was a shadow, a light, or a reflection. Some cold spots in houses are produced by drafts in walls or air currents that are set in motion by extraction fans.
A personal item that vanished from one location only to reappear somewhere else can be explained by a faulty memory. Everyone has misplaced something at one time or another, so neither ghosts nor demons need to be posited as the cause of such an incident.
Monsters can also move stuff around. And bogeymen.
Those who believe often seek photographic, auditory, or other objective evidence for the sights and sounds that they claim to see and hear. They tape record wild laughter, strange whispers, shrieks, and shouts, all of which are easily duplicated by living, breathing people. They photograph lights or ghostly figures, which are also easily faked. Sometimes, they use scientific instruments that may prove that there is electromagnetic energy present in a house but that does not prove that ghosts or demons are also present or are causing the energy. Poltergeist activity also can be duplicated by amateur magicians or other ordinary people and does not indicate the existence or presence of otherworldy beings.
The photograph shown here was submitted to the International Society for Paranormal Research to substantiate claims that a house was haunted. However, cartoonists have debunked the image, claiming that it is a painted sketch of a Harvey Comics character, Casper the Friendly Ghost, composed of dialogue balloons joined together to represent a head and sheet-covered body. Eyebrows, eyes, a nose, and a mouth were drawn on the upper dialogue balloon to give it a face and a "personality," and the so-called ghost was show holding a "cute, cuddly animal" to indicate the ghost's friendliness. "There's no reason to believe that this picture proves there's any such thing as a ghost any more than it proves there's such a creature as a fox," a spokesperson for Skeptics Against Spooks concludes. "I could make a better, more convincing painting myself."
Another image was even easier to explain. It shows what appears to be a toddler in the throes of a temper tantrum, with small dark clouds of smoke hovering above him, the results, perhaps of the fire that issues from his mouth. He wears a diaper, from the rear of which extends a tail that ends in an arrowhead shape.
The skeptical magician who bills himself to a gullible public as The Amazing Randi says, "It's just what it appears to be--a toddler dressed in a demon costume, having a temper tantrum, possibly because he has a bad case of diaper rash." Asked about the fire and smoke, the skeptical magician said, "A flammable fluid was poured into the baby's mouth and lit when he spewed out the liquid; the smoke is a result of the toddler's fiery breath." And the tail? "Sewn on by a rather incompetent seamstress," the skeptical magician suggested.
Literary Haunted Houses
Many writers, past and present, have written haunted house stories, some as novels and others as short stories. Many movies have also been made concerning haunted houses, some of which are based on novels or short stories about haunted houses. The literary world, like those of the other arts, is as cannibalistic as it is incestuous.
Novels and Short Stories
Some of the better known stories and their authors include:
- "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe: Madeline Usher returns from the dead to put an end to her murderous, twisted twin brother Roderick, with whom she had sex both when she was alive and after she died, jealous that Roderick's male friend is now the one reading Roderick "bedtime stories" .
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: Four
psychospsychics stay as guests in a supposedly haunted house, one of whom, sexually-repressed Eleanor, falls in love with the mansion, refusing to leave even after it's pretty clear that the place really is haunted. When she is forced to leave, she (or her ghostly paramour) wrecks the car, and she, dying in the crash, becomes a ghost herself, living happily ever after as she engages in necrophilia with her invisible, but ardent, lover.
- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: A pedophiliac governess blames "ghosts" for molesting her young charges, a tactic that actual pedophiles continue to use in cases in which they plead "innocent by reason of insanity."
- The Shining by Stephen King: A drunk believes he's dead when he gives up alcohol in favor of delirium tremens; he also thinks he's writing a book called The Shining by Stephen King about a drunk who believes he's dead when he gives up alcohol in favor of delirium tremens. . . .
- The House by Bentley Little: Five strangers must share a single bathroom.
Many movies also tell the stories of haunted houses and the haunts who haunt them:
- Rose Red by Stephen King: a ripoff of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (which see, above).
- The Amityville Horror (series), based on the book by Jay Anson: Ghosts and demons haunt a lovely, unsuspecting Colonial Dutch house on New York's Long Island; families break up; people die; even the furniture and brick-a-brac are evil and out to get the house's occupants.
- Paranormal Activity: This, like, chick and this douche move into a house and she's all 'This ghost or whatever is following me' and he's all 'Cool, I want to film it and shit'. Then this ghost scientist tells them it's a demon, which is like ten times worse, 'cos demons all just want to fuck with your head, you know? So this demon just starts by slamming doors and making lamps wobble and shit, then he gets majorly pissed off with them and drags the girl out of bed and bites her and she's all screaming and shit and then he goes away. I don't know the next bit, 'cos the pizza guy arrived and I went to pay it - even though Stevey was meant to pay but he won't pay for shit, you know? - anyway I came back in and he's all 'where's my pepperoni, and I'm all 'Fuck you, man', so I missed a little bit of the story. Then it ended and I won't tell you ending, but it'll blow your mind, man! You know what? It's a totally true story that they, like, try to make out was fake, so that, like, people don't totally freak out and shit. But my bro's cousin has this bud who knows someone on the San Diego police force and he, like, totally told him that all the freaky shit really went down, man.
Allegedly, these houses really are haunted:
- The White House (haunted by the drunken ghost of Richard M. Nixon and his little dog Checkers)
- Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's residence (haunted by his hot black daughter, Sally Hemings)
- Tara (haunted by Scarlett O'Hara's memory of her departed squeeze, Rhett Butler)
- House of Windsor (haunted by Prince Charles who is waiting, waiting. . .)