Turn off the Lights

10 Features a Haunted House Couldn’t Exist Without

Looking to buy? Searching
for that dream house on Perfect Lane with the white picket fence, grand oak in
the front yard and kindly neighbors Joe and Jane Smith living right next door?
Well then, be cautious of these components and not just for the sake of
potential repairs. Toss any number and any combination of these earmarks
together and you have the devious makings of an apparitional abode; a creepy
castle; a haunted house. Troy Nixy directs the horror tale Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark with godfathering from Guillermo Del
Toro which is due in theatres this Friday, so we thought we would run down ten
of the most abundant hallmarks of a domicile with frequent bumps in the night.

 A Basement/Attic

Seems common enough,
I’ll admit. I mean every house has an attic, and a subterranean level is a
necessity when it comes to storing that bent Christmas tree stand and broken
kids toys. We’re talking about a specific variety of basements and attics here,
ladies and gentlemen. We need the following for the former: a dirt floor,
chained cellar door, crumbling plaster and stone, boxes left by previous owners
and most importantly, an old coal-fed furnace. Pertaining to the latter:
fluttering dust revealed by a slit in a boarded up circular window is a must,
as are boxes left by previous owners, an old rocking horse and most importantly,
a rotten floorboard.


A Cat

Meow, indeed. Nothing says
there is something seriously wrong with your crib, buddy, then one populated
by random felines with a penchant for bursting out of a closet moments before
you calm down and get dragged under the bed by a sadistic ghoul. It is not to
say the cat has anything to do with a particular haunting, but something devious
this way comes if Whiskers pulls a Jack-in-the-Box. From slasher flicks to the
odd thriller, the “cat jumping out” cliché is at the point of near genre
staple, but is one that certainly needs a good neutering.

A Skeptical Spouse

Sometimes the most
important components of a haunted house are introduced by external means. All
of these tropes mean nothing if the happily married couple remark: “You know
what? Let’s get the *&%@! out of here!” The force at large needs time to
grow in strength, influence a weaker-minded member of the family and kill off a
few priests before the epiphany dawns on our dim-witted provider. Obviously we
would have no haunted house movies if this was the case, but the escalating
events usually grow to the point of eye rolls and watch-checking.



The inexplicable gust of
wind is the closest you’ll get from actually being bitch-slapped by a ghost;
watch those fingers. Even on the stillest of evenings, as soon as you step one
foot outside your front door, that thing is coming round and sealing your
unlucky butt outside, normally as your loved one inexplicably cries for help at
that same moment. Candles will also become a useless instrument as they flicker
and die usually accompanied by a hushed but audible scream that everyone will
dismiss as “just the wind.” Finally, expect your white laundry to blow eerily in
the angry breeze and your weather vane to pivot menacingly.


Honestly, who even has a
medicine cabinet anymore? Regardless of the
style of your reflective design accessory, the moment you say goodbye to your
Rogaine and Viagra and slam that door, look away, or flick on the lights, you’ll
be Miyazakied
that is to say you’ll get spirited away. If you’re lucky, you won’t be peering into the eyes of a burnt and disfigured child, but sadly
you will then turn towards the door only to have your stool released when your
husband just barges in unannounced. Equally possible, you will be skipping
by a grand mirror in the foyer, see a flash of something in your periphery and
pivot, relived, to find nothing
but we know better.


Creaky Doors/Floor

Squeaacreeeeeeek… Can’t
you just picture a spirit roaming the house smearing dirt into all the
important door hinges? (A ghoulee has to be prepared, you know.) Atmosphere is
key; nobody ever got scared walking over a fine Persian throw rug or swinging
open a nice smooth refrigerator door. After that bump in the night and the
unfortunate light-sleeping soul goes to investigate every board in that
hallowed floor, screams will come out as cruel slogans prophesying imminent doom. Try and do
everything you can to oil those babies up, but in the end you’re just
prolonging the inevitable.

An Oddball Kid

Usually pale, suffering from
asthma and a bit of a loner at school, “the oddball kid” serves as the foil to
the skeptical parent and is the second outside factor that spurs the haunted
home occurrence. Junior is the one who hears the whispers, experiences the ghostly
visions and first catches a glimpse of the thing from another realm. Frantic
pleas only result in upped doses of harsh meds and worried ’tisks’ and ‘tahhs’
from their mother
that is until the
toaster starts to strut around and the gas line explodes to which the now
homeless and emotionally scarred family digresses that maybe they should watch
less Oprah and actually listen to their child.


Bad Wiring

Forget about a possible
fire hazard, that 1940’s wiring is just the icing on the proverbial cake for
our apparition as it cuts the lights at a whim, surges the power, makes the TV
go all static-like and above all else, cuts those pesky phone lines (don’t ask
me how all those are all perfectly connected, but they certainly appear to be).
Forget even thinking about candles (remember drafts) and every flashlight ever
made is either a battery-draining machine or apparently slippery as a wet bar
of soap. Ghosts like it pitch black, and they will go to extreme measures to
make sure you’re kept in the dark.

A Grisly Past

Bodies stuffed in the
wall, corpses buried in the basement, old blood stains under that shag rug and
buck shot behind the wallpaper; a horrible prior event is a necessary
occurrence in the forming of a house of horrors. Want to switch it up? Build
that puppy on an Indian burial ground, carry out satanic rituals in the commode
(arguably after a trip to McDonald’s that may happen regardless) or call forth
some irritable being from the yonder. It doesn’t really matter, but this will be
the foundation on which your haunted house is built.


Inclement Weather

As I write this, a tornado warning-carrying
storm is approaching, so count this as the perfect moment for a beastie to
spring from beneath my bed…never mind, I’m still here. The perfectly timed
arrival of a storm cell is the final peripheral ingredient to a perfectly
possessed home. Lighting will strike the tree out front, sending it hurtling
through your dining room window at the least opportune moment, great canyons of
mud will form delaying your hopefully speedy escape and again, say goodbye to
your nightlight. Traversing a roof, starting your car and getting cell phone
reception will also turn awry as the super storm rolls in, so either
baton down the hatches or brave the hail.

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