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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.