Haunted Houses in Film and TV

Haunted mansions are a staple of horror movies and tv shows.  I thought it would be interesting to make a list of cinematic (and some tv) examples and see what commonalities they hold.  You can use these descriptions as a checklist for decorating your own house for Halloween.  Note: Not all of these are "haunted" in the supernatural sense so much as they are designed to be a singular setting that instills awe or fear.

Haunted houses seem to fall into three categories: Mansions, castles, and more modest residences, although there are plenty of other creepy locations that I file under "other" in the lists below.

Psycho - Bates house at the top of the hill from the Bates Motel.
The Addams' Family mansion
The Munster mansion
The House on Haunted Hill
The Haunting - The classic haunted gothic mansion (Note: There is also a remake).
The Changling - Another huge place.
The Omen - The Thorn family's home.
Disney's Haunted Mansion - The ride is filled with iconic imagery.  Note that there are several versions, depending on the park.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken - The bloodstains on the organ keys!  Gasp!

Dracula - Dracula's castle/house (one in Transylvania, one in England with a great basement).
Frankenstein - Dr. Frankenstein's castle.  Note that there are several castles throughout the series of these films plus the remakes over the years.
Rocky Horror Picture Show - The Transylvanians' castle.
Edward Scissorhands - Haunted castle once occupied by a mad scientist and now by his creation.

Modest residences
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Rosemary's Baby - Apartment building
The Exorcist - Reagan's house
The Amityville Horror
Nightmare on Elm Street

Suspiria - The girls school.
Phantasm - The mortuary.
The Shining - THe Overlook Hotel based on the Stanley Hotel in Colorado.  Exteriors shown in the film were that of the Timberline Lodge.  Interiors were shot in the studio and were based on the interiors of the Ahwahnee Hotel.
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 - The asylum.
The Phantom of the Opera - The opera house.
Morgus Presents - The New Orleans (and Detroit) horror host Dr. Morgus the Magnificent had a great lab above the old city ice house.
Scooby Doo - Loads of great settings: Haunted airfields, museums, castles, mines, etc.
Supernatural - The tv series features tons of haunted locations: old houses, hospitals, factories, etc.  It's Scooby Doo played for serious.

General features of Haunted Houses

These are common denominators that most people think of when you say "haunted house."

Laboratory - Almost every castle and many haunted houses have a lab, often in the basement.

Dust covers on furniture - Or at least very dusty furniture to indicate abandonment.
Cobwebs and dust - Signs of neglect.
Cracked plaster - Deterioration of the building so that there's exposed lath beneath.

Candelabras - Of all varieties.
Chandelier - Especially if we're talking about a famous opera house.
Bookshelves - Filled with old leather-bound books.
Secret passages - Accessed behind the bookshelf, of course.
Old portraits of ancestors - Through which villains can spy through their eyes.
Suit of armor (plus family crests) - This is just manditory.
Stone walls in basement - Makes a nice place to attach chains.
Large staircases - Great for pushing people down.
Red velvet cushioned furniture - Suitable for Elvira's bottom.
Basement - And there's always wooden barrels down there for some reason.
Grandfather clock - Often with something creepy hidden inside (or perhaps the entrance to a secret passage).

Two case studies: The Addams Family and Munster homes

Because tv series have more viewing time than movies, you often get a better look around the homes of tv families where the series is set.  Below are lists of items found in the homes of these fictional families.

Addams Family House
I found the following inventory on this page and broke it down into a list.  Note the plethora of animal-oriented artifacts (grouped in the middle of this list).

Eskimo totem pole
Suit of samurai armor
Steer-horn-girded armchair
Elephant's hoof filled with popcorn
King cobra candle holder
Moosehead (named Pierre) over the fireplace with one whimsically drooping left antler
Bearskin (rug that growled when stepped upon)
Two-headed sea turtle
Giant brown (and later) white bear
The hastate head of a swordfish stuffed with a human leg (Cousin Ferook's)
On the front gate: "Beware of the Thing" sign
In the basement: Torture instruments: Iron maiden, Rack, Bed-of-nails chaise lounge, Stocks inscribed "Hers," and a Flogging table

Munster Mansion
The Munsters were more gothic than the merely eccentric Addamses, so I always felt they were more oriented toward Halloween.

Electric chair
Trap door in floor leading to basement lab
Secret compartment under the stairs (where Spot -the pet dragon- lives)
Pipe organ
Cobwebs, candles, cracked paster (exposing the wood lath underneath)
Dusty furniture
Old portraits on the walls
Cuckoo clock (with a raven)
Coffin phone
Secret passages: Under the stairs and behind the suit of armor upstairs

It's funny that these two shows had variations on a similar set of props.  A suit of medieval armor vs. the samurai armor.  A pipe organ vs. the harpsichord.  Electric chair vs. torture instruments.  And so on.


Copyright 2013 the Ale[x]orcist.