The Top 5 Haunted House Stories of the 20th Century and Beyond

Nothing says “loveable trope” in horror quite like the good ol’ fashioned haunted house. There is simply something amazingly spooky about a large enclosed area that is full of ghosts and ghouls and spirits (oh my!) that we can’t get enough of. There is a reason that this theme in horror fiction, in every medium, has been seen for ages now. And because of this, I have hand-selected the top 5 hScreen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.56.39 PMaunted house stories, in case you wanted to catch up on the scary house tales of the last…forever.

5. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: Life at Rose Red

The fictional “true story” that sits in our number five spot might be more familiar to you if you can recall the 2002 mini-series called “Rose Red” by Stephen King. This tie-in novel tells us about a large, Tudor-Gothic mansion in the woodlands outside of Seattle, Washington which was, of course, built over an ancient indian burial ground. The cursed house, which claimed the life of three construction workers and was the site of the murder of the foreman, is the site of Ellen’s entries as she develops as a woman and grows to hate her terrifyingly misogynistic husband.

The story isn’t as spooky as the others on the list, which is why it doesn’t reach any higher than number five on our list, however, it is most certainly a good read for folks who would like something on the lighter side of horror, but still within our legendary trope.

4. Hell House

Richard Matheson brought us quite a lot in the late 20th century, including episodes of the Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.23.41 PMTwilight Zone and his novel “I Am Legend” (yes, the some one that was made into the Will Smith movie), but one of most terrifying tales was that of the old house called “Hell House” and a little investigation by a dying millionaire looking for life after death. Dr. Lionel Barrett, his wife,  and two mediums (Florence Tanner and Benjamin Fischer, the only survivor of an investigation thirty years prior) set the cast for this one to explore the disgustingly perverse and shocking paranormal occurrences that happen in the home for proof of (or against) the supernatural.

However this is a house that fights back. One of the scariest things about Hell House is the fact that it personalizes the way it attempts to destroy each character, all based on their flaws and weaknesses. There is nothing cookie-cutter about this tale and, though it is a trope, it really does live on as a story of it’s own.

3. The Amityville Horror

You can always tell if the book was great if it has had multiple movies made of it – well that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface in the case of The Amityville Horror. This isScreen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.48.52 PM a story that has lived on beyond the written tales because…it’s real. There really is a house. There really was murder in it. People really did have terrifying paranormal activities occur while living there and ran from the home. Was there actually blood dripping from the walls? Well, no, but much of the other things from the movies/books were truth (according to the old residents).

Either way, Jay Anson’s novel is one that we can see as timeless and as long as there is a house to see up in New York that we know inspired this novel (and probably for much long after that), we will continue to be frightened by The Amityville Horror.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.56.30 PM2. The Shining

What can you say about Stephen King’s “The Shining” that hasn’t been said a million times over. We all know the tale, we all know the movie, we’ve all read the book, and we’ve all lost A TON of sleep because of it. If you don’t know why this book is one the list, go read it and you’ll soon understand. We’ll wait up for you. We can promise you won’t sleep for a while.

1. The Haunting of Hill House

This classic tale by Shirley Jackson, the same author of the popular short story “The Lottery”, appears on more horror lists than this writer could read in a lifetime. The National Book Award Finalist novel has already seen to major films as well as a produced stage production. Even the ever-talented Stephen King has listed this novel as one of the best stories of the 20th century and the Wall Street Journal even said that Jackson’s work is “now regarded as the greatest haunted house story ever written”.Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.21.51 PM

One of the beautiful things about this novel is the fact that it relies on terror as opposed to horror to pull emotion from its reader. For those who aren’t English majors, yes, there is a difference. In Horror we show emotion to what happens after a major event and are left reacting to the event itself. In terror, we show our emotion before the event, anticipating what will happen to the characters.

With a relatively small cast of characters that you can connect with deeply, the looming anticipation of what may happen next, and a mind-blowing ending, this story is one that will remain around long after you and I are both going – which is one of the many reasons it sits at the top of our list at number one.

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The Top 5 Plays That Every Horror Fan Should See

Most horror fans nowadays don’t think “I want a good scare – I should go to Broadway”. And for good reason. Most of the plays we see today are actually the exact opposite of frightening – they tend to campy and fun, full of songs we know and love or these wonderful, thought-provoking themes. I know that good time and deep emotional connection is what originally brought me into the world of theatre, and is certainly the same for millions of others around the world.

But that doesn’t mean horror can’t co exist in the same realm! And it is because of that I bring you the top 5 plays you should be certain to catch next time you hit New York or London (or maybe even you own community theatre)!

5. Wicked

a2b1c7e4439dabe46441027a32cd7146You may automatically think that The Wizard of Oz is a child’s story, full of magic and catch-phrases and, to an extent, you would be right. However, in Wicked, we see the true story of the Wicked Witch, Elphaba, and her coming to be oh-so-evil. Though it does have some very driving and memorable, uplifting songs (that one could say would even defy gravity – see what I did there?), there is definitely enough ominous music, spooky moments, and occurrences of evil to get this Broadway hit onto the list.

Oh, and those flying monkeys are the things of nightmares.

4. MacBeth

You knew sooner or later Shakespeare would be on the list and you can’t talk horror and theatre without mentioning on of Billy Shake’s plays. Specifically “MacBeth”. The play revolves around MacBeth who, after receiving a prophecy that he will become the King of Scotland, goes out and kills King Duncan, only to realize that, as King, he must commit mor170px-Macbeth_consulting_the_Vision_of_the_Armed_Heade and more murders to stray from suspicion. This play drips with frightful moment, madness, dread, and death.

Oh, and did I mention that the play itself is haunted?

The play has been full of stigma since it’s birth, tied with death and tragedy. In fact, it is mostly referred to as “The Scottish Play” by theatre-goers, to avoid saying the cursed name. This show is perfect for someone who wants to find a scare onstage and even for those who would like to see a short, Shakespeare tragedy.

3. Little Shop of Horrors

Suddenly Seymour, here is a play that we may know a little bit more about – depending on when you were born, I suppose. Rick Moranis let the world hear Seymour in the 1986 film of the same name, and let the world meet Audrey II (that plant you see on all thimagese posters) for the first time. After discovering that his plant friend needs human blood to survive, it begins to make demands that Seymour can’t give. More and more blood, just as we like it. Add in a sadistic dentist (which is enough to scare the hell out of most people on it’s own), and you’ve got yourself a timeless piece of musical history that is exactly what a horror fan would expect!

2. Titus Andronicus

Now that we’ve gotten our intro to Shakespeare out of the way with MacBeth, let’s really dig into the images-1good stuff – and for fans that crave a little wrench in their gut, Titus Andronicus is right up your alley. In fact, this is the first play – and possibly the only one – on the list that I would NOT recommend for folks under a certain age or maturity. Parents, don’t let your kids Shakespeare without guidance!

With lots of hate, anger, corruption, blood, amputation, cannibalism, and events that are similar to The Last House on the Left to make you cringe, this play is known as Shakespeare’s only true “horror play”. Oozing with revenge and sabotage, this play, though not quite as easy to follow as MacBeth and certainly a bit longer, is a true test for any theatre-goer to find your limits.

1. Sweeney Todd

Stephen Sondheimimages-2’s retelling of the penny dreadful about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street has become of the most famous and renowned pieces of work on Broadway. And for a good reason! This musical about a man, tragically torn from his family and city, imprisoned for years, seeking revenge on the politician who wronged him is beautifully scored, handsomely crafted, and frightfully amazing. Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney open up shop, making meat pies of all the stragglers who come into the barber shop after slicing their throats and dropping them down into the pit. All the while, Sweeney fights for the chance to reunite and save his beautiful daughter from the clutches of a truly evil villain.

I mean, if you’re rooting for a 19th century mass murdering ex-“criminal”, you know the bad guy has got to be seriously horrible. And he is. So if you are seeking out a show that will make you feel right at home – assuming that home is a place with all the lights out and blood seeping down the walls – then the audience of this razor-wielding good time is right where you want to be!

Top 5 Reasons Children Scare Us Like…Well, Children.

There might not be any more of a “freak out moment” in horror than when the naive young protagonist, unaware of their surroundings and obvious impending doom, is walking through the woods, or an old empty house, or an abandoned asylum, and out of nowhere comes this horrifying little child, always pale, always quiet, and always wearing a white and tattered gown of some sort. It’s one of horror’s biggest tropes and we simply can’t get enough of iScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 1.49.03 PMt! But why? What makes us so scared of something so small and potentially non-threatening? Here are a few good reasons:

We Are Afraid of What Isn’t “Normal”

When we think of children, we often think of the sweet little angels that we see playing in the backyard or running around a playground. We love to imagine that kids are ice cream loving, hopscotch jumping, happy little campers with love in their eyes and songs in their hearts. And when that gets taken from us, all hell breaks loose. Literally, depending on the story you’re reading. We, as humans, are absolutely terrified of something not being what they appear and the idea that this little sweet creature isn’t what we want it to be scares us half to death. This leads us into our next reason.

Children Are Innocent

If you’ve ever read, seen, or heard of The Omen, you know damn well that that isn’t true. But if you live in the normal world outside of the horror-laced life of those sick, beloved readers who endure it, children often tend to be somewhat unsullied or untouched by 7851887the cruelty of the world. Essentially, a child isn’t tainted by evil quite yet, so when they ripen into monsters even before their teenage years (where they will be monsters whether this is horror or not), it can cause some folks to need a pants changing.

There Is Supernatural Or Even Murderous Power Given To A Creature That Lacks Logic

It’s like giving a bone cleaver to a chimpanzee. You wouldn’t want to be trapped in a room with that either, would you? Same concept.

Children In Horror Force Us To Face Our Errors

One of the scariest things a person can do is admit they are wrong and, whether it is to someone else or ourselves, nobody enjoys doing that. Children in horror stories ALWAYS make us admit that everything we know about children is wrong. Deadly wrong, more often than not. We like to think that children can’t hurt us, that they have good intentions, and that we are stronger than a child, but when confronted with your good ol’ fashion spooky-kid, you have to look those errors in your thought process right in the face.

Because, Most Of The Time, They Aren’t Even Children!

Truth of the matter is, the majority of the time you are confronted with a terrifying toddler with no eyes and kitchen knife, that thing isn’t human. Even in some of the stories where they ARE human (spoiler up ahead) such as in The “Orphan”, the “child” is really a sick, demented 40-something year old European women. Make it demons, ghosts, spirits, figments of our imaginations – whatever. Possibly the scariest part about children in horror stories (or anything, really) is that that sucker isn’t a kid.

Podcasts and Pasta Draw Out The Dead

Flash fiction has had a home on the interwebs since Al Gore first planted the flag in it – or something of the sort. So many writers submit and publish FanFic, Blog posts, etc. in mounds and there is Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 1.48.47 PMnever (thankfully!) a lack of material to read online if you’re looking for a fix.

However, one genre, in my opinion, has come to the top with the constant growth of super short online stories – horror!

With the help of forums like Reddit’s /r/NoSleep, any Average Joe can try their hand at being the next Stephen King (of the forums, at least) and submit their short creepy tale (under 40,000 characters) for the horror-reader world to read over and “upvote”. What makes it even better is that, specifically in /r/NoSleep, all posts are in first-person narrative…and it’s all TRUE! Kind of. They operate in a way that all stories, which are technically  fiction, are all perceived as fact, making the horror even more close to home.

From the dark, dark depths of /r/NoSleep came the birth (and terrifyingly awesome growth) of the NoSleep Podcast, which chooses stories from the subreddit to read and produce. This writer has personally had two of his stories produced by NoSleep and trust me, hearing it through those horrifying folks kept even myself awake at night – and I wrote the darn stories! Along with NoSleep, there has been a – what a certain presidential candidate would call “HUUUGE” – rise of YouTube channels that read tales of terror. The most popular of these would probably be the infamous Mr. CreepyPasta, himself. With well over a million subscribers (You read that correctly – a horror channel pushes seven digits of subscribers! I said there was growth, right?), “MCP” has help force the world of horror flash fiction into the faces of the general public and average YouTube viewer, taking submissions regularly and producing three stories every week (again, even a few from this writer!).

Even if horror isn’t your favorite genre or maybe isn’t what you want to read or write, it is pretty obvious that, right now, the dead are rising, bumps in the night are growing louder, and yes, that was a small child’s giggle you heard down that dark hallway. It’s here, it’s horrifying, and all-around wonderful for all the folks who want to dive into a spooky story.