How Can A House Be So Scary?
I have always been in love with the style of the grand old painted ladies of architecture—the Victorian Era. I grew up in an 1880 Victorian and it was a real challenge to sneak in late at night without waking my mother, with all the creaking that went on when I walked. I finally figured out that if I went up the stairs with each foot on the extreme side of the steps, I could make it without a sound.
I first saw the movie Psycho in a Victorian, while babysitting for my chemistry teacher’s two boys. They were in bed. An electric storm was raging outside, and there I was, sitting at the top of the house watching this movie. What can I say? I was a moron at age 15. Believe me, I was never so happy to see my chemistry teacher in my life when they finally got home!
But what makes these houses scary?
I’m writing about Victorians because my novel, Gothic Revival, takes place in one. Let’s start with the fact that they are so old that at least one person has probably died in each of them, and it’s easy, especially when alone at night, for your imagination to run away with you. Every creak becomes a footstep. Every sigh of the wind or groan of arthritic settling becomes an uneasy spirit afoot in the night.
I think another contributing element to this mystique is the fact that there are few electrical outlets in Victorians, and therefore, fewer places to plug in lamps. The shadows from lack of bright light seem threatening, seem to be hiding something. Most people associate shadows and dim lighting with nothing good.
The venue has everything to do with interpretation of mundane structural events, too. For example, a poorly hung door in an ultra-modern, well-lit house might swing shut on its own, as ill-installed doors tend to do, and nothing is thought of it; but if it happens in a Victorian, the next call made is to the Ghostbusters.
Additionally, many Victorians were built on a large-ish parcel of land. There may have been neighbors, but they weren’t right on top of each other the way they are building houses now. A feeling of isolation, whether real or imagined, also leads to anxiety in a house from this era.
So shadows, night sounds, and a lonesome place… that’s what makes a house so scary.
Alex and Leo Renfield are a husband and wife contractor team who’ve recently moved to the village of Woodhaven, Connecticut to escape the chaos of life in New York. Pretty close to broke, they meet Theodora Hamilton, a somewhat unsavory and odd individual, who offers them an astronomical amount of money to repaint the first floor of her family home.
But along with the huge paycheck comes a set of unsettling rules that must be followed explicitly if they are to accept the offer; one of which is they must reside on the property having no direct contact with the outside world until the job is complete.
Is Theodora Hamilton just an eccentric woman with a peculiar way of doing things, or is there a more sinister agenda that Alex and Leo are unaware of? What exactly does she have in store for this down-on-their-luck couple who have no choice but to accept the offer and the strange requirements that come along with it?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carson Buckingham knew from childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began, at age six, by writing books of her own, hand-drawing covers, and selling them to any family member who would pay (usually a gum ball) for what she referred to as “classic literature.” When she ran out of relatives, she came to the conclusion that there was no real money to be made in self-publishing, so she studied writing and read voraciously for the next eighteen years, while simultaneously collecting enough rejection slips to re-paper her living room… twice.
When her landlord chucked her out for, in his words, “making the apartment into one hell of a downer,” she redoubled her efforts and collected four times the rejection slips in half the time, single-handedly causing the first paper shortage in U.S. history.
But she persevered, improved greatly over the years, and here we are.
Carson Buckingham has been a professional proofreader, editor, newspaper reporter, copywriter, technical writer, comedy writer, humorist, and fiction author. Besides writing, she loves to read and work in her vegetable garden. She lives in the United States in the state of Arizona.
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