As we continue the countdown to Halloween, I thought I'd share today a short excerpt from the article I wrote for 21st Century Gothic (Scarecrow Press, 2010), the massive compendium of critical appraisals of the best Gothic of the past decade. Our subject is the haunted house and why exactly it is that we envision it as a nineteenth century Victorian. Obviously, the Victorians who built them didn't think they were living in spooky, evil homes.
The image below shows one Queen Anne style Victorian that was both turned to apartments and left to rot. The photo, from the Library of Congress, appears in my Knowing Fear (2008) as an illustration of how Gothic-inspired architecture became a locus of horror:
In Knowing Fear, I discuss how Horace Walpole invented neo-Gothic architecture, which never escaped his fusion of the neo-Gothic in architecture with the Gothic mode of horror, united in the very first Gothic novel: Walpole's own The Castle of Otranto, which used Walpole's own neo-Gothic home as its inspiration and setting for bloody horror.
As a point of fact, the Addams Family's house (and the Psycho house inspired by it) were Second Empire style mansions inspired by French architectural trends, but as the Victorian era receded in time, the distinctions between Second Empire, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne have faded into a generalized association of ornamentation with spookiness.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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