5 Home Styles That Look Like Haunted Houses
Several classic architectural styles don’t just stand out in a crowd. They also scream “haunted.” You might even say they’re a dead giveaway.
With names like “Purgatory Scream Park,” “Frightmare Farms,” “Blood Manor,” and “Edge of Hell Haunted House,” modern-day haunted house attractions are making a killing—by some estimates, as much as $500 million per year. But these larger-than-life, commercialized events proffered annually by the thriving Halloween industry are mere phantoms. They can’t hold a candle to bona-fide hauntings, those that happen in shadowy castle corridors or the eerie chill of a Victorian turret. So grab a mug of warm apple cider, put on your bravest face, and let’s explore the architecture of terror together.
The Devil in the Details of Victorian Houses
When most folks imagine a haunted house, chances are they’re picturing Victorian architecture: steeply pitched, gabled roofs or mansard roofs; myriad peaks and spires; narrow, arched windows; and a great deal of gingerbread trim that some would describe as “ornate” or “elaborate,” but that others would call “fussy” and “over-the-top.” These quintessentially haunted-looking homes can also include towers, turrets, and widow’s walks. Often painted in pastel colors with contrasting trim, most Victorian houses have wide, wraparound porches and intricate, hand-carved woodwork.
Victorian homes are so closely associated with phantoms, in fact, that they’re Hollywood’s go-to setting for scary movies. The houses in “Beetlejuice,” “Hocus Pocus,” and “The Addams Family” are all examples of this architectural staple.
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The Ghoulish Vibe of Gothic Revival
There’s a great deal of crossover between Victorian and Gothic Revival design–and a corresponding amount of confusion. True Gothic style originated in medieval times and is easily recognized by iconic elements like flying buttresses, rib vault ceilings, and gargoyles. Gothic Revival, however, dates to the mid-19th century and has a strong foundation in medieval architecture, incorporating many Victorian touches. Sometimes known as High Victorian Gothic, this type of building can be identified by its pointed windows and decorative tracery, gables, oriel (or bay) windows, and leaded windows.
Hill House from “The Haunting”—the original 1963 film, not the 2018 reboot—is an excellent example of Gothic Revival style.
The Country Ghosts of Haunted Farmhouses
From “Children of the Corn” to “The Conjuring,” farmhouses have long been used as unsettling movie sets. Their scariness isn’t limited to just fictional flicks, either; stories of real-life rural hauntings abound as well. Several factors inform our farm-related fears. Their remote location means that blood-curdling screams will go unheard and would-be rescuers might not arrive in time. Farmhouses tend to be old buildings with creaky floors and squeaky doors that have seen several generations’ worth of ghosts. Barns are rife with bats and cobwebs, pitchforks and hatchets. It’s no wonder that this home design style serves up a bumper crop of goosebumps.
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The Macabre Hospitality of Haunted Castles
Castles conjure up all sorts of spine-tingling associations. For starters, they’re perched high on craggy mountaintops, built from cold unforgiving stone, surrounded by moats, and home to clanking armor. Inside their imposing exteriors are endless dark and dank rooms, secret passages lined with cobwebs, terrifying torture chambers, and who knows how many vampires. Add in the labyrinthine structure of most castles, with winding uneven staircases and isolated turrets, and you’re likely to run right into Dracula.
The Antebellum Mansion That Mouse Built
If Walt Disney thought that an antebellum mansion would make a perfect phantom residence, then who are we to quibble? The Haunted Mansion at Disney World is actually an eclectic mix of architectural components, but its primary vibe is antebellum plantation house or New Orleans mansion. A number of stately manors across the country, several of which are home to their own ghosts, claim to have provided the inspiration for this beloved tourist attraction and ride.
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Bonus Haunted Home: The George Stickney House
Many residents of haunted houses want their ghosts to get out and go away, but not Victorian-era Spiritualists George and Sylvia Stickney. They designed and built the Stickney House in 1865 and held frequent seances to communicate with the dead. The two-story home in northeast Illinois has no sharp, 90-degree angles. That way, the Stickneys believed, ghost guests could float freely throughout the house without getting caught in corners. The structure currently serves as the local police office and certainly deserves its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.