What is it about old houses that makes them such a perfect setting for haunted houses, horror films, and ghost stories? Every fall when the weather turns cool and the Jack-o-lanterns stand guarding front porches across the country, old houses take center stage once again. So, why is a dark old house so linked to Halloween, ghosts, and ghouls?
Let’s be honest for a minute- is a creaking door truly scary or is it more annoying? So, what makes these houses so scary? What kind of “qualifications” does an old house have to have to truly be a haunted house? Here’s a fun test to see if your house could qualify for Hollywood’s next scary movie. Add up your points and see!
1. It Has To Be Old
I’m not talking pre-colonial here, but nobody is scared of a plain-jane 1 story stucco house built in 2004. The older the better. It has to have some history to it and be old enough that several generations have lived and died since the house was built. Being from a different time that we didn’t live through gives it an air of unfamiliarity and helps create some irrational fear necessary for any haunted house. Frighteningly enough, that would mean that this year’s trick-or-treaters could be scared of a house built way back in the 1980s.
Was your house built before: 1940=2 points 1920=3 points 1900=4 points 1890=5 points 1800=8 points
2. It Has To Be Big
The two scariest rooms in any old house are the attic and the basement. Filled with strange old relics from previous owners, covered in spider webs, dimly lit…now we’re talking! Who knows what could be hiding behind the next corner? Attics get 1 extra point for the creaky floorboards and basements get an extra point if they have a creepy old boiler that looks like it’s silently watching your every move. Also, it’s best to have a maze of bedrooms and bathrooms that is easy to get lost in (think The Shining). If you’ve ever given directions to a room by telling a guest it is in a particular “wing” of the house then you’ve definitely got a winner.
Basement=1 point Attic=1 point
How many bedrooms/baths: < 3/2=0 points < 5/4=1 point < 7/5=2 points > 7/5=4 points
3. It Needs A Neglected Exterior
The all stars of the haunted house world are in terrible physical shape. The more the landscaping is overgrown the better, and you can add a point for every dead tree still standing in your yard. It’s difficult to get just the right mix of dead weeds and overgrown plants to make sure your house scares away even the bravest neighborhood child in search of their ill-fated baseball. It’s also helpful if the exterior of your home hasn’t been painted since Kennedy was in office. Hanging clapboards are a nice addition, and the truly committed homeowner should break out a couple windows to get just the right mix of historic and neglected.
Dead/Overgrown Landscaping=1 point Peeling Paint=1 point Broken Windows=4 points each!
4. It Needs a Spooky Story
The pièce de résistance of a great haunted house is an eerie story from its past. Having some infamous or mysterious historical event or person associated with your house really ups the anté. Was your basement used by bootleggers during prohibition? Not bad. Maybe Bonnie and Clyde used your house as a hideout. Better. Was there a Civil War battle fought on the grounds of your house and the musket balls are still lodged in your walls? Perfect! Not every haunted house needs a spooky story, but it certainly adds street cred for your little Bungalow if it housed a speak-easy in the 1920s.
Erie Local Story=4 points Erie National Story=10 points
Time to total up your score!
Less than 5 points – Your house is new, clean, and truly un-Halloween. You’ll need some incredible decorations and the pricey candy to up your curb-appeal.
6-15 points – Not the scariest house on the block, but you’re getting there. You need to give a little more effort to get the street cred you’re looking for.
16-25 points – Your house is pretty scary and well neglected. If you watch closely you’ll probably notice children pause to consider whether they are brave enough to approach your creaky old house.
More than 26 points – Congratulations! Your house is thoroughly frightening to both children and adults alike and should probably be condemned sometime soon. Hollywood should be calling whenever the next Addams Family or Munsters movie is in the works. Get ready for fame!
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.