Why are Haunted Houses always Old?


Spooky house
Spooky houses where doors open on their own

Have you ever wondered why haunted houses are always portrayed as old houses?

Personally I think old houses get a bum rap always being type caste in such a way. Is it because they’ve been around longer? Is it because they’ve had more owners, or seen the passing of more people so that there are more spirits in the house?

Or is it because, being older, they’ve had more time to be neglected and run down the way so many houses are when they feature them in a horror movie?

The answer may surprise you. It has nothing to do with either!

To understand you must go back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s in England. At that time there was a very popular art period that affected architecture, painting and writing – it was called Romanticism. It’s not what you might think – sounds like pretty paintings and stories of love. In reality it had more to do with the way artists and writers looked at things – romanticizing them, making their imaginations fill in the blanks between reality and their ideas about the way something should be.

At that time, certain writers and architects decided that Medieval England was the epitome of community, chivalry and craftsmanship. So they decided to bring it alive again by first recreating Gothic castles. The writer, Sir Horace Walpole spent thirty years of his life converting his house, called Strawberry Hill, into a pseudo castle.

At about the same time artists began to paint very strange and disturbing pictures from their imagination. They portrayed nightmares as gargoyles sitting on a victim’s chest or creatures sucking their life force as they slept – and the victim was always a woman.

It doesn’t take a big stretch of our own imagination to see that this is how Dracula was “born” in popular fiction. The victim, a woman, the nightmare, Dracula and the setting – you guessed it – a haunted, spooky, Gothic castle. Sir Walter Scott made the “Gothic” novel an enduring type of literature that titillates even today. So now you know.

Do you have any spooky house stories to share?

4 thoughts on “Why are Haunted Houses always Old?

  1. I had a funny experience in an old “haunted” farmhouse I was doing some salvage out of. I had my children and some neighborhood kids with me helping me bundle trim, flooring and beadboard. The kids had gone exploring and found a way to boost each other up into the attic space. In the back of the attic their was a dark heap of ‘something’ and the kids started speculating on what it could be. One of the older boys asked to be boosted up into the attic hatch and so a few of the kids pushed him up through the hole and held him there so he could give them all the benefit of his keen eyes. He decided he would give them all a scare and declared in a cold, whispered voice that… ” It’s, it’s… a body! And, I think it just moved!” The younger kids holding him up took off like the house was on fire and left him dangling halfway out of the ceiling calling out “Guys? GUYS?!!” Serves him right.

    1. This is so funny. Thanks for the laugh! I can picture this as if I were there with him. My sister the one of six that is a year younger than me was a big prankster, and because I was smaller and afraid of everything, I was her number one victim. I could definitely see her doing this to me, and I definitely would have left her hanging.

  2. I love the new blog format, thanks for doing it! I volunteer for an old house museum in Anaheim, CA where the school kids were told for years by earlier docents that the house was haunted, in an attempt to spice up the tour. Sadly it led to vandalism, I have caught kids throwing rocks at the house from a nearby school field, their excuse being “it is only a spooky old haunted house!” So now during the tours we explain that the house is not haunted, and that because it is now City owned it belongs to all of us, the kids are thrilled to hear they co-own this wonderful old treasure and have promised to share that info with others. While old equals spooky is fun at Halloween, it does not bode well for the wavy glass windows of an old house without a full time caretaker. On the other hand, I would LOVE to decoarate the old girl for Halloween….

    1. Yes, it takes some effort to teach people of any age to appreciate old buildings – especially in this age of tear down and replace. Great job!

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