In childhood, few things are as delightfully frightful as a spooky old home in the neighborhood that, according to legend, is inhabited by ghostly spirits. For decades, our entertainment has happily helped condition us to believe in the validity of such places, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of books, films, television shows, and attractions that not only convinced us, but painted a vivid image in our heads as to what a haunted house is supposed to look like. As a result, polls have demonstrated that almost 40% of Americans believe that haunted houses are real. Today, we thought we would reflect specifically upon those special places from our childhood that, just by seeing them, never failed to send a chill down our spine, and subsequently provided us with a lifetime of memories and a scary story or two to pass along.
First, just to properly set the mood…
No matter where you grew up, chances are strong that your neighborhood (or one of the surrounding ones) had a strange looking house that every kid just knew was haunted. Often it was because some tragedy occurred there in the past, perhaps a murder or suicide. Other times, it was simply because the place was abandoned, decrepit or simply just old. With its overgrown foliage, maybe a few broken windows, or even just its particular architectural style, it resembled the stereotype familiar to us all from movies like The Amityville Horror or The House on Haunted Hill, or television shows like The Munsters and Scooby Doo.
And yet, surprisingly, our deeply held fears weren’t quite strong enough to keep us away from exploring these potentially paranormal dwellings. Sure, you might cross the street to prevent walking past the place alone on a late night, but surrounded by your friends, the collective curiosity of the group usually won out. And if you didn’t necessarily possess the bravery to go peek in the window yourself, the next best thing was to dare one of your buddies, usually the one that looked the most frightened, to go take a look and report back. All in all, as much as we may have feared these places, we also delighted in them and, in some cases, retain wonderful childhood memories of these youthful experiences. Besides, they also make for great scary stories to tell your kids.
And if there didn’t happen to be a haunted house in your neighborhood, you usually didn’t have to travel far to visit one of the hundreds of tourist attractions that exist in each state around the country and that purport to have a higher level of paranormal activity than the average abode. In San Diego, California, for example, the Whaley House offers daily tours of what is reported to be the most haunted residence in America:
Now for the fun part – we would love for you to share your own childhood experiences with us. Was there a house in your neighborhood that seemed to have a sinister side? Did you stare at it from afar, or conjure up the nerve to get a closer look? Tell us about the haunted houses in your own neck of the woods, whether they be a recognized historical site, or just a house that wasn’t right – as we pay tribute to these legendary and fear-filled places, here at Retroland.