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  • Christian Todd

Haunted houses draw inspiration from the arts

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

Haunted house attractions, a popular feature during the Halloween season, have been inspired by works of art, including literature, films and paintings, to give them their unique blend of thrills and design.

Whether you encounter ghosts or demons, the horror genre has inspired the ghouls that frequently jump out at you while you make your way through a dark and thrilling haunted house.

First, literature influenced the subconscious of American culture poems and short stories with elements of horror and suspense still present in the haunted houses of today. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of Poe’s most well known tales and it contains scenes that can easily be seen in the foundations of haunted house attractions with worn-down walls and an eerie silence before a monster appears to frighten the guests.

Second, horror films have inspired haunted house attractions over the years, and many characters from the films have been into the attractions as well. Horror cinema became popular with audiences in the 1920s — especially German expressionism, a movement that was formed in the aftermath of World War I to show the psyche of the German state.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu” both have images that are similar to the monsters and indoor decorations of the haunted house attraction. “The plots that are featured in German expressionism were usually occupied with madness, identity of one’s self and insanity. When all these aspects were brought together, the result was usually a dark film with plenty of subtext to them,” wrote Eoghan Crabbe in a September 2016 article for “Film Inquiry.”

Universal Studios’ horror movies of the 1930s gave way to pop culture icons whose influence can still be seen today. Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon all have made an impact on the history of cinema, and Universal opened a maze that resembles a haunted house attraction that features these creatures.


Photo Credit: adblankestijn.blogspot.com/2013/10/nightmare-by-henri-fuseli-stories.html

Third, well-known paintings make up a good portion of the inspiration for haunted houses. Henry Fuseli’s “Nightmare” and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” inspire fear into the imagination due to the pessimism of the artists. One artist, Francisco Goya, is a tragic example of the tormented artist who depicted scenes of monsters, darkness and cannibalism.

With all of this rich history, haunted houses continue to draw on the arts to appeal to spectators. They take elements both old and new and combine them for an ultimate, thrilling experience. Without the expressiveness of art, haunted house attractions would not be the same as they are now.