If I were to ask you where you’d set your horror movie, what location would you choose? 

Most people would say a house. It can be domesticated and simple, which makes it easier to lure the audience into a false sense of safety. Maybe you want to establish that the house is already haunted, so you pick an old Victorian mansion. 

Victorian mansions are an iconic image in horror movies. Whether bats are flying around as the house is lit by the full moon or a thunderstorm with lighting striking just above it, the Victorian mansion has become a cliche of horror

Want to know why? Let’s break it down.

Why Are Victorian Mansions Popular in Horror Movies? 

The ghostly presence of the Victorian mansion traces back to paintings like Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad from 1925. Hopper, an artist whose work is known for its haunting isolation and loneliness, depicts the Victorian mansion in an eerie way that sent chills up the viewers’ backs. 

The house in Hopper’s painting would influence infamous horror locations like the house in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psychoand the houses in The Addams FamilyBeetlejuiceand Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

House_by_the_railroadEdward Hopper's 'House by the Railroad'Credit: Courtesy of MoMA

But the Victorian mansion was not always a horror symbol. During the Gilded Age in America, the newly rich desperately wanted to showcase their status and wealth through material items. Their homes were intricately built structures that were difficult to take care of, which only the rich could afford. 

French architecture also played a role in the house’s status, featuring more turrets, towers, and the infamous Mansard roof. The grand homes were designed with tons of space, containing extra rooms like conservatories, music rooms, libraries, morning rooms, billiard rooms, and more. 

As time passed, grand Victorian mansions became victims of an economic collapse in the early 20th century. Many homes fell into disrepair and became a ghostly reminder of a corrupt past. 

Why are Victorian mansions horror movie icons?'House' (1986)Credit: New World Pictures

During the 1930s, photographs like Walker Evans’ Victorian Series, a documentary project that captured America’s largely abandoned Victorian-era houses, solidified the popular view of the once glorious homes as spooky and dangerous. 

Eventually, art began to portray the houses as haunted mansions to flee from. Horror movies adopted the pop culture symbol and made Victorian homes the locations of frightening villains. 

Today, the Victorian mansion remains a horror icon, warning bypassers to keep out. It is just another house, but unfortunately for the Victorian mansion, the cultural wound is too deep to heal, and the mansions will remain icons of decay and the macabre. 

What are other iconic horror locations? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Vox