October 10, 2014

Haunted Houses for Halloween: Special Unreal Estate Edition

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." -- Robert Frost
All well and good, but what if you share your home with ghosts? And the hand unlatching the door to let you in isn't a hand at all, but the skeletal fingers of a malevolent specter long dead?

As the days get shorter, the evenings get cooler, the house starts shifting ever so slightly, and the October night winds set the curtains fluttering, I've been thinking about this place called home. We go to great lengths to secure the best abode we can afford, signing away a good portion of our paychecks to rent or mortgages, then going out and spending even more on furnishings, appliances, decorations -- anything to make it distinctly ours.

Hill House, The Haunting (1963)
A man's home is his castle until it isn't. No matter how many alarms or dead bolt locks you install, there are all kinds of little creatures who will march, crawl, fly or slither into your attic, the basement, behind the walls, under the deck -- you name it -- stretch out their legs or wings, get comfortable, and think about a nice midnight raid on the kitchen.

You can call the exterminator or set traps yourself, but you know it's always going to be a rear-guard action. Common household pests are bad enough, but what if you’re one of the unlucky few who have to put up with ghosts along with all the other household annoyances? Exorcists are few and far between, and how do you go about booking one? Plus, there's always the possibility that the ghost considers you to be the annoying intruder, and bringing in a ghost buster might just escalate things instead of solving them.

It seems like ghost busters and whisperers have been in high demand on movies screens lately. The popularity of The Blair Witch Project (1999) unleashed a Pandora’s box office of malevolent spirits and entities in such films as The Others (2001), Paranormal Activity (2007) and its sequels/prequels, The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), The Conjuring (2013), etc., etc. Better still, most of these films at least attempt to generate some real suspense, vs. simply shocking audiences with gross-out gore.

But since this blog is dedicated to oldies, I’ve searched the most remote, shadowy corners of the internet to come up with a poster tour of classic haunted house films -- 13 of 'em -- for your enjoyment and edification this Halloween season. Most are readily available on DVD and/or for streaming.

Still, The Haunting (1963)
There are much worse ways to spend an October night than to pop one of these into your DVD player and give it a spin. Just don't freak out afterwards and start imagining that every little creak you hear has a supernatural origin. It's probably just a rat or a bat making himself at home.

Poster - Terror in the Haunted House (1958)
Aka My World Dies Screaming, 1958.
"And then through the branches of the old trees I see the house again. It sits there waiting for me. Silent, malignant. A place of unspeakable horror." -- Sheila Wayne (Cathy O'Donnell)

Poster - The Innocents (1961)
"It was only the wind, my dear." Miles (Martin Stephens)

Poster - Hold That Ghost (1941)
"Oh a bed, that's just what I need, a nice big bed to hide under." Ferdie (Lou Costello)

The Haunted Palace (1963)
Tagline: A warlock's home is his castle...Forever!

Poster - House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Tagline: First Film With the Amazing New Wonder EMERGO:
The Thrills Fly Right Into The Audience!

Cover art: House of Darkness (1948)
Tagline: Love and Hate Under One Roof!

Poster - 13 Ghosts (1960)
Tagline: 13 Times the Thrills! 13 Times the Chills! 13 Times the Fun!

Poster - The Legend of Hell House (1973)
"This house... It knows we're here." Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin)

Poster - The Ghost Breakers (1940)
"Listen, you stay there, and if a couple a fellas come runnin' down the stairs
in a few minutes, let the first one go. That'll be me." Larry Lawrence (Bob Hope)

Poster - House of Usher (1960)
"If the house dies, I shall die with it." Bristol (Harry Elerbe)

Poster - The Uninvited (1944)
"They call them the haunted shores, these stretches of Devonshire and Cornwall and Ireland which rear up against the westward ocean. Mists gather here... and sea fog... and eerie stories..." Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland)

Poster - Castle of Blood (1964)
Tagline: They love only for blood!

Poster - The Haunting (1963)
"It was an evil house from the beginning - a house that was born bad."
Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson)


  1. There are some fine movies in the list, but the most underrated has to be THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE from the pen of Richard Matheson. It's a genuinely creepy tale that leaves no doubt about the presence of evil in Hell House.

    1. Agreed! My all-time favorite is still The Haunting, but Hell House is a very close second. I also recommend Matheson's novel Hell House, which goes into some interesting depth on paranormal phenomena and psychic research, and is one of those rare stories that truly keeps you up at night.

  2. I like The Haunting best, followed by The Uninvited, followed by The Legend of Hell House. But all of them are good and well worth watching - maybe every eerie season. - Heidi

    1. Those three would make a great Halloween movie marathon.

  3. Brian: I may have told you this before, but reading your posts makes a long commute to work seem short, and that's not easy to do. Can't thank you enough!

    1. Hi Bill! Always glad to hear from you! As you've probably noticed, I've gone from posting 2 or even 3 times a month down to once a month. But I'm still hanging in there because it's too much fun to drop altogether.

  4. I'll just have to take the good with the bad concerning once-a-month stuff: a blog entry from you vs. paying the rent.

    I have a happy choice on Saturday night: watching The Haunting on TCM at 8 PM, or seeing it at the same time at a 1929 movie palace with a 50-foot screen not far from where I live, which has inexplicably avoided being demolished. You're right - it's not a choice at all. More like a no-brainer. I'll be at the theater.

  5. Old school horror movie..Great movie list..

  6. There all amazing movies i spend hours watching free online streaming movies
    and cant get enough, still your list is great keep up listing.