Some places are just plain creepy! The crypt in the cellar of the Berliner Dom (the impressive Lutheran cathedral located on Museum Island near the Altes Museum) is loaded with ornate coffins that just scream — set a vampire rising from sleep HERE! The birds nesting on one of the angels on the walkway around the dome were pretty bizarre too, as they all gathered on a single angel ignoring all the others. I wondered if it were simply the right time of day for the birds to gather on that particular angel, or if there were something that distinguished it from the other, identical angels — something worthy of a scary tale.
But horror is not always located in “scary places.” Sometimes it’s better to set a scary story in familiar, comfortable, mundane location and infuse that location with a morbid mood. The apparent innocence of the place creates a discontinuity and that can add a peculiar kind of tension. A suburban ranch house with a carefully manicured lawn and a basketball hoop attached to the garage door doesn’t project “haunted house,” but it’s fun to imagine the kind of ghost who would take up residence in place so devoid of a classic, creepy history.
Living in New York City, I’ve often pondered the relative lack of urban ghost tales. I’ve written a couple (and will likely write more). The temptation is to haunt famous spots — The Algonquin Hotel, The Dakota, Carnegie Hall, McSorley’s Bar, Gracie Mansion or anyplace with a well-known back-story. But I’m contemplating haunting a perfectly ordinary post war (WWII) apartment building or a suite of offices packed tightly with cubicles and electronics. I can picture a poltergeist stirring up a little trouble in the break room.
What is the most harmless place you can imagine? It’s a good place to start a story with a morbid frame of mind.