Morbid Moods and Scary Places

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.





  1. Right now the most harmless place I can imagine is a lush, green lawn. However, once I step onto that lawn so my dog won’t pounce on kids on bikes with training wheels, mosquitoes attack my ankles. Now I’m sitting here typing being driven insane by the itch. Surely, there’s something horrific about kids on bikes, especially for my poor frazzled pooch.

    • Candy Korman

      As a non-suburbanite, a lawn NEVER seems harmless and a gang of kids on bikes could be a really good place to start a scary story. Frazzled dog or frazzled new neighbor, um… something to consider.

  2. I’m not a fan of scary movies or scary tales, but I remember how evil that Chuckie? ventriloquist’s doll always seemed. Perhaps a haunted toy shop???

    • Candy Korman

      So many haunted dolls and puppets — so little time! But I LOVE the idea of a haunted toy shop. The innocence of toy trains, board games, puzzles and baby dolls all turned into menacing creatures with demonic intentions. WOW!

      You may not like scary stories, but you can definitely weave ’em!

  3. I like the idea of the suburban ghost. The least likely place to have a long sordid history is the surburbs. When the ghost makes itself known you would have to wonder what might have caused it to choose the place.

    The neighborhood I live in is still fairly young. Our house is from the 70s, part of the old block, but there are houses further into the subdivision that are closer to 10 or so years old. My part is the houses with character and individuality. When you drive further in you run into cookie cutter places that could be part of the stepford neighborhood.

    There are several different angles you could hit for a horror story even in that kind of set up.