Room for Monsters

My college roommate was in town this weekend. We’ve stayed in touch for all the intervening years and often compare the differences in how our lives have turned out. She’s an urban planner and handles some dicey zoning issues for the local government in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. She always has great stories about land use controversies and, like any New Yorker, I love to talk real estate. We even saw “Clybourne Park” on Broadway. It’s the Tony-award winning play about race and real estate.

There’s a connection between monsters and real estate? Yes, absolutely.

The ruins of a castle, a haunted theater, a lonely beach house, an old graveyard, an abandoned hospital, an isolated house in the country — settings are critical in monster stories, horror tales and mysteries. The off-season hotel is one of the lead characters in Stephen King’s “The Shinning.” P.D. James set one of her best mystery novels in the shadow of a nuclear power plant, “Devices and Desires.”

Monsters need some space to lurk. Dark corners, back stairways, secret passages and hidden doors are very good for monsters. Attics in old houses, basements, storm cellars — even wine cellars — are good. Although my cat manages to find hiding places in my studio apartment, there simply isn’t room for a conventional monster’s lair in tiny apartments.

Of course monsters with human faces hide in plain sight in cities and even in the suburbs. “The Mary Shelley Game” is a variation on the classic country house murder mystery and the setting of “Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet” — a row house with two apartments per floor in the Village — is really a variation on the rooming house or small village settings of many classics, where people know — or think they know — their neighbors. Number three, still a work-in-progress, uses the haunted institution setting.

So far, I’ve yet to figure out how to tell a suburban monster story. Maybe one of the “McMansions” my friend described or the rambling new estates with square footage that dwarfs every home but Versailles, would be good for one of my next MONSTERS? Cathedral ceilings might have an appeal for a Gargoyle?

I’d much rather write about McMansion than live in one — my cat would simply have too many places to hide!


  1. Metan

    Those new McMansions are a bit of a nightmare, aren’t they? I don’t know how you could make a traditional horror story out of one though, maybe if you live there you invent your own kind of nightmare for them. Waking up one morning and finding out the neighbours house grew bigger and more opulent than yours overnight? Oh, the horror! 😉

    (I have nominated you for the Beautiful blogger award. You can just bask in the glory and not pass it on if you like, I totally understand! Just sending you my appreciation.

    • Candy

      Thanks for the blogger award!

      Oh, yes those McMansions are frightening. From the perspective of a city person in a tiny apartment the are completely insane. They are monsters! My friend in Virginia is constantly coping with the newer, bigger, more “luxurious” details. People want second kitchens, apartments within the house, suites of rooms — they are building castles so that they never have to leave. The one with the indoor ice skating/hockey rink put me over the edge. That was more of a McEstate than a mansion.

      I’d be laughing if it weren’t real!

      • Metan

        Ok, here is the McMansion story that came to me in a flash this afternoon. Your home is soooo big, and, only a status symbol really, so when a practicing serial killer takes up quiet residence in an unused portion of it you are in real trouble. The police come knocking. How would you talk your way out of that one, how did you not know what was going on in your own home?

        My house is so small that a new cushion couldn’t take up residence without getting in the way 🙂 The thought of somewhere with its own ice rink is just ridiculous. That is a hotel, not a home!

        I can imagine how much pressure you would be under to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ like that. I like a relaxed, happy life, I don’t think I could be bothered with that at all. 🙂

  2. Heavens, who needs a monster when there’s a cat about and they already know how to lurk and jump out of dark corners. Maybe size is an issue, and if so perhaps the cats just count as being inhabited by mini-monsters but that should be enough. They are able to scare people, slash with their fierce claws like any horror story recommends and they can bite. Oh can they bite…not just needle sharp toothypegs but also the possibility of an infection to follow.
    Yes, give me a big monster to fight anyday rather than an ‘Oscar’or a ‘Felix’.

    • Candy

      I love my cat and yes — he does have his Tiger moments.

      A long time ago I had a much more aggressive and possessive cat. She didn’t like the guy I was dating and decided to kill him. I intervened and wound up in the emergency room with cat bites on both hands. She’d been going for his jugular and he was not an animal lover. He treated her like a furry pillow that walked around the house and she knew it. The punch line of the story is that SHE was right about him. He’d over-stayed his welcome. But it wan’t until his response to me taking the hit (or bites) for him that I truly understood.

      So a vampire over a kitty? Love it! I may use that in a story!!!!

  3. A McMansion needs something like a Chuckie Monster, something more modern than the European style monsters. Or perhaps a Bigfoot masquerading as a human? It would definitely appreciate those cathedral ceilings!

    • Candy

      Fabulous idea! Bigfoot shaving three times a day — or making a deal with for waxing with the ladies at the suburban day spa…. I can see it now. He’d be the local football coach or an officer at the local bank and get asked to run for the town council…. I”m spinning a story.