First House Diaries #2: Rooms Of Your House, From Most To Least Haunted

When you’re buying a house all by yourself, you deal with the real life threats first: does this look like a neighborhood I’m going to get serial killed in? How many break-ins have there been nearby? Is the roof sturdy? All of that stuff. But when you’re going to open house after open house, there comes a time when your house hunting expedition becomes a ghost hunting one. You want to make sure you don’t get Amityville Horror-ed, right? So check your dream home in the following areas before you put in that offer. Here are the rooms of any house, from most to least likely to be haunted:

(1) Any Unexplained, Walled-Up, Partially Hidden Room

 

You know what should have absolutely nothing to hide? Your HOUSE. If there’s a hidden doorway, a room you can only access through a closet, or a Harry Potter-style Cupboard Under The Stairs, your house isn’t being up front with you and probably has a secret. And that secret is ghosts.

In one of the houses I toured, the attic had a hastily-constructed extra room with chipped, clawed-looking walls and creepy ’50s children’s book illustrations on the walls. When I walked in there, my very first thought was “oh hey, that’s where the ghost lives.” Basically if there’s a weird room that makes you say “that’s where the ghost lives” – yep, that’s where the ghost lives.

(2) Bedroom

Bedrooms aren’t the most inherently creepy-seeming room of the house, but think about it. Most people’s ghost stories start with them being awoken in the middle of the night with a ghost staring at them. GROSS.

(3) Bathroom

I know, not the attic or basement? No, not yet. If a ghost wants to be extra creepy, they’d definitely hang out in the bathroom. It’s really all about the shower curtain. Imagine leaving the shower to find a ghost staring at you. Or worse, opening the shower curtain and finding a little-girl ghost in an old-timey dress in there. Plus there’s the bathroom mirror, prime location for Bloody Marys and menacing fog-writing.

As a kid, my house’s bathroom gave me the willies, to the extent that I used to rush and take showers as quickly as possible. As an adult, this habit has helped me maintain really low water bills so I’m not complaining. But the wacky thing is that years later, my mom told me that she went to a psychic who out of nowhere mentioned that the tiny hallway in front of the bathroom was the portal that the ghosts came in and out of.

(4) Attic

Here’s my rationale for the attic being more full of ghosts than the basement. Attics are usually less readily accessible than basements, so if someone had something to hide they would probably keep it in the attic. Secret deformed children, a church of satan, a wall of victim’s photos: attic material, all of them. Plus while your basement probably contains frequently-used utilities that might deter a ghost infestation (washer, dryer, furnace), your attic is more stagnant so ghosts are more likely to accumulate. Also moths, spiders, etc. Pretty much just don’t go into your attic.

(5) Basement

Don’t get me wrong, basements are still creepy. The main reason is that these are the most likely place in your house for a body to be concealed. Unless someone really Telltale Heart-ed it, there probably isn’t a body under your floorboards, but there might be one under that weird patch of mismatched concrete on your basement floor.  Apparently my great-grandparents’ house had a notoriously haunted basement – like, they were known for it – so my fear of basements might be part of my genetic memory.

(6) Hallways and Stairwells

 

Again, I blame my childhood home, which had a stairway landing so creepy that I used to try to fly past it on my way up and down. Maybe I should just blame being a weird kid. Still, hallways are full of doors for ghosts to pop out of, or twists and turns where you can see a ghost in the distance. If you want an excellent example of the hallway as a ghost device, look no further than The Shining.

(7) Kitchens

Kitchens aren’t spooky, but if you have a Poltergeist-y ghost that likes to play with things you’ll probably find it in the kitchen. Between the stove, faucet, microwave and fridge door, there’s a lot to open and close or turn on and off – like a Melissa and Doug toy, only for ghosts.

(8) Dining Room

I’ve just never heard of anyone having a haunted dining room, you know?

(9) Living Room/ Family Room/ Den

Here’s how I feel. Poltergeist aside, I think TVs are inherently confusing to ghosts, who seem to always be from sometime pre-1950. Not that they have to be, but I’ve never heard of anyone say “yeah, there’s a ghost in my house. He always appears and disappears wearing zubaz and a slap bracelet with a hypercolor shirt” or “we keep seeing this woman at the attic window with a spiral perm and mall bangs, checking her swatch watch then staring into the distance through her Sally Jesse Raphael glasses.” So if your living room is your TV spot, the ghost is just not interested. Now, if you have one fancy living room that just has uncomfy couches and a piano in it, the ghosts might like that one.

Real rational talk: ghosts make no sense. I don’t know why I would believe in the spirits of dead people manifesting out of thin air, when I barely believe in … you know, myself. (JK, I think I’m pretty good.) But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind when I looked at houses – particularly the one with the ghost room in the attic.

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Design Spy: Crazy Decorating Styles You See At Open Houses

When my parents put the family home on the market during my freshman year of high school, they knew it was going to be a tough sell. The location could best be described as “drug dealer-adjacent.” The neighborhood even had a nickname – and not a cute New York-y one like LoMoFi or The Fishmonger District. No, it was called The Fatal Crescent, because if there was one thing we loved in the inner city, it was comedic nods to Mesopotamia. They knew that everything had to look amazing during the open house. They almost got it right, until they forgot to remove the laminated Mets poster that covered the buckling section of the wall in the attic bedroom. [I think it somehow explains a lot about me that all of my childhood posters were laminated. NO I CANNOT GET A GRIP. Getting a grip isn’t an option when you’re raised to painstakingly laminate Rose and Jack’s party in third class.] Imagine our dismay to come home and find that a prospective homebuyer had taken down the poster to get a closer look. I mean, God. That shit was loadbearing.

 

Through attending weekly open houses as a homebuyer, I’ve learned that my parents weren’t alone: a lot of folks just can’t get it together. So, as I get increasingly weary of comparing square footage and furnace attributes (who in the fresh hell has OIL HEAT?), I’m taking an almost anthropological interest in home decor instead. Sure, every family is different – some of them cover their buckling walls with Yankees posters, which may not even be laminated – but I’ve noticed some common decor styles:

 

Mormon Mommy Blogger

I’ve written before about my fascination with Mormon Mommy Bloggers, mostly for their effortless ability to do what I cannot: to exist as a generally appealing person who is also a lady. The Mormon Mommy Blogger decor style can be practiced by anyone — even if you aren’t Mormon, even if you aren’t a mommy. You need a bright and cheerful color combo, bird appliques, stripes and chevron, and tons of shit from Etsy. Just go to Etsy on a day – any day at all – hit up the homepage when they feature items that go together, and buy it. Then go to Anthro and buy a bunch of their stuff too. Most items you get will have the word “whimsy” or “tribal” in the description, which makes sense because you are part of the most whimsical tribe of all (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).

Instructions Included

Some people aren’t able to get through their daily life without signage telling them what to do and where. They may forget to Live, Laugh, and Love if it isn’t written down somewhere. In the kitchen, there is a big sign that says “EAT.” Over the bed: “DREAM”, or, for more whimsical people (but not, like, Mormon-whimsical) “Always kiss me goodnight.” In the family room: “FAMILY.” I’m sort of surprised their bathroom wall doesn’t proclaim “POOP” in Helvetica.

I might do this in my house, but I’ll make it a little more realistic. Kitchen: “REGRET.” Bedroom: “Always spend a half-hour deciding what to fall asleep to on Netflix.” Family room: “DVR.”

Page 104 of the Spring 2011 Pottery Barn Catalog

Decorating comes naturally to some people – and to others, The Pottery Barn catalog comes quarterly. Close enough. These folks will buy a coffee table, and also buy the exact flat bowl, weird twine ball, and candlestick holder that appear with it in the catalog. These houses look nice, but I’d like to see what these people do if you give them an off-book vase or picture.

Mid-20s pastiche

No, not the 1920s, though I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more art-deco homes. I’m talking about being over the age of 25 and having never bought furniture on purpose. These people have the plaid couch from their college house, the IKEA desk from their first apartment, the weird rococo chair from their nana’s den, and the dining room table that their parents replaced. I’ll admit that my furniture comes from all kinds of sources, but I make an effort to paint or upholster things so that it all goes together. Mid-20s Pastiche is more of a stylistic melting pot.

The ‘Car Interior’ Interior

I’ve been to a few houses that are very clearly Men’s Houses By Men Who Would Like You To Know They Are Men. Walls are painted a carseat gray. Accents are in some shade of red. There might be black bedding. There’s definitely chrome, and possibly framed car photos. The homeowner definitely uses some sort of hair wax. Ladies, if a gentleman brings you back to a house like this, it’s always okay to make an excuse to leave, because otherwise you might get killed. I don’t know why, but this style sets off my creep-o-meter.

I enjoy being a girl!

This is the female analog to the car interior style – in fact, the houses in these two styles are essentially the adult version of the Barbie/Hot Wheels Happy Meals. You can expect the following: Animal print. Hot pink. Wine glasses with maribou on them. Wall art celebrating martinis. Some sort of artistic depiction of shoes.

This woman doesn’t have a tinted black and white poster print of little girls she doesn’t know with caption “girls just want to have fun!”… but she did in college. There’s a very real possibility that she was in a sorority, but make no mistake — not all sorority alums are like this. She knows exactly which Sex And The City character she and her friends are (she’s “a Charlotte,” but probably more like a Season 1 Shoshanna.)

The Feral Child’s Keeper

This goes beyond babyprooofing – these people are actually afraid of their children. Every surface below six feet is completely devoid of ornamentation. Furniture is bolted to the walls. Bills are stored in something you have to lock. Crayons and markers change locations as soon as kids figure out where they’re stored in case they do some rogue wall coloring. Furniture is covered in sheets (“the one time we took off the sheets Emma-Lynn spilled a gallon of chocolate milk on it”). Floors are covered in dropcloths (“sometimes Ayden trails paint behind him – house paint.” Ayden is a baby). Light switches have duct tape over them (“otherwise Kayler likes to play with the lights” Kayler is over the age of 7). The kitchen has a lock on it. Everything has a lock on it. These people cannot have nice things because their children will ruin nice things (their children are not Mormon). I picture parents setting up the Frozen DVD then slowly backing slowly out of the room, occasionally opening the door a crack to throw in bags of fruit snacks then slamming it so the feral children don’t nip at them.

The Collector

Hummels. Camels. Precious Moments. Lladro. Bells. Teaspoons. Ashton-Drake plates. Madame Alexander dolls. Tchotchkes representing the land of your ancestors, even though they immigrated in the 19th century. These people never met one of something that they wouldn’t rather have 30 of. On the plus: they’re probably super easy to buy Christmas and Birthday presents for.

Crockpot Method

As in: Set It And Forget it! These people decorated their house one time, in the past. These are the best houses to go to because you feel like you’ve entered a time capsule or a living history museum. The classic crockpot house has 60s or 70s decor – big yellow flowered wallpaper, shag carpeting, avocado appliances, a bathroom fit for one of the Pink Ladies. But as more baby boomers move out of the houses they raised their kids in, sometimes you see an 80s or 90s house, with Laura Ashley curtains, light pine tv cabinets, and geese or ducks wearing bonnets.

 

All The World’s A Stage

This house looks awesome. The decor is current but not so trendy that you can’t see living there. It’s natural enough that it doesn’t look like a catalog page. But look closer – is that plastic lettuce in the kitchen? Yep – the house has been staged.