When it comes to horror flicks, there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a decrepit Victorian mansion. But how did this ornate style become so feared?
When it comes to horror flicks, there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a towering Victorian manse that’s a bit past its prime. After all, there’s a reason Ryan Murphy set the inaugural (and scariest) “Murder House” season of “American Horror Story” in a sprawling (and spectacularly haunted) Victorian home. Alfred Hitchcock situated Norman Bates and his irascible mom in one for “Psycho.” Even Walt Disney understood the Victorian’s freaky allure—that’s why Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is built in the same inescapable and inescapably unnerving style.
So why do Victorians make our flesh crawl quite the way they do? How did this highly ornate style—dubbed the “McMansion” of the antebellum period by one scholar—become so feared?
“It has a lot to do with the proportions,” says Jonathan Moore, an architect in Tampa, FL. “Many of the details—like doors, windows, and trim—are long and vertical.” Remind you of anything?
“There’s a direct relationship to an open mouth and wide eyes.” A screaming mouth, that is.
Terrifying visuals aside, there are a few nuanced reasons—firmly grounded in architectural history—why Victorians turned into the pop culture stuff of nightmares.