This Week’s Prompt:17. Doors found mysteriously open and shut etc.—excite terror.
The Resulting Story: Under the House
This is, like the sounds that go bump in the night, something that might have been original in Mr. Lovecraft’s day, but now has become a staple of poorly told stories. Still, perhaps we should examine what exactly is implied mysterious doors opening and closing.
We will begin assuming the doors in question are literal doors. It seems cheating to call up a spirit that saw flickering portals spilling creatures from a nightmare realm onto the earth. There is little challenge in that. So, with literal doors, what do we have?
Well, the fundamental fear is the unknown, of course. But this isn’t being unknown as grand as the cosmos. Its something in here, with you. Something intelligent, capable of using doors and recognizing when something is looking for it. In the mundane sense, this resembles the urban legend of the clown statue, or the dread of a breaking and entering. Someone unwanted wandering a familiar place renders the safe dangerous, the known now unknown. After all, in a very real sense, we control our homes and, excepting other human beings in the area, we think we control our surroundings. Especially if they are as civilized as some place that has doors.
The stranger takes all that control away.
In the paranormal, this unseen manipulator has many forms. The first and most famous is the ghastly poltergeist. Made famous by the movie(s now, apparently) that proved Steven Speilberg fears light, the poltergeist is a German ghost capable of manipulating objects. The movie added an association with electricity and lights. The ghost often haunts a particular person, and as the Harry Potter movies and books show, they are often merely troublesome.
Alternatively, there is the diabolic creature of Paranormal Activity. This plays up the mystery, and takes some time hinitng at the beast. Better still, it subverts the nature of our modern well light age. Making technology isolating, as we have said, works to our advantage.
The excellent horror story, however, Over the Garden Wall features an alternative to the mysterious stranger. Briefly though:
All clear? Alright, Over the Garden Wall Chapter 5 Mad Love features a pair of old, wealthy individuals who have (unaware of each other) built there massive mansions into each others. Both ascribe the actions to a frightening spectre, approaching the unknown as a terrible thign that turns out to be quiet friendly.
This, however, doesn’t fit the rising tension. To induce that, we need something actually horrifying. Personally, the description reminds me of gas-lighting, a method of psychological torture where changes are made to the subjects environment, but then are denied as actually occurring. Alternatively, the changes are too small to be noticed (famously, moving everything to the left). This all leaves the subject questioning their sanity.
This level insisdious manipulation, or even simply the movement of strangers through one’s home without them being seen or heard (except the opening and closing of doors) seems far more frightening than a simple ghost. Ghosts moving things have become simple, common, even busted. But a stranger? Who knows what they’ve done. The paranoia, I can taste it my friends. Like a fine wine it ages.
If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.