Happy Saturday, you Coffin Hoppers! Having fun with the Hop so far? I know I am. I’ve already discovered some great authors on this hop, and hope to find more as the days progress. As always, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post for more information on the Coffin Hop, but for now, let’s take a look at the…
This is a two-day event. On the first day, we’re looking at some of my favorite fictional haunted (or mystical) places. Tomorrow, we’ll look at five real, legendary places. I know the title is Haunted Places, but I don’t necessarily mean “haunted”, I just mean those places that get under your skin and stay there.
One of my favorite fictional subjects, as evidenced in Abby the Hero, is the forgotten places of the world – the places where reality and myth merge. You’ve probably encountered one or two of these places in your own life; places that touch a nerve within you, without you even understanding why. I grew up near a lake that covered a submerged cemetery, and let me tell you, that place has never left my imagination. That’s the kind of place I’m talking about.
Now on with the list…
5. Haddonfield, Ill (Halloween). This one was an obvious choice; Haddonfield, in my mind, equals horror. Haddonfield is located in Livingston County, Illinois 3.5 miles northeast of the county seat of Pontiac. This north-central Illinois community is known for its Haddonfield Harvest Festival and high school football team, the Haddonfield Huskers. Haddonfield is also a town haunted by the events that took place on the Halloween nights of 1963, 1978, and 1988, at last banning the celebration of Halloween after another massacre in 1989.
Haddonfield had its ghosts, though; by the time Michael returned to town in 1978, the old Myers place had a reputation as a haunted house, and rightfully so, for Michael took up residence there almost as soon as he returned.
Haddonfield was named for real-life Haddonfield, New Jersey, co-writer and co-producer Debra Hill’s hometown. The second film also establishes that the murders of Laurie’s friends took place in the northwest section of Haddonfield on a street called Orange Grove. The real-life addresses for the houses used for the Doyle and Wallace residences are on Orange Grove Avenue in West Hollywood, California (credit to the Horror Wiki for these facts).
4. Summerisle, UK (Wicker Man). And please, not the Nicholas Cage version, thank you. The real Summerisle lies off the western coast of Scotland and was once a center for fishing and sheep farming. In 1868, the first Lord Summerisle came to the island, attracted by the volcanic soil and the warm gulf stream. He transformed the impoverished community in more ways than one; he encouraged the inhabitants to move away from their traditional crops toward certain fruits and vegetables and, as part of that move, to convert from Christianity to “the old gods”.
When the crops were successful, the inhabitants of Summerisle fully embraced paganism, and the Christian ministers were banished to the mainland. Summerisle continued to be fruitful and prosperous for several years, and the inhabitants continued to worship pagan deities, with particular emphasis on fertility rituals. Such is the place when an unsuspecting Sergeant Neil Howie visits, looking for a vanished young girl…
Most Summerisle residents are named after trees, flowers and plants. There is actually a small archipelago in Scotland called “the Summer Isles” (Na h-Eileanan Samhraidh). However, this is apparently unconnected with the film, at least consciously.
3. Innsmouth, Massachusetts (The Shadow out of Innsmouth). HP Lovecraft’s stories are the very first thing that comes to mind when I think about the haunted, desolate places of the Earth. So many choices to make here, but Innsmouth wins out. Innsmouth is located on the coast of Essex County, Massachusetts, south of Plum Island and north of Cape Ann, somewhere in the vicinity of Essex Bay.
Innsmouth was founded in 1643, noted for shipbuilding before the Revolution, a seat of great marine prosperity in the early nineteenth century, and later a minor factory center. The town began to lose traction economically when its sailors died in either shipwrecks or the war of 1812. By 1828, the only fleet still running that route was that of Captain Obed Marsh, the head of one of the town’s leading families.
In 1840, Marsh started a cult in Innsmouth known as the Esoteric Order of Dagon, basing it on a religion practiced by certain Polynesian islanders he had met during his travels. Shortly thereafter, the town’s fishing industry experienced a great upsurge (see some parallels to the Wicker Man here?). The central beings worshipped by the Order were the Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, and, to a lesser extent, Cthulhu. Dagon and Hydra were seen largely as intermediaries between the various gods, rather than as gods themselves. Even so, the cultists sacrificed various locals to the Deep Ones at specific times in exchange for a limitless supply of gold and fish.
Let’s just say it’s not a place you want to be caught in when the sun goes down.
2. Derry, Maine (IT, numerous other Stephen King books). This one almost made it to #1, losing by just a nose. Derry first appeared in the King short story “The Bird and the Album”, but has made numerous appearances in other books and stories. King says that Derry is, essentially, his take on Bangor, Maine. Derry is a town with a dark secret, one in which almost every single citizen is complicit; you see, many, many years ago, a creature from between the worlds took up residence in the town. This creature helped the town to flourish, but also demanded tribute in the form of human sacrifices. These deaths happened once every 27 years, with the town turning a collective blind eye.
The town was nearly torn apart when the beast was finally killed, but it recovered and has continued to appear in King’s books with hints that the monster is not quite dead.
1. Twin Peaks, Washington State (Twin Peaks). “But Twin Peaks wasn’t a horror story,” I can hear some folks saying.
Are you sure? An unsolved murder, a supernatural killer, a haunted forest, doors between worlds with malevolent beings guarding the gates…I don’t know, it sure sounds like a horror story to me.
It’s difficult to find online information about the town itself (a printed visitors guide does exist, but I don’t have it), but we do know a few things: the town was founded on the logging industry, and relied on the nearby Ghostwood Forest, where one could pass between worlds at Glastonbury Grove. Its population was either 51,201 or 5,120, depending on the source material. The thing is, while the history of the town is somewhat relevant to the story, what is more important is its occupants – the town itself is something of a character within the story of Twin Peaks, and that’s what earns it the #1 place on this list.
So how about you? What are some of your favorite fictional towns/haunts? I’d love to hear about them.
This year I’m participating in the Coffin Hop Blog Extravaganza, which brings together over 100 horror authors in a week deadicated (see what I did there) to terror, all leading up to Halloween, naturally. The Coffin Hop is not just about discovering new authors, it’s also about fun prizes. If you haven’t read to this point, here are the rules for entry: all I want is your comment. One comment is one entry, at a limit of one person per post. Don’t worry, I have at least five posts lined up for the next week so you’ll get at least five entries.
And the prizes…
Five eBooks from the Emissaries of the Strange. That’s package #1. I’m giving away three of these.
Package #2 is a complete collection of my works, including the Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of Room 3, due for release on November 12th. I’ll also happily replace your ARC once the book launches, but this is a chance to read something a bit early. I’m giving away five of these packages.
All entries must be in before Midnight EST on Halloween night. I’ll be drawing the winners on November 1st and announcing them right here. So be here for it all!