Beyond the Haunted House: More Spooky Settings for Horror Fiction

Haunted Mansions are Here to Stay But…

abandoned haunted mansion in Canada

There is something about haunted mansions in horror fiction. Perhaps the sense of opulence and grandiosity contrasts with the violence and decay to follow.

Or perhaps it is reassuring to know ghosts and demons do not discriminate and equally haunt the rich and the poor.

Nevertheless, this trope is not going anywhere. It is a classic setting that works in horror fiction.

Darkness, isolation, old decor, secret doors and passages, dusty furniture, etc. Haunted mansions have all the elements to provoke fear.

Whether a mansion, a house, an apartment, a cabin in the woods, a hotel…

The haunted Island of the Dead Dolls in México City, Muy Interesante

Wherever people sleep and dwell makes for a great horror setting. Still, aren’t we tired of the same settings?

Granted, we see many ghost stories of haunted cemeteries, hospitals, and churches. Those make sense since they are also old and people are buried in them.

Where there are corpses, there must be spirits. However, is it not time for something new? Different?

For horror fiction to resonate with modern readers, perhaps we should write stories with settings they recognize and frequent. After all, when was the last time you slept in a mansion?

It is time to look beyond the haunted mansion for horror locations. Are we ready?

Twelve Alternate Locations for Horror Stories

haunted train station, New York City subway

If you are a horror writer seeking ideas, or a horror reader looking for something new, here is a list for you.

In effect, any locale can be terrifying if written with the right mood and tone.

Read on. Are you brave enough to step into these places?

  1. Haunted subway or train station. Maybe someone committed suicide by jumping on the tracks. Or someone was murdered there while waiting for a loved one. The ghost wants justice. Your character only wants to be on time for work.
  2. Haunted fire station. Imagine a fire station haunted by the suffering souls of burned firemen. Or perhaps they don’t realize they are dead and no longer firemen. Will the fire spirits start trouble?
  3. Haunted bank. What if a thief died trying to break into the vault? And there is a heist, and the ghost of the thief refuses to share “his” money with the bank robbers?
  4. Haunted playground. Creepy kids are a beloved horror subgenre. A haunted playground populated by creepy kids can be quite scary. What if there is a slide you go up but do not come down? Where does it take you?

    haunted bank vault, California

  5. Haunted spa or gym. A symbol of our hedonistic society. Populate them with ghosts and zombies and use them as allegories for body image and beauty issues.
  6. Haunted library. For readers, libraries are comforting and sacred places. We love books. But what if the books are possessed or one is a powerful grimoire? And a poltergeist ghost makes all the books fly?
  7. Haunted submarine. There are many stories about haunted ships and boats. Why not a submarine? Under the ocean, there is no escape. Isolation and confinement by necessity. Can our characters escape?
  8. Haunted pet shop. Horror fiction is full of scary animals possessed and murderous. A pet shop would be a perfect setting for these stories. What if all the dogs, cats, hamsters, lizards, ferrets, and parrots have demons inside? What if they all escape their cages?

    haunted Russian submarine

  9. Haunted toy store. Imagine Toy Story where the toys are alive but as murderous as Chucky and Annabelle. Don’t trust those toy cars and baby dolls.
  10. Haunted art gallery. We seem haunted museums but, an art gallery with wealthy patrons? Haunted paintings that make the viewer experience their worst nightmares? It almost begs for a commentary on the commercialization of artwork.
  11. Haunted prison. Granted, this is a common one, but it is usually an abandoned one. What if it was an actual prison with a large inmate population where the ghosts terrorize the guards? Or where some prisoners disappear without a trace?
  12. Haunted gas station. A sarcastic person would say current gas prices are scarier than any paranormal entity given the economy. But what if there are ghosts haunting customers? What do they want? What if your car is running on empty the haunted station is the only one nearby.
These are just a few examples. Haunted airports, haunted bakeries, haunted barbershops, and haunted stadiums are possibilities too.

The only limit is the writers’ imagination and their ability to suspend disbelief in the reader.

Haunt Your Readers

the iconic NYC fire station seen in Ghost Hunters

Finally, we need to remember what makes a place haunted in the first place. Otherwise, our readers would not care.

To frighten readers, the haunted place needs two main things:

  • A sad backstory. Did something happen here? The more tragic the better. Ghosts and spirits are drawn to places of great suffering.
  • A sense of anxiety and uneasiness. Your haunted place must provoke a reaction in your characters. And if it is a place the locals avoid, even better.
Remember, mood, tone, and darkness–they all matter.

Haunted art gallery exhibition for kids, Tokyo Museum of Art

Furthermore, trying different locations open so many possibilities.

If you are having writer’s block, try changing the setting. You might be surprised by what you can come up with.

In conclusion, although haunted mansions are cool, we should not be afraid to try different locations for our stories. With the right elements, any place can be dreadful and frightening.

Reader, do you have a favorite scary location? If you were a ghost, what place would you haunt?


No Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

March 2023