Creepy Corridors: Why We Love Them In Horror

One of the first films I saw that really brought attention to the dread of walking down hallways by yourself was in The Shining. Little Danny Torrence would pedal along on his toy bike and you would get accustomed to the drumming of the wheels as it moved from wood to carpet to wood again. At first in the film it seems like a cute way for the kid to pass the time. But then as the film progresses, and Danny starts to experience the supernatural activity of the Overlook, that’s when each turn in the hallway makes your heartrate speed up.

Danny Torrence from The Shining

This weekend while doing research on a cruise ship, my family would help to point out particularly disturbing corridors. That is of course one of the benefits of telling your fellow travelers that you are doing research for a horror book. “Oh, Lena, you’ve got to get a picture of that one!” I would hear as they point down a cramped two flights of stairs shoved into a corner of a hallway. Or “Okay, this place just feels like a horror movie,” when we went to find a restroom in a large concrete stairwell complete with exposed ceiling pipes and wiring. I loved it of course, and snapped pictures like crazy. It got me wondering though, what is it about these places that really puts us on edge? Why do we instantly think that these places are ideal for horror scenes?

The first obvious answer is that there’s limited sight. Stairwells are particularly bad about this, and you could easily have someone several floors up following or watching you if the middle of the stairwell is open. In The Shining, little Danny Torrence turns each corner, not sure what he’s going to encounter each time. The tension increases throughout the film even though it’s literally just a kid on his bike.

The second answer is how cramped they are. That tiny stairwell down to the next floor that almost looks like it was forgotten? There isn’t much space to move there, and if you got partway down the steps and saw someone wielding a chainsaw running toward you, there would be little time to get out of the way. When you’re on a ship as well, there’s a very real sense when you’re out on the ocean of how isolated you are. The only way to leave the ship in a hurry is with the lifeboats on board, which is both exciting and frightening.

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See? Very cramped stairwell

Finally, the longer the hallway, the fewer places to run. The first time I went on a cruise I was daunted by how long the halls were for rooms. Staring down the hallway and seeing the length of space you would have to walk just to get to the main section of the ship was surprising. I’d seen ship cabins in videos before, but rarely those long halls. You get a real sense that there’s very little space to run there. There’s either forwards or backwards because every door you pass is locked. Again not only are you isolated, but you’re also very visible.

“Cruise Ship Hallway” by Satanizmihomedog on DeviantArt

Writers and film directors have recognized the innate fear that these spaces carry and have been exploiting them for decades. That stairwell with the exposed pipes and wires that we found could have easily been a filming location for the Nostromo ship from Alien. On the ship it was built for utility, but in the world of writing, it’s a perfect place for an ambush. These hallways don’t have to apply to ships either. I’ve seen plenty of buildings with halls so narrow that turning that right corner could have you running into someone if you’re not careful. Danny Torrence found that out the hard way.

What kind of hallways or stairwells have you found particularly creepy? Do you have any pictures? I would love to see them!

Traveling as an Author

As an author, it’s tough going on a vacation. You get to go to a new place and have new experiences, but you only get to enjoy them for a limited time. It’s like your senses are all splayed out in order to soak up as many sensations as you possibly can. It doesn’t matter how long your vacation is, it always feels too short, especially if you hope or plan to use it for writing inspiration. You’re always afraid you’ll miss some kind of detail.

Soon I’ll be going on a trip down to the Bahamas, and I plan to write it off on my taxes for book research. This is the first time I’ve attempted it, and I’ve done some research on what all needs to be done. Basically you need to keep track of your individual expenses, and then make sure you work on your research a little bit every day.

I’m going to be bringing a travel journal to take down all the notes of places, to describe interiors, to map out locations, to really bring more than just a picture with me, but to bring a whole location home. Later when I’m working on this new book (we’re talking probably a year or more out right now), I want to be able to pull out my notes and see that entire scene again like it’s already been placed into my novel.

I’m going to try to define the feel that it gives off too. Now that’s something that doesn’t come across in any picture or journal. If you were ever in band and trying to tune the whole room at once, do you remember the upper note that would be heard dimly above the noise? It wouldn’t waver if everyone was in tune, it would ring, even though no one was hitting it. That’s kind of what I’m trying to capture in writing, that imperceptible note.

I’m really looking forward to it! I’m hoping it’ll give me some insight into things I didn’t notice before, or give me a few plot ideas.

I don’t really want to say too much on this future project because it is so far out and right now it’s just a hazy idea, but I’m planning on it to be another YA Horror novel in the vein of The Seeking – another book that’s in the pipeline. That one is at least out of the drafting phase.

Do you keep a travel journal with you or some way to document your experiences when you travel? What works best for you?

Hitting the Pavement Hard

I’m back! The vacation was a blast – beach fun, Universal Studios, and plenty of time to read and relax. I finished up The Secret Garden on the trip down, read through Maria Schneider’s short story “Year of the Mountain Lion”, and even started on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I’m absolutely LOVING this novel though, and find I keep picking it up during the day to get a quick escape into fantasy for a bit. It’s reminding me how much I enjoy reading high fantasy like this in completely made-up worlds. It’s truly fun. And the sarcastic humor mixed with fairy tale worlds all through the book helps quite a bit as well.

Tonight I’ve got several things on my plate:

  • Reviewing the proof for “Against Our Better Judgment”
  • Resubmitting “Dear, Sweet Lydia”
  • Editing my Lucius Big Bang piece “As the Seventh Month Dies”
  • And finally – working on combining my novel into a Scrivener project and adding in the sections that need adding.

Whew! You get no rest after a vacation. It took me hours cleaning out the 200+ emails in my work email this morning too. I love taking time off – but getting acclimated to the work/writing regiment again always takes some time. Hopefully by the end of tonight I’ll have a few items crossed off this list. Friday and Saturday are going to be pretty busy, so I need to use my time wisely – while I have it!

And to give yourself a break from the typical blog world, here’s a video that I took at Lido Beach down in Florida over the weekend. The surf at sunset. =)

And of course this wouldn’t be complete without a few pictures of Hogwarts from Universal Studios! xD

IMG_0707Hogwarts Castle! You could seriously see it from almost every point of the park too! It was so freaking cool. And the ride inside of it was awesome – you get a quick tour through the castle and get to see portraits of the Founders arguing. It was just great!

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I love how topsy-turvy the skyline is for Hogsmeade. The snow just mocked us though since the temperatures were easily above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The entrance to The Three Broomsticks! And I loooved the Butterbeer. It was so delicious! As my sister suspects, I also think cream soda was a major component of the recipe. 😉

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The decoration inside of The Three Broomsticks was beautiful! I truly felt like I was transported into another time period – kind of a mixture of the Victorian age with a magical twist. You really get a feel for how outdated the wizarding world is compared to the Muggle world in terms of style and décor. Of course if you had magic to replace the things you’d normally use electricity for, there would be no need to upgrade your technology, right?