There are haunted houses and then there are… well, then there’s everything else.
Some of you might not be familiar with the word, eldritch. The Google definition is “weird and sinister or ghostly”. But those of you who are familiar with the word know that the definition is just the surface. TVTropes goes a bit further: “The Alien. The Other. The Inconceivable. The [The type of thing] defined by its disregard for the natural laws of the universe as we understand them.”
When you say haunted house, everyone understands what you’re talking about: A spirit is haunting a house (or manor, if you’re fancy). The story likely involves some manner of avoiding the ghost and possibly even freeing its spirit and stopping the haunting.
If you stumble into a haunted house there’s hope for you yet.
It’s just a ghost after all. It’s just a human spirit.
If you stumble into an eldritch location… well, nice knowing you.
So, what is an eldritch location?
We’ve established that it’s not a haunted house, or at least not just a haunted house. There’s more to it than that.
Let’s look at two examples: The Event Horizon ship and the Overlook Hotel. Minor spoilers incoming for both stories. We’ll start with the Overlook Hotel and focus on some of the differences between it and your run-of-the-mill haunted house.
In The Shining, Jack Torrence and his family stay at the secluded Overlook Hotel through the Winter months. Long story short, they get snowed in and find out the Hotel isn’t as empty as they thought.
The Overlook Hotel from The Shining may seem like a haunted house at first glance, but it’s anything but. Sure there are ghosts. Sure the hotel and its supernatural inhabitants torment the Torrence’s during their Winter stay. But there are some key differences.
- We are never given an answer to what made the Overlook Hotel evil. There is speculation on all the death and evil that has taken place inside it or on the ground it was built on, but we are never given a concrete thing to point to.
- It isn’t a ghost that makes the Hotel sinister and malevolent. The Overlook Hotel is the thing that haunts people and traps souls. Most haunted houses are haunted because of the ghost that inhabits them. The Hotel begets the spirits, not the other way around. There are certain spirits that are worse than others, but during the book/movie we are led to believe that it is the hotel pulling the strings.
- There are strange rules to the “haunting” of the Overlook. The Hotel mainly uses its supernatural powers against Jack and Danny, two characters who shine. Basically, only those characters with latent psychic powers. The Hotel does not directly torment Wendy (who does not shine) and instead drives Jack to torment her instead.
- The Hotel warps and twists the people inside it. Jack is driven to madness and nearly murders his family. The Event Horizon does the same thing to Dr. Weir.
In the movie Event Horizon, the spaceship (by the same name) has an experimental warp drive. It was originally flown out to Neptune to test the drive, but vanished. It then reappeared seven years later around Neptune. No response from the ship. No response from the crew.
A rescue/research ship was sent to make contact with the Event Horizon. They arrive and find the crew vanished and that the ship has become something more.
“I created the Event Horizon to reach the stars. But she’s gone much, much further than that… When she crossed over she was just a ship. But when she came back she was alive.” — Dr. Weir.
Long story short, the new propulsion drive sent the Event Horizon to another dimension. To Hell. Not some figurative Hell—the afterlife of eternal suffering. So when it comes back, it’s not possessed by a fluffy bunny or some mere ghost…
Actually, that’s what sets an eldritch location apart from a haunted house (and an eldritch abomination from just a plain old spirit):
Where does it come from?
If you can answer that question, then you’re probably dealing with a haunted house or a regular old spirit. If you can’t answer it, then you’re probably dealing with something eldritch.
Even though we know where the Event Horizon has been during its seven year hiatus, we still don’t know what it is, or what is possessing it… We’re just left with the horrific aftermath.
In fact, if you’re left with more questions than answers about the place you’re dealing with, then it’s probably an eldritch location. Now we’ve come full circle. Back to “The Alien. The Other. The Inconceivable.”
Why is Eldritch Location our Obscure Trope of the Month? Well, my new serial A Battleaxe and a Metal Arm may or may not take place inside an eldritch location… You’ll just have to read and find out.
A sorceress with a metal arm and a barbarian with a battleaxe stuck in an endless, changing dungeon. Come for the action. Stay for the mystery.
Check it out. The first episode, Death without Direction, releases April 2nd (and it’s FREE!). Come back for a new one on the first Friday of every month.