Features and Columns · Movies

The Haunting Power of the Victorian Mansion

Turns out the scariest thing isn’t just the upkeep.
Psycho Victorian Mansion movies
Universal Pictures
By  · Published on April 5th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about why the Victorian mansion is a horror icon.

When you close your eyes and imagine a haunted house, what do you see?

I’d put good money down that you pictured a Victorian mansion; a dollhouse-like monstrosity outfitted with imposing towers, a gabled roof, and shapely windows (maybe framing the spooky outline of a ghostly figure, who knows!). The Victorian mansion is the property of choice when it comes to the horror genre. It was the cozy home of America’s preeminent weirdos, the Addams’ family. It’s where Psycho‘s Norman Bates hid his dark, motherly secrets. And you can’t throw a rock at a collection of gothic pulp novels without hitting a piece of cover art featuring a big, ole menacing Victorian estate.

So, how did the Victorian mansion become a symbol of death and an icon of the horror genre? You’d be forgiven for assuming it all boiled down to innate ooky spookiness. But, like many of the great cinematic nightmares, the basis of this macabre manor’s ghastly reputation has a historical precedent. Namely: as a decaying relic of a grotesque, gilded age; an immediate symbol of decay and rotten excess.

The video essay below digs deeper into the specifics of how the Victorian mansion earned its spot in the pop-culture consciousness. So pass through the rusted iron gates and knock (that is…click!) if you dare:

Watch “Why the Victorian mansion is a horror icon“:

Who made this?

This video is by Vox, an American news website owned by Vox Media, founded in 2014. They produce videos on news, culture, and everything in between. This video is by Coleman Lowndes, with art direction by Dion Lee and story editing by Mona Lalwani. You can follow Lowndes on Twitter here. You can subscribe to Vox on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).