Throughout the nineteenth century, the term ‘uncomfortable houses’ was used to describe properties where restless spirits made life unpleasant for any living persons who tried to claim these supernatural residences as their own. This article uses the idea of ‘uncomfortable houses’ to examine how this ghostly discomfort related to larger cultural issues of economics and class in Victorian Britain. Authors such as Charlotte Riddell and Margaret Oliphant used the haunted house story as a means of social critique which commented on the financial problems facing many lower- and middle-class Victorians. Their stories focus on the moral development of the protagonists and reconciliation through the figure of the ghost, ultimately giving readers the happy endings that many male-authored ghost stories lack. Riddell‘s ‘The Old House in Vauxhall Walk’ and ‘Walnut-Tree House’ and Oliphant‘s ‘The Open Door’ serve as important examples of this ‘suburban Gothic’ literature.
of narrative is the frequency with which the sanctity and
supposedly inherent moral worth of the nuclear family is violently rent
asunder. In the SuburbanGothic, in other words, you frequently have the
most to fear from those you are related to.
In American popular culture, suburbanites are seldom
menaced by a terrible ‘other’; instead, they tend to be
violently despatched by one of their own, usually
Williams, Hearths of Darkness , p. 13.
Lennard J. Davis, Enforcing Normalcy , p.
Again, see Williams. For a similar,
contradictory argument cf. Bernice M. Murphy, The SuburbanGothic
shadows and secrets for a space saturated with objects whose glitter
reveal their depthlessness – the place is, in fact, as flat
as a picture, constructing desire as a mere ‘bourgeois horror
of the void’ (Crary, 1992 : 127, 62, 125). Associated with the world of commerce,
speculation and consumption, Collins’s ‘suburbanGothic’ (Wagner, 2006 ) turns derelict castles and wild scenery into dazzling
The horrors of class in Eric Kripke’s Supernatural
Julia M. Wright
Macmillan, 2004 ); on the
“suburbangothic,” see, e.g., Kim Michasiw,
“Some stations of suburbangothic,” American
Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative , ed.
Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press,
1998 ), pp.