Why the Victorian mansion is a horror icon
Coleman Lowndes for VOX
The Gilded Age left a legacy of decay on the American landscape.
Haunted houses are often depicted with similar features: decaying woodwork, steep angles, and Gothic-looking towers and turrets. The model for this trope is the Victorian mansion, once a symbol of affluence and taste during the Gilded Age – a period of American history marked by political corruption and severe income inequality.
After World War I, these houses were seen as extravagant and antiquated, and were abandoned. Their sinister relationship to the troubling end of the Victorian Era in America eventually led to their depiction as haunted and ghostly in both fine art and pop culture, and is now an unspoken symbol of dread.