Kenopsia (n). the eeriness of places left behind
A haunted house is reminiscent of malicious ghosts, hidden shadows, and strange noises at night. It makes us think of a dark mansion surrounded by skeletal trees, ready to be inhabited by a joyful, unsuspecting family. It reminds us of lightning, howls of fear, and an attic choked with darkness. From what we’ve read and watched, a haunted house is infused with a chilling backstory—one of sacrifices, betrayal, flames, unexplained deaths. It’s been so recycled in popular culture and media that people seem to forget the true meaning of a “haunted house”.
Every old house that is moved into is haunted. It is haunted by the memories and experiences of the previous owners, by the footsteps that had etched themselves into dust. And those memories can be beautiful—they can be memories of happiness, of pleasure, of childish excitement. Memories of a little girl taking her first step, a teenager preparing her first meal, a senior getting into the college of her choice. These old laughs and cries hover
in the air, even though their owners may have moved out. Old voices permeate throughout, even though the house may be inhabited by entirely new, different people.
Every house is haunted—
—even if it was built from scratch and lived in for the first time. What about the people who lived on that dirt, and the memories that were created on that particular patch of earth? What about the children who ran around and fell in the mud, the adults who sat and gravely spoke about issues that are now outdated and uninteresting—and who are probably far away, maybe in another country, living another life? Now, we are just building upon those memories, without realizing that its grounds are haunted by the specter of old memories and bygone experiences.
Old classrooms. One time, my mother took me to her old school in her village, which is now stark and empty. My little sister had whispered to me: “this place feels haunted”. I had brushed her suggestion aside, although she did have a reason to say that: the breeze seemed to be eerily whispering through the creaking windows, and our surroundings were silent enough for a tap to seem loud. But now I know that it is haunted. It is haunted by the reminders of old school students, by the classes that were taught, by the usual drama that seems to pervade every school’s atmosphere. It is a haunted school, but not in the customary sense. Ghosts don’t jump out and malignant spirits don’t linger. We leave not with terror, but with nostalgia.
Kenopsia: the eeriness of places left behind.
Every house moved into is a haunted house. The floorboards may creak with impressions of a beaming baby learning how to walk, the wind may rustle the bedspread—and make it whisper with old conversations. Most of the time, these impressions are mistaken for imagination. But the next time our imagination makes us perceive something puzzling or inexplicable… don’t think about the phantom that floats in the corridors. Think about the experiences that were borne, the smiles that were conjured, the beautiful memories that were summoned.
Because we’re not alone. Every house is a haunted house.
(Image Credit: http://www.holidayscalendar.com/halloween/hauntedhouses.html)