But I think they glossed over another huge potential source of fear. Especially when dealing with something like House of Leaves or The Haunting of Hill House:
Is it REALLY haunted?
The idea that we cannot trust our own senses, our own rationality in a situation is kind of horrifying. Did something or someone moan or am I imagining things? Was that item out of place seemingly on its own or did I put it there and forget? Because the solution is either that you are surrounded by something potentially malevolent…or your own head is potentially malevolent.
It’s something that happens so well in the framing story of Leaves. Within the actual story all of the horrible things that happen are tied directly to thehouse. This seems simple: if the rest of us just avoid that particular house, we are safe.
But, then there’s the horrifying thing: the haunting begins to affect those that read the manuscript. It’s possible the energies of the house can touch anyone who involves themselves with it intimately. It’s ALSO possible that becoming intimately involved with the story colors the perception of the reader’s world, nothing is actually more supernatural or dangerous than before, but suddenly you find danger everywhere.
Hill House (the novel by Shirley Jackson, not the movie version) does something similar with the character we are attached to for most of the novel. Is she out of touch and possibly overly-imaginative? Or is there really something there she can sense that the others can’t?
Is it a haunting? Or are you insane?
Our society’s stigmas towards mental health are, to put it lightly, crap. So, the fear of the idea that you cannot control your mind or your mind is not right and it’s something you can’t necessarily cure? That is just as terrifying as “there is something WRONG in our house and it doesn’t like us.”
And possibly even more terrifying than either of those things alone is the combination: when you aren’t SURE if it’s real or not. If you tell someone, will they believe you? Should you tell someone or not? You could just be imagining things, there is a rational explanation…but what if you’re NOT and there ISN’T?
We scare and haunt ourselves effectively. It’s kind of awesome.