I’ve spent most of October trying to get a good spook. I’ve watched several classic horror movies, visited graveyards at night, swapped stories about paranormal encounters, and even flown to a reportedly haunted ranch. The movies have been good for jump scares, and the graveyards for letting my imagination run wild, but nothing has delivered a real, lasting haunt. I haven’t even bothered trying any of the local haunted houses because I’m not interested in being touched by teens who may or may not have washed their hands in the past week, and the few times I have gone I’ve felt nothing more than shame for having wasted 20-plus dollars.

Now, as the Halloween season comes to a close, and none of my efforts have delivered true terror, I’ve realized that no purchased or manufactured frights can come close to the horror that everyday life occasionally has to offer.

So I’ve imagined a true house of horrors. Tour it with me, room by room.


The mailbox is full of political mailers, an insurance statement that is either an invoice or just an FYI, it’s impossible to tell which, and an ominous, plain white envelope with Internal Revenue Service as the return address.

A few houses down, you spot a male who looks to be in his early 20s, wearing a black polo shirt embroidered with a logo. He’s holding a clipboard. If he spots you, you’ll have to think of a good excuse for why you don’t need solar panels. You need to get inside and hide.


Once we enter the house, the first room on our right is the study. Someone is sitting at the desk, staring at the computer monitor. They’ve somehow found your LiveJournal from 2005 and every post is a poem you wrote about what you thought was unrequited love but was really just a few Gchat conversations.

Next, they open your Facebook profile and scroll through your posts all the way back to when you opened the account and find the post from the time you thought you were typing someone’s name in the search bar but accidentally posted their name as a status update.

A Slack message appears in the corner of the screen. It’s from your boss, and it just says, “Call me.”


You have half a gallon of milk with a sell-by date of 10 days ago. It’s probably fine? It smells fine. You need the milk to make dinner in the next hour, and the internet says the only acceptable substitution is cream and you’re out of cream. Normally you would just throw your hands up in defeat and declare you’re going to In-N-Out again, but you did that last night and you’ll feel very guilty and financially irresponsible if you do it again. So you decide to just use the milk, a decision that will either be totally fine or catastrophic. Like Russian roulette but scarier.

Also, while you were debating whether or not you were willing to play fast and loose with dairy, you spotted a forgotten container in the top corner of the fridge and you don’t know what’s in it. Is it bulging? It kind of looks like it’s bulging.

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Laundry room

School starts in 20 minutes, and no one has clean underwear. The sock basket is full of one sock of every color. The clean pile is full of shirts that need to be ironed.

Also, what is that smell coming from the washing machine? Oh my gosh, you forgot to move the whites to the dryer again.


This room is scariest at night, a few hours after everyone has gone to bed. You’re deep in a REM cycle when suddenly a dark shadow appears in the doorway. Slowly it enters the room, inching closer to your bed, until it’s mere inches from your face. “Mom, I frew up,” it says. Turns out the milk was not fine.

Then, a second, slightly taller shadow appears in the doorway. This one, in a panicked tone, says, “My science project is due first period tomorrow. I need poster board and hydrogen peroxide.” Walgreens is closed and 7-Eleven doesn’t sell poster board. You know because this has happened before.

TV room

To access Disney+ you need the input set to HDMI1, but you can only find the remote that controls the volume. The remote that controls both channel and source is nowhere to be found, and while you wait, the weird Samsung channel that only plays “Dateline” on repeat is running ads for the moderate to severe plaque psoriasis medication. You’ve seen these ads so many times that you’ve become convinced the algorithm knows you better than you know yourself so you must have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis despite having none of the symptoms listed on WebMD.


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You start the car to drive to the store because now you know for sure that the milk is bad and you need a fresh gallon. But the tire pressure light blinks on even though you just filled your tires last week. Which means you need a new tire. Or four.

Also, what’s that sound outside? It’s the garbage truck driving past your house. You forgot to take the blue can to the curb.

So you back out past the already over-filled garbage can that will somehow need to hold another week’s worth of trash, and head out to get not just milk, but tires as well, making what was originally a $5 errand a $500 errand.

I’d like to see any haunted house deliver a horror like that.

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