October 31, 2010
Beetlejuice House Hoxton Ghost
Still from Beetlejuice, Tim Burton, 1988 (source)


Horror film scripts often implicate designers in hauntings. Either a house is constructed on top of a Native American burial ground, as in the Poltergeist films, or else the architect designed the building using black magic, as in Ghostbusters. In the film Beetlejuice, a haunting occurs in spite of design. The Maitlands, a young couple who die in a horrible car crash, return to their recently purchased rustic Gothic Revival home to find that it has been taken over by an obnoxious married couple from New York City: the Deetz’s. To make matters worse, the Deetz’s have brought their interior designer with them, who through the progression of the film unsympathetically transforms the polite mansion into a postmodern funhouse. In order to halt the house’s transformation, the Maitlands spend the remainder of the film attempting to scare away the intruders, which eventually requires the help of Betelgeuse, a demonic Michael Keaton, who resides in a scale model of the home located in the attic. By the end of the film, it is unclear which is more horrific, the undead that haunt the home or the modern architecture that is grafted onto it.


While Burton has never used his films to explicitly critique modern architecture, there is a clear argument in Beetlejuice in favor of preserving our architectural heirlooms. The message is ironic, given that the Beetlejuice house did not exist prior to filming. Exterior shots relied on a full scale pressurized mock up of the house that contained four walls and a canvas roof, making it no more substantial than the scale model of the home that resided in the Maitlands’ attic.


E. Sean Bailey


The Ghost of Hoxton Hal, London, 1985 (source)


When I was last living in London, my balcony looked past numerous council houses and Kingsland Road, towards the Geffrye Museum. My close proximity soon lead to a visit to the museum where I learned that it once served as an alms house, built in 1714, intended to care for the aged in their twilight years. This knowledge lead me to wonder if this building was ever host to ghosts. While some quick research showed that the Geffrye Museum had remained free from hauntings, my findings proved that there appeared to be a ghost much closer to home in the adjacent Hoxton Music Hall, with which my building shared an entrance.


This Grade II listed Victorian saloon is the last surviving music hall from this era, hosting concerts since 1863. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of a child who fell from the balcony while watching her mother perform. As if the discovery of a ghost next door was not frightening enough, there are some who say that on a night like tonight one can hear the faint screams of a spectral child falling to her death, eternally confined to haunt the place of her demise.


Erandi de Silva






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