Architecture, Design, and Furnishings of a Haunted House

haunted house color


A well-described setting is essential to a good haunted house novel. Readers need to be able to “see” the house with their minds’ eye. Therefore, authors often take special care when describing the architectural layout. This same care is applied to describing the inside of the house. From marble statues and ornate wall décor to  winding corridors or spiral staircases, it is the author’s job to convey these visuals in such a way that encourages readers to temporarily forsake their off-page surroundings and take in the haunting environment that that exists within the pages.

In order for this vicarious relocation to be accomplished, writers and readers need to be familiar with certain terms that are related to architecture and interior design. I have come across many of these terms in both in my reading and writing. When reading, I may have come upon a word that described, say, a part of the roof, but I was at a loss to understand the description since I was unfamiliar with the term. Likewise; when writing, I found myself searching in vain for the right set of phrases to describe an architectural component, only to discover that there was a single word that could define the whole shebang.

This piece will examine the physical components of the houses within this genre. I will provide pictures along with definitions and examples ripped  from the pages of classic and indie novels. Definitions are provided courtesy of Hopefully this will be helpful to readers and writers of this genre.



Definition: the lower border of a roof that overhangs the wall.

“Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation.”  The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.


CANDELABRUM  Candelabrum

Definition: an object with several branches for holding candles or lights.

“Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers.” – The Red Masque of Death by Edgar Allan Poe.



Definition:  an upright architectural member generally ending in a small spire and used especially in Gothic construction to give weight especially to a buttress.

“Little curved towers and pinnacles, with outlines suggestive of leaping flames, predominate; while the body of the building is in the form of a circle.” – House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgeson.






Definition: a section of a building’s outside wall that is shaped like a triangle and that is  Gableformed by two sections of the roof sloping down.

“It faced south, with one gable end buried to the lower windows in the eastward rising hill, and the other exposed to the foundations toward the street. Its construction, over a century and a half ago, had followed the grading and straightening of the road.” – The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft.




Definition: a brick, stone, or concrete area in front of a fireplace

“The fire he had left to die was roaring to life again, the blaze filling the entire hearth. He could feel its searing heat.” – The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson.


VERANDA                                                                                                                                                Veranda

Definition:   a usually roofed open gallery or portico attached to the exterior of a building

“…she put her feet down firmly and went up to the veranda and the door. Hill House came around her in a rush; she was enshadowed, and the sound of her feet on the wood of the veranda was an outrage in the utter silence.” The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson



Definition: 1 a :  a beam, stone, or arch serving as a lintel to support the masonry above a fireplace. b :  the finish around a fireplace 2) A Shelf above the fireplace.

“..from the exquisite symmetry of the marble mantles to the filigree of the wrought iron handrails, only the best had been good enough for the man or woman who’d owned this place.” Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story by Clive Barker





Definition: a channel in a chimney for conveying flame and smoke to the outer air

“They searched for him in the attic room and cubby hole and press, and even up the chimney flue and everywheres I guess, but all they ever found of him was his pants and round-abouts. And the goblins will get you if you don’t watch out.” The Little Orphan Annie by James Witcomb Riley





Definition: either one of a set of two metal rings designed to lock around a person’s wrists or ankles.

“The room was empty and quiet. Manacles and chains hung from the walls.” The House on the Moor by William Meikle





Definition: any of the parallel beams that support a roof

“He looked up, but all he could see were dark shadows high in the rafters.” – The House on the Moor by William Meikle




Definition: a kind of low wall that is placed at the sides of staircases, bridges, etc., and that is made of a row of short posts topped by a long rail.

“They reached the second floor and, turning to the right, started along the balcony corridor. On their right, the heavy balustrade continued. To their left, set periodically along the paneled wall, were bedroom doors.” Hell House by Richard Matheson


TAPESTRIES                                                                                          black tapestry

Definition: heavy cloth that has designs or pictures woven into it and that is used for wall hangings, curtains, etc.

“The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue.” – The Red Masque of Death by Edgar Allan Poe

Review of The Masque of the Red Death

RedDeathThis is the second time I am reviewing a piece from the great horror master Edgar Allan Poe. The first was The Fall of the House of Usher.  That review was so much fun to write! After all, it was one of my favorite horror stories when I was growing up. On the other hand, I had just learned of the existence of The Masque of the Red Death the other day. Let’s face it, as noteworthy as Poe is, I am just not an expert on his library of works. I received a vague description of the story’s themes from a colleague. It seemed interesting and so I went ahead and read this short story. I was not disappointed.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put forth a plot summary and then an analysis.

Sound good? But of course it does!

[Spoilers below – oh no, oh no! Spoilers below – oh no, oh no! ]

The Masque of the Red Death takes place in the Middle Ages.  A plague is afoot.  Countrymen are being struck down by the “Red Death”.  This contagious disease is quite nasty. Blood spills out of the pores, decorating the skin with streaks of foul red; hence the term “Red Death”.  Prince Prospero will have none of this.  He decides that he will not fall prey to this disease, nor will about a thousand of his favorite citizens.  To protect himself and his favored parties, he fortifies them in his castle. A rather bizarre castle it is!

There are seven apartments and the only thing that lights up these rooms comes from outside the suites. There are corridors running alongside these rooms. Each corridor/room wall has a window made of stained glass of varying colors. Lit candles sit beside the window glass on the corridor side. The candlelight shines through these colored filters and fills the room with the hue of the corresponding stained glass.  Some rooms are warmly blue, others are magnetically purple. Some are a grand ol’ green.

What are the guests to do in these rooms? Party on down, of course! There are jesters and musicians. There is plenty of food and drink.  The guests are having a “gay old time” (WILMA!!!!!!!!) They dress in fine costumes. After all, this is a masquerade party!

Oops-a-daisy! I forgot to mention the oddest room of all. The candle shines through a stained glass of red. A velvet hue smothers the room with a frightening reminder of the “Red Death” that lurks outside these castle walls. (“Far beyond these castle walls….”) Black tapestries hang down from the ceiling. In front of them stands a large ebony clock that for reasons to be explained later is quite unsettling. Suffice it to say, this is not a popular room. The partygoers stay away from the room; it is forebodingly empty.

It’s a happening party! Most of the time. The key word in the previous sentence is “time.”  The ebony clock chimes loudly on the hour, every hour. When this happens, the music stops and the party people chill out. A contemplative set of moments overtakes them. How bizarre!  When the clock goes silent, the party resumes and the frolicking continues.

It is nearing midnight when people take notice of a cloaked figure. This strange character wears a mask that mimics a deceased victim of The Red Death.  The face is corpse-like. It has streaks of blood dripping out of its eyes.  Prince Prospero is incensed. How dare someone make a mockery of the dreadful disease and its plight of terror!  The figure traipses though all the rooms; blue, purple, green, on and on until finally it reaches the red room.  The Prince follows.  He corners the phantom.

The midnight chimes fill the chamber. The cloaked figure turns to face Prince Prospero. The Prince drops dead. Members of his court rush the red room. They unmask the figure. There is no one inside the costume.  Then, everyone dies. All of them! The fortification of the castle could not save them. The Red Death is the victor.




It took me thirty odd years to arrive at a satisfactory understanding of The Fall of the House of Usher.  I had only read the “children’s” version when I was young and didn’t tackle the original story until 2015.  Even after reading it, I had to refer to certain websites ( and in order to obtain a comprehensive comprehension. (“comprehensive comprehension” – those two words together, don’t they sound funny?) Let’s see if I can do better the second time around.  Instead of taking thirty + years to arrive at position where I am able to submit an analysis,  I think this time I will only need a day or two. Two nights ago I read the story and today I will analyze it. Furthermore, I will not use the aid of “poedecoder”, at least not beforehand. This time I will seek out an alternative source – my own mind.  Afterwards, I will check with  and Sparknotes and see if our analyses are similar.

Let me take a deep breath….Done! Okay, here I go –

The cloaked figure is death itself. The party is a microcosm of humanity in general.  Many people see life as a mechanism to fulfill their casual whims . They are fortified in their falsehoods of security; rarely realizing the ultimate fragility of their existence.  Only now and then do they stop and contemplate their own mortal nature. But these contemplative sessions are brief and the people go on with their amusements.  However, it’s a rigged game. Soon or later they will meet death.  Death finds us all.

~ Me

That’s about the gist of it. Let’s see what others have to say, like Martha Womack at poedecoder:

“The prince’s name suggests happiness and good fortune, and the prince, just like all beings uses happiness to wall out the threat of death.”

~ Martha Womack

I agree. I sort of mentioned this, not in the same words but the general meaning is the same. Let’s see what else Womack has for us:

“Poe’s story takes place in seven connected but carefully separated rooms. This reminds the reader of the past significance of the number seven. (The history of the world was thought to consist of seven ages, just as an individual’s life had seven stages. The ancient world had seven wonders; universities divided learning into seven subjects; there were seven deadly sins with seven corresponding cardinal virtues, and the number seven is important in mysticism.”

~ Martha Womack

Well I didn’t get into any of that!   Interesting. Anything else, Martha?

“We hear the echoes of the “ebony clocks” that we carry within.”

In other words, it’s our own biological clock that is ticking away. Time is running out on us.  There is also a nice bit of analysis going on within

What wisdom to these folks have for us?

“The clock that presides over that room also reminds the guests of death’s final judgment. The hourly ringing of the bells is a reminder of the passing of time, inexorable and ultimately personal.”


Agreed. That’s similar to what I wrote about how the clock chimes to the pause and bewilderment of the guests. The recurring but temporary reflections upon death that come at different life stages – these life events remind us all of the inevitability of death and give us reason to pause. But I don’t think either source, poedecoder or Sparknotes,  specifically made reference to how the people of the party would casually RedDeath2resume their partying once the “death reminder” ceased to hold them hostage. We think of death and then we go on and put it out of our minds. Rarely are we ever fully prepared when death makes its final calling. At the same time, both sources have analyses that I did not mention, nor had I thought out.  They are excellent reference pages.

Well, that’s all I got. Except perhaps for one more mental note. Should The Masque of the Red Death be considered a haunted house story?  I think it qualifies. The whole story takes place in the strange castle that harbors mysterious rooms of mood-enhancing color, a scary clock that chimes to the somber attention of the guests, and a masked phantom of ethereal substance the brings forth death. That all seems pretty haunted to me. What do you think?