It’s almost Halloweeeeeeeeeen! That means it’s time once again to look at the age-old question of the haunted house genre – Why don’t they just move? Sure, sometimes you’re snowed in at the Overlook and there’s no conceivable way to get out but most times, if I was in the protagonist’s shoes, I’d just up and move. I don’t care if I was in debt and didn’t have the money or means to sell and buy again. That’s what bankruptcy’s for! Getting away from ghosts! In fact, imagining when I’d move and the alternate story it would lead to as I watch/read a scary haunted house story is one of my horror coping mechanisms. So, in honor of Halloween and all things scary and spooky, haunted and horrific, macabre and malevolent, I’m doing a li’l series about this. In each installment I consider a haunted house novel and ruminate on when, if I were living within the events of the novel, I’d move the heck outta that house. This time I’m looking at Brian Asman’s Man, Fuck This House which gets my vote for “Best. Title. EVER.” and the equally prestigious “I’ve Never Felt A Title More” award.
This piece contains minor spoilers for certain incidents in the novel but the ending and all major twists are left out of the discussion. So read on based on your comfort with such spoiler territory ;D.
By nature, this piece isn’t a review or a deconstruction or analysis so much as it is a stream of consciousness look at how I’d fair if I was living the events of Man, Fuck This House and I’m only pointing out moments when I really considered if I’d move out. With that being said, here’s the Publisher’s Synopsis of the novel:
Sabrina Haskins and her family have just moved into their dream home, a gorgeous Craftsman in the rapidly-growing Southwestern city of Jackson Hill. Sabrina’s a bored and disillusioned homemaker, Hal a reverse mortgage salesman with a penchant for ill-timed sports analogies. Their two children, Damien and Michaela, are bright and precocious.
At first glance, the house is perfect. But things aren’t what they seem.
Sabrina’s hearing odd noises, seeing strange visions. Their neighbors are odd or absent. And Sabrina’s already-fraught relationship with her son is about to be tested in a way no parent could ever imagine.
Because while the Haskins family might be the newest owners of 4596 James Circle, they’re far from its only residents…
I am forever indebted to the woman working at Barnes & Noble who pointed me to this book. When I was shopping in the waning days of summer, choosing books to read for this li’l Halloween series, she came up and asked if I needed any help. I said I was just browsing the horror section and explained the series I was writing. She said, “Well if that’s what it’s about, you need to read this.” She proceeded to pull Brian Asman’s novel off the shelf and hand it to me. As soon as I saw this gloriously brilliant title – Man, Fuck This House – I knew I had to read it.
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but this time I 100% judged the book by it’s title and I have no regrets. Because if you’re writing a book about a haunted house and you are calling it Man, Fuck This House, well you’re basically saying you understand me more deeply than any author ever has and I should drop what I’m doing and read your novel right away. Well, message received Mr. Asman.
It was love at first sight! I felt this title and this title was feeling me!
But, as per usual, I’m giving us a li’l Ryan George video to relax us before we get to the spooooooky stuff. So here’s “The First Guy To Ever Play Tag.”
Alright, so let’s get into this thing, huh?
Page 30-31 – “She slammed the refrigerator shut and returned to her interrupted task – the basement. Unfinished, utilitarian cement floors and exposed wiring, maybe half the size of the first floor. The washer/dryer sat at the bottom of the steps, the furnace opposite. A dark alcove – probably a crawlspace – lay beyond. Faint light shown through two windows, dust motes dancing in the weak rays. Mildew hung in the air.
“No family room in waiting, this, but the boxes of excess Haskins stuff could be easily stowed, and once her car arrived, she could get rid of it all. Really Mary Kanto it, like that guru her old friends were so enamored with.
“Sabrina turned for the stairs, and froze.
“A man was coming down the steps. A BIG man, well over six feet, with equally broad shoulders and a bulging belly hanging out over his ratty sweatpants. His cheeks flushed red, and he had the kind of doughy, simple face incapable of expressing guile or malice.
“Part of her wanted to scream, but he looked kind and he carried the box of Hal’s old sport’s junk.
“‘Where do you want this?’
“Lips moving soundlessly, Sabrina pointed to the wall where the other boxes were stacked.
“The man nodded, carried the other box over and set it down in the indicated spot. He grunted, straightening himself, then ran a hand over one of the older boxes, staring placidly up at the window.
“The he walked, trudged really, over to the furnace and hefted his big body up and over the cement wall into the crawlspace.
“Sabrina gaped. Nothing about what happened made sense. If he were a mover, maybe one of the LifeCrate men returned out of a sense of altruism to help the Haskins family get settled, why would he enter without knocking, and even more importantly WHY IN THE WORLD DID HE CRAWL INTO THE CRAWLSPACE?
“She ran across the basement, house slippers slapping on the concrete, and peered into the crawlspace – small, dank, lousy with torn-up insulation.
“Hardly big enough for her.
“Let alone the man who was no longer there.”
Ok so in my notes for this book, after I read that I just wrote, “Oh, fuck THAT!” And I stand by my assessment. But this ghostly figure is helping them move. I don’t know that I’d move out of the house if this seemingly-spirit entity was just being helpful. I’d be unnerved. I’d be worried. But moving kinda sucks and it was just being helpful…right?
Page 49 – “Sabrina headed upstairs – maybe not bounding per se, but definitely with a newfound spring in her step, head nearly spinning with the thoughts of a hot, bubbly bath, and the delicious decadence it promised. She pushed open the bedroom door, registering the light on in the bathroom.
“Hal must have left it on, she thought. He’d been the last one in the bathroom?
“The second she stepped into the bathroom, she knew that wasn’t true. Hal hadn’t been the last person in the master suite after all.
“If he had, the bathwater in the tub would have gone cold a long time ago.”
Again, my notes say, “Nope, nope, nope…” but this entity – whatever it is – is drawing me a bath. Would I leave? I want to say “Hell yes, I’d be gone!” But putting myself in the events of the story, would I really run from a new, probably haunted house, that was helping me unpack and drawing me a bath? On the one hand, very unsettling. On the other hand, how many times have I come home from grocery shopping and just wished my groceries would magically put themselves away?
Page 84 – Talking with her neighbor, Zephyr tells Sabrina, “None of it’s…MALVOLENT. Quite the opposite, actually. Have you ever thought that maybe you’re just…lucky?”
See? If I’m talking to someone else and they think it’s a good thing, too, then I can see myself being even more comfortable with it.
On the subject of what we’re comfortable with, here’s another Ryan George video! And I know what you’re thinking, “Michael, we don’t need a humor break. This haunted house has been pretty chill so far. But the darkness is coming. Plus, embedding these videos in these posts has become a thing. So here’s “The First Guy to Ever Play Duck, Duck, Goose.”
Of course, no haunted house (or at least no haunted house in a haunted house story) will stay purely helpful for long. After Sabrina’s husband ends up in the hospital from eating a poisoned lunch – a lunch Sabrina came downstairs to find already prepared for her to give to Hal – she’s driving home when her daughter Michaela calls:
Page 118-119 – “Sabrina could hear her daughter’s footsteps over the phone, clomping through the house like a wildebeest. ‘There’s a pizza on the counter. From – ’ Sabrina could almost picture her bent over the pizza box, squinting, Michaela hated her glasses and their old optometrist said she wasn’t ready for contacts yet – ‘some place called Morio’s?’
“‘No, Morio’s. With an O.’
“‘Throw it away.’
“A cop pulled from a side street up ahead. Sabrina flipped on the speakerphone, keeping it level with the dash so it wouldn’t look like she was merrily flaunting the state’s hand’s-free law. ‘I said throw it away.’
“‘But Damien – ’
“‘Your brother didn’t order it!’ Not that Damien would order pizza, anyway – too helpful. ‘I’ll explain when I get home. Just don’t eat anything.’”
Annnnnd there we go. Yep, I’m gone. That’s it. I’m out. As I wrote about with Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls, the very idea of kids being in danger in horror movies/novels/shows/stories/what have you, freaks me out. Adults, sure. Even high school or college age kids, I can handle that. But when we start to get younger than that I just can’t deal with it. So nope, that’s it. I don’t care how helpful the entity/entities were being up until that point, if it’s actively trying to poison my family, I’m out.
And the thing is, if it was just my partner, I could see maybe staying. You know? Like, they lived through the first instance so we could discuss it and make a decision together. “So the house is straight up taking care of menial tasks for us but also maybe trying to poison us with food it makes. Do we stay to take advantage of the ghosts who do chores for us and just remember to never ever eat anything we don’t make/bring home ourselves? Or are we moving?” As adults, I think you could have that conversation. But once the entity starts targeting the kids, that’s where I’d draw the line.
Also, you do not get to malign pizza’s good name you freakin’ ghost – NOT COOL.
I think I’d be pretty upset at my doing-chores-for-me-and-generally-helping-out haunted house turned into a regular-ol’-tryin’-to-kill-us haunted house. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
And with that, this li’l series comes to an end! I know you may be wondering why I’m ending this now when I’ve still got a week until Halloween. Well, Jodie Whittaker’s final episode of Doctor Who – “The Power of the Doctor” – aired last night and I have anywhere from two to seventeen posts I want to write about that. Plus, I have some pieces about She-Hulk I still wanna write, too. So I figure I’d wrap this up here. But who knows? These were a lot of fun to write so maybe I’ll keep this going! I could stick with the novels, expand into movies…maybe haunted house move outs become like a thing I write about. Only time will tell…
Either way, dear reader, I hope your homes stay unhaunted and, if you should get some paranormal activity, they stay in the “just helping out” category and don’t move into the “poisoning your family” category. Good luck! As per usual, to end on a cute/positive note and fill you with warm fuzzies, here’s a picture of my unicorn Justin with his li’l buddy Chick-inerson.
2 thoughts on “Brian Asman’s Man, Fuck This House – When I’d Move Out of This Haunted House”
I’d probably have been gone after the ghost mover, but definitely after the poisoning! Who’s to even say it ends with prepared food? What if the ghost just goes in the refrigerator and poisons my milk? I wouldn’t feel safe eating anything in the house ever again.
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You make a very solid point here as enjoying Oreos and milk is one of THE BEST things I do. There’s no day so rough a few Oreos and milk as I watch ‘Doctor Who’ can’t help things. So yeah, I think you’re right. The poisoning is a larger threat than I may’ve even considered at first.
Also, now I know to consult you if I’m ever unfortunate enough to find myself in a house where stuff like this is going on because this was a vital insight!
Also also, I hope I never have to consult you on such a matter!!