Dark Drama: American Haunted Houses, Power, Performance, and Positionality in the Face of a Shifting Economic Landscape

Betty Aquino (George Mason University)

This paper examines American Halloween traditions at farms and how they’ve adapted and influenced culture. Through participant observation and auto-ethnography at haunted house attractions in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, I argue that farms commodify nostalgia, folk horror, contemporary legend, and fear. Halloween on the farm is big business but commodified culture “is multifaceted, complex, and as likely to be a site for social meaning as any other,” (Goldstein, 2007). I argue through the scholarship on performance, the farm turned haunted house is a place where communities reckon with power, positionality, and performance in a way to maintain cultural relevancy.

Part of 08-11 Sounding Board II, Saturday, October 15, 10:30 am–12:30 pm