Updated: Aug 29
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“The closed mind is the worst defense against the paranormal.”
- Amos, “Housebound”
The 2014 horror–comedy “Housebound,” directed by Gerard Johnstone, sees a young criminal, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly), placed on house arrest after blowing up an ATM. In an effort to provide Kylie with more stability, the judge sends Kylie to serve her time at her mother’s house. Kylie begrudgingly goes to live in her old childhood home with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and stepfather, Graeme (Ross Harper). The mother and daughter have a strained relationship, and after hearing Miriam share a paranormal experience on a radio show, Kylie is fast to make fun of her. It isn’t long, though, before Kylie starts experiencing a thing or two that makes her question whether the house really is haunted.
I’m ashamed to say that it’s taken me this long to watch “Housebound.” It’s a fun movie that has a good time with the haunted house theme for a while before it takes a hairpin turn in the second half. This is your spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen this movie. For those who have, you might be wondering why the hell this movie is going on my blog. Yup, I realize there’s no actual ghost (that we know of) in the movie. However, the lack of ghostly entities didn’t stop my gears from turning the entire time I was watching.
“We were talking about cognitive bias, which is where the brain deviates from logical thought into fallacy. It explains why people allow themselves to interpret everyday things as paranormal.”
- Andrew Dickens, “Housebound”
"Housebound" makes a few strong points throughout the story as it allows not only Miriam and Kylie but the audience to fall into the ghost stories that Miriam is certain she's experienced. Suppose you've ever been to a slumber party where someone pulled out an Ouija board and spent a few hours guessing which friend was moving the planchette before inevitably getting creeped out. In that case, you know that for some, all it takes to really believe there's something supernatural in the room is an idea seed.
Kylie possibly would have never believed the house was haunted if her mind wasn't introduced to the idea by Miriam. Throw in the history of the house and some cabin fever, and you've got yourself a recipe for a wandering mind. While I wholeheartedly believe in the paranormal, I'll be the first to admit that there are a lot of instances in which what someone thinks is a ghost is actually just their own cognitive bias.
Some skeptics and non-believers, however, would rather think that each person's paranormal experience is a case of cognitive bias. People like the famed illusionist Harry Houdini spent years on a mission to expose fraudulent spiritualists after a woman named Jean Doyle claimed to contact Houdini's mother. The woman got pertinent details regarding Houdini's mother wrong, leading him to believe she was a fraud.
Houdini was so passionate about all spiritual mediums being scam artists that not only did he seek to disprove their claims, he even testified before congress in support of a law that would criminalize the act of fortune-telling for hire. Before his death, Houdini promised his wife that if there were a way for the dead to communicate with the living, he would give her a secret message from beyond the grave. For years on the anniversary of his passing on Halloween 1926, she held seances hoping to receive the message. She never did.
Houdini lived his life believing that spiritualists were preying on the desperate and the grieving, taking his skepticism to levels of obsession. Certainly, not all mediums are frauds, though someone experiencing a wistful state may be more prone to believe they're communicating with a loved one if someone plants the right seeds in their imagination.
“If I had to make a bet, I’d say this place is crawling with NRE.”
- Amos, “Housebound”
Negative Residual Energy
Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the convenient and comical ghost-hunter, makes a strong point when he relates the alleged haunting to the negative energy that had absorbed into the house over the years. This is why this movie got me thinking about a particular type of haunting.
Mental Imprint Manifestations. These types of hauntings are probably more common than most people realize. They're best described as "An outpouring of mental energy which is absorbed by a place and represents a psychic model of an extreme state of mind. These types of ghosts will repeat the same actions over and over again. Opening and closing doors, walking up and down stairs. There is no consciousness or awareness. These entities tend to be associated with significant times or dates, such as anniversaries of their death or moments of trauma."
"Housebound" goes into gruesome detail regarding the murder of a teenage girl in Miriam and Kylie's home. This sort of traumatic energy doesn't leave once the events are over. Einstein's conservation of energy law states that energy is neither created nor destroyed and that it simply moves from one location to the next. This invites the question, what happens to our energy after we die? This question has limitless answers depending on who you speak with and what you believe.
If the energy of an extreme event remains in the location in which the event occurred, it's no doubt going to be felt by the living who exist within that space. I have had a plethora of my own experiences with these types of energies, though that's a tale for another time. For those who may experience a noticeable shift in energy at certain locations, though, I encourage you to look into the history of that space and learn what you can about it. If anything, a little extra knowledge about an old spot never hurt anyone.
“It’s the advancement of paranormal research that’s reward enough.”
- Amos, “Housebound”
Oh, Amos, I do love your enthusiasm. There may be no actual ghosts in “Housebound,” but to be honest, the actual twist is something I found way more terrifying than an angry ghost anyway. The movie presented it well, but if my walls ever have enough space for someone to live in them, you can bet I’m going to be thinking about it now that the seed has been planted.
The energy left behind in old houses, businesses, or anywhere really reminds me of the importance of remembering the historical background of each place. What happened years ago could be an explanation for something happening in a building today, and if you ever feel off somewhere, maybe it’s all in your head, but maybe it isn’t.