Haunted houses as entertainment trace their lineage back to 19th-century London, where Mme. Marie Tussaud opened up her first wax museum, with figures depicting nobles decapitated in the French Revolution. They flourished best in America, where they first cropped up during the Great Depression as a way of distracting teenagers from more destructive Halloween pranks and then exploded in popularity when the Haunted Mansion went up at Disneyland. This weekend, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth opens Misty Keasler: Haunt, a show of photographs of themed haunted houses.
Not only does the exhibit document these unique places, it also demonstrates the limits of the medium itself. Real-life haunted houses aren’t made for lingering, but the show invites you to sit and contemplate the photos until they lose their ability to scare you. You start paying attention to the decor and pondering why the designers put the houses together the way they did. With Halloween coming up, these pictures may just make you wonder why we go to haunted houses and find such enjoyment in paying people to terrify us.
Misty Keasler: Haunt runs Sep 23-Nov 26 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Admission is $4-10. Call 817-738-9215.