Brian Baker

No house-warming parties for now-cliché ‘Not Haunted’ signs

A common marketing ploy used by realtors these days is the “Not Haunted” atop the curbside FOR SALE sign.

Now, it was charming at first, especially in the case of the Middlesex County house, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I mean, the Conjuring House in Rhode Island is just an hour’s drive south from there. But, much like an ageing horse, the “Not Haunted” sign has become long in the tooth.

If you overuse a novel marketing technique, it becomes cliché or to some in the paranormal world, a red herring.

Music from ads often gets stuck in our heads — I often sing the Oscar Mayer bologna song, or the 1980s Sturdy Danny McGee Raisin Bran song or joke with my wife by using the Finesse shampoo jingle from the early 1990s but “Not Haunted” however has a different staying power.

Empathy has me travelling inside the minds of those who have been terrified by their experiences in alleged haunted houses. And then there are the houses on the market that are stigmatized.

Now, most homes belonging to serial killers do get razed, especially Paul Bernardo’s home in Port Dalhousie, Ont., — even Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro’s home has been demolished — but houses where murders have happened, or been stigmatized by events in the past, like the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans are a different breed. Though I don’t feel sorry for anyone spending $3.5 million to purchase a house, even if I appreciate Nicolas Cage’s acting chops.

But I digress, which I often do when writing editorials. What stigmatized properties and victims of aggressive hauntings have to do with my growing annoyance with an over-used marketing ploy is simple: use it once, it’s charming; use it twice it’s droll and use it three times, well, it’s just not funny anymore.

Or, it becomes fodder for the endearing dad joke, which I’ll often employ myself when I’m clowning with my kids.

However, my curiosity lies in why real estate agents employ such a tactic. Are there rumours swirling around the house as being haunted? And could using the tactic be a red herring to paranormal investigators who drop money to buy stigmatized properties, like Zak Bagans and the LaBianca house, or Tim Wood and the house on Welles Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania?

It’s possible. Dark tourism and collectors of the macabre are commonplace. Horror pop culture has become just as accepted as the MCU and May the Fourth by the mainstream media.

The “Not Haunted” sign, albeit whimsical with its eye-roll-worthy tedium, has become a cliché. And that may seem prematurely unfair. In a digital era, where people share photos of novel (or even banal) things in their communities, the “Not Haunted” shtick has gotten tired fast.

Still courtesy of CBS

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