Perhaps it is because it is becoming increasingly dark and cold and Hallowe’en is fast approaching that has got me to thinking about the use of haunted paintings or mirrors in fiction and art. It’s a subject that I have always found captivating.
Especially at this time of year, despite being a jumpy and often rather sensitive individual, you would expect that the last thing I would enjoy is a story about a haunted painting. Yet, there’s something so spooky and fascinating about a painting or a mirror with a will and force of its own.
All you need to do is Google “haunted painting” and the internet is rife with images and stories.
I remember watching The Witches when I was very young and my favourite scene in that film, and it remains so today, is the story of a little girl called Erica, who “goes missing”, only for her father to discover her image in a painting on the wall. Just the thought of it now is enough to make me shiver, and this is a book/film aimed at children! I remember the film going on to explain how Erica moved and aged in the painting, until one day, she vanished.
I must have seen that film when I was about 10 years old, and that story of Erica and the painting has always stayed with me.
My next encounter with a haunted painting, was a few years later when I watched Ghostbusters II. I’ve always loved these films and yes, they’re a comedy, but there were spooky moments concerning the painting of Vigo the Carpathian.
I remember a moment in that film, when Dana is working in the gallery and she turns to look at the painting a couple of times because she feels like she is being watched. There are a couple of seconds, when her back is turned, that the face in the painting actually smiles and I remember that it really spooked me at the time. I still think it is wonderfully done now.
Perhaps another reason why the idea of haunted paintings and mirrors is fresh in my mind, is due to the fact that I went to see Dorian Gray a couple of weeks ago and have also recently been reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. My first encounter with Dorian Gray in film, was a few years ago when I saw The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The story of Dorian Gray is so delicious and fascinating. The idea of a portrait ageing in place of the sitter who can go on to live a life of debauchery and decadence, throws up so many questions of whether or not we might accept such a bargain ourselves and really makes us think about our own mortality. It might sound wonderful and exhilarating, but Dorian becomes extremely tormented and obsessed and troubled by his secret in the attic and you have to wonder whether certain sacrifices are worth eternal youth and beauty.
I imagine it would be very much like a novelty at first, but would soon wear off as loneliness started to grip me. Imagine the isolation and bitterness of remaining young and beautiful while the people you loved grew old and died around you….
I have also become increasingly attracted to art by Cris Ortega, as she has a really ethereal and spooky quality to her art. She has two illustrated storybooks published called Forgotten I: The Unnamed Realm and Forgotten II: The Portal of Destiny. Her stories and images are filled with beautiful women rambling about haunted houses or forests, and there is one story, about a girl called Mary Beth, who happens upon an abandoned old house in New Orleans and becomes enthralled by a painting and old letters between two lovers.
Perhaps I’m just a fanciful and easily spooked person, but I think I will always find the idea of haunted paintings and houses to be a source of fascination and mystery, and perhaps there’s a paradoxical side to me, to perhaps everyone, that delights in being scared.