The Most Terrifying Guest Room in America

They say you can always go home again. This is certainly true for me; my parents are happy when I come home to visit. They put me up in their guest room, where I sleep surrounded by antique objects–most of which scare the living bejesus out of me.

This is the welcome I get.
This is the welcome I get.

My mother has collected antiques and meticulously decorated the house for as long as I can remember. For a while it was all about country: quilts mostly, and wood furniture. She has a great eye—she won the Best Living Room in America contest in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1983-84—and an obsessive attention to detail.

My view, from my hiding place in the corner.
My view of the guest room, from my hiding place in the corner.

At some point she started collecting holiday décor. Boxes of Christmas lights, ornaments, and Santas began to accumulate in the basement. Easter eggs and bunnies were stashed in cupboards and bureaus.

And after I went to college, the Halloween decorations—jack-o-lanterns, witches, devil heads, spiders, rats, black cats, and gargoyles (I’m not sure the latter are particularly Halloween-y but they are excessively creepy)—began to proliferate in my former bedroom.

I used to like owls.
I used to like owls.

The oldest of these specimens stare at me with their vivid paper eyes; they remind me that people once believed that the ghosts of the dead mingled with the living on All Hallows Eve.

I don't know what this is. And I don't want to know.
I don’t know what this is. And I don’t want to know.

I am usually keenly interested in collections and what they say about those who put them together, and those who visit them. I’ve written about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century curiosity cabinets, and about Civil War soldiers gathering souvenirs from camps and battlefields. And now that I think of it, I may be interested in objects precisely because my mother is a collector of them.

Kitten!!!!! Wait. That's no kitten.
Kitten!!!!! Wait. That’s no kitten.
A gargoyle with a pumpkin on its head. You're welcome.
A gargoyle with a pumpkin on its head. You’re welcome.

But it is almost impossible for me to survey these skeletons and spiders and mummy cats with an objective, analytical eye. Instead, I turn out the light and try not to think about what’s lurking in the corners of the Most Terrifying Guest Room in America.

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