The Laundry Room

As I was headed out to work this morning, I passed by the laundry room down in the basement. I took a quick peek through the window in the door of the laundry room, and saw that the lights were out. And I was struck by how eerie the place looked. I snapped a photo with my cell phone, and here’s the result.

The Laundry Room

I like how the light pools in the center, and how it’s dark in the corners of the room. And I like how the displays on the driers in the back are glowing in the dark. This room looks like the kind of place where an otherworldly apparition might manifest. There’d be a smell of ozone, and an actinic flare, and a popping, hissing, or clicking sound. And then it appears. (And you turn around and frantically open the door to flee, but it opens only to reveal pitch black nothingness…)

The black and white checkerboard floor reminds me of some of the scenes in the Red Queen’s castle in the recent Alice in Wonderland movie. When I was a kid, sometimes I’d see spinning checkerboard figures in the state between wakefulness and sleep (hypnagogic imagery). And in his classic paranormal book The Mothman Prophecies, author John Keel mentions at least twice that “goblins” associated with Mothman wear plaid (!). At one point, Mr. Keel writes

Bedroom phantoms in checkered shirts are old hat to investigators of psychic phenomena. I have come upon this again and again. So often that I have written long articles about it. In some cases these ghosts-in-plaid are accompanied by the odor of hydrogen sulfide and sudden chills or sudden blasts of heat, while other episodes are probably purely hypnopompic. That is, they are the residue of dreams which overlap briefly into the waking state … a phenomenon well-known in psychiatry and parapsychology.

(He mentions the word hypnopompic, but for me the checkerboard patterns were hypnagogic instead.)

Stephen King’s short story The Mangler (which I’ve discussed before) had a laundry theme. And also note that “The Laundry” is the name of a secret government agency in Charles Stross’ delicious Laundry series.

Addendum (08/22/10): Here’s a nice passage from Charles Stross’ The Fuller Memorandum, the most recent installment in the Laundry series (p. 197). It suggests the dread that the creepy laundry room evokes.

There are places where the walls of reality are thin; the service corridors of hotels, subway footpaths at night, hedge-mazes and cycle paths. You can get lost in such places … These routes blend into one another. Of all the myriad ways that link the human realm to the other places, these are the ones we know very little about — because those of us who stumble into them seldom return with their minds intact.

This spooky laundry room is one such place, where the “wall between the worlds is thin” (p. 227).

Addendum (09/07/10): Here’s video footage of another creepy laundry room. The sounds of the machines reminds me of the machine in the movie The Mangler Reborn.

Addendum (09/07/10): OK, this isn’t really about the laundry room, but I thought it was intriguing: A Demon in the Bathroom (freely available from PubMed Central). For more about Sulak, the Lurker in the Bathroom, see this.

Photino Birds and Frost Giants

Here’s a report that dark matter may be lurking at the center of the sun and cooling it down. This brings to mind Stephen Baxter‘s 1997 SF book Vacuum Diagrams. In this book, dark matter entities called photino birds dwell in the hearts of stars, and cause them to prematurely cool down.

And powerful entities who can cause entire universes to prematurely cool down remind me of Charles Stross‘ 2004 SF book The Atrocity Archives. In this book, infovores (poetically called “frost giants”) who have used up all the heat in a parallel universe threaten to enter our universe to continue feeding.

Sinister Carnivals

For S.F. and I.K. Follow up to the topic of (evil) carnivals, which arose last night over coffee. I forget how our thought chain arrived at this topic; do either of you remember?

I haven’t read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, but my understanding is that it’s about a sinister carnival that comes into town. I’ll put it on my list of things to read.

I mentioned that there’s a Philip K. Dick short story that involves an evil carnival. The short story is entitled A Game Of Unchance, and it’s one of my favorites. Martian colonists are visited by a sinister carny ship that promises to entertain them with “FREAKS, MAGIC, TERRIFYING STUNTS, AND WOMEN”. The (male) colonists are strangely drawn to the show, as if they’re being beckoned by the Song of the Siren. They become entranced, and allow themselves to be swindled by the carny. The story may be an allegorical comment on manipulative advertising, which can cause people to do things contrary to their best interests; e.g., the old lottery tag line, “You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play”, encourages people to bet their money on an outcome with a negative expectation, which (it can be argued) is especially harmful to poor people. You can find this story online via this web page; go to the bottom and click on the link “Show full text: 990,314 characters”. Then search the resulting page for the second occurrence of the word “unchance”; this places you right at the beginning of the story.

There’s also a short story by H.P. Lovecraft entitled The Festival.

And then there’s the Festival of Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky. Yeah, it’s not truly “evil”; it’s a totally different way of organizing a civilization, more like an ecology, or even a living creature (like James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis). But before I read far enough into the novel to find out what it really was, the Festival seemed kind of sinister. They promise to give you anything you like, as long as you entertain them. It sounded fishy to me, too good to be true; there must be a catch somewhere, it must be a Faustian bargain! Maybe I had the PKD short story in mind. Maybe that’s exactly the impression that Stross was hoping to get across; perhaps he has read PKD’s Game of Unchance.

And have you noticed that a lot of carnival music is downright creepy? E.g., check out this YouTube video: Creepy Carnival Music. Or check out this music. Also consider the theme from Gremlins (1984).