Haunted Home Pages #3: Virtual Haunted Houses

Welcome to Haunted Home Pages, a semi-regular series of blog posts in which Jim McGrath spends October 2017 communicating with the internet’s afterlife via The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine . For all the posts in this series, click here.

I love looking at early twenty-first century Yahoo pages with undergrads and grad students. The decisions to organize information are super interesting and weird! In my search for Halloween-themed content, I discovered that there once was a “Holidays” sub-section under Yahoo’s “Society and Culture” section. Before we go there to look at some Virtual Haunted Houses (from, of course, the “Virtual Haunted Houses” sub-section of the “Halloween” section!), take a look at these categories:

Yahoo's directory of links for "Society and Culture" (June 2002)
Yahoo’s directory of links for “Society and Culture” (June 2002)

In October of 2002 there were eight options to choose from in the category of “Virtual Haunted Houses.” While many of these houses are inaccessible via The Internet Archive due to their reliance on Flash, the descriptions of these sites give you a sense of some of the activities awaiting digital trick or treaters: virtual pumpkin carving, Ozmo the Oracle, table tennis with skeletons (move over, Warren Zevon!), etc.

Virtual Haunted Houses (October 2002)
Virtual Haunted Houses (October 2002)

Of these options, my favorite forgotten haunt is Jan’s Courtyard, in which the aforementioned Jan apparently created (and definitely starred in!) a series of Photoshopped images alongside The Cryptkeeper, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and lots of other ghouls and ghosts. If I had these kinds of Photoshop skills in 2002, this is exactly how I would have spent my time every October.

Jan's Courtyard (October 2002)
Jan’s Courtyard (October 2002)

It’s also interesting to see the structures of web sites from this period and how they’re beginning to change. My favorite section of what’s visible in the archive of the site is the “Halloween at Jan’s Courtyard” page, which lets you scroll through a series of text, images, and GIFs.

Bats in the Dining Hall
Bats in the Dining Hall

There’s also a hyperlinked Haunted House Tour page in which Jan (and Bob) take those interested in clicking through various images of a home’s interior. As someone who spends part of his current day job thinking of how to map and tour historic houses, this was fun to take a look at! The tour begins in the Parlor and ends with a menagerie of “Swamp Critters.” It’s fun to see an aesthetic where GIFs and static images are weaved together: for example, check out the Dining Hall, where an animated bat GIF flutters above the static revelry. If you’re still looking for more to do, there’s also a tour of several digital graveyards!

Swamp Critters
Swamp Critters

If the site’s hit counts are to be believed, almost a million visitors have made their way to Jan’s Courtyard since its creation in 1996! Even if that’s spread over 20 years or so, those numbers are still way better than lots of digital humanities projects! 🙂


I came across a few other virtual haunted houses this month, but none of them stayed with me like Jan’s Courtyard. Happy Halloween!

Haunted Home Pages will run through October 2017! Questions, comments? Get in touch with Jim on Twitter @JimMc_Grath! You can also email me: james_mcgrath[at]brown[dot]edu!