Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stairway to Hell

'The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'
Bette Davis

Image below by Mosaic Group

It was when watching the premiere of American Horror Story: Coven I was again reminded of the importance of stairs, and staircases in the series. Each seasons opening episode introduced us to a building, and a set of stairs, that lead many of the characters to their own specific type of hell. Each of the main characters will end up either ascending or descending literally or figuratively up or down towards death.


The stairs to the upstairs and the stairs to the basement the Harmon's lived their terrors on and around in murder house. The gothic endless staircase of Briarcliff manor that led Kit Walker and Lana Winters to hell and back. The majestic staircase soon to pull it's characters to a certain death in Miss Robichaux’s Academy For Exceptional Young Ladies in Coven.

Eugene Antoine

I have my own fixation with stairs and staircases, one I didn't realize until recently has played itself out through many of my image choices. I love things that both fascinate and terrify, and staircases do both for me. When I profiled Eugene Antoine in Septemeber in At The Top Of The Stairs, I shared positive memories of hanging out, and hiding at the top of our family's staircase. There was another staircase in our home, one that didn't have anything quite so warm and fuzzy associated with them.

AHS: Asylum

The basement in my childhood home was dark. A few small windows at the top of the wall, barely wide enough to let much light in. A string with a hanging bare bulb the only light, and that only when the string stayed attached. The floor was dirt, the smell was musty and except when made to go get the laundry, I avoided the basement as much as I could.

Bank Job by Robert Colgan

My ritual was always the same. I turned on the light and walked slowly down the stairs loudly singing. I sang to let anything, or anyone hiding know I was coming down but a signal to the rest of my family above my head. I thought, just maybe, if the singing stopped, someone might come help, or at least look for me. I would do my assigned task as quickly as possible then stop, pause and look around. Then... I would run as fast as my feet would carry me up the stairs, positive there hand were going to grab and pull me back down.

AHS: Coven

The hands belonged to a monster, sometimes clearly identified by a character I saw in a movie or on television. For some reason I have never really figured out, the Joker from Batman was often who I visualized the monster as. I knew the monster wanted to hurt me, but at the same time knew his end game was not to kill, just hurt and expose me, bringing excruciating pain.

The Guy With The Camera: Chez by Nohea Dunn

I sometimes wonder if the goal was to out me, even before I was too young to really know exactly from what. I don't run up basement stairs any longer, I know now that I am going to make it up safely. I do know however that the monster is still there. Although not running, I do pause and give a nod of acknowledgement to that monster and the power it once had over me. It is now impotent, powerless to hurt me, but nonetheless, it still it waits. It waits for a moment of weakness, a day, or night I am struggling, a time I might stumble, lose confidence or feel unsafe.

Ryan Scott: At The Top Of The Stairs

I will spend the rest of my life ensuring the monster remains powerless to hurt me. But the fear it might be again unleashed remains constant. What I still have to figure out is why it is going up that I find so much more terrifying...than going down.

Operatic: Jessie Lee by Jay Plogman

1 comment:

Bobby F. said...

What a wonderful narrative, Tye, and thank you for revisiting some of these iconic, beautiful images. I am glad you have overcome your fear (or maybe you accepted the fear could one day become reality -- acceptance often helps us face our fears) really hate to admit this, but I have NEVER gotten over looking under the bed before going to bed. I can be at home all day and still after taking my shower but before I go to bed, I kneel done naked and look under my bed.