Stawar america, underground opinion

Last October, an indie American horror film, titled The Basement, premiered at Shriekfest in Los Angeles. This movie is about a serial killer, called The Gemini, who decapitates his victims with a blow torch in his basement. For the past couple of months I have been working to clean out the basement in our old house. It’s been an awful job. I’d rather wake up to find myself in the Gemini’s basement rather than my own, any day.

They are frequently seen in regions where cold temperatures require that foundations be constructed below the frost line. Since these foundations must be so deep, the extra cost of putting in a basement is negligible. According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 2013 across the U.S., only 30 percent of new single-family homes had basements.

In colder regions, however, basements were the most common type of foundation. In New England, for example, 87 percent of new homes had basements. When we lived in Florida, my wife Diane and I were struck by how few houses had basements due to the warmer climate and the high water table.

In the 1950s, finished basements started to gain popularity. Americans began using them as living space instead of storage area. Many saw finishing a basement as an economical way of adding square footage and increasing the value of their homes. The addition of a recreation room, rumpus room, or rathskeller in the basement was much sought after status symbol among the growing middle class.

Despite this appeal many people harbor a fear of basements. Cam Fuller, a columnist for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, says that “Basements are the scariest part of any house.” He claims that his grandfather’s house had the scariest basement ever, with the worse part being a root cellar, where he says “old vegetables go to die.” The second worst part was a creepy unused basement bedroom. Fuller says, “It seems ridiculous even now that a bedroom would be down there. Why not just pitch a tent in the graveyard on Halloween?”

In the 1990 comedy Home Alone, the abandoned Kevin takes control of the house, but is still frighten by the creepy basement and its especially scary furnace. The basement in the house where I grew up had an old coal-burning furnace for many years and even a narrow rectangular window to accommodate the coal chute. Like another furnace in the 1983 film A Christmas Story, it was known to make all sorts of strange and disturbing noises.

Based on mythology authority Joseph Campbell’s work on symbolism, blogger Zac Scy associates going down to the basement with making a descent into the “underworld.” He says that it symbolizes “a journey into our subconscious and as such triggers our baser nature.” Basements are places where people store old and discarded items, much like our subconscious mind stores primitive and forbidden impulses. Scy concedes that all this may be a little less dramatic and disquieting, if we have installed a home office or recreation room in our basement.

Traditionally, however, basements tend to be dark, dank and smelly. They have few exits and may feel somewhat claustrophobic. Others have suggested that fear of basements may stem from just being underground and the association with being buried. This is akin to a fear of death, along with the spiders, worms, insects and other creepy crawlies that accompany it.

When I was growing up my dog, a mongrel named Tiger, was deathly afraid of firecrackers. So around the Fourth of July each year, he would hide in our basement and refused to come out for a week or so. Evidently this was the only place he felt safe from the loud noises that terrified him. In the hot and humid summer, he probably considered the chilly dampness and moldy stench a bonus.

Our basement was the hub of a lot of activity. Besides our dog hiding under a cot and the loud furnace, my mother was down there constantly doing the laundry, using her wringer washer. I was terrified of that machine, after being repeatedly told a story about a local boy who had lost his arm after getting it caught in the wringer. I had nightmares about that wringer. As I got older I became suspicious and wondered why I had never actually seen this boy with his alleged missing arm. After all it was a small town.

Today, basements have even taken on sociological significance. Individuals who live in in them have been referred to as “basement-dwellers.” The stereotype is a socially backward adult nerd who still lives with his parents. Television has given us examples, including Vinton Harper of Mama’s Family, who lived in his mother’s basement along with his second wife, Naomi, and Bud Bundy from Married with Children.

In 2015, Matthew Rozsa from Lehigh University wrote about “The Plight of the Basement Dweller,” describing a generation of disenfranchised, isolated and socially challenged young men. Rozsa says three factors account for this phenomena. First, there is an economy that promotes an extended period of economic dependence. Then there are what he calls the addictions. This is not so much alcohol and drugs, but rather video games and internet-based addictions, often, however, accompanied by alcohol and drugs. And finally there is the societal indifference to their predicament. For these mostly young men, basement living isn’t a temporary transition to adulthood, it is a symbol of their being totally out of the mainstream and banished to a netherworld. In such a context, the basement becomes a symbol of marginalization and a loss of hope.