Re/possessed: the Haunted House, Spectral Debt, and the Hyper-Gothic in Lunar Park (2005)

by Amy Bride

Note: Page numbers from the print version are indicated in brackets and should not be considered part of the text of the article.

[page 36] The haunted house is such a staple of gothic literature that it shifts effortlessly from loaded symbol to awkward stereotype throughout the canon. In classic British texts, it signifies secrecy and corruption at the heart of the upper classes, with castles, monasteries and manors frequently inhabited by the traces of torturous histories, infidelity, and incest in spectral form, starting with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764). In American gothic, far more concerned with psychological demons than an unreliable aristocracy, the haunted house becomes a symbol for the haunted mind, with Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1798) demonstrating this revision from the outset of the American tradition. Bret Easton Ellis’s 2005 novel Lunar Park certainly complies with the latter category; protagonist Bret is driven half mad by ghostly apparitions and supernatural phenomena that transform his family home into a grotesque revision of his childhood. However, rather than it acting as either symbol or stereotype exclusively, I contend that Ellis’s text exemplifies a contemporary reinvigoration of the haunted house narrative. Lunar Park’s concern with finance, and equity debt specifically, I will argue, accelerates the effects of the gothic within the novel, and consequently manipulates the reality experienced by both readers of the book and the characters within it. As a result, I will argue that Lunar Park be considered part of an emerging subgenre of gothic literature of my own invention, which I entitle “late-capitalist hyper-gothic.” In a previous article examining hyper-gothic in Ellis’s earlier work American Psycho (1991), I define this subgenre as

an exaggeration of classic gothic tropes and effects that, as a direct result of the referentiality of late-capitalist finance, are articulated through a Baudrillardian hyperreality. This hyperreality emerges as a specifically gothicised blurring of fantasy and reality that stems from the materiality of modern life juxtaposed with phantom financial structures which are at once there and not there, and which therefore serve to haunt and undermine these material structures. The result is a branch of gothic that is both elevated to an extreme and communicative of a highly mediated realm created by late capitalism that is reflective of postmodern hyperreality. (Bride 6)

The context of late-capitalist hyper-gothic is rooted in the continuous and cumulative repetition of gothic images and techniques throughout the twentieth century, to the point where gothic scholars such as Fred Botting [page 37] began to debate whether gothic literature had exhausted all potential for innovation and, therefore, contemporary cultural engagement (170). Lunar Park is to a certain extent guilty of this: the return of the repressed past experienced by Bret is central to the ghost story, and has been utilized for countless symbolic agendas throughout literary history. As Murray Leeder explains, the ghost

can signify the ways in which memory and history, whether traumatic, nostalgic, or both, linger on within the ‘living present’. It can be a potent representation of and figure of resistance for those who are unseen and unacknowledged, reduced to a spectral half-presence by dominant culture and official history. It presents intriguing alternatives to linear conceptions of time and narrative. (1)

While this vast selection of symbolic capabilities could initially categorize the ghost as a highly malleable signifier, the sheer volume of ghost stories and haunted house narratives in particular suggests that this gothic convention may be exhausted in terms of new referential possibilities, as the same wider themes of repression and exclusion are addressed time and again in different form. Proposing an alternative approach to the study of spectrality, recent New Economic Critics, influenced by Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx (1994), have suggested that the haunting found in gothic literature is, in the modern age, no longer contained by the castle walls but has infiltrated every aspect of contemporary culture via the spectrality of finance. As a value system based on future returns treated as materially present in the contemporary moment, the financial market is one that operates on a cyclical and continuously interrupted timeline, much like the gothic ghost story. Investment mistakes made in the past resurface to haunt contemporary value calculation, present values are determined based on what they may become in the future, and history is doomed to repeat itself as terrifying crises occur and reoccur as part of the market’s “natural” cycle of boom and bust. That this system is inherently spectral in its dealing with dually absent and present sources of capital value is now critically established. Indeed, Richard Godden, Paul Crosthwaite, and David McNally, among others, now read the financial market as a specifically gothic phenomenon, citing a gothic vernacular of zombie banks, vampire corporations, and the hypnotic effects of a monster market as evidence that finance and the gothic are epistemologically and ontologically, as well as temporally and hauntologically, interlinked (Godden, “Fictions” 885; Crosthwaite 186; McNally 1-4).

According to Fredric Jameson, the intense commodification of postmodern culture during the period he calls “late capitalism,” in which monetary systems become increasingly computerized and intangible [page 38] signifiers of value such as brand names move further and further away from material sources of capital, has led to this ghostly finance haunting all elements of life (xviii-xix). During this time, everything is either branded, commodified, or up for sale in some way, and consumed because of the perceived value of the logo rather than the actual value of the item itself, meaning that it is part of the capital system and haunted by a financialized understanding of value that then haunts the item through the perceived presence of absent value. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, this financialization expands even further to the point where, due to a combined stagnation of real time wages and an increase in the cost of living since the 1970s, American citizens are increasingly relying on credit to fuel their commodity consumption. This sees commodified items, themselves spectralized due to their signification of immaterial value as commodity signs, made doubly ghost-like as they are bought using a phantom source of capital, which then creates a negative balance as a result of the debt owed to the creditor. Once this credit culture extends to houses and college tuition, transforming home-ownership and education into speculative debts, the haunted house gains a new dimension of meaning. No longer merely inhabited by ghosts living within the walls, the walls of the contemporary American home are themselves inherently haunted, as they now signify a portion of value that is real and life-affecting but not materially present. Both the physical building and its representation on paper, which then affects its performance in the market, are haunted by the effects of financialization in the United States housing market, which came to the fore in 2008.

Lunar Park is then an undeniably postmodern haunted house novel published in the midst of this mass-phantomization of houses in the United States. The blurring of gothic into real life and manipulation of reality that results from late-capitalist financialization – signified by the perceived inflated value of assets in comparison to what they are actually worth – is mirrored in Ellis’s text not just in its highly meta incorporation of the author as its main character, but also in its presentation of a house haunted on multiple layers, which then exaggerates the threat of the gothic within the novel. This multi-layered haunting is made possible, I will argue, due to the novel’s figuration of debt, an element of finance that sees promises made about future payments evolve so that the present becomes haunted by an obligation to the past. This directly manipulates the novel’s already ghostly treatment of time, exaggerating the effects of the gothic even further. I therefore propose that the conjunction of finance and the gothic, as jointly haunted and temporally ambiguous ideologies, results in the creation of Baudrillardian hyperrealities in which the gothic is intensified and normality becomes distorted for both Lunar [page 39] Park’s characters and the reader, hence my classification of Ellis’s novel as late-capitalist hyper-gothic.

As Maria Belville recognizes, Lunar Park “is properly introduced in a typically Gothic/romantic manner that is reminiscent of very early Gothic writings” (176). Just as Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto provides an explanation of the text’s existence, apparently “found in the library of an ancient Catholic family in the north of England” (59) – Bret describes the progression of his career, culminating in the events of the novel: “I’ve recounted the ‘incidents’ in sequential order. Lunar Park follows these events in a fairly straightforward manner” (Ellis 44). Bret’s insistence that the novel is “ostensibly, a true story” further recalls the likes of Dracula (1897), Frankenstein (1818), and Walpole’s novel in their claim that the manuscripts were found rather than invented, thus implying narrative credibility despite the supernatural elements of the texts (44). That these fantastical tropes are purported to be true and simultaneously undermined by potential rational explanations is again reflected in Ellis’s novel. The delusionary illness suffered by Dracula’s “victims,” the fatigue and depression that afflicts Dr. Frankenstein, and the penchant of The Castle of Otranto’s “author” for superstitious fantasy are translated as Bret’s dependence on narcotics, leading to a ‘delusional state’ in which Bret was “not myself” (45). The possibility of multiple selves here echoes the inconsistent personality faced by Victor Ward/Johnson in Ellis’s earlier novel Glamorama (1998) and indicates that Lunar Park is a product of the pressures and fragmentation of the postmodern age.

This distortion of what constitutes reality and fantasy develops as the Halloween party hosted by Bret taps into a commercialized gothic aesthetic that is at once real and inauthentic. The “plastic skeletons and oversized vampire bats dangling from the ceilings,” “ghosts made from white crepe paper,” and back yard “transformed into a giant mock cemetery” seem to exist as physical, material items within Bret’s house, and yet are self-consciously superficial references to classic images of the Gothic mode (Ellis 50-51). This over-stereotyped, marketed version of gothic fear recalls Allan Lloyd Smith’s reading of the decadent, often over-the-top decoration specific to gothic writing that prioritizes surface aesthetic over ontological explanation (8-9). The images used by Bret to gothicize the house in a “playful and innocent” manner “to amuse the guests” simultaneously demonstrate what Fred Botting sees as the over-reliance of commercialized “candygothic” on the same regurgitated stock images until they are no longer threatening (Ellis 51; Botting 134). Furthermore, that this overtly simulated representation of gothic fear precedes a series of images that genuinely scare Bret, e.g. claw marks on the ceiling, ectoplasm across a bed, and the grotesquely animated Terby [page 40] doll, points to the scene of the Halloween party as a Baudrillardian hyperreality (Ellis 74-75). The empty signification of Gothic at the Halloween party exists in the novel before the gothic atmosphere it attempts to recreate actually materializes, reflecting Baudrillard’s example of third-order simulation, in which the map of a territory is created before the territory itself ever exists (Lane 84). Whereas the mimic would usually follow the authentic, Bret experiences mimic Gothic first and authentic gothic fear after, disrupting the established pattern of imitation and thereby creating an immediate sense of the uncanny within the narrative.

The appearance of Bret the morning after the party, wrapped in a sheet, dressed as a “ghost” is then a continuation of this candygothic (Ellis 78). Bret, who is unable to connect to or communicate with his children, conspicuously assumes the role of the paternal ghost that will, later in the text, become literalized by his own father. Conversely, Bret’s reading about the “epidemic” of missing children in the area is indicative of genuine horror as the faces of children continue to haunt the internet as “shadows following you everywhere” despite being physically absent from society (Ellis 82). The rise in child disappearances is described in terms of contagion and subsequently made ironic when it is clear that, due to the volume of medication prescribed, the children of Bret’s neighborhood are effectively zombified: “all the kids were on meds (Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, Paxil) that caused them to move lethargically and speak in affectless monotones” (Ellis 161). This then implies a slippage of Gothicism into everyday life parallel to Bret’s candygothic; at the same time that Bret plays at being a ghost in a bed sheet, the novel’s children are becoming increasingly spectral as they continue to vanish. The interaction between candygothic and more authentic triggers of fear and anxiety here are thus representative not merely of “a blurring between reality and representation” but of “a detachment from both of these, whereby the reversal becomes irrelevant,” that is characteristic of hyperreality (Lane 84). In each instance, the haunting is effective whether real or false. Bret really is unable to connect with his family, and so may as well be invisible for all the difference he makes; the neighborhood’s children, although physically absent from everyday life, continue to haunt the minds of parents and news headlines, and so maintain a spectral presence in the here and now. The simultaneous descent of Bret’s home life into gothic stereotype and infiltration of gothic fear into “real” society are then already indications of the hyper-Gothic in Lunar Park; it is quickly apparent that, in this novel, the Gothic is no longer contained within any narratological or ontological boundary. As Belville recognizes, this “oscillation between a traditional gothic aesthetic and a more parodic, postmodernist or hyperreal one, begins to underline [Bret’s] decline and the advancement of his fear” (177). Ellis’s novel shows not just a subject [page 41] fearful because of a gothic haunting but, specifically, a subject terrified because that gothic haunting has seamlessly infiltrated the border into reality, to the point where neither this reality nor the gothic haunting can be distinguished from each other.

As the elements of “genuine” haunting escalate, it is clear that Lunar Park centers around the trope of the haunted house commonly used throughout gothic literature. Haunted by what is later revealed to be the ghost of his father and, simultaneously, haunting his own children as an insubstantial and thus effectively absent parent, Bret’s role is dually central and liminal in its location between two generations and position outside of the norms of reality. This also immediately indicates a multidimensional quality to the haunting of Ellis’s text, as Bret is haunted from the past at the same time that he haunts the next generation from the present. Graham Matthews argues that this ambivalence within Bret’s character is reflected in the house itself as it “alternatively signifies as either shelter or entrapment” (48). Matthews notes that the security of Bret’s house in protecting against external threats is undermined when the haunted house transforms into a house that haunts (48). As sconces flicker, televisions gain a life of their own, and a giant fanged hairball materializes from within and runs rampant around the house, it becomes clear that, much like the Overlook Hotel in King’s The Shining (1977), the gothic threat is not as much contained within the walls as it is emerging from them (Ellis 244, 353, 346-349). This is made explicit when Jayne Dennis’s house on Elsinore Lane transforms into Bret’s childhood home: “underneath the paint was the green-stripped wallpaper that had covered the walls of the house in Sherman Oaks” (Ellis 403). The metamorphosis of Ellis’s adult residence into the house where he was first mistreated by his father not only is indicative of the psychological origins of Bret’s fear but also mimics Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. Walpole uses the animation of an inanimate building to signify an interruption in the line of inheritance and highlight the moral crimes of the father and protagonist, Manfred: “‘Fredric accepts Matlilda’s hand, and is content to waive his claim, unless I have no male issue’ – as he spoke those words three drops of blood fell from the nose of Alfonso’s statue” (147). The coming alive of Bret’s house similarly serves as a warning to Bret against becoming like his father, and again signifies the interruption of the present by the past in order to change the future, with representatives from each time location represented and affected. Walpole’s gothic theory that “the sins of fathers are visited on their children” is then literalized when Bret adopts a paternal role within his own childhood house and thus shadows the position of his own father, “the face of a father being replaced by the face of a son” (Walpole 61; Ellis 402). [page 42]

The existence of one house beneath the other extends Matthews’s reading of mirroring between the haunted house and the haunted/haunting Bret (48). That the childhood home, symbolic of the power and domain of his father, lies dormant beneath and eventually breaks through the surface of the adult Bret’s home creates a physical model of Freud’s ego and id (19-27). That the id or subconscious part of the house is haunted by the threat of paternal rule – which is resented and fought against by Bret as the son – further categorizes this haunting as reminiscent of an Oedipal complex (Freud 176-177). This materializes through Bret as he progressively inhabits a physical likeness to his father: “my sisters marvelled how much I had begun resembling our father as I moved toward middle age” (Ellis 410). Just as Bret’s father repeatedly misused alcohol, narcotics, and women, Bret harbors similar bad habits beneath the supposedly reformed façade that he presents to Jayne and his children. The jurisdiction of the father’s haunting is thus not merely restricted to Bret’s house but in fact extends to within Bret’s physical body. Like the masque that is peeled away to reveal the diseased and threatening phantom body in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” (1842), Bret’s house, face, and personal performance are stripped away to reveal the gothic threat that has literally been inside the walls of the building all along. Bret’s existence as a haunted subject within Lunar Park is thus determined by a pattern of multi-generational haunting. While Bret is haunted from the past by the ghost of his father, Robby is also haunted by Bret performing the role of the ghost as a disconnected presence within the family home. The implication of Walpole’s inherited sin, experienced by Bret in his adoption of the paternal role, is thus a constant threat to Robby’s future, as it would follow that he is destined to become Bret in the same way that Bret has become his own father.

However, the paternal haunting of Lunar Park is not merely the utilization of classic gothic convention but, as Godden notes, is laden with “financial credentials” that classify this haunting as a specifically late-capitalist phenomenon (“Bret” 600). The various phantom forms that appear in the novel are all, as identified by Bret, manifestations of his feelings towards his father: “He’s back. I had whispered those two words to myself that dark night spent…replaying what I’d seen out in the desolate field behind our house. I had involuntarily been thinking of my father” (Ellis 188). That his father’s ashes were meant to be scattered but are instead kept “in a safe-deposit box in a Bank of America” that sends repeated reminders of the vault’s deposit dually signifies a debt owed by Bret to his father and the hoarding of that debt (21). In this sense, Bret becomes a late-capitalist revision of Charles Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge (1843), spectrally reprimanded for keeping an unnecessarily full bank account, by a ghost that symbolizes what he will become in the future. [page 43] Add to this the debt owed by Bret to Robby as an unfulfilling father, and it becomes clear that, in order for Bret to put an end to his multifarious hauntings, he must pay off his debts to both father and son, thus reversing the pattern of patrimony. In addition to this moral or emotional debt, Bret is the heir to his father’s estate, which was left in arrears upon his death. As Joanne Watkiss notes, “instead of simply gaining nothing, Bret inherits a negative value, an impossibility that cannot be articulated through traditional understandings of inheritance which insist on gain” (93). Bret is then haunted by a father who on a parental level represents absence, and from a financial standpoint bestowed a negative value onto his son upon death. The sense here of moving beyond death, of having gone past the point of being nothing into being a negative entity, marries the concepts of haunting and debt so that the ghost of Bret’s father becomes a specifically financial specter. His sole purpose after death is to take from the living, to ensure that his debts and those owed him by others are repaid so that he can rest as a balanced non-entity. This is thus reflective of Colin Davis’s explanation of the reasons behind ghosts and haunting:

[T]he dead man returns because he has not been “duly laid to rest”. The duty of the living to bury the dead has not been performed according to established practice, and the rite of passage remains incomplete. […] Once our symbolic debt has been duly paid, the domains of the living and of the dead can be kept decently separate again. (2-3)

Davis’s notion of a debt being paid to the dead in order for them to rest echoes Watkiss’s reading of the return of the spectral father as interrupting the line of inheritance and is plainly evident in Ellis’s text (84). Bret is not granted peace or freedom from his spectral debt until he fulfils the terms of his father’s will, putting the ashes back into circulation rather than hoarding them in the bank: “the ashes were collapsing into everything and following echoes. They sifted over the graves of his parents and finally entered the cold, lit world of the dead…it was all over” (Ellis 453). Just as Manfred is forced to pay back the Otranto estate to its rightful heir before the castle can return to normal, Bret is compelled to make things between himself and his father even before the ghosts of Lunar Park can be put to rest.

That real estate was, at the time Lunar Park was written, rapidly becoming a spectral asset further provides a financial explanation for the haunted house motif central to the novel. As Godden explains, “between 2000 and 2005, US house prices rose by an average of 51% and household wealth, accordingly, by 64% […]. Which is to say that in America, during the first five years of the twenty-first century, one house became one and [page 44] a half houses” (“Bret” 593). As more American homeowners treated their houses as speculative assets in order to draw “fictitious capital” from refinanced mortgages, the American home became increasingly spectral in its representation of value not materially present (594). For Bret, the emergence of an additional house beneath the surface of 307 Elsinore Lane is then symbolic of both the debt owed to the ghostly father and the negative equity bestowed onto Bret through his inheritance of his father’s indebted estate. That this phantom asset is literalised in Ellis’s text furthermore serves as a warning against the prevalent speculation of late-capitalist financial systems; the presence of the spectral house lurking within Bret’s home is specifically due to the debt accumulated by his father’s speculative failings, in essence, his inability to accurately predict the future. That this additional phantom house potentially haunts a multitude of families remortgaging homes between 2000 and 2005 is again demonstrative of a hyper-Gothic that cannot be contained within the domestic boundary. Instead, it infects millions of homes across America, meaning that every U.S. house is, effectively, a haunted house.

Bret is additionally stalked by characters from his previous novels that appear to come to life directly from the page, taking Nicolas Abraham’s assertion that “the ‘phantom’…is nothing but an invention of the living” at its literal definition (171). The most conspicuous of these is Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (1991), who initially appears at Bret’s Halloween party: “someone I didn’t recognise came as Patrick Bateman…this tall, handsome guy in the bloodstained (and dated) Armani suit lurk around the corners of the party, inspecting the guests as if they were prey” (Ellis 55). As Matthews recognizes, the crossover of characters from one novel to another is by no means unusual within Ellis’s writing (53). However, Bateman in this context does not appear as an additional character within a cohesive narrative community, but is understood by Bret as the entirely fictional protagonist of American Psycho supernaturally animated into the “real life” realm of Lunar Park. Bret’s claim that he based Bateman on his father would initially suggest that this phantom is but another projection of the parental ghost; yet the explanation of Bateman’s conception suggests that the source of haunting lies beyond the context of Bret’s troubled paternal relationship (Ellis 18). As Bret describes, American Psycho

was written mostly at night when the spirit of this madman would visit, sometimes waking me from a deep, Xanex-induced sleep. When I realized, to my horror, what this character wanted from me, I kept resisting, but the novel forced itself to be written. I would often black out for hours at a time only to realize that another ten pages had been scrawled out. (Ellis 18) [page 45]

The nocturnal visit, the demand of the visiting “spirit” for something taken against the victim’s will, and the subsequent unconscious actions of the victim mirror the experiences of Dracula’s victims and reinforce critical readings of Bateman as a vampire (Bride 7-13). However Bateman is not just a bloodthirsty consumer of commodities here but is actually a commodity in construction; Bret’s automation as a result of creating a character that would sell over a million books in the U.S. in fifty three prints by 2011 thus demonstrates Andrew Smith’s theory on the disembodiment of the late-capitalist laborer (13). Smith argues that the creation of commodities is a process “in which objects are granted a life” that stems purely from the labor input of the worker (13). The loss of subjectivity experienced by the worker who, in performing the same labor repeatedly, becomes automated, subsequently objectifies the laborer at the same time that the commodity object is granted subjectivity. This power exchange is clear between Bret and the “spirit” that creates and eventually embodies Patrick Bateman; for the character to exist and become commodified, Bret is forced into such extreme bouts of unconsciousness and delirium that he feels he can “take no credit” for the novel or its protagonist (Ellis 18).

This then raises questions regarding the capital Bret receives as a result of both the success and controversy of American Psycho. Before a single copy of the book is sold, Bret describes how the initial publishers forfeited “a mid-six-figure advance” in order to avoid association with the novel (Ellis 17). Bret then effectively receives two payouts for the same piece of work without having to provide any extra labor. Bret thus not only takes credit for a character that he claims was created by someone – or something – else, but also accepts a substantial capital payment that is then completely imbalanced against his labor input for the novel. Bret in Lunar Park is the recipient of a surplus value through his literary success. However, for Bret, this surplus value is so substantial that it culminates in a labor debt as he continues to “maximize his credit” as a writer in order to sell more novels based on his reputation rather than his labor input: “I had started the outline for Teenage Pussy over the summer and a lot had been accomplished despite the hours playing Tetris on my Gateway” (Ellis 100; Godden, “Bret” 592). Half of the double payment Bret receives for writing American Psycho is then effectively a loan taken out against the book that will eventually demand repayment. The figures of Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), Clayton (Less Than Zero) and others that emerge from Ellis’s writing to haunt Bret are thus further representations of debt – either financial or labor – as the source of haunting within Lunar Park. That Patrick Bateman specifically demands rewriting in order to put an end to his haunting thus demonstrates the need for Bret to balance out [page 46] his surplus capital with an equivalent labor input before he can make any future profits. Bret does not receive any money for the story he writes to kill off Patrick Bateman, but the extra work required goes some way to compensating for the double advance received on publication of the original book and therefore vanquishes Patrick Bateman as a phantom representation of Bret’s past labor debt. That Bret describes writing the extra story as “advancing backwards” indicates that the debt of the surplus advance has indeed been repaid, the debt paid back in order to return to a zero or equal balance (Ellis 418).

While this haunting ties in with the traditional gothic specter that is owed a debt, the specific late-capitalist context of completely imbalanced labor to surplus commodity value allows the ghosts of the novel to transcend all layers of perceived reality. While the emergence of Patrick Bateman disrupts the distinction between self-consciously fictional realms and the presented “real life” of Lunar Park, his interaction with Bret Easton Ellis as author-turned-main character furthermore drags the reality of the author – and therefore, the reader – into the Gothic action of the novel. This not only indicates an instability between representation and “real life” that develops from the hyperreal gothic aesthetic of the Halloween party, but also implies that if Ellis the author can transpose from the real world to be absorbed into the Gothic mode, then so too can the reader. The expansion of gothic threat outside of the boundaries of the novel is thus further evidence of the hyper-Gothic in Ellis’s text; it is now not just the characters who are at risk from gothic threat but also the reader and the author. The Gothic in this context is uncontainable even within the pages of the book, thus demonstrating its intensity when underlined by the late-capitalist context. In the same way that Bret is haunted by “real” phantoms beyond the empty, commercial Gothic of the Halloween party, the implication is that readers may find themselves haunted by phantom debt beyond the self-conscious Gothic of Ellis’s novel. Published in 2005, in what was the calm before the storm of the 2008 crash, Ellis’s haunted house narrative thus presents a retrospectively uncomfortable read, not least due to the fact that haunting within the text is multi-layered and multi-dimensional, meaning the reader is still not safe even from this retrospective vantage point. The haunting of protagonist Bret, who is disturbed by his bankrupt father’s ghost and bank account, which resurface through the very walls of his family home, is set against the then growing sub-prime housing bubble that saw millions of American homes abandoned due to negative equity haunting the balance sheet, a debt factor which still affects American lives and credit profiles today. That the following crash was partly the result of this equity debt – arguably evidence of a past agreement resurfacing to disrupt the present – being gambled on the futures market demonstrates the complex yet [page 47] compulsive relationship between finance and gothic formulations of time, and disturbingly hints that Ellis, when writing about ghosts haunting the present from the past, was in fact predicting the future.

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Watkiss, Joanne. Gothic Contemporaries: The Haunted Text. Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2012. Print.

MLA citation (print):

Bride, Amy. "Re/possessed: the Haunted House, Spectral Debt, and the Hyper-Gothic in Lunar Park (2005)." Supernatural Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 2016, pp. 36-48.