Haunted is a unique collection of short stories by Chuck Palahniuk. Seventeen unusual people, all of whom happen to be writers, sign up to attend a three-month writer's workshop courtesy of the mysterious Mr. Whittier. Acting on assumption necessities of toothpaste and toilet roll will be available, each writer brings a suitcase each of personal items.Given the ultimatum that leaving is not an option until the three months are up, the writers quickly learn that there's no escape and no help coming; under this knowledge, they instead concoct the ruse that they're all martyrs and victims trapped by Mr. Whittier, and begin to destroy themselves (both mentally and physically) between telling highly dramatized versions of their own life stories. What results is a deconstruction of reality TV shows, and a whole lot of squick.Whilst it never becomes clear how much of their backstories are true or made up, expect most of them to have Body Horror, Nausea Fuel, Nightmare Fuel and/or Rape as Drama. It should also be noted that, whilst some of the tales seem downright impossible, quite a few are very closely based on real events.The novel's first chapter, "Guts", was published in Playboy magazine well before the book came out proper presumably as a warning. Palahniuk did readings of it during his worldwide book tour for Diary. Over 80 people fainted.This book contains examples of:
Adam and Eve Plot: The end of Mr. Whittier's second story, "Obsolete". It's never clarified if it's really happening in-universe or it's just a story he made up.
For example, in "The Nightmare Box" one of the people in the art gallery is described as having a ponytail and chewing gum... Just like The Duke of Vandals, who is perpetually chewing nicotine gum and, as an artist, would have a lot of reason to be hanging around an art gallery.
Anyone Can Die: Lady Baglady, Duke of Vandals, Comrade Snarky, Miss America, The Matchmaker, Missing Link, Mrs. Clark, and Miss Sneezy. Most likely the rest of the cast as well if the ending is anything to go by...
Arc Words: Onstage, instead of a spotlight, a movie fragment...
Babies Make Everything Better: When Missing Link discusses the idea of people protesting births, Mother Nature and Saint Gut-Free comment that "babies are wonderful."
Back from the Dead: Mr. Whittier faked his death and watched the rest of the writers' ordeal from hiding.
There's also Miss America. Even though she's a catty bitch, the worst things she does is state Comrade Snarky is dead when she's only fainted (though whether she intended to is dubious) and she eats eat Cora Reynolds the cat for no real reason.
Miss Sneezy is also fairly innocent. However, the thing that needs to be kept in mind is that, with the exception of Ms. Clark, even the ones who don't dirty their hands just stand by while it happens.
Eats Babies: Miss America is pregnant at the beginning of the book and goes into labour around the time everyone has entered Donnor Party Mode. And just because the situation wasn't horrifying enough, the others bring her some baby stew afterwards. Luckily(?) it's possible she died before eating it.
Everyone Meets Everyone: The novel opens with Saint Gut-Free driving a tour bus around to pick up the other writers.
Fingore: Wanting to play the biggest victim for when their story sells, quite a few characters begin lopping off their own fingers and toes.
Foot Focus: Her reflexology requires a considerable amount of focus on feet.
Groin Attack: Director Denial's story describes how a fellow Social Worker became so fed up with the local cops having sex with the anatomically-correct dolls she used with sex crime victims that she put razor blades in its orifices. Not to mention the Matchmaker's story. Shoo-rook.
Incurable Cough of Death: Discussed, as everyone notes Miss Sneezy has poor health due to her sneezing all the time, and that she'd make a great martyr for their story. Also Double Subverted as, in reality, she sneezes all the time because her sinuses are wrecked from her past; carrying a deadly airborne virus, she damaged her sinuses escaping island quarantine by walking several miles underwater in an airtight, anti-contamination suit.
I Taste Delicious: Comrade Snarky, having actually fainted instead of dying, awakens unaware that her ass has been carved off and follows the delicious smell of cooked meat. She keeps eating until she notices the rose tattoo on her butt is on some crackling.
Meaningful Rename: The first poem, "Guinea Pigs", discusses how they got their names: each of them was named after a sin or something that they did that got them in trouble. To quote the poem, "the opposite of superhero names".
Mr. Whittier, actually thirteen-years-old and suffering from a type of progeria, tricks wealthy volunteer housewives into having sex with him, only to blackmail them as they've unknowingly committed statutory rape.
Comrade Snarky and her feminist group, believing the new, overly effeminate group member to be a post-sex-change man, proceed to remove her clothes and sexually assault her to "check" if she's really a woman.
Director Denial's story involves has several police officers, following the wrong type of anatomically-accurate child dolls being ordered, using said dolls for extremely-questionable sexual purposes. Taken further as the protagonist of the story sees the dolls as living things.
At least part of "Guts" is true: Faulty pool drains can and have sucked out people's intestines. Former politician and current scumbag John Edwards made his name representing a five year old girl who suffered that fate.
Actually, all three stories in "Guts" are true stories recounted to Chuck, the first two by friends, the third by a man he met at a Sexoholic's meeting when researching for Choke.
Shotacon/Lolicon: If anatomically-correct dolls count. Also "old" Mr Whittier is actually a progeria-suffering thirteen-year-old who makes money by seducing wealthy women and then blackmailing them with the threat of turning them in for statutory rape.
Slumming It: Lady Baglady, her late husband, and friends of theirs made a hobby of pretending to be street people for a change of pace from their ultra-luxurious "real lives". Then someone started killing off street people to eliminate potential witnesses to a murder....
Stepford Smiler: Miss America. She acts at all times like she is on camera.
Straw Feminist: Comrade Snarky and her clan. Granted, many of them have good reasons for being distrustful of men, but it really doesn't give them the excuse to rape a suspected man-to-woman transsexual, who may or may not have actually been born a man.
Takingthe Veil: Tried to enter a nunnery in order to hide from the people coming after her.
Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: According to the museum curator, the Nightmare Box contains the truth of reality, which drove three people into a state of near-madness.
Unreliable Narrator: Possibly. There is the potential for tons of it. Keeping in mind that these people are writers, it's easy to start second guessing their stories. When the stories first acquire an air of Magical Realism and then become increasingly fantastic, it is left up to the audience to decide what to believe, (if anything) and what to doubt (if anything).
Especially considering that two of the stories are about biological mutations and psychic abilities.
Unusual Euphemism: Saint Gut-Free referred to his attempts at underwater masturbation as "Pearl Diving".
Specifically the act of collecting the little "pearls" of ejaculate from the pool.
Villain Ball: The writers decide that, in order to make their story marketable, they need villains. They designate Mr. Whittier for this purpose and after he dies Mrs. Clark.
Invoked and Discussed in Mrs. Clark's case: Mrs. Clark hasn't actually done anything to the writers, but they still designate her as the villain because she wasn't one of the original writers.
"There's no point in blaming one of us for this. There are victims... And there are villains.... Don't create shades of gray that a mass audience can't follow."