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Literature / Horrorstör

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Your life. Your style. Our furniture.

It's not just a job. It's the rest of your life.

Horrorstor is a 243-page horror/comedy novel written by Grady Hendrix and published in September 2014 by Quirk Books. The novel is a modern revamp of the Haunted House story, moving the location to a big-box furniture store based on IKEA. The story follows Amy Porter, a directionless college dropout working at the Cuyahoga branch of Orsk, an American furniture chain pretending to be Swedish to compete with IKEA. Strange things are happening at the Cuyahoga branch: products are being vandalized, strange graffiti is popping up everywhere, store electronics are going haywire, and no matter how many times the staff counts, inventory never matches up. To get to the bottom of this, store manager Basil Washington recruits Amy and coworker Ruth Anne DeSoto to work with him on a late-night shift, promising Amy a pay raise and a transfer to the Youngstown branch. That night, they are joined by Trinity Park and Matt McGrath, two other employees who broke into the store because they think the store is haunted and want to capture video evidence of ghosts to get on TV. They soon find out just how right they are...the store was built on the site of the Cuyahoga Panopticon, a 19th-century prison where prisoners were brutally tortured and driven to madness by Josiah Worth, a crazed warden who thought mindless, repetitive tasks promoted mental health, and their ghosts have been waiting for Amy and her friends to arrive.


Tropes in this book include:

  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Orsk is Ikea with the serial numbers filed off.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Trinity is rumored to hook up with her female coworkers as well as the guys.
  • Arc Words: The word "BEEHIVE" often appears in the graffiti found in the store's restroom. It's later revealed to be a nickname for the Panopticon.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: The various pennant ghosts, long after their deaths, are still slaves to the Warden's cruel, repetitive tortures. Even after Amy convinces them that the Warden has no sway over them, prompting a Dragged Off to Hell, they still continue to act out their ghostly damnation and inflict their horrors onto the Orsk employees regardless.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Josiah Worth is defeated, Basil and Amy survive, and the Orsk branch is shut down. However, their friends are still trapped among the spirits and they're left traumatized by the events. They ultimately decide to return to the new baby needs store in the hopes of saving anyone that may have survived. And the final page reveals that the store is planning on having a 24 hour sale in the future.
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  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The chapter titles. They start out being named after Orsk furniture with pictures and descriptions like something out of a catalog, but from Chapter 11 onward, they switch to the Panopticon's torture implements, being advertised as if they were ordinary products.
  • Break the Cutie: Both Ruth Anne and Trinity go through this when the ghosts start coming out.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Trinity. Despite her constant pestering of employees and customers alike about her belief in ghosts. Basil praises her in an employee evaluation for her creative staging solutions.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: While it is left ambiguous as to whether this is the case or not, Amy manages to get through to the ghostly tenants that they do not have to listen to the Warden anymore and he is quickly dealt with... but they still continue their torturous purgatory, only now in a disorderly manner without their leader.
  • Eldritch Location: Orsk. There's a Pocket Dimension and, when Amy calls the police, they can't find the address.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The whole book except the epilogue takes place in a single 24 hour period, with the majority of the action happening overnight.
  • Eye Scream: Ruth Anne gouges her own eyes out just before she gets dragged off by an unseen horror because "If I can't see them, they can't see me."
  • Faux Affably Evil: While Warden Worth goes on about how he wants to cure the inmates of their sickness, it is made abundantly clear that he takes more pleasure in the horrifying things he does to the penants and the Orsk employees than he should, possibly using their "sickness" as an excuse to exercise cruel and out-dated practices.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Amy and Basil. He comes back for her when she's being torture by the Warden and vice versa.
  • Friendless Background: Basil admits to having no friends and that he became floor manager to talk to somebody.
  • From Zero to Hero: Amy goes from being a depressed, kind of rude Jaded Washout to a hero who swims through water with a broken arm, tries to save everybody, and goes back for her co-workers despite being able to leave with her life at one point.
  • Hellhole Prison: The Panopticon.
  • Here We Go Again!: In the epilogue, Orsk closes down the Cuyahoga branch due to the bad publicity surrounding the events of the story, but a baby-needs store moves in, and the ghosts are still there. Amy and Basil both get jobs at the new store in the hopes of finding their friends.
  • Heroic BSoD: In the epilogue, Amy is a shell of herself because she wasn't able to save Ruth Anne, Trinity or Matt.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: Orsk is an American store pretending to be Swedish, and the advertising reflects this, with phrases like "The Better Home for the Everyone!"
  • Ironic Echo: Early on, Amy wishes to get promoted out of working as a floor manager and into services, her reasoning being that "a sit down job was better than a standing one." Much later, as Amy is attacked by Warden Worth and starts to succumb to the darkness from being strapped to the sensory deprivation chair, she notes that she's finally gotten the sit-down job she wanted. This becomes the crux of her Character Development, realizing that she can't just sit and hide away from her problems forever, and decides to stand up and do something to help her friends.
  • Kill the Cutie: Ruth Anne, kind of. Except she's actually been subjected to a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Married to the Job: Basil has his sister, but he genuinely loves his managerial job at Orsk and uses it as an emotional crutch. Amy is also one, but unintentionally and not with any desire to be that way.
  • Meat Puppet: Warden Worth possesses Carl and makes him kill himself to use his corpse as a vessel.
  • Mind Rape: Amy is subjected to one in Josiah Worth's sensory deprivation chair.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Basil keeps a pocket blade with him at all times because you never know when you need to open a flat pack...or free one of your friends from the sensory deprivation chair she's strapped into. Later, Amy does the same using a hex screwdriver to open the wardrobe she's been sealed in by the ghosts.
  • Mood Whiplash: The book starts out mostly humorous, but everything starts going to hell fast during the seance.
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The book is put together to resemble a furniture catalog.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Matt and Trinity's reason for being in the store after dark. They're hoping to get their own TV show on Bravo.
  • Pocket Dimension: When the ghosts come out, a previously fake door in the showroom now leads into the Beehive.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Basil. He may be an irritant to Amy with his frequent pestering and parroting of the Orsk employee handbook, he's genuinely trying to do a good job as manager and when the ghosts come out, he makes his employees' safety his top priority.
  • Red Herring: The strange events happening at Orsk are thought to be explained first by rats, then by Carl, a homeless man who's been hiding in the store at night.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: In this case, literally.
  • Spooky Séance: Trinity starts one in a last-ditch effort to contact any ghosts. It works...unfortunately.
  • Understatement: "I finally saw a ghost, but he didn't like me." -Trinity, after the ghosts forced her to walk endlessly on a treadmill wearing a backpack full of Orsk catalogs and her hands duct-taped to it and mutilated with broken pencils.
  • Unholy Ground: Orsk was built over the remains of a prison where Warden Worth tortured his penants in a twisted sense of "curing them of their sins." Because of this, the Warden and his tenants haunt the store. When the store is destroyed in Amy and Basil's escape and is replaced with a baby-needs store, that store becomes the new haunting ground.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Josiah Worth.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Amy manages to escape the store and finds her way back to her car, and she seriously contemplates driving away from the entire ordeal. It isn't until she starts getting flashbacks sitting in her car to her time in the sensory deprivation chair when she realizes that she's sat down and taken things all her life, and in her Heroic Second Wind she storms her way back into Orsk to save her newfound friends.
  • When All You Have is a Hammer…: Even after the ghosts are running rampant, Basil sticks to his management training, treating them as though they were merely unruly customers.