Haunted Tropes #002 – I’m Going To Try Science!

Tropes are not clichés, which are dull and uninteresting. These are common scares that come back year after year because they work, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re highly repetitive. Join us every Thursday as we explore these Haunted Tropes.

It's not going to be anywhere near as funny when that red bell pepper comes alive and eats his face off. Well, I mean... not as funny for him, anyway.

It’s not going to be anywhere near as funny when that red bell pepper comes alive and eats his face off. Well, I mean… not as funny for him, anyway. [Pictured t-shirt at XKCD]

 Science… is evil. That’s the only conclusion I can come to after spending several years crawling through haunted houses. Forget the wonders of the modern world we live in, the fantastic advances in technology and medicine. It’s not worth remembering the ways we can all breathe easier and, in general, have a nice, simple life due to the absolutely incredible advancements we’ve made in science and technology. The internet, smartphones, Twitter, modern cancer treatments, better farming… no, none of those things matter.

Pay no attention to the man behind the laboratory curtain, whenever anyone tries to do anything sciencey, all hell is bound to break loose. But this isn’t just a trope about mad scientists getting into trouble – that’s totally expected. Mad Scientists have been wreaking havoc, whether intentionally or due to sheer stupidity, in science fiction and fantasy for ages. We’ve had this kind of thing since before Gordon Freeman slotted his first carrier into the first analysis port, since before Cyberdine systems first brought Skynet out of beta, since before the Initiative started keeping vampires and demons as pets deep beneath Sunnydale. It’s been since the beginning of the modern monster story, in fact, when Mary Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein zapped his first corpse back to life.

The thing is, it’s pretty easy to believe that an abandoned hillbilly town, abandoned theater, abandoned mental hospital, or whatever it is that’s abandoned that you, the haunt-goer, are about to enter into, is otherwise isolated from society and able to go unnoticed, to become nothing but a blip on the radar of the history books, never mentioned by anyone again. Scientific research facilities… don’t have that option. They have grants and funding to secure, they provide regular progress reports. And they document the hell out of everything because they’re scientists. Every single example we’ve seen – zombies made from mad cow disease, insane plants made in an attempt to produce super-farms and end world hunger, sketchy doctors doing experimental procedures, animal testing… all of it ends the same way. Dark, flickering corridors with dodgy lighting, cages that have been torn asunder from the inside, trails of blood, dark hand prints all over the walls, the floors, the ceiling… basically your average disaster area.

Scientists, especially researchers, seem to have a very poor track record when it comes to figuring out that this is a bad idea, because these labs with terrible working conditions continue to crop up, time and time again. That’s the real problem. The people in the world who are supposed to be really good at learning, drawing conclusions, and understanding trends can’t wrap their head around the idea that messing around with some freaky science stuff that nobody understands is not going to turn out just peachy keen. I mean, how does this all pan out? There has to come a point where everybody knows that this is going to turn out to be a terrible idea, but they have to do it anyway, whether because of arrogance or bullheadedness, groupthink or nepotism, financial obligations or government contracts, and they plow right ahead. At this point, what’s a lab assistant to do, other than shrug and scream, “Stand Back! I’m going to try science!