10.31.16: Scarfolk, Haunted Hong Kong, & Shirley Jackson

Oct 31, 2016

As one of the most densely populated placed on earth, Hong Kong has a very competitive retail market. But deals can be had, if... You're willing to put up with a few ghosts. Today, the haunted house hustle.

Also today, it's been almost 70 years since Shirley Jackson's chilling classic "The Lottery" shocked readers. We'll talk with Jackson's grandson about his graphic adaptation of the story, and with Jackson's biographer about the author's many faces... Comically besieged housewife, channeler of nightmares, witch?

Listen to the full show.

Getting to Know Scarfolk

In Scarfolk, England, citizens are expected to schedule workplace accidents at the convenience of their employer - they also pay a gravity tax and enter a lottery to win the right to be acknowledged as human. All of these cultural quirks are meticulously archived on the town council website in faded 1970s pastels.

Sound dystopian? Luckily it is. Scarfolk is a creepy work of fiction, but perhaps the most unnerving thing about it is the parallels it draws to our own world. 

Richard Littler is a writer and designer and curator behind the Scarfolk Council blog, an archive of England's most upsetting town that never existed.

Haunted Hong Kong

Hong Kong is home to just over seven million people—or 6,690 people per square kilometer—making it one of the most densely populated places and one of the most competitive real estate markets. Space is limited and expensive, and brokers will do almost anything to snag a listing. Enter spacious.hk, a tech start-up guiding ex-pats and younger Hong Kongers to discounted listings, as long as they're willing to put up with a few ghosts. The service offers deals on places where someone has died. Something locals—especially older generations—won't touch.

Justin Heifetz is a freelance reporter based in Hong Kong. We found his article about the haunting practices of the Hong Kong real estate market on Motherboard.

Related: "This Hong Kong Start-up is Hustling Haunted Apartments to Millennial Expats"

Sandip Roy is Haunted by Boots

This Halloween is expected to be a windfall for US retailers with consumer spending on the spooky holiday reaching an all-time high. In India, Halloween doesn't get the same attention as it does here,  but that doesn't mean they don't like a good ghost story. Sandip Roy brings us this dispatch from Kolkata. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.

The Lottery: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

After Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” was published in the New Yorker nearly 70 years ago, readers flooded the magazine with letters. Many threatened to cancel their subscriptions...others thought Jackson had witnessed a real stoning ritual and demanded an explanation.  Still others wrote to Jackson wanting to know where they could watch the annual lottery themselves. That was 1948. For decades, the story has raised chilling questions about tradition and conformity in anthologies and middle school English classes. Now, 100 years after Jackson’s birth comes a new telling of the story, a graphic novel of “The Lottery” by her grandson Miles Hyman.

A Rather Haunted Life

Shirley Jackson's horror novels - The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle drew in the creeping hysteria, the mad, entrapped women, and the twisted familial dependencies of gothic fiction - and recalibrated those ideas for mid-century American readers. It may be hard to believe that the writer derided as “Virginia Werewolf"  also supported her family writing comic dispatches for women's magazines as a housewife trying to keep up with four rambunctious kids and a rambling old Vermont house.

In a new biography, author Ruth Franklin explores those distinct - even contradictory - genres as emblematic of the tension between creative fulfillment and the duties of motherhood simmering in an era when working mothers - and women artists were so rare. In Shirley Jackson, a Rather a Haunted Life, Franklin presents Jackson's fiction as “nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era.” 

Related: The Novelist Disguised as a Housewife