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Friday, October 31, 2008

Hell Houses: the Freakout

posted by on October 31 at 13:25 PM

On KIRO, apparently, they’re discussing this edition of Topography of Terror, about the Halloween decorations that actually scare the crap out of us, written by several staffers and edited by me:

Cobwebs and witches are for children and morons. If you’re looking for the most hair-raising Halloween horrors, try scouring the streets of the Eastside. That’s where we found the most pants-wettingly scary houses, sure to give you night terrors well past Halloween and all the way until November 4. Because in an election year, nothing’s more terrifying than the future.


People in the comments thread are hoppin’ mad that we published the addresses of the scary houses.

Publishing addresses crosses the line, for all your talk of open ideas, you are clearly against free speech. Let people have their lawn signs, it’s their right as Americans - morons.
Wow. Wow. I love visiting the Stranger to get my daily dose of “progressive double standards” but this is shocking. You truly hate these people and what they believe in. How can anybody possibly be sympathetic to your cause when you show such callousness to anybody who doesn’t fall in step with your views?
These signs are in front of houses. The houses have addresses. You drive by, there’s a house with a political display, there’s the house number… It’s not private information.And it’s not like the people in those houses are keeping their opinions a secret. They’re going out of their way to broadcast their opinions — if anything, the Stranger is helping!
The Stranger is just gross.

To answer a few questions running through the thread:

Yes, this is legal. Newspapers have been printing addresses for houses with extravagant Halloween and Christmas decorations for as long as there have been glowing Santas and cackling automatons.

No, we don’t want people to go vandalize those houses.

No, we’re not terribly worried people are going to vandalize or attack those houses—last I checked it wasn’t Democrats who were doing lots of gun-waving, clinic-bombing, and reporter-assaulting.

Yes, there was some ambivalence in the office about printing the addresses. We had a debate. The pro-address-printers won.

Yes, I would print my address online in a spirit of fairness and shut-the-fuck-up-edness. But I live with other people who shouldn’t be subjected to the rage of our readers—who, judging by the comments thread, would be far more likely to come egg my house than egg those McCain supporters’ houses.

No, we don’t hate these people. But we are afraid of what they believe in.

No, The Stranger is not against free speech.

And for anyone who thinks we secretly want somebody to go vandalize those houses—seriously, don’t. It was just a joke.

And now please enjoy another Hell House:


Like an oversized cousin of John McCain’s aged, brown iguana teeth, this foreboding fence is busy keeping immigrants out and Jesus’s love within. How like the wily immigrant is the frightening foliage, as it insidiously creeps and scratches at Real America’s doorstep! How mighty the speculum of Dino Rossi—an army of dead-baby ghosts at his back—aborting civil rights before civil rights can abort him first! Who knows what liberal bogeymen lurk outside this fence’s cherished sanctum? The nightmare has just begun for you, Republican fence.


It’s been an exciting weekend—death threats, TV interviews, etc. Here’s what happened:

On Thursday, October 30, we published this story, about houses on the Eastside displaying McCain and Palin yard signs. We were parodying a certain kind of daily-newspaper feature—the “houses with the best Halloween/Christmas decorations” article, which typically includes addresses, so we included addresses. The point was that our readers, typically liberal, would be chilled by these “Halloween” displays. After the piece came out, there was some debate on The Stranger’s website about the piece’s inclusion of addresses—about the homeowners’ and The Stranger’s right to free speech, and about yards signs as public discourse—and some readers posted addresses of Stranger staffers in the comments. Turnabout is fair play, so we did not remove those comments and left our own addresses up on our website.

On Saturday morning, the piece exploded on right-wing blogs. The piece received over 1,300 comments, including dozens and dozens of death threats against our staff, many directing readers to incorrect addresses. What began as political satire changed from reasonably intelligent, irreverent discourse to something ugly. We don’t want anyone to get hurt—not the homeowners listed in the piece, not our staff, not the innocent bystanders who live at our old addresses—so we pulled the piece from the website.

So that readers can judge the content of the article for themselves, we’re reposting it online (with comments disabled for the time being and addresses redacted).

We regret that people are crazy.

RSS icon Comments


not fair, brendan! if i don't know your address, how can i find excuses to walk past your house several times a day?

Posted by scary tyler moore | October 31, 2008 1:41 PM


We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by deleted | October 31, 2008 1:50 PM

So what was the point of publishing the addresses? I'm curious what was behind the decision.

Posted by Jessica | October 31, 2008 1:52 PM

I can't help but think that if a conservative paper in a conservative town took pictures of houses with signs supporting Democrats and published them with the addresses and snarky commentary for all to see, that the Stranger staff would be bleeding from their eyeballs and writing screeds about what a foul, outrageous, intimidating smear tactic this was.

And @2, that is hilarious.

Posted by I keep thinking that the Stranger can't sink any lower, but then it does | October 31, 2008 2:05 PM

This is a pretty lame response.

As Jessica@3 points out, what's the point of publishing the addresses if you don't want to facilitate your readers doing something there? If it is "just a joke", the joke is apparently that we are to imagine your readers doing something there. That joke is in rather poor taste.

Your own unwillingness to to publish your own address belies your lame excuse. If you have a duty not to expose your roommates to an elevated danger of partisan nutjobs, don't you have a duty not to expose these people to an elevated danger of partisan nutjobs? You can quibble about which partisan nutjobs are more dangerous, but clearly the danger exists on both sides, and clearly the order of magnitude of that danger is enough that you aren't willing to expose people you care about (or at least have to face every day).

Being hip and ironic doesn't excuse you from responsibility and decency.

Posted by David Wright | October 31, 2008 2:09 PM

There are plenty of houses with big OBAMA signs in their yards on the eastside, too, y'know. Fuckin' hipsters.

Posted by Greg F. | October 31, 2008 2:19 PM

You also didn't bother to respond to my other criticisms, which beyond the address thing were:

1) An argument can be made that rich people (and the houses pictured in your piece certainly appear, in most cases, to belong to rich people) should vote for McCain. It's in their best interests, just like the middle class should vote Obama. It's the same thing the church does: Hey all you poor people! Forget about the fact that the Republicans will screw you over in every way for their rich friends...they share your "values"! You're just doing it in reverse.

2) Mercer Island will go heavily for Obama. Why are you picking on them? You make it seem like the whole island is populated with cackling plutocrats.

Posted by Schmacky | October 31, 2008 2:19 PM

Hey, if you're worried about partisan nutjobs, don't put a partisan sign on your house.

Responsibility and decency has nothing to do with this. These "hell houses" are displaying signs in public. I had to make a special effort to get an Obama sign for my house. By posting that sign for all to see I'm publicly supporting my candidate.

Posted by Sara | October 31, 2008 2:20 PM

Also: Nutjobs know no party affiliation. A nutjob is a nutjob. If you're worried about nutjobs, you try to fade into the woodwork. Anything can be bait for a nutjob.

Posted by Sara | October 31, 2008 2:22 PM

I'm going to pile on with Jessica@3. If there is a good reason for publishing these addresses, we have yet to hear it.

Posted by RL | October 31, 2008 2:22 PM

The argument that a vote for McCain is in the best interest of the rich cannot be made, except disingenuously. Rich people are far more harmed by the Republican financial collapse than they will be by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Look how well the rich did under Clinton. The rich have far more to lose with the destruction of civil society and the loss of law and order than the poor do.

So you see a home owned by someone with no excuse -- they have education, information access, security, society, everything -- yet they insist on shitting in their own nest? Attacking the very society that put them in their pretty home and lovely neighborhood? It is scary.

Posted by elenchos | October 31, 2008 2:32 PM

@ #3

The point is so the reader can view these scary houses themselves on a late night candy run. Also it's a good indicator as to where not to take your kids trick or treating.

What's the point of putting a sign in front of your yard and not wanting to talk about it, if you feel so strongly for a candidate that you want to deface your own property with their name wouldn't you be thrilled that you made the paper? The idea of putting a sign in front of your yard is to get as many people as possible to view it, unless you have some other reason as to why people do this?

Posted by Chris | October 31, 2008 2:33 PM

Please. Like you guys didn't know where Brendan lives? I've followed every Stranger staffer to their home at least five times each. Sometimes I have rubber tubing and gloves in my bag, but that's just a coincidence.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 31, 2008 2:35 PM

That shitty HDR image is scarier, IMO.

Posted by Jeremy from Seattle | October 31, 2008 2:38 PM

I would print my address online in a spirit of fairness and shut-the-fuck-up-edness. But I live with other people who shouldn’t be subjected to the rage of our readers

By that rationale, you shouldn't have published these addresses either. How can you be certain that the people in these houses live alone? Might they have children, spouses, or houseguests who don't share their political views?

Posted by kitschnsync | October 31, 2008 2:38 PM

I found the article amusing. No one's going to actually GO to these houses. If I wanted to vandalize a McCain supporter's house I'd just visit the clueless couple that lives around the corner from me in Wallingford.

Posted by DOUG. | October 31, 2008 2:53 PM

If the Stranger wants to be treated as a news paper then it should stop acting like a blog for young seattlites.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 31, 2008 3:37 PM

remember kids, it's THEIR BLOG not YOURS. They own this portion of the internet, you are nothing but worthless pawns in their game of cut'n'paste blog pasting from Drudge/Pitchfork/Seattle Weekly!!!!

from Megan earlier this week:

"I'm not blaming anything on you, dude. Calm down. I'm just asking you not to spam, I thought maybe you'd be civil about it. You can say what you want in the comments on our blogs, but it is OUR blog, so we do have the right to require that all comments are on topic, not threatening, and NOT off-topic cut and paste spam, like your recent comments. You don't have to agree with us, you can even hate us, but you do have to follow the rules. If you're not interested in doing that, we'll block you. I'm awful, I know.


Posted by bobcat | October 31, 2008 3:58 PM

Well, it is our blog. Jealous?

Posted by Eric Grandy | October 31, 2008 4:39 PM

but good taste can't be bought.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 31, 2008 4:47 PM

Eric, go back to Line Out. Closet-case.

Posted by gay | October 31, 2008 5:20 PM

brendan lives in MY neighborhood! swoon! i'm taking up daily walks down 13th east starting TOMORROW. will you join me, mr. poe?

Posted by scary tyler moore | October 31, 2008 8:42 PM

This is ridiculous! Could you please elaborate as to why, and what argument the "print the addresses" side preached? Yes, you have the "right" to print the addresses... But a civic duty to not bully those who obviously have a different political view than that of The Stranger, it's reporting (used loosely), and editorial staff?? Just plain stupid!

Posted by Abusing your power | October 31, 2008 9:19 PM

When I first moved to Seattle in the early 90s the Stranger was funny, snarky and intelligent. It pushed boundaries, but usually had something smart to say that made it worthwhile. In the past few years, though, the better writers have left and there seems to be a new attitude of "do or say anything" to get people to pay attention. There are still a few class acts there - Schmader, Golob, Lindy West. But most of what is on Slog and in print is just typical hipster douchebag shlock. Like calling Rob McKenna a trannie or that dumb Palin vagina joke in the voter's guide. I guess with the brain drain and the better writers leaving, they've realized that all they have to fall back on his saying "fuck" a whole lot, insulting writers from the local daily papers, and acting as immature as possible. No wonder the print edition is half the thickness it used to be.

Posted by Too bad | November 1, 2008 10:47 AM

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