The fictional Haddonfield, Illinois has a grim past:
As far as I can count, for a town of only 40,000 or so (I think; no census data for the place exists), it has seen more than 150 murders since 1978, nearly all during October.
As the setting for the “Halloween” horror films, the town has an accumulated history:
What makes Haddonfield important, though, is what made Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Hawkins, Indiana, of “Stranger Things,” and many other fictional Midwest small towns, so indelible. These are places that retain the allure of an America we’re promised, full of kindness and nurturing, alongside the hypocrisy we’ve always known. Like Spoon River, Bedford Falls, Grover’s Corners, Brigadoon, Lake Wobegon and Springfield in “The Simpsons” — some Midwestern, all too good to be true — Haddonfield will be defined not as One of the Best Places in America to Live but One of the Best Places to Remind Yourself That Small Town America was Never a Vacuum…
If you take all the “Halloween” films as reference: There are also low-slung elementary schools surrounded by chain-link fencing. Boulevards lined with Victorian and Cape Cod-style homes with welcoming porches and big lawns. There are farms just outside town, and two newspapers and two hospitals inside. The University of Illinois is mentioned but there’s also a community college there and a strip club, tavern and small police force. It’s middle to upper-middle class, but with pockets of inbred poverty. No one mows the cemetery, and despite the violent history, there are more shadows than streetlights…
The real Haddonfield, of course, is South Pasadena, in California. That explains the lack of foliage (and mountains in the background). According to the Los Angeles Times, the 130-year-old home used for the Meyers house has since been made a historic landmark.
But if Haddonfield existed in Illinois, it would most likely be around the Bloomington-Normal area, said Jim Hansen, a professor of English and critical theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who also teaches classes on horror. It seems to sit off I-55. That said, Bloomington-Normal is south of Livingston County, the (real) county referenced in the series. On the other hand, isn’t it scarier if we don’t know?
I have multiple thoughts in response to this:
- Are horror films more effective in supposedly idyllic small towns or suburbs? The contrast between normal everyday life and the activity of horror films is high. If the Midwest is a home to American virtue, is it also home to its repudiation?
- Put 13 films together and a devoted fan base and this fictional place becomes a known one. Certain sites are familiar, the logic of daily life is known. Relatively few places depicted on television or in movies can become so familiar.
- The filming location is very interesting. If you know the filming took place in South Pasadena, does this ruin the image – visual and conceptual – of small town Midwestern life?
- This small town needs the services of Encyclopedia Brown, or perhaps an older detective; someone who could put an end to the horror business.