Goblin to the Core

My wife, Carolyn, recently announced to me that the style of our house decor is “goblincore.” I was stupefied. I love my house and had never thought of it as even remotely creepy or goblinish. Thinking to prove Carolyn mistaken, I started a hard, careful study.

On the outside, our house is a weathered-wood mountain cabin with a tin roof, and on our side porch we have a natural museum: a twiggy dogwood tree branch leaning against a window, half of a huge hornet’s nest, several wasp nests, pine cones, a couple of wood and iron wagon wheels on their deathbeds, and an elk antler.

This porch museum, I now realize, prepared me to accept Carolyn’s attaching small and large conks all over the outside of our house. In case you don’t know, a conk is a semi-circular, domed fungus that grows out from an old or even dead tree. Some are as big as dessert plates. And accepting those prepared me for when Carolyn wired an entire 9-foot tall, dead lilac trunk covered with hundreds of lichens to a corner of our house’s outside wall. And, God help me, I helped her.

When you come in our back door, you’ll see an actual 2-foot-long shed snake skin draped over a wrought-iron wall hook shaped like, you guessed it, a snake. The skin was likely shed by the blacksnake that spends winters in our attic and that when the weather warms, moves to just above the ceiling in Carolyn’s art workshop. No wonder some of her art is creepy. As she creates it, a snake is literally crawling over her head.

In our dining room hang two unsmiling ceramic greenman masks. She has adorned one with a crown of dried fern fronds, and, true to her goblincore aesthetic, has propped on it a beaded black spider she made herself. And on a shelf are 2 Carolyn-made, muddy-looking dragon jars. In case you don’t know what a dragon jar is, it’s a jar with a dragon in it. Remember: This is the dining room! Is it any wonder I sometimes get indigestion?

In our library, books fill 19 built-in shelves except for the space allotted to rocks and other nature things too many to enumerate, and there’s also a sits-on-the-shelf gargoyle. A gargoyle. But the pièce de résistance is 2 massive elk antlers that Carolyn wedged into the bookcase. These antlers used to be outside on our porch, but that wasn’t good enough for Carolyn. Anticipating my reservations, she installed them while I was away visiting relatives. Mind you, they aren’t attached to the shelves in any way; they’re just wedged in like twin swords of Damocles with 11 deadly points between them pointing downward. I can just see my obituary: “Bill died from multiple puncture wounds from an elk antler that fell and stabbed him in his own library as he was pulling out a John Dufresne novel—entitled I Don’t Like Where This Is Going. It sounds like a game of Clue: “I accuse Ms. Carolyn of killing Bill in the library with the elk antler.”

Also in the library is a tree-bark basket of dried, once-blue, but now brownish hydrangea flower heads. Nestled in one is an actual tiny hornet’s nest. In case you’re wondering, the hornet’s nest is not activeanymore. A pervasive motif in our house decor, I have now figured out, is Nature-danger: so many reminders of snakes, spiders, and hornets.

Now, the kitchen. Over our double kitchen windows, Carolyn, again without consulting me, has hung a mossy, fringy string of lights that puts me in mind of Poe’s description of the lichen overhanging the roof of the House of Usher, a parallel to Roderick Usher’s and Poe’s own curly disheveled hairstyle. So when I head to the kitchen, I’m confronted by a scene that Edgar Allan Poe himself crafted to frighten the bejesus out of his audience: creepy curved-finger bangs over two eye-like windows over a farmer’s-sink mouth. Jeepers creepers!

I honestly, naively, had no idea how MANY weird natural objects we have in and on our house till I started really scrutinizing and counting. It’s as if Carolyn had an insidious plan from the beginning to seduce me to a goblincore aesthetic and expertly never pushed me too quickly or abruptly so that I’d get used to house decorations that were weirder and weirder, more and more bizarre.

And to think it all started so innocently, with me bringing a single, found crow feather to my new bride.


(My thanks to Wildacres Retreat, where this essay was written.)

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4 thoughts on “Goblin to the Core”

  1. This post is the sweet shop of titles for a new book but my favorite is “I accuse Ms. Carolyn of killing Bill in the library with the elk antler.”

  2. I have been to Bill and Carolyn’s house at least several times for visits. I love their house on the side of the Smoky Mountains. It really is a cool place!

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