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Tarot of Haunted House’s Evolution and Inspiration

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

People have been writing me to ask for an official companion book for Tarot of the Haunted House. No companion book is in the works at the moment other than the little white book that comes with the deck. I’m happy to share the inspiration of how this tarot came to be. (Watch the YouTube Video Guide Book for Tarot of the Haunted House here!)

My Italian editor was suggesting I make a tarot. I argued there were enough decks on the market. He said, “Sasha, you cannot truly know tarot until the archetypes spring out of you.”

His words haunted me.

I was mesmerized by the covers and art of soft cover 60’s and 70’s gothic romance novels and had been collecting them for years. Gorgeous ladies escaping from foreboding mansions in flowing dresses. Yes!

The opening credits of 1977’s Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries STILL makes my toes curl with excitement!

What if I put this delicious inspiration into a deck? Wouldn’t it be the perfect, spooky gothic theme? We found artist Mirco Pierfederici to bring my ideas to life. Tarot of the Haunted House was born!

Tarot of Haunted House by Sasha Graham and artist Mirco Piefedicici from Lo Scarabeo.

You could say the idea “possessed” me…

Possession movies (The Exorcist) and novels (read Head Full of Ghosts, it will ruin you) are horrifying and irresistible. I recently saw a real life violent and emotional demonic possession at a Long Island church service.

Becoming possessed or aware of the consciousness of an creative idea isn’t as scary as demonic possession (thankfully) but it is urgent and a very real experience. Something wants to come through you…

My grandmother’s giant old Connecticut home had a secret room beside the fireplace, maid’s quarters, and a spiral staircase. If you looked up from the swimming pool, the 3rd floor windows reflected sunlight like glinty, watery eyes. You could feel the house and all its ghosts, watching you. They demolished it long ago. I still dream of it…

I conceived of the deck by analyzing the structure of 60’s and 70’s gothic romances and haunted house movies, especially my all time favorite, The Legacy:

Typically, the female protagonist arrives at the house. She has either been summoned by inheritance and the reading of a will (The Legacy), brought in as an employee or governess (Jane Eyre) or brought by a lover (Rebecca). At first she is tortured and terrified by the house and its inhabitants.By novel’s end, she OWNS the house.

Sometimes, I used a novel cover as direct inspiration:

Widow in White the novel, Three of Wands and Ace of Wands from Tarot of the Haunted House.

The McKittrick Hotel’s sublime interactive show Sleep No More was hugely inspiring. Audience members wear masks during the show and follow actors through a haunted hotel as a modern version of Hamlet is performed through dance, rave, and performance art. I often played its soundtrack inspirations, Bernard Herman’s Psycho and Vertigo film scores while creating the script for the cards.

NYC’s immersive Sleep No More and the Four of Wands from Tarot of Haunted House.

No haunted house is complete without an nod to Kubrick’s classic, The Shining. His twins were directly inspired by Diane Arbus’s Identical Twins, Rosette, New Jersey, 1967. My twins take form as the Two of Pentacles.

Two of Pentacles from Tarot of Haunted House and the twins from The Shining.

You can follow the protagonist of the deck, Raven Wandsworth, as she experiences each card.

Ace of Swords, Four of Cups and Three of Cups from Tarot of Haunted House.

The Haunted House is truly a metaphor for owning the self. It is about facing your fears so you can evolve. It is having the courage to examine the dark and squirmy parts of yourself. In fact, most horror, helps us to engage and understand the dark parts of the psyche. We place it inside the web of horror because the truth of what humans do to ourselves and each other is scarier than fiction.

Are you freaked out by the news?

Sad about the state of the world right now?

Me too 😦

One of the most healing things you can do is to let go of what is beyond your control and begin with yourself. Examine and confront your own inner fears, frustrations, and demons. Doing so, you will stop projecting negativity and fear onto others. It may feel like a small step but I promise you, its one of the most profound things you can do. The world needs you and your beautiful, unique consciousness, and creativity more than ever before.

The Sun, the World and the Moon from Tarot of the Haunted House by Sasha Graham and Mirco Pierifedirici.

Hope you pull out this deck for some sensual, haunted readings. I’ve heard lots of you are using this tarot to write your own stories and that’s fantastic. Whether you are writing stories or reading cards, you are already the hero of the most exciting gothic romance in the world.

Be brave.

Be compassionate.

Cast your cards wisely.

It all comes down to the story of YOU!

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