Tarot of Haunted House’s Evolution and Inspiration

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.

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.