The Chimera House is the term for an incredibly common phenomenon. It’s also called the “13 Floor house” and the “Money Back Haunted House.”
The Standard Legend
My cousin’s best friend had some distant family who disappeared. They went out last Halloween, to the abandoned factory on Sixth Street. A man approached them and told them the factory had been renovated into a haunted house attraction.
He told them the admission fee was $50 per person, but if they completed the tour, they’d get a refund on the 13th Floor. No one knows what happened, but I heard that each floor grew more horrific and, by the time they hit the upper floors, the displays were human. The kids were never heard from again.
There is a different variation for every region, but the general story is the same. A group of teenagers go out one night to some abandoned structure. It may be an abandoned factory, a decrepit mansion, or an old hospital. Sometimes there are 13 floors and sometimes no more than 5 or 6.
The procession inside is likewise open to interpretation. Sometimes the kids are promised a certain amount of money for every completed floor. The “horrors” encountered are just as open to elucidation. Sometimes the structure is full of poisonous snakes, aggressive animals, or aliens. At other times, the structure may contain deformed or insane humans, displays crafted by serial killers, or even supernatural horrors.
Urban myth historians suggest the legend initially began in Kansas City, but there is no way to pinpoint such a widespread urban legend without more information. The term “chimera house,” in the context of a haunted or strange structure, wasn’t used in newspapers until the 2000s.
The 13th Floor
In the late 1800s, the skyscraper became commonplace. There were many instances where building owners could not locate tenants who would accept an office or apartment on the 13th floor.
The Chimera House story has been hinted at in a number of modern day books and movies, even fans of Spongebob Squarepants can find an animated version in the episode, Karate Island, where he’s supposed to be crowned the, “King of Karate.”
It’s worthy of note that Bruce Lee’s movie Game of Death involves a similar plot. Lee’s character is pulled into the underworld of a Korean gang. He must fight his way through a pagoda filled with expert martial artists, where something of incredible value awaits on the top floor. Oddly enough, what was supposed to be on the top floor in the film remains unknown today.
The most amusing aspect of this myth is its persistence. While no one ever survives, or is ever seen again, the story of what they encounter is known by the storyteller. Likewise, there’s never a mention of the disappearances in the newspapers or local television.
- “Unfinishable Haunted House” Snopes.com, Dec. 14, 2017, https://www.snopes.com/holidays/halloween/haunted.asp
- “Chimera House” Wikipedia.org, Dec. 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimera_House