My grandfather told a story from his time in national service, which he spent working at RAF Ringstead Radar Station, in Dorset, circa.1950. This is what my mother and I can remember of it:

At Ringstead there was a radar bunker built into a hillock in the middle of a large wooded area. It was manned 24 hours a day by one person at a time working in shifts. The over-night shift was notoriously unpleasant due to the isolation from the rest of the camp and the darkness of the forest.

One night the man on night-duty, who had been working the shift for some months, made a radio-call to the camp. He asked to be collected at once. The job had got to him, and the following day he left the station altogether, taken away for psychiatric treatment.

Others were reluctant to take his place, and it came as a surprise that the only volunteer was a young man who was known for being what my grandad referred to as "effeminate". This man went on to work the night shift for a long time without complaint.
When asked how he endured the nights spent alone in the bunker buried in the woods, he replied, "The only thing that irritates me is that the slightest breeze causes the door to rattle against its frame. So I leave it unlocked and slightly open."

Unfortunately, his apparent fearlessness did not last. Eventually he "cracked", as his predecessor had, and was likewise relieved of the post. From then on a new policy was put in place: that the night shift would always be worked by two people at a time.
These photographs are of the RAF Ringstead Radar Station after its closure in 1970. From grandad's description, I'd guess that this bunker is the one from his story. The surrounding area seems to have been partially deforested, and the bunker itself is stripped. However, with a little imagination it is easy to envisage how unnerving a night alone there could be.


In his 1899 novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's narrator describes a first impression of an infamous ivory trader named Kurtz:

I could not hear a sound, but through my glasses I saw the thin arm extended commandingly, the lower jaw moving, the eyes of that apparition shining darkly far in its bony head that nodded with grotesque jerks. Kurtz – Kurtz – that means 'short' in German – don't it? Well, the name was as true as everything else in his life – and death. He looked at least seven feet long. His covering had fallen off, and his body emerged from it pitiful and appalling as from a winding-sheet. I could see the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his arm waving. It was as though an animated image of death carved out of old ivory had been shaking its hand with menaces at a motionless crowd of men made of dark and glittering bronze. I saw him open his mouth wide – it gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he had wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him.p.74
Kurtz's gaping mouth recalls H. G. Wells' description of a momentary impression Mrs Hall has of the title character in The Invisible Man:
… for a second it seemed to her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouth wide open, – a vast and incredible mouth that swallowed the whole of the lower portion of his face. It was the sensation of a moment: the white-bound head, the monstrous goggle eyes, and this huge yawn below it.p.11
Similarly, Edvard Munch's painting The Scream (1893) shows a contorted face with a gaping mouth.


H. G. Wells The Invisible Man
H. G. Wells creates uncanny effects with his descriptions of the title character's appearance. Heavily disguised, and often lurking in darkness, Wells' invention is a forerunner to the masked villains of 1970s-90s horror movies such as Jason Voorhees in Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980) and Michael Myers in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978).

Here are some excerpts from Wells' novella:

… carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; … he wore big blue spectacles with sidelights, and had a bushy side-whisker over his coat-collar that completely hid his cheeks and face. … standing there like a man of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his dripping hat-brim turned down, hiding his face and ears completely.

For a moment she stood gaping at him, too surprised to speak.
He held a white cloth – it was a serviette he had brought with him – over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws were completely hidden, and that was the reason of his muffled voice. … all his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. It was bright pink, and shiny just as it had been at first. … The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the strangest appearance conceivable. This muffled, and bandaged head was so unlike what she had anticipated, that for a moment she was rigid.

The only light in the room was the red glow from the fire – which lit his eyes like adverse railway signals, but left his downcast face in darkness – and the scanty vestiges of the day that came in through the open door. Everything was ruddy, shadowy, and indistinct to her … for a second it seemed to her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouth wide open, – a vast and incredible mouth that swallowed the whole of the lower portion of his face. It was the sensation of a moment: the white-bound head, the monstrous goggle eyes, and this huge yawn below it.


Mark Seltzer Serial Killers 1998
Mark Seltzer makes frequent reference to the uncanny in his 1998 book Serial Killers. Here are some excerpts:

There is something uncanny about how these killers are so much alike, living composites, how easily they blend in. The serial killer, as one prosecutor of these cases expressed it, is "abnormally normal": "just like you or me."

An embodiment of an uncanny spatial relation, the stranger's "strangeness means that he, who is also far, is actually near". … The stranger, if not (quite) yet the statistical person, begins to make visible the uncanny stranger-intimacy that defines the serial killer: the "deliberate stranger" or "the stranger beside me".

There is, in the experience of serial killing, a compulsive location of the scene of the crime in such homes away from home – hotel and motel spaces as murdering places. This is one indication of the radical redefinition of "the homelike" on the American scene: not exactly "no place like home," but rather only places "like" home. If stranger-killing is premised on a fundamental typicality, then the making of what came to be called, at the turn of the century, American "hotel-civilization" is premised on the mass replication of ideal-typical domestic spaces. It is premised, that is, on the uncanniness (unhomelikeness) of the domestic as such (an uncanniness perhaps inseperable from the psychic shocks of the machine culture of mass-reproducibility). Hence the repeated location of American serial violence in hotel and motel hells: the murder motel in Robert Bloch's novel Psycho, for example, or the even more lethal tourist hotel in his subsequent novel, American Gothic.

What I mean to consider here are the relays progressively articulated between bodies and places such that the home, or, more exactly, the homelike, emerges again and again as the scene of the crime.

There is no doubt always something outmoded about the domestic and its constructed nostalgias – what might be called its uncanniness, if the notion of "the uncanny" (the unhomelike) itself had not by now become an all too homey way of naming that belatedness, its ambiguous causalities and periodizations (in effect, a way of endorsing a sort of better living through ambiguity). It is the vexed status of the homelike itself that I mean to define here. More exactly, it is the way in which the public spectacle or exhibition of "the private" in machine culture – museums or replicas of home as tourist site, for instance – seems to have become inseperable from the exhibition of bodily violence or atrocity that I mean to examine. These haunted homelike places – hotel and motel hells, for example – set in high relief the "gothic" rapport between persons and spaces, the distribution of degrees of aliveness across constructed spaces, the assimilation of the animate to the inanimate and mechanic.


. The Ghostly Videotape

In 1990, when the 1987 film Three Men and a Baby was released on videotape, people began to notice for the first time a "ghost" image, apparently of a young boy, in the background of one scene. Stories developed explaining that the son of the owners of the New York apartment used for the film had committed suicide there and had returned as a ghostly presence that could be seen only in the film. Some viewers thought they could also see the rifle he had used to kill himself alongside the spirit; others claimed that the supposed ghost was merely a young relative of the film's director, Leonard Nimoy, who had been promised an appearance in it.
Debunking these stories, the film's producers explained that the New York "apartment" was really a soundstage in Toronto and that the image was an out-of-focus view of a cardboard cutout of actor Ted Danson, who stars in the film, used as part of the apartment decor. Rumors then began to circulate that the film's distributors themselves had started the stories in order to promote video rentals and to draw attention to their sequel Three Men and a Little Lady (1990). Unmentioned in most of the discussion of this short-lived legend was the fact that supposed spectral images of dead persons in photographs have long been a part of folk tradition. Most commonly, such images were claimed to be visible in photographs of groups of miners or other workers who had lost one or more companions in occupational accidents.
Jan Harold Brunvand (2001) The Encyclopedia of Urban Legends