The Suburbs have a long-standing image as something out of it Leave It To Beaver. People fled grittier and more risky city life for a cushion-y existence with comfortable houses, big yards, picket fences and lots of safe places for kids to play. More recent times have openly revealed the darker underbelly of human nature that endures even in the suburbs, but fiction took and ran with that ball long ago. And how! Here are eight examples of seemingly platonic suburban communities that had dark secrets tucked behind their aluminum siding and under their well-manicured streets.
8) The “Stopover in a Quiet Town” Town
In this Twilight Zone classic, a New York City couple was driving home after a long night of drinking at a party in the country and woke up in strange but welcoming house. But then they began to notice that nothing in the house worked and both it and the whole town they were in seemed fake. And the neighborhood was abandoned, aside from the disembodied laugh of a little girl. They the couple got on a train, hoping to escape, but it just took them in a circle. Why was this happening? Because they had been kidnapped by a giant alien and become new pets of the alien’s daughter, who had placed them in her little doll house community, that’s why! The lesson here? Don’t drink and drive!
7) Astoria, Oregon
In The Goonies, the scenic river town of Astoria, Oregon, was turned on its in ear twice. The first was when bastardly developers tried to force a group of teens and their families out of their homes so they could build a swanky country club. The second was when those same kids, The Goonies, discovered that Astoria was built on top of several pirate tunnels lined with traps and was menaced by a family of bank robbers. The tunnels under town led to the offshore pirate ship and treasure of the famed One-Eyed Willie. Who as a kid didn’t wish their boring old hometown hid adventure just under the surface?
In the first scene of Lost‘s third season, viewers were befuddled when they were greeted with a picture-perfect suburb filled with friendly neighbors, muffins baking in the oven and the weekly book club. Reality sunk in when everyone in the little town rushed outside to see Oceanic Flight 815 disintegrating above their heads, and those seemingly innocent townsfolk were revealed to be the Others, the mysterious Island natives who had savagely attacked the 815 survivors since the first season and had never before appeared quite so civilized. Ethan Rom, who went on a killing spree at the survivors’ camp, was shown smiling and happily performing home repairs for his neighbor, Juliet Burke. And the leader of these Others was Ben Linus, who had moved his people into the town, set incongruously in a clearing in the middle of the jungle, after murdering its previous inhabitants, the Dharma Initiative, with poisonous gas. In fact, a whole open pit of Dharma’s decayed bodies laid not too far from Ben’s idyllic suburb.
5) Mayfield Place
The titular star of The ‘Burbs, Mayfield Place was just like any other suburb and the monotony of living there was disrupted when the creepy, Addams-like Klopek family moved in next door to Ray Peterson (played by Tom Hanks). Ray and his buddies became convinced that their new neighbors were serial killers and went to hilarious lengths to try and uncover evidence. The movie actually made a good case that it was all a big misunderstanding on the part of really nosy neighbors, and the rest of the neighborhood thought Ray had gone nuts. That was until a skirmish with the Klopeks led to a pile of human bones being discovered in their car trunk! See, those neighbors you always suspected of being crazy almost certainly are!
4) Maple Street
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is among The Twilight Zone‘s finest episodes and a biting commentary on McCarthyism. Maple Street was a typical 1950s suburban neighborhood, milling about with friendly residents enjoying the late summer air. That was until weird activity flashed by in the sky and the power went out. It didn’t even take one missed meal for Maple Street to turn to chaos, as the residents became convinced they were in the midst of an alien invasion and that some of their own might be alien infiltrators. The panic culminated in one of the neighbors shooting an approaching “alien,” who turned out to have been one of their own. It turned out the real monsters on Maple Street were its own residents, whose docile community turned to savagery without much prompting. It was a fact enjoyed by the real alien observers who had set up the whole power outage as part of a plan to test how easily humans could destroy themselves, making an actual invasion that much easier. 3) Elm Street
The worst thing any kid could hope for is to have been born on the same street as Freddy Krueger, especially if they lived in Freddy’s former home at 1428 Elm Street in the town of Springwood. Freddy, while still human, murdered several of the neighborhood’s children and was found out, but beat the case due to a legal foul-up. The Elm Street parents joined together to murder the rat-bastard and then tried to keep the deed secret, but it blew up in their faces when Freddy returned as a demonic maniac who slaughtered the street’s children once again, only in their dreams. Oops.
Did you know that there are more than 30 towns in the U.S. alone named Springfield? That’s why it was perfect that the ruthless terrorist organization Cobra would hide a military base under cover of a seemingly sleepy suburb named Springfield. Springfield could have been any generic s
uburb in any state, and from it Cobra could have launched an attack on the country it was determined to terrorize. It was sweet irony that such a quitet, generic town contained such a threat. Springfield was used effectively in the various G.I. Joe media. Shipwreck had a harrowing adventure there in the original Sunbow cartoon series; the comic book went into depth about Springfield’s creepiness, such as how many of the white bread business men that lived there were actually identical Cobra troopers in disguise. Springfield was even the new secret Cobra HQ in the most recent G.I. Joe cartoon, Resolute.
1) Derry, Maine
The life of a child in the suburbs is supposed to be filled with endless summers full of baseball, bike-riding and baloney sandwiches. Leave it to Stephen King in It to make us all fear even that. The town of Derry had an ancient, malevolent being living in its sewers who awoke once a generation and slaughtered several of the small town’s children. And to make matters worse, It liked to take the form of a clown (Pennywise)! No! Thankfully, several of the town’s children reunited as adults to beat the crap out of the creature, although King has left It’s fate a bit ambiguous.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.