Houses of my dreams: Exploring the architecture of my subconscious mind.

Sometimes on this blog I talk about my dreams. Back in 2014 I did an article based on a dream I had about encountering former President Bush at an imaginary version of his Presidential library, which I eventually chose as the best article I did all year. Last year I wrote an article about my recurring “Hitchcock dreams,” where I’m accused of a crime I didn’t commit but can’t prove my innocence. Tonight I want to talk about a very fascinating aspect of my dreams, and one that I’m not sure is very common–at least I don’t hear people talk about it when they discuss their dreams. It involves the physical locations where my dreams take place. I rarely dream about any real place, and almost all of my dreams occur in places that don’t exist in real life, or at least don’t exist as I see them. What’s interesting is that, although the dreams themselves never repeat verbatim, many of the locales do. Some of them I’ve been “visiting” in my subconscious for literally years. Furthermore, the locations change gradually over time. I can see some of them so vividly that in some cases I’m able to draw maps and diagrams of the locations. Exploring these dream locations, a little bit at a time, is truly one of the coolest things that my very active mind has ever done.

Far and away, the most well-explored of my dream locations, and probably the most interesting, is what I call “The School.” I can’t remember exactly when I first recall dreaming about this place, but it was certainly no later than 1998 or 1999. I call it “The School” because that’s what it was–at least at first. It resembled the high school I attended in the Philadelphia area in the late 1980s (which has, obliquely, made an appearance on this blog before), but with a number of strange modifications. In real life the high school was built in the 1950s and had not been remodeled when I went there more than 30 years later, so it definitely had a “retro” look. In the dreams I’ve seen large corridors filled with blue and orange metal lockers, a row of science classrooms with green tile floors, and an office that at least resembled the one in real life. But there’s also a huge sunlit atrium, leading to a library with huge vaulted ceilings, which did not exist in real life. The exterior of the building is also considerably different than in reality and in many dreams I’ve explored it. I was able to “explore” this locale sufficiently enough to draw a map, which I created in 2008. Here it is, below.

school map

Here is the map of “The School” I drew in 2008. Click to see the details, if you’re interested. It has since changed dramatically.

One curious thing: about 2010 “The School” got “remodeled” somehow. When I next visited it in my dreams, the place had been turned into a huge urban shopping gallery, so what was “The School” is now “The Mall.” (For the record, I hate shopping malls and haven’t visited one in a long time). The lockers have been removed and replaced with strange modern sculptures of marble and steel. There are also new cars–I’m not certain of the makes/models–displayed on pedestals. The classrooms have been replaced with storefronts, but I can’t tell you what the stores themselves are and I don’t think I’ve ever been inside one. Yet as different as it looks I know this is the same location. In a few dreams I’ve glimpsed remnants of its old appearance, and I remember someone in a dream telling me it was the same place that had gotten “a makeover.” Since the remodel I haven’t seen this place nearly as much.

The next most common locale in my dreams is “The Hotel.” This is a really bizarre place. I know it’s a hotel with many stories of rooms, probably a high-rise, but I’ve never actually been to the upper floors. All of my dreams have taken place in a confusing complex of huge galleries which are linked to mazes of catacomb-like corridors which all look the same. The largest gallery, several times larger than an airplane hangar, has the same kind of steel structured rib-like ceiling that you see in warehouses and other large utility spaces. Only it houses a huge indoor swimming pool, literally a mile long, and in some places over 60 feet deep. I’ve seen sailboats and other craft on the waters of the pool. The deck surrounding the pool has a number of kiosks selling various things–beach towels, swimsuits, and even a wine bar. All the printed fabrics I see–the towels, curtains, etc.–have the same pattern on them, which is a design of yellow and blue goldfish on a brown background.

This brief video I took in the corridor of a resort hotel in 2015 reminds me a bit of the endless series of “beige corridors” that I sometimes see in my dreams. And The Shining, of course!

The catacombs leading off this main gallery are dangerously confusing. One opens a small door off the huge hangar-like gallery and finds oneself in a largely empty room, maybe twelve feet by seven feet, with beige wall-to-wall carpet and floodlights set in the kind of fiberglass drop ceiling you see in offices. Sometimes there’s a window on the opposite wall, large but with rounded edges, however the window is covered with thick steel shutters that I’ve never seen opened. There’s another door, thin and made of wood, painted white with louvers, like an interior closet door. Open that and you’ll find another almost identical room. I say almost identical because occasionally there is something in one of these rooms: a Queen Anne chair or perhaps a framed Currier & Ives print on the wall, or in rare instances potted papyrus plants in brass planters. There are never any exterior windows. Each door leads to yet another identical corridor. In one dream from at least 10 years ago I remember looking for my father in this endless series of identical rooms. This location is so prominent in my mind that it appears, pretty much as I transcribed it here, in my as-yet unpublished science fiction novel The Valley of Forever. What it means psychologically, I have no clue.

I could go on and on about dream locations, because there are others. There is, for instance, what I call “The Ship,” which I suppose must be loosely based on the Queen Mary 2–a ship I sailed aboard in summer 2008–but it doesn’t look much like the real thing. There’s also “The Garden,” which I recall seeing in a dream about 1990 and did not return until the last year or two. I’m so fascinated by these various dream-spaces that I’ve actually attempted to build digital 3D models of them, with applications like SceneCaster or Google Sketch Up, though I admit I haven’t gotten very far due to the immense commitment of time it takes to learn how to do these apps right. Exploring these locations in my dreams is incredibly interesting, like a voyage of discovery in your own mind. I’m never sure what will be around the next corner, and even after spending literally years in these spaces, each time I dream about them I usually discover something new or different that’s either changed or that I hadn’t known was there before.

QM2 corridor

I took this picture aboard the passenger liner Queen Mary 2 in 2008. Images of infinite (or almost-infinite) corridors, and long hallways in general, have haunted my dreams for decades.

I don’t know what to make of all this, and perhaps a psychologist might have something interesting to say about it. But it’s a fascinating phenomenon, at least to me. What comes from our own minds is often mysterious and inscrutable. There is so much to learn about ourselves and our own consciousness.

The painting from which the header image is derived (and which I’ve used in all my other dream articles) is The Knight’s Dream by Antonio de Pareda y Salgado, 1650. It is in the public domain, as are the other elements of the header image. All other images in this article are copyright (C) 2008 by Sean Munger, all rights reserved.
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