Do playgrounds at midnight, rest stops at 3 am, and abandoned buildings, in general, creep you out? Is being stuck in an elevator your worst nightmare? Have you ever experienced the unsettling aura of empty parking lots, corridors, and rooftops?
If your answer is yes, it is because you have experienced being in a liminal space. You feel this way because all these places carry a sense of ambiguity or altered reality with them. You feel like you are really not supposed to be here, and that’s not entirely untrue.
Liminal means “threshold” because such spaces don’t really exist for themselves, they are either meant to take you from one place to the other or they are meant to be left alone. Their existence is dependent on their context, and our brain perceives them as such. Without context, these places give off an unnerving and disorienting vibe, and that is why they are such a popular spot for thriller/horror shots, and why Redditors are obsessed with it.
Photoshopped images that merge different places into one are also termed liminal spaces because of their depiction of an absurd reality.
Reddit’s community of liminal spaces defines the idea in the following words;
“A liminal space is a time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.”
However, many abandoned spaces and places like the infamous “backrooms” don’t freak you out because they are thresholds but because they are filled with ghosts of lost stories. What once was and what could’ve been. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and liminal spaces can trigger old memories in a way nothing else can.
According to some conspiracy theorists, these places are a link to “Alternate dimensions”; lives we have lived somewhere else, as someone else. While such theories are absurd, they are extremely fun to read and ponder.
Here are three factors that are common in the pictures of liminal spaces;
No exit or a sense of never-ending-ness. (many video games also have a liminal quality because of this reason)
A conspicuous void of any living being.
Pictures with blurriness, too much brightness, or unnatural lighting.
Another interesting tidbit about liminal spaces is that they are not only physical; You can be in a liminal space emotionally or metaphorically as well. Divorces, abortions, death of a loved one are unfortunate phases that people have a hard time going through. The past and the present haunt them while they stand in-between, unsure of where to go. Many people spent the Covid-19 pandemic in emotional liminality because of the uncertain times. If you are in a liminal space, please reach out to your loved ones, and find something to hold on to as this difficult time passes.
But Liminal spaces, both emotional and physical are important to understand because they allow you to contemplate the fleetingness and uncertainty of existence itself, and how we should take each moment as it comes so that we don’t look back with regret but with gratitude.
So much of our lives are spent in these in-between spaces, and yet we so often ignore them. Once you can see the importance and beauty of liminal spaces, it makes it much easier to be in the moment and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.” –Lillie Marshall