I've been a horror fan since youth. I do remember a time when I was a chickenshit little thing who ran with fear every time my mom tried to introduce me to anything remotely scary, but growing up with the family I did (especially around Halloween), it was inevitable that the horror bug would eventually bite. And once it did, it dug its teeth in fiercely and hasn't let go to this day (not that I want it to).
Though this isn't true for all horror fans, I myself am also a believer in the paranormal. The supernatural. As a youngster, I desperately wanted to grow up to be a parapsychologist, until I grew old enough to learn that there wasn't a lot of money in that field. (Then I decided I wanted to be a writer and film maker who would go ghost hunting in her 'spare time' - a concept which I don't tend to see much of in my current life, given the absurd amount of hobbies I have.) I believe that one day the zombies will rise up and come after us all. More than anything, though, I believe in ghosts. I am FASCINATED by ghosts, desperate to have encounters of my own.
Over the years I've met, befriended, and had discussions with a variety of horror fans, and it seems to be a universal truth that the longer you've been a fan of horror, the harder it is to scare you. We hit a point where we've seen most of what's out there, we've read just as much, and we've probably thought about it all to (pardon the pun) death. Sure, you might get a startle out of us now and again (which is NOT, to my way of thinking, the same as SCARING someone, but that's a whole blog entry on its own), but a good lingering scare? Hard to do. I don't scare easily. I go into most horror movies with glee rather than anticipated dread. I don't cower behind my hands or squeal in terror (usually, heh). I've been on real ghost-hunting expeditions to places rumored to be legitimately haunted - sometimes with permission, sometimes sneaking in in the middle of the night. I've been used as 'ghost bait' on some of these. The only thing that ever scared me on any of these was other people.
And yet, sometimes... sometimes something will grab a hold of my mind and not let go. Something will leave a lingering sense of dread that grows in me, takes a hold of my imagination (which is a formidable force in its own right), and I'm left sitting in bed with all the lights, terrified to go to sleep. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's nearly impossible for me to shake, no matter how many times I tell myself I'm an adult and I'm safe and should just GET OVER IT ALREADY. Usually it's ghosts that do it in some fashion, and I'm sure that's because I believe they're real. If I didn't believe in them, there would be no reason for them to scare me, after all.
Last night was one of those 'sometimes' when creepy thoughts grabbed my mind and wouldn't let go. It wasn't even triggered by anything specific, it was just a bunch of things that snowballed thanks to creepy memories and my overactive imagination. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Kindertrauma, and came across this post about the film Lake Mungo. I haven't seen Lake Mungo; I knew it was a part of Horror Fest this year but the films they've picked for past Horror Fests have done NOTHING for me, and after initially reading the synopsis a month or so ago I must admit my initial thought was "meh", and I moved on. After reading the Kindertrauma post about the movie though, my interest was piqued. I was especially intrigued by the mention of a 'horrific and iconic image' at the end.
CONFESSION TIME! I love spoilers. I'm incredibly impatient and, since I have young kids, we don't get out to movies very often. So I spend a lot of my time scouring the web for spoilers, synopses, trailers, clips of movies, and pictures. 99% of the time, when I eventually DO watch the films, I still get a huge amount of enjoyment out of them and am not sorry I spoiled myself. So, until my lifestyle is such that it allows me to go out and see as many movies as I want whenever I want to see them, I will continue to read spoilers. I understand that not everyone has the same view of spoilers as I do, and the folks at Kindertrauma were kind enough to NOT post a picture of said image for their readers. BUT I WANTED MORE.
So I went on a web hunt. And despite my excellent google skills, I did NOT find the image. I did find enough spoilers to read the context of the image and it does seem to have scared a number of people, but the end image / video itself I could not locate (still willing to view it if anyone else has better google-fu than I though!).
As I was searching and getting increasingly frustrated, my mind started wandering to other things, similar things that have scared me. Gradually I began to grow unsettled as I read more and more about hauntings and ghosts and premonitions of death. It was 2AM. Dark outside. The house was quiet. I had just returned home from a weekend road trip, from eleven hours of being on the road that day, from three days of not-enough-sleep. My computer is in the corner of our dining room, with windows in front of me and on the side / back of me. The world was dark, quiet, sleeping. My mind settled on an old terror, a memory of a story that's haunted me since I read it when I was a kid; a story about some lady who purchased a jigsaw puzzle at a thrift shop. The puzzle had no picture on the box so she didn't know what it was, and being a puzzle enthusiast she took it home and began assembling it. As she assembled it she began to grow unsettled as she realized that the puzzle was a picture of the VERY ROOM SHE WAS IN. She continued putting it together; it even showed her putting the puzzle together. The last piece she placed was the room's window - and in the puzzle, in the window there was a horrific fiend staring in the window at her! AHHHH! FREAKED MY SHIT OUT AS A KID. And to this day, I sometimes turn to windows and expect to see a hideous mangled face staring in at me, right before I DIE HORRIBLY.
Once that entered my head last night, naturally I couldn't get rid of it. Sitting next to darkened windows while you're reading creepy things and thinking about monsters standing RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, separated only by a measly pane of glass, will do wonders for your heart, let me tell you. I couldn't stop looking out the window and I really EXPECTED there to be something there. I started thinking about how ghosts could be anywhere at any time, watching you, watching me RIGHT NOW, plotting malevolent plots (generally I don't believe spirits are malevolent, but in the middle of the night when you're already letting your mind run out of control, logic does not prevail). I started remembering other movie images that scared me (the dead closet-girl in The Ring, Samara from The Ring (did I mention I found The Ring to be genuinely frightening? At least that little girl freaked my shit out!), some other story that I read about a monster in a mirror that was very scary and I can't FIND it but I can't get it out of my head even though I only read it once, other stuff I can't recall right now), and so I gave up and crawled into bed with my husband.
Once there, I still couldn't stop thinking. I haven't seen Paranormal Activity yet, but I've seen the scene in the trailer where something moves under the bedclothes while the couple is sleeping. I've seen other movies where things are in the bed with the couple that aren't supposed to be in the bed. I laid next to my husband, stiff as a board, eyes darting around the room, while he sleepily cuddled up to me and began trying to put the moves on me. "I'm scared," I told him pitifully, and he laughed and tried to comfort me by telling me the same thing he tells the kids: that he put signs outside forbidding monsters, zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc to enter the house. "I'm an adult," I tell him with a sniff. "I know those signs don't work. There could be ghosts in here RIGHT NOW." Yes, and they would LOVE it if we got down to business time, he tells me. But I just can't get past the thought of being vulnerable while something tries to get me. And being caught IN FLAGRANTE DELICTO is one of the most vulnerable states I can imagine. Try as I might, I can't push past my irrational fear. My poor husband resigns himself to the fact that ghosts mean NO BUSINESS TIME TONIGHT, and cuddles me instead. "I need to sleep with the light on," I tell him, and he says OK to that too. None of this stuff spooks him, so he doesn't understand it at all, but at least he's supportive of my fears, lol.
Eventually I fell asleep, even being able to turn the light off shortly before sleep overtook me. And it's morning, and I'm fine now, looking back at the events (or non-events, or events-in-my-head) of last night with a little bit of sheepishness, a little bit of wry humor. But last night, I was genuinely scared.
So, horror fans, what scares YOU? I'm always interested in the thoughts, concepts, and stories / films that have left people with a lingering sense of dread and unease... and if it gave you a sleepless night, more's the better. Hit me with your best scary shot! I'll share mine in my next post.