Don’t Hug Me, I’m Thinking (and Scared)

By: Emily Zuo

Don’t Hug me I’m Scared.

This puzzling and grammatically incorrect sentence is the title of a three-and-a-half-minute-long video that was uploaded to YouTube in 2011. Five years later – after going viral and gaining over 41 million views, a vast cult following, and five sequels – it has become an iconic piece of internet legend. I feel it is best seen without any prior knowledge:

(Warning: contains shocking and disturbing content)

Back then, I remember seeing people talk about it all over the place. I first saw it mentioned in YouTube comments. However, I still didn’t really know what to expect before watching it (the weird title didn’t help), and I definitely was not prepared. See, I’d experienced the beautiful and horrible internet enough to know mid-video that the cheerful vibe would take a dark turn, but at the end, I was still left with my mouth hanging open. What had I just seen?

Some may see this video as going for mere shock value. And I do see where that opinion could come from: something that looks like a friendly, happy kids’ show descends into insanity, complete with hearts-and-crafts, ‘death’ smeared on a wall, gore-cake, and puppets. But is there a method to the madness? Behind the shocking and disturbing imagery, one can’t help but wonder if the creators had a deeper meaning in mind. There are countless theories out there that analyze every detail of the video, but I would like to discuss a more general theory about what the main message of this short film is. Out of all the theories I’ve seen, it’s the one that makes the most sense to me, and I’ve added my own interpretations as well.

I think this video is about creativity. Obvious, right? But more specifically, it’s about how our society treats the concept of creativity. From the time we’re kids, we’re fed information. We’re told what we should and shouldn’t do, what we should think, and how we should feel by adults, the media, and countless other sources. A common anthem of kindergarten curriculum and kid’s shows is to “Be creative!”, but much of the time, ideas or ways of thinking that are outside the norm are shut down before they can begin. We are taught to do things in a planned way. And what is often the result? People, in a way, become unable to think creatively. Or, even worse, they may not learn how to express their unique thoughts in a healthy and constructive way, after being suppressed for so long.

“Don’t Hug me I’m Scared” is eerily reminiscent of this idea. At the beginning of the video, the puppets are sitting at the table, not doing anything – three blank slates. Then the notebook, a symbol of education, encourages the puppets to “think creatively.” All is fine at first; the puppets begin to engage in their world, imagining shapes in the clouds. However, when the yellow puppet paints a picture of a clown, the notebook deems that he “might need to slow down,” and black paint pours over his picture in a creepy, silent moment. The notebook, for whatever reason, has harshly decided that painting a clown is not right, even though obviously, there’s nothing wrong with it. Another example of such an unnecessary rule being put in place is when the notebook tells the yellow puppet that “green is not a creative color.” The notebook is dictating everything to these puppets, who have no choice but to follow. It’s not teaching them how to be creative at all. In the end, when the puppets are finally allowed to act freely, they don’t know what to do with themselves. They go crazy. They haven’t learned how to express their ideas in the right way, and as we see with the crazy dancing and gore-cake, it all ends very badly. Even more ironic is that the notebook decides they should “never be creative again.” Was creativity the problem? Or was it how these puppets were taught – in effect, not creatively?

Either way, the video is sure to leave you either pondering, or horrified out of your mind – or both.

 

Monkey

By: Alexis Low

Horror isn’t just on the screen or a written account. While its in every part of life, we probably don’t recognize it, because we have suppressed our feeling or simply ignored the problem and held no significance at the time. It takes one instance for us to be reminded something happened, and when we remember the unexplainable horror, we no longer know what to do. We come up with an unfathomable amount of logical reasons, working with one theory after the next, then we give up. This feeling is similar to the anime Erased, which tells of a man with powers to go back in time.

One day, the main character’s mother was watching the news of a child abduction, she asked him if he remembered that happening when he was younger. All it took was a simple horrific newsfeed, and he remembered a classmate who went missing and found later in a trash bag. He tries again and again to prevent it from happening, going from theory to theory, attempting to erase that event from happening. However, we don’t have that power, we only have theories of why horrific things happen, especially if they contain a hint of the supernatural.

I didn’t have the power to fix a past horror that occurred when I was younger. I recently watched a commercial about stuffed animals, and it reminded me of the strange occurrences of my imaginary friend, Monkey.

Before the event with my grandmother’s doll and The Twilight Zone, there was Monkey. He was my first imaginary friend, he fit in my hand, I talked to him constantly, and he even had his own place in the car. My imaginary Monkey and stuffed monkey looked like a combination of Curious George and the lemur from Zoboomafoo. He was my only friend, and since he was in my mind, I would always have him. However, in some type of crack-pot-theory, my parents gave me a physical version of my imaginary friend, in order to physically take him away from me (making the separation permanent); to my parents, I shouldn’t have had an imaginary friend.

imgMoreover, once Monkey got a ‘physical’ form, in the next couple of days, my sister’s hamster would be dead in its cage, the smell was horrid; I will never forget it. In the next few days Monkey was stolen from me, I asked my parents where my monkey had gone. They told me that Monkey needed to go, while the cranky garbage truck groaned and went on to the next house. I cried, but I had to ‘grow up’.

After the incident with my grandmother’s doll, I ran to my cousin’s house, to which I found my stuffed Monkey, he came back to me. I thought, ‘Why would my cousins have Monkey, they are too old for him?’, ‘Did my parents give him to them?’, but I quickly dismissed the thoughts. I was excited and overjoyed, however, when I went back home, my parents were dismayed and had a look of contempt at Monkey.

However, I didn’t understand why. Until, two weeks later, I started smelling a strange odor, a similar odor, from a while ago, it was death. I thought it was a dead neighborhood possum, dog, or squirrel. The bird I used to feed was dead, on the ground, by the birdfeeder. I thought it was the bird, but it was something else. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I was woken up by sirens and dogs barking; next door, in an abandoned house, a body was found, six feet deep.

Monkey was by the window, his back to me. I tried to reason why Monkey was turned that way, maybe I had rolled over too much in bed, but I laid all night in the same position.

Was it a coincidence? Did Monkey have something to do with this? The smell of death isn’t easily forgotten. Did my parents realize this before me, or was it just a brief response to end the conversation? Did he do something else? Was this really just a coincidence? To me, there are no coincidences. Monkey needed to go.

Plot Twist

By: Kathryn Clark

I want to start this post by saying that I am completely, unabashedly a literary nerd. Whenever I read a story, part of my mind is always whirling in the background, figuring out how the story works and what techniques the author used to make the pieces fit together. The downside is that after a while, certain stories tend to become predictable. This is especially true of horror. I spend quite a lot of time on reddit/nosleep (a forum dedicated to horror stories), and though most of the posts are good, I rarely find one that actually surprises me. Which is too bad, because I believe that genuine shock is one of the best tools in a horror writer’s arsenal.

There is definitely a technique to writing a good plot twist. You need to keep a careful balance between revealing too much information and not revealing enough. Too much info, and the reader will see the twist coming from a mile off. Yet there’s much less satisfaction in twists that appear out of nowhere. The best plot twists don’t just shock you for a moment – they make you comb through the story a second time, your eyes widening as you realize how many clues were scattered throughout the plot, wondering how you could have missed this the first time.

I love any well-written plot twist, of course. But when horror stories utilize this technique, the shock from the twist mingles with the horror that the story induced, making both reactions even more potent. I believe that there’s something inherently frightening about the unknown. Known enemies are frightening, but they at least offer a sense of certainty. When facing the unknown, anything could happen. You’re frightened without knowing exactly why you should be frightened; haunted by things you could never understand. And while this type of uncertainty is scary enough on its own, the best plot twists will take it a step further. They allow you to believe that you know what’s happening, only to rip away that security without warning. It feels as if the ground has crumbled beneath your feet, and I find these sudden reversals to be terrifying in a way that few other stories are.

Out of the hundreds of stories that I have read online over the years, there have only been a few that have managed to evoke a visceral reaction from me. If any of you are looking for a horror story that will shock you to the core and knock the wind from your lungs, I have a few recommendations. “My Girl” is exceptionally creepy precisely because of the hints it litters throughout the text. It took me a few seconds to understand “The Green Corvette”, but my stomach dropped the moment I made the connection. And “Nothing’s Going to Get You” actually made me gasp out loud.

Not all of these stories will be surprising to everyone. Everyone has a different experience when they read something for the first time, and foreshadowing that I missed by first time through might seem glaringly obvious to someone else. I’d be really interested in hearing how other people react to these stories, and if anyone else has any story recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Happy reading!

 

 

A (Very) Haunted Homeland

By: Azalea Hinojosa

The following stories were first narrated to me around the age of 7 or 8. They belong to my mom and dad. Both took place during a visit in Mexico. If I ever think about what they told me for too long, the fear I felt more than a decade ago begins to rush back.

(Note: My mom was reluctant to go into too many details. To this day, she still gets chills.)

MOM:

“The house I stayed at in Mexico belonged to my brother-in-law’s mother, who had passed away prior to our visit. There weren’t enough rooms for all of us, so they set up a bed for my sister and I in this hallway area that connected to the kitchen.

In the middle of the night, I got woken up by my sister. She shook me awake and hysterically asked “Do you hear that?!”

It was raining outside but that didn’t matter. I could clearly hear what sounded like someone washing dishes in the middle of the night and in the dark.

On another night, when we were sleeping in an actual room, we heard someone knock on our door. We said “come in”, but no one ever did.

DAD:

“December, 1991. I was 15. That Christmas break, we drove down to Leon, Mexico. We stayed there for one week. It was in Leon, while staying at my stepfather’s parent’s house, that I had the most frightening experience of my life.

Like most other houses in that neighborhood, this one was old, cold, long and narrow; cold because it was December and all of the houses were made out of concrete with no insulation.

This is an example of what the house looked like.

This is an example of what the house looked like.

The room in which Rick (my brother) and I slept in was dark and windowless. We shared a queen size bed with thick, heavy Mexican cobijas (blankets) to keep us warm.

The first night there we were fatigued from the long drive and I slept like a baby. But the second night was the night I will never forget.

I will admit that we were warned by my stepfather’s parents about strange sounds coming from the kitchen and how others have experienced a strong presence of an unnatural being in that house. My stepdad’s nephew mentioned that once he thought he felt someone sitting next to him and quickly jumped in fear because he knew he was home alone.

Despite the fact that these stories were now in my subconscious, what I experienced was 100% genuine.

After touring the city on the second day, we walked back to the house. It was now time for bed. We all went to our rooms and fell asleep. I have no clue what time it was, but that night I randomly woke up. I was very cold and tried adjusting the blanket. As l did so, I looked up and at the foot of my bed there stood a woman I didn’t know. It was a very distinct image.

She was glowing due to a beam of light that was coming from a top corner of the room. She didn’t appear threatening but this strange woman scared me beyond belief! I tried waking up Rick but he didn’t budge. So I closed my eyes and prayed endlessly for her to go away. I eventually prayed myself to sleep.

Then morning came.

I told my family what I had seen. Suddenly, I noticed that I had a super high fever. I had to spend the rest of the week in bed, recovering.

Years after my stepdad’s parents passed away, the house was sold. The new owners uncovered a nice surprise when doing some construction in the kitchen. They found gold coins. They were specifically centenarios which are Mexican coins from the 1800’s. I don’t know how much it was but enough for it to be big news.

In Mexican culture it is believed that if a ghost of some type appears to you it is for a reason. Now, I don’t know why that woman appeared to me, but I will never forget her.”

 

 

A (Haunted) Cinderella Story

By: Sally Nagia

When I was younger, getting me to brush my teeth was like pulling teeth out. I hated the feeling of the toothbrush against my teeth and I especially hated the way the toothpaste foam felt and tasted in my mouth. For a while, my parents had to literally hold me in place and brush my teeth for me. Around the time that I turned five years old, my parents decided that they had had enough of this daily struggle. They knew that I loved Disney princesses, so they bought me a Disney character themed toothbrush in hopes that I would brush my own teeth. I remember it was a princess Belle spinning toothbrush and I just couldn’t wait until it was time to brush my teeth so that I could use it. Every few months I would get bored of my old princess toothbrush and move on to a new one. Most of the princess toothbrushes that I had have blurred together in my memory, but I clearly remember one in particular; it was the last princess toothbrush I ever used, the Cinderella toothbrush.

Cinderella has always been my favorite Disney character. Since the moment I got the princess Belle toothbrush I had been on the hunt for the Cinderella version. However, she was so popular that it was always sold out. After a few months, I finally got my hands I one and it was just about the happiest day of my five year old life. When I got her out of the packaging, I distinctly remember a chill running down my spine. I couldn’t explain why, but for some reason my Cinderella toothbrush was different than the other princess toothbrushes. She felt different. She appeared more vivid, more lifelike somehow. I ignored that feeling and placed her in my special toothbrush spot that was on my bathroom counter. I was very particular about the positioning of my princess toothbrushes. Since they had flat bottoms and could stand on their own, I liked for them to be facing straight at me if I was standing in front of my sink. This particular positioning was how I became certain that something was wrong with my Cinderella toothbrush.

One night, I got out of the shower to find my Cinderella toothbrush swiveled 90 degrees to her right. She had moved from her spot and was staring right at me in my towel. I calmed myself down by reasoning that my brother must have accidentally moved her while he was reaching for his own toothbrush. However, after intense questioning my brother assured me that he never bumped into my toothbrush. For an entire week Cinderella was turned to face me every time I came out of the shower. All I could do was turn her back into the correct position and run out of the bathroom as fast as possible. Unfortunately, she had another trick up her sleeve.

As a child, I was a very messy sleeper. I typically woke up in the morning to find my sheets and pillows all tangled up with each other and sometimes thrown off of my bed. I remember waking up one morning and realizing that I was laying on my back with my hands by my sides staring straight up at the ceiling, which never happened. I looked down at my feet to see my bed was perfectly made and the sheets were tucked under the mattress hotel-style, which also never happened. In an attempt to figure out what was going on, I turned my head to my left only to realize that next to me in my bed was my Cinderella toothbrush! She was lying on her back and was tucked under the perfect covers just like me! I couldn’t figure out what was going on but I was so horrified that I picked her up, sprinted outside, and threw her in the trash. Needless to say, I’ve used an ordinary grown-up toothbrush ever since.

I’m Not Crazy; I Just See Things Before They Happen

By: Jessica Jung

Call it an extreme case of déjà vu, or maybe even question my mental state for a second, but I am not crazy and I don’t believe in psychics.  For over a decade now, I’ve been very inaccurately trying to explain whatever it is that’s been happening to me.  My go-to explanation is usually that it’s a feeling of déjà vu because that’s most relatable to others and makes me seem less creepy and psychotic.

While this type of experience doesn’t happen often enough for me to joke that I’m psychic (I promise, I’m not weird), when it does occur, it creeps me out every time.  If you’ve ever seen the Disney Channel show, That’s So Raven, you’d know that the eponymous character is indeed psychic and has frequent visions; she’d foresee an event, and surely enough, at some point in the episode, that premonition would become a reality.  Well, that’s the closest that I can ever get to accurately describing what happens to me, just on a much less intense level.

It primarily happens in my dreams.  For example, I’ll dream (or foresee) that a conversation or an event will happen that doesn’t usually occur in my daily routine.  The moment will make sense in the dream and typically involve people I know, but will also be unique enough that it couldn’t happen in just any moment.  The creepiest part is that I never know when these dreams will become realities, and sometimes I don’t even get full moments—I’ll get snippets or just a line of a conversation and need to wait for them to happen.  There are times when these events don’t happen until weeks later, while some occur the next day.

I can’t always think of examples when people ask for them, which, of course, only lends to the argument that I’m insane.  (I’m not!)  But like I noted earlier, it’s almost like a sense of déjà vu, which is why I can’t remember them after they happen.  Once that moment passes, the experience and feelings pass along with it, so I can no longer recall which moments of my life were initially parts of dreams.  All I know is that these experiences typically occur when I’m interacting with or talking to others because I always end up pointing out how the moment feels like it’s happened before.  That’s usually when the other person gives me a funny look and questions my mental stability.

However, after doing some research, it turns out I’m not the only one who experiences these feelings of déjà vu. (I always thought my mom was lying to make me feel better when she “understood” what I was trying to explain.)  According to this site, precognition is not completely odd in nature, and it frequently occurs in one’s dreams!  Even better, the site claims that we all have psychic abilities.  It just happens that some peoples’ abilities are heightened.  See, I told you I wasn’t insane.  Maybe you just need to learn how to better tap into your abilities so that we can foresee the future together.