By: Mika LaVaque-Manty (friend of The Course of Horror)
I’m grateful to my friend Gina for inviting me to contribute — she knows horror is not my genre. The last horror movie I saw was The Shining, back in 1983, and I still have nightmares. (1983 was kind of a horror-themed year for me. I also saw Iron Maiden live that year. My ears are still ringing.)
Fortunately, there’s horror-lite for the squeamish among us, and sometimes in unusual places. Think, for a moment, of Island Lake State Recreation area. You may know it: a lovely park about thirty minutes north of Ann Arbor, full of trails for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking; the picturesque Huron river winding in its leisurely way on its way south to Ann Arbor; Spring Mill Pond with its nice sandy beach for those perfect summer swims.
Ah, but in Spring Mill Pond lurks a monster! I hope you’ll never swim in it — nay, swim anywhere — without wondering what’s in the deep. Don’t think fresh water and small lakes will keep you safe!
OK, so that’s what we call hyperbole, or maybe just click bait. But there is a very cool, very creepy thing at the bottom of Spring Mill Pond, at about 25 feet deep. It’s called the Lady of the Lake, and it’s a life-size statue of a woman, vaguely eighteenth-century-ish, except for the modern diving mask she is wearing. Divers have anchored her to the bottom for, well, fun and a little bit of function: finding her can be an interesting navigation and search challenge.
But, OMG, is she ever creepy when you find her!
There’s not a whole lot at the bottom at Spring Mill Pond, and when you first see her, she seems like a contemplative suicide. And these photos don’t quite convey how freaky she can be. I took these photos on Friday — I wanted something Halloween-themed — and now that the weather has started cooling a bit, the visibility in the water is pretty great. Often, you only see less than ten feet ahead of you, so finding the Lady can be a much more traumatic experience. There you are happily diving along, minding your business, and suddenly she is RIGHT THERE in front of your face. She doesn’t say “BOO!”, but the silence is far worse. And the anchor line around her neck… Sleep has been lost for less.
Indeed, beginning divers (among whom I definitely belong) have been known to panic in the low-viz waters of Spring Mill Pond with and without the Lady. In really poor visibility water, you sometimes can’t even tell which way is up, so the last thing you want is an additional scare.
And this gets me to a question, aimed at you, lovers of horror: Why is it fun, anyway? Why do even I, who am a horror-wimp, find such frights enjoyable? I’m asking you not because I think it’s a bad thing, but because in Gina’s course, you are becoming experts on the question.
Meanwhile, I’ll go look for more scary underwater things.