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.

 

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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.

TV’s Grand Event

By: Kelsey Mannarino

Trigger Warning: Mention of suicide

My dad celebrated his 50th birthday this past March. A week later, we celebrated his birthday at TV’S Grand Event. This former hotel and now banquet center, is in Trenton, Michigan, which is about an hour from Ann Arbor. I was home that weekend because I had to work the Tigers opening day block party for my job with a Detroit’s sports radio station. Needless to say, my parents forced me to go to the party, so I could be the designated driver. I was really bored and tried to entertain myself, so as a joke I decided to ask the waitress if the place was haunted and she told me that it was. She told me a story of a little boy (ghost) named Charlie who lives in the basement of the building. I don’t remember his story or how he ended up there. Apparently the workers weren’t supposed to let visitors down there but somehow she convinced her boss to let us and my cousin Tony and I were able to look around. In the basement there was a tricycle that they left for him to ride around on which was kind of creepy and cute at the same time. Workers said that the bike will move all the time, they will look away and then look back and it will be in a different spot.

The workers told a bunch of my relatives that we could go upstairs and look around on the second floor, which is now another ballroom type area. The same waitress told us that this area used to be a hotel and tried to describe where each room was. One room in particular had an eerie past. In that room a man had hung himself (I don’t remember why). My cousin Mark can be kind of obnoxious. He thought it would be funny to mock the man who killed himself. While he was mocking the ghost, my cousin Jackie was using the burst camera function on her phone. We didn’t notice anything until we looked at the pictures the next day. It is hard to see what is in the picture unless you have your brightness up very high. What appeared to be in the picture was some sort of shadow thing. It wasn’t any of us because it was pitch black upstairs. Who knows if it actually is anything, but we had a lot of fun thinking that it is something and scaring ourselves.

imgA local ghost-hunting group called The Motor City Ghost Hunters did a tour of this place and documented their findings. Here is a link to their site.

A Stranger Conversation

By: Cristina Tye

imgMy sister awoke hearing a full-blown conversation echoing through the house in the dead middle of the night. Not just a little kid crying in the middle of the night, but dialogue of a toddler, moving through the halls. It wasn’t until the next morning when I awoke from what I believed was an undisturbed sleep, that my mother told me I had had another episode. I’ve always known that I sleep walk and talk, but this house brought something else out within me. As a kid, I had these episodes of sleep walking and talking, wandering around the house amidst a dream I never recalled. However, my sleep talking since we left that house has reduced to mere mumbled words and phrases.

When I was little, I use to live in an older home in my current hometown outside of Chicago. I lived there until I was 4 years old, so my memories aren’t crystal clear. This brings me back to my sleep walking and talking. My parents still get the chills when they explain my sleeping actions. During one of my episodes, I was actively engaging with someone while in a complete sleep-talking trance. I would sit upright on the end of my bed and talk up a storm with something or someone they couldn’t see. I would talk and talk to a “person” and stare out in front of me, as if I was really talking to someone. As explained by them, this wasn’t a one-time thing. Multiple nights I did this, and multiple nights I carried on the conversation. Although we will never be able to determine whom I was talking to, my parents believed I was talking to someone.

Then, we started encountering some pranks. The thermostat never seemed to stay the right temperature. Numerous times the house would become really cold, and, upon checking the thermostat, the temperature was miraculously changed. It would move down on its own without any warning. No matter how many times my parents moved it back up to a comfortable degree, the thermostat had a mind of its own and changed. They knew this was strange and thought it was most likely just broken, so they decided to replace it with a brand new one. However, that didn’t help the problem, as even the new one would somehow move back to a cold temperature. Again, my parents weren’t exactly sure what was happening, but they were pretty sure something out of the ordinary was doing it.

I must confess the ending of this potential ghost story is anticlimactic. We moved out of the house with little questions answered, but memories that we still consider. We have moved several times since then without experiencing any strange coincidences or sleep-talking conversations, but the possibilities for what occurred in that house are endless.

Eli Still at Large

By: Olivia Dworkin

Many people replied to my previous story about Eli and the Ouija board wanting more information on the aftermath of the event. Although I do not have any information on Abby’s situation (I lost all contact with her after the incident), I feel Eli has visited me periodically since middle school.

One thing I did not mention in my previous story was the fact that Eli told me that I would get into a car accident, and he even named a date that it would happen. I tried to push it out of my mind, but that date stuck with me until the day came. That day, my mom wanted me to run errands with her. I was hesitant, but I thought to myself, “It’s not real. There’s no way he could predict that.” I ended up going with my mom. I opted to stay in the car while she ran into the grocery store, and while I was sitting in my mom’s parked car in the lot, another car came out of nowhere and rear-ended me. It wasn’t a terrible accident, more of just a fender bender, but it still felt to me like it was Eli giving that car the extra push it needed to run into me. It spooked me so badly that I did not even tell my mom what had happened when she returned.

After moving to college, I thought maybe that I would escape Eli by moving into a new apartment far away from my home. However, he made it clear that was not the case. Remember how he communicated with Abby, Jenna, and I by moving the blinds? He did it again. The blinds in my bedroom began to move on their own. I know what you’re thinking; it was probably just the wind or an air vent or something. The blinds were moving for five straight days. I took one video on December 4th, and one on December 9th. Just one blind moving back and forth – no air conditioning, no fan, no window open, no nothing.

The next year I moved into a different apartment hoping again to escape from Eli, but deep down I knew that could never happen. I was sitting in my new apartment eating a snack size bag of pretzels and watching Netflix. To paint a picture, I was sitting at my breakfast bar with the bag of pretzels on the bar to my left, and Netflix on an angle to my right. All of a sudden, my front door flew open and a breeze came in and ruffled the newspaper hanging on my fridge. I was on the second floor of an apartment complex with no access to the outdoors, but I still tried to convince myself that it was just the wind. I got up and closed the door, and continued to watch Netflix. While I was watching, I looked down to my right and noticed a pretzel on the bar way across from the bag. I just thought I must have dropped it, so I simply picked it up, ate it, and continued to watch. I looked down about two minutes later and another pretzel appeared in the same spot on the right side of the bar way across from the bag. I was beginning to think I was a slob. I picked up the pretzel again, inspected the breakfast bar for any more stragglers, and continued to watch my show. Two minutes later I looked down, and yet again – another pretzel. Same spot. I threw the bag of pretzels away and immediately left my apartment.

So far, Eli has not done anything to physically harm me. The car accident was minor, and felt like more of a “told you so” moment. Now, whenever something spooky happens, I simply tell myself “Oh, it’s just Eli,” and shrug it off. A psychic I recently saw even told me Eli was just messing around with me, and that I shouldn’t be concerned. Although I am still intact after all these years, I can’t help but wonder why he is still following me around… What does he want?

 

Ghost Selfies

By: Kelly Wilton

My friend, knowing I was currently in a horror class sent me an article the other day that struck a nerve with me. The article talks about a girl who was taking a “selfie” in the passenger seat as her mom was driving her on the highway. When looking back at the pictures she took of herself, she found one that showed a clear figure of a boy in the back—even though there was no one else in the car. The mom even had paranormal researchers look into it and they found that there was someone killed in a car accident right where they were driving on the highway. They think maybe it was the person’s ghost that appeared in the picture. To look at the picture and the full article click here.

The reason that I was affected after reading this story has to do with something that happened to me when I was a junior in high school. This was around the time selfies were becoming a common thing and I remember being in a situation eerily similar to the one in the article. I was in the passenger seat and my mom was driving. We were heading to pick up my little brother from baseball practice. I had decided to take out my phone and take some selfies, since I had just cut my hair and wanted to have a picture of how short it was now. It was mid-afternoon and pouring down rain and since we were driving down a dirt road, I remember bouncing up and down and getting annoyed that my pictures would turn out blurry. As I tried and tried to focus the camera, while also getting good lighting, I was about to snap the photo when I saw something that made my heart jump. I remember screaming “oh my gosh,” and whipping my head behind me. I screamed “mom, there’s someone in the car, there’s someone in the car” and naturally, my mom got freaked out and turned into the nearest driveway. My mom looked back in the car and even opened the trunk to appease me and there was obviously nothing in the car. She asked me what I saw and I explained that there was a man that appeared on my phone screen, directly next to my head. He was not anyone that I recognized, but it was not just a shadow—it was a very clear face that appeared on the screen. To this day, my mom thinks it was just my mind playing tricks on me and while that could certainly be the case, I believe it was a paranormal encounter. My biggest regret was being too startled at the moment it happened to push the button on my phone to take the picture.

Now after having read the article above, I am more and more curious about the incident. I actually did some research to see if I could find records of fatal car accidents that happened on the road we were driving on. I did not have any luck, but there was a big house fire nearby about 20 years ago that killed a man and his wife. Who knows, maybe the ghost of that man was the one appearing in the car that day….

My First Halloween

unnamedBy: Nikola Jaksic

For the sake of this story, I think it is important to preface it by stating that I am a first generation immigrant from Serbia, where Halloween means nothing. My parents and I moved to the United States when I was 2 years old, in 1998. The first Halloween that I remember was when I was four, when I was so shocked and horrified that everyone in the town had seemingly been replaced by horrible monsters. I clung to my father the entire night, and probably cried through most of it. Even the promise of free candy could not quell my fear, and my parents, who had no idea what Halloween was, were of little comfort. Next year was different though, and I was fully prepared. For my birthday in September, I got a Superman costume which I wore almost every day I could. In it, I was invincible, so naturally it would be the thing to protect me from the scary Halloween. I donned my costume, and we went trick or treating for the first time. I cannot really remember who went with us that year, I had only just started kindergarten and knew barely any English but, trick or treat was well within my command.

We set out through some of the neighborhoods around Rochester Hills, where you can still find the kinds of Victorian bedrocks to older towns in Southeastern Michigan. In Northville, years later, this tradition would continue for me. Anyway, we set off into the night, with our parents trailing behind some way, preoccupied with how cute my newborn baby brother looked as a chubby bumblebee. We walked past princesses and knights, fellow members of the Justice League, and of course tweens and teens who delighted in scaring us with their pumping blood masks. We ambled from house to house, until we came to a place on one of the streets where two houses pushed up against each other, leaving a meandering dirt driveway in the middle of them. Seeing an opportunity for more candy, and little else, we went in. The next bit of this story resides in that part of your memory that exists in fog, you can see something and you know its there, but it forever remains shrouded in some mystery, never as clear as you want it.

As I approached, some trees peeked up next to us, and between them every once in a while we would see a garden gnome. As I got closer to the house though, they seemed more like the kids we had seen, and when we got to the circular driveway there was a stone princess in the yard. I had to have arrived and receive our candy, because I remember being sufficiently sated, and thought nothing more of it. Even as I walked back though, the shadows seemed longer, and some of the shadows in the woods seemed like ones I had seen in the street earlier. I remember little else, and the rest of the Halloween was just like any other.

Nevertheless, when remembering this some years later, neither my brother nor anyone else remembered it happening. And since then, around every Halloween, I dream that I am that little Superman again. I have never seen anything new or remembered anything else, but over the years this recurrent dream has persisted, reminding me of my first Halloween.