This Old House, Part II

By: Betsy Smith


. . . continued from Part I.

When I was three years old my mother died in our living room, making her the second person (that we know of) to pass in that house. As I reflect on all the scary happenings of myself and others in the house, I sometimes imagine it could have been the ghosts of my mother and the women who died there before her. It was as if the ghosts were just going about their lives in the house at the same time we were. Sometimes I debate going back to our house, but I do not think I have the guts to feel the paralyzing fear as I used to.

My own encounters with my home were scary enough, but I was not the only one feeling other presences. I can only remember a few exact scary occurrences, though I remember being scared my entire childhood there. The earliest memory I have of being intensely scared was one night while my sister and I were home alone. We were younger than most kids are when they begin staying alone while their parents are at work, but still old enough to manage. My sister and I were on our twin beds, in our shared room, watching television. Our house had hardwood floors that, since the house was so old, were loud and creaky. You could hear footsteps in one end of the house in the other. That night, as I sat there on my bed, I heard loud pounding footsteps coming down the hallway in our dining room as the china cabinet shook as it always does, glassware clinking together. But we were home all alone. I remember it so clearly: my face got tingly and hot, and my stomach felt like it does when you breathe all your air out and your muscles begin to shake. I backed up to the very corner of my bed and cowered, not yelling or grabbing a weapon as you think you would do in such a situation. Then the footsteps stopped, and that was it. My sister looked at me like I was crazy, as if she did not hear anything. But I didn’t even speak to tell her what I heard.

The second downright paralyzing experience, again, happened while I was safe in my bed. I was alone in my room trying to fall asleep, when I saw a dark figure in the corner at the end of my bed. Telling myself it was just the vacuum I had used to clean my room earlier, I tried falling asleep. The outline was very dark and defined and reminded me of the way the boogeyman in the movies stood in the shadows of rooms. I knew something was there; it did not flicker like a shadow in the passing car lights through my window. Of course I was too paranoid to just fall asleep, so I just flicked the light on my bedside lamp, and nothing was there. My instinct kicked in and I immediately flicked the light back off and covered my face with my blanket, forcing myself back to sleep.

My friends also experienced scary sightings. My two best high school best friends refused to stay overnight at my house after one slumber party. In the middle of the night, I woke to my friends dragging all of their bedding up the stairs and crawling into my bed. The next morning she told me she saw the door open and someone walk in, so she sat up thinking it was my dad coming home through the living room door. When she looked, though, she realized my dad was not there. No one was there but a shadow that walked through the door then disappeared. She was so certain that it scared her enough to carry our other friend and their blankets up the stairs at 2 a.m.

Needless to say, it was not just me imagining the shadowy figures. Though I’m unsure if I believe in the supernatural, I know what I saw. Maybe if I could go back now, I would be a little tougher to really investigate my home, but I doubt I will be feeling brave enough anytime soon!


Body Horror?

By: Amber Gustafson

When I was about 8, I was rebelliously up late at night and flipping through channels when I landed on an episode of The X-Files. It is a scene I will never forget: a portly man reclining on a couch, his stomach blown open like a crater. There was some dialogue, possibly about an alien who had used the man as a host and then hatched itself from his stomach like an egg. This moment was the start of my terror of – and fascination with – body horror.

Body horror is something that is very difficult to define, as there are many different types. Essentially, all body horror preys upon our instinctual comfort with the human body. Body horror purposefully turns our idea of what is a “physical normality” on its head – and this differentness is what terrifies. TVtropes explains it nicely: “The mind knows on a deep instinctive level that faces should have eyes and hands should not. Organs and bones belong on the inside, and parasites and circuit boards do not. Bodies should be roughly symmetrical and have logical proportions.” Thus, we get movies like Alien and The Blob – both involve body horror, but one does it by using humanoid-like creatures, in a similar parasitic fashion to The X-Files example above, in order to evoke fear and the other represents the contamination and defilement of humans. It is terrifying to have an invader in the one space each of us can uniquely call private: our own bodies.

A lot of body horror is linked to our fears of the Uncanny Valley, where something resembles humanness but there is something fundamentally wrong. A prominent example is a clown, who generally has normally body proportions but the unnatural colors and extreme facial features push it into terrifying territory. Other examples include ventriloquist dummies, dolls (such as Chucky – how can something so small be so deadly?) and zombies, who in fact seem more terrifying when they are moving (an undead rotting corpse versus a rotting corpse). Slenderman creates an image that horrifies partly because of the Uncanny Valley, with his elongated limbs and lack of facial features. Another internet terror, Jeff the Killer, similarly utilizes exaggerated facial expressions.

It is also no surprise that body horror is most effective in a visual format. One of my favorite current television shows, Hannibal, uses body horror to a different extent. The scenes of food preparation and of the characters eating Hannibal’s meals are crafted as if they came straight from a cooking show on the Food Network. Part of the terror and discomfort is that we, the audience, are enticed by and hunger for food that we know is human flesh. In effect, we are devouring ourselves. John Carpenter’s The Thing is another classic of the body horror genre. It is not only gory but uses anonymity and imitation to invoke fear; The Thing preys on the idea that our bodies are not special, and they do not even belong to us.

Another medium that makes great use of body horror is the graphic novel. One of my favorites is “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” by Junji Ito, one of the forerunners in horror manga, which begins with human-shaped holes suddenly appearing on the side of a mountain. “Black Hole” can also be categorized as body horror, as the sickness that spreads through the teen population manifests physically, sometimes to the disfigurement of the individual.

The caution I have with body horror is that it is somewhat ableist in nature, and can very easily ostracize and victimize those with different bodies – possibly because they were born with bones in different places or formations, they were involved in an incident that left them with a different physical appearance, they have had one or more limbs amputated, or they behave differently. Body horror’s use of fearing those who are “different” is also similar to the roots of racism. However, I think if a new unit in the course focuses on body horror, it should acknowledge these facts and carefully select stories which stray away from creating this negative connotation.

Spider Bite

By: Ashley Parker

Last week I participated in a photo shoot at a local cemetery for an affiliated organization. Sardonically, my photo scenes were labeled “Horror” as I was photographed sitting on a tombstone, caressing a granite angel and lying on an overgrown grave. I was completely terrified.

“Touch the grave! Hug it! Yeah, climb on it just like that,” coached the photographer and my giggling associates.

My mind fluctuated between taking a daring venture into the realm of the supernatural and the moral responsibility of engaging in an activity that was disrespectful and bordering on the illegal. However, to create a creepy ambiance, our executive board and photographer insisted that the setting for the flash shots stir up eerie visions and shocking thoughts Because I selected to journey into the frightening arena of horror, my actions came back to bite me, literally.

During the shoot, I suddenly felt a tingling sensation on my arm that I presumed was just an itch so I rubbed the irritation through my clothing and continued to pose and taunt the dead. The crawling tickle continued. As I was changing my clothes for the next scene, I discovered the truth behind that “small itch.” Underneath my dress and on a mass of swollen flesh were five oozing pimples. Bewildered, I quickly glanced back and forth and all around to discover the source of this repulsive intrusion. Unconsciously, I scratched the ugly malformation and a painful explosion erupted in my arm. With throbbing soreness and panic escalating, I questioned whether I had goaded evil spirits into retaliation. I was no longer the self confident model and was quickly descending into the blackness of terror. When my friends saw my distress, they quickly gathered round to lend their support and disavowed the presence of the occult. Nervously laughing, they said, “That’s a spider bite!” Attempting to convince themselves, they kept repeating, “Yep, that’s a spider bite!” Trembling with fear, I completely freaked out. Had the spiders assaulted my body as I lay on Mr. Morley’s grave or had they mysteriously infiltrated my being under the guidance of evil spirits? Not only are spiders paramount on my list of fears, I guiltily knew I was being paid back for being insolent to the dead. Swallowed up in terrifying misery, I immediately called my mother.

exxs“Mom, something weird has bitten me and I think something horrifying is happening to me.”

Even after Mom applied a cream to the bitten area, I still could not shake the unnerving sense of the mystic in my life. Restlessly sleeping, I tossed and turned and visualized spiders laying eggs inside me and eventually possessing me. I began to fantasize myself as a bizarre Spider Woman shrouded with clinging spiders like those pictured on the left.

Today, my arm looks like the figure below and the spider bites are diminishing. However, it is still early in the healing process, and the possibility of remaining spider eggs in my body and the potential for me evolving into Spider Woman still loom on my scary horizon.


Ho Ho Horrible

By: Hannah Katshir

hannahIt’s December first!!!! For many people, this just means the continuation of the cold weather, more snow, and one day closer to being home for an extended break. But for me, it means that other people finally find it acceptable to listen to Christmas music, put up Christmas decorations, bake pounds of cookies, and, the greatest of all television traditions, watch the 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family – all of which I have already been doing and planning out for weeks. If you haven’t gathered, I absolutely love Christmas.

However, as much as I adore the traditions and the holiday spirit that runs rampant at this time of year, one holiday tradition has always put me off a little bit. Santa Clause, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle – a man of many names, but one simple job. He is supposedly the bringer of joy to children on Christmas, leaving presents under the trees of all of the good little boys and girls and putting coal in the stockings of those who had been naughty. Now, ever since I was younger, this idea this idea didn’t thrill me as much as it did my peers. When you really think about it, someone breaking into every house in the world in the middle of the night with no problem, stealing and eating their food, and then leaving mysterious, wrapped boxes in his wake is not exactly a warming idea. In fact, take away the allure of Christmas, and it sounds a little bit like a burglary mixed with something that could easily be mistaken for a bomb threat in any other situation.

Two years ago, everyone’s favorite horror television show, American Horror Story, perpetuated my fears by focusing an episode which premiered right around Christmas time on a man who would dress as Santa, break into homes, and kill the people living in them. As a child, I would have nightmares of Santa going rogue and ending up as this. It seemed to me the perfect ruse, because very few children would turn Santa away from their house at Christmas time – that would obviously land them a spot on the naughty list.

More recently, there has been a resurgence of another Christmas demon. In old German folktales, there was a monster commonly known as Krampus – a half-goat, half-demon with horns and dark hair. He is the antithesis of St. Nicholas who is known to literally beat children into being nice, and often taking the still naughty ones back down to the underworld. This “Christmas Devil” and the traditions around it were banned by the Catholic church a long time ago, but are now making a resurgence, possibly for people to celebrate Christmas in a new way, maybe to take a more direct path of scaring children into being nice. No matter the reason, Krampus is coming back into style, which is both kind of exciting and a little horrifying.

So this holiday season while sitting around the fire, drinking hot chocolate, and making gingerbread houses, just keep in mind that there is much more to the holiday than visions of sugar plums dancing through your head.

For more information of Krampus, visit this site, and this one.

“Trip Up Gravity Road”

By: Joseph Guerra

There’s a road in northern Michigan a couple of miles from Frankfort and Arcadia called Putney Road that has gained quite the reputation for inspiring both fear and awe alike for those who have experienced it. Putney Road is a fairly average northern Michigan road in that it cuts through vast miles of trees with the occasional field or house, but for the most part lies deserted. At the spot from which the road derives its other name, “Gravity Road,” the only building in sight is an old church that is closed most of the week. The road is called Gravity Road for its peculiar effect on the driver: after driving down the road a couple of miles, the driver appears to drive downhill. If the driver parks their car at the bottom of the hill, puts the car into neutral, then something interesting happens. For a couple of seconds, nothing happens, but suddenly the car begins to move back up the hill, almost as if something is pulling it. Your car will roll for a few minutes before it you make it to the top of the hill, although most who have tried it only last a while before they freak out and drive away.

Which brings us to my experience with Gravity Hill. One night, while coming back from a family event, my aunt who lives near Putney Road decided it would be fun to scare her nephews (my brother and I) by showing us Gravity Road. Before we got there, she told us how the road worked and what would happen. She also told us that the reason the driver is pulled back is because the church at the top of the hill is pulling sinners towards the church to be punished. Mind you, I was only 12 at the time, which is the right age to be skeptical and scared shitless at the same time. Suffice to say I was scared of being pulled into Hell when we got there. We stopped at the bottom and stayed still for a few seconds before we started moving backwards. My brother and I sat still for all of ten seconds before we both started freaking out: my brother started cheering and I started screaming. Oh, and this was all at midnight. We got to the top of the hill which was right next to the church, and we pleaded with my aunt to get us out of there. We did, and I’ve never been back since.

Although nothing supernatural happened (the experience of running uphill is apparently attributed to an optical illusion that happens around very low grade hills) This experience got me thinking about “Backseat Driver.” My experience was obviously nothing like the things that Susanna experiences in that story, but the story got me thinking about how much we take the experience for driving granted. Most of us are excited when we get our driver’s license but it quickly fades and driving just becomes something routine, and we forget how dangerous driving can actually be or how scary cars can be. Gravity Hill can be interpreted as a phenomenon similar to the EVP’s we listened to in class: what if people are pulled back on the road because they are being told something? Or what if it actually is a warning from a spirit in the church to repent for your sins? Whatever the case, the road still scares me to this day, and it reminds me that even mundane things in life will always have a degree of danger and mystery to them.

You can read more about Gravity Road by clicking here. 

Horror Shorts

By: Alyssa “Alyssa II” Sherman

Slenderman is not the only horror sensation hosted by youtube. Recently, I rediscovered a video that I must have blocked from my memory called “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared”. Ring any bells? This creepy little production was released back in 2011 and it currently has over 21 million views, so you may have already seen it. However, even if you have, I bet you didn’t know that the video has since become a series. In the past year, two new installments have been added to the series, with even more still to come.

These unsettling videos are structured like a children’s show, so they seem harmless enough at first. The props are handmade and the puppets look silly, if a bit odd, like the alternate versions of Sesame street characters. Like in a kid’s show, the videos are all based around a central theme that is taught through song. Each video has its own message; in the original video the theme is creativity. A notepad on the kitchen table comes alive and attempts to encourage the puppets to get creative. The song starts out normal enough, but there are subtle signs of wrongness. Even though creativity is all about expressing yourself, the yellow puppet’s initial attempts at being creative are not good enough. The notepad pours ink on his clown painting and then claims that his favorite color “is not a creative color”. This adds another layer of fear because creativity and art are supposed to be subjective, but in the video, some answers are wrong. From here, things get really weird, the puppets suddenly become more human like and the music goes from upbeat to dissonant. The things they create are horrifying and gory. They throw glitter on a heart and enjoy an organ filled cake, but the decorations do not disguise the horror. Like the videos themselves, the attempt to cover the horror with cheer and bright colors only amplifies its effect through shock. In the second video, time is the theme, which is taught by a clock. Personally, this video is my favorite because I think it is the most unsettling. I often fall into the same trap as the puppets, sitting idly and watching TV, so when the clock forces them to realize their mortality, it was hard not to look away. The last video centers on love. Though I would argue that this is the least grotesque of the three, this video incites fear through its satirization of traditional views on marriage. In all the videos horror is used to poke fun at the simplistic treatment of complicated ideas in kid’s shows.

Oh, and I have another video. If you are a fan of Adult Swim then you already know about “Too Many Cooks”, if not then you’re in for a treat. What starts out as fake TV show intro extends on and on and on. This video mocks a multitude of shows and movies, first family sitcoms, then cop dramas, eventually transforming into horror, and even sci-fi. The horror portion is particularly interesting because it functions on more than one level. A creepy man who is very reminiscent of Jack Torrance from The Shining is able to slash his way through different genres. The Jack wannabe is not the only thing to fear however, as some things are worse than death. The actors’ nametags serve as their only connection to reality, so pay close attention to the way they affect the characters in the video.

La Mujer de la Curva

By: Perla Hernandez

Picture I took of the curves of the crusero during the day; although this was not the specific spot where Soledad appears, it was the only picture I had of the curves in the day light.

Picture I took of the curves of the crusero during the day; although this was not the specific spot where Soledad appears, it was the only picture I had of the curves in the day light.

It was 15 after 9 when Soledad decided to leave, the roads were lonely and the sky was black. The only lights you could see were form the passing traffic.

Outside it had been dark for a while, the wind blew with an immense force that foreshadowed the terrifying storm that was to arrive late that night.

Before exiting the building, she made sure the front door was locked and the alarm was turned on. That is when she realized she had almost forgot her veil. The veil was a beautiful cream color that had distinctive handmade patterns with her initials woven into the seams of the veil. The pattern was the colors of the sunset by the beach in Cancun as she described them, a peachy pink with a lavender purple.

The storm was getting closer and the wind velocities were increasing. She finally made her way to her car where she introduced her key into the ignition after unlocking the door, to start up her car and be on her way home. She worked in a building that was at the end of the road which meant she had to drive through the curves of the crusero.

The curves of the crusero are known to be the most dangerous curves there are in Mexico, because of the extreme angle the curves have which make it very hard to see what will be in front of you until you actually reach that point.

On her way home, Soledad began having car troubles which eventually forced her to pull over with no help in sight. Her car completely turned off and she was trying to hitch a ride when a big semi came around the curve and ran her over. The semi threw her 20 feet away from her car and resulted in her death.

The curves of the crusero are said to be haunted by Soledad who returns to seek revenge for her death every time a storm hits which is coincidently very often in certain areas of Mexico. She is first spotted where her car was left and the she reappears where she was found by the ambulance when she was run over.

The truck drivers who decide to pull over end up traumatized by the events that follow.

When she is picked up she asks to be taken home where she will thank them and insist they come in and wait until the storm blows over: always leaving her infamous veil for the driver to later find and be obliged to bring back to the house.

A look of sadness immediately takes over the innocent face of the old woman who lives there who never understands how the veil of her dead daughter always manages to end up in the hands of the thousands of trucks drivers that drive through Las Curvas Del Crusero .With a confused, yet scared look upon her face, she apologizes and shares the story of Soledad, Her deceased daughter who never got home because she was run over by a driver during a storm.

In Mexico, it is believed that a spirit will not rest if they have died while on a journey. People believe that since she didn’t get home her spirit is looking for a way to rest by completing her journey and finally getting home. This is why she is seen on days that are near identical to the night she died, stormy and dark, which happen to be during which only few truck drivers dare to drive.

Picture of the place where Soledad was predicted to be standing before the truck driver ran her over, this picture was taken by my brother during a late night drive, and I photo shopped the ghost on the right to where she is said to stand while waiting for a driver to pass by.

Picture of the place where Soledad was predicted to be standing before the truck driver ran her over, this picture was taken by my brother during a late night drive, and I photo shopped the ghost on the right to where she is said to stand while waiting for a driver to pass by.

P.S. The roads now are lit up and they are often blocked off when it rains due to a high increase in the rate of accidents that have occurred there.