A Different Kind of Horror

 

hiBy: Jaclyn Peraino

A lot of horror centers on fiction or fantasy; the existence of ghosts, monsters, and supernatural phenomena can be refuted. The horror of the human body and its natural cycles, however, are unavoidable and undeniably true. If you’re ever wondering what kinds of nasty (or exciting) things happen to your body after death, I suggest you pick up Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. This non-fiction story is sure to give you chills while providing you with some fascinating facts about the many, many uses of human corpses. Did you know that when you donate your body to science you might be used as practice for something as trivial as face lifts? Or that many companies use actual human bodies in car test crashes? Not dummies, actual dead humans. Test crashes have allowed companies to learn exactly how much impact the body can take on a crash and have led to the advancements of the safety precautions in the vehicles we have become accustomed to. There’s even a college in Tennessee (University of Tennessee) that has a yard dedicated to letting dead bodies decay. Not so surprisingly, it smells terrible. These bodies are left to decay naturally to learn about what happens to just about every part of the body. This can be helpful in forensics when time of death needs to be calculated. This site has some corpses left in water, others buried in bags, and some in clothes. Scientists will go out and run chemical analysis on various parts of the bodies. And, of course, they’re usually wearing heavy-duty boots left only at the lab to avoid smelling like rotting flesh when they return home for dinner. Those are just two of twelve intriguing topics covered in her novel. Other topics include crucifixion, cannibalism, decapitation, and head transplants.

This book has received wide recognition including a New York Times Best Seller, Barnes & Noble’s 2003 “Discover Great New Writers” pick, and Entertainment Weekly’s “Best Books of 2003.” The author has the perfect sense of humor to write on this topic. She’s sensitive but witty. It’s comical but filled with things you never thought you needed to know before: how much pressure for a bone to break, how the gut of a corpse expands due to gastric bacteria, how people in ancient times felt about death and preservation. The breadth of coverage and the language used make this book a great read for anyone, even people who don’t have a science background or people who thought they had no interest in learning about corpses. Trust me, you won’t regret reading this book. Plus, you’ll be filled with a multitude of fun corpse facts to share at your next family gathering

“Somewhere in the North Woods’ Darkness, a Creature Walks Upright…”

By: Logan Hansen

Though Joseph Guerra beat me to sharing the Legend of the Dogman on this blog by a solid year, I can still share the story about the night some years ago when I may have actually seen the beast with my own eyes.

For reference, as the legend goes, the Dogman only appears every seventh year of each decade, and the famous song that details the history of its sightings reveals it was first spotted in June 1887 by a group of loggers in Wexford County. It’s unclear whether the Dogman, described as standing seven-feet-four-inches tall, is a singular beast or a group of wolf-like creatures that have, throughout history, roamed the dark woods of Northern Michigan. However, whether there is one Dogman or several, it’s clear you don’t want to run into this thing.

That’s exactly what I might have done, though, when I was younger. Three separate incidents that could be related come to mind, all from when I was no more than 10 years old, but probably younger. I don’t remember in which order they occurred, or, honestly, if they all happened around the same time or not, but allow the imagination free reign here.

The first involves the woods behind my parents’ property in Manistee County. Being young and adventurous and imaginative and all of those lovely things, my brother and I would oftentimes journey into these woods and make up games to play. It just so happened that one time we came across a skull. We figured out it was a deer’s, and, upon continuing to walk through the woods, we discovered more of its skeletal frame, scattered about in various places. It was like something ripped it apart and flung the remains every which way. We had no idea what might have done this to the deer, but, as you can imagine, we were both a little creeped out about it.

The second incident I know occurred during the fall because school had just started up recently and we were supposed to be in bed early. At night, we would hear this terrifying moaning sort of noise, and nobody could figure out where it was coming from. We searched the house, looking for all possible sources — like an electronic toy, for example — but came up empty. That was really a lost cause anyway — it didn’t sound like any noise a toy would make. One night, the sounds ceased, and then a day or two later, my neighbor from across the road revealed to my parents that he’d found an injured fawn laying in the woods behind his house. It had been abandoned due to its inability to move and therefore had been sitting there making that god-awful noise and scaring the crap out of us. How had it been hurt? We didn’t know.

Last is what I believe to be my actual sighting of Michigan’s Dogman. I want to say it was summer because I was up late watching cartoons in the living room. I fell asleep at some point and then woke up at like 1 a.m., I’d say. The TV provided the room’s only light and looking outside the window into the backyard, I could see it was completely dark; the moon wasn’t out that night. I sat up on the couch and felt compelled to walk over by the front door on the opposite side of the room. My neighbors had a motion-sensor spotlight beside their house, and as I looked out the window, I could see clearly standing under that light was some thing that was very tall and appeared to be very hairy. I could only make out its silhouette as it was probably like 60-70 yards away from me, but it was there and it was something.

Maybe I never actually woke up that night. Maybe I dreamt the whole thing. But what I know for sure is that I can still see that image in my head as vividly as if I’d just seen it yesterday. And I have no way of explaining what it was that was standing there that night, but the Dogman seems as plausible as anything, right?

Underwater Monsters

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! Continue reading

It’s Bad Mojo to Talk about It, and Even Worse if You See It

By: Hannah Katshir (Horror alum, Fall 2014)

The story of Goatman was one that I stumbled upon out of the blue on day, and something that I didn’t forget very soon after because of the unsettling feeling it leaves with the reader–making it a perfect addition to this class.

Anansi’s Goatman Story was originally posted on 4chan, a popular internet sharing site, but was eventually taken down–however, not before it was relocated onto the Creepypasta Wiki. It is told from the perspective of a 16 year old black male form Chicago, who is visiting his cousins in Alabama and going out on his first camping trip. He narrates the story as if it’s a few years down the line and he is speaking directly to the reader.

Most of the characters in the story are not very familiar with each other in the beginning, which helps to make the story even more frightening. This story was especially frightening to me because Goatman is such an enigma. He can shape shift, so no one can be sure of what he looks like, he comes with a hideous smell–with no explanation given–and above all, he has many opportunities to harm the campers, but never does. The scariest part of this is how realistic it becomes. The tone with which the narrator talks, and the way the story ends leave it up to interpretation, and make it seem as though it actually could have happened. Goatman always escapes, and he inserts himself into their group without anyone noticing time and time again. He seems like he is just lurking around and waiting for something bigger to happen. That constant threat of something bigger is always one that makes me shake.

I recommended this story not only because of how benignly scary I found it to be, but because of the dynamic between the black narrator and the white characters in the story. It is a great story to link the ever-present, mysterious, stalking terrors to real life horror. This story is brought to life through the narration, unfamiliarity of the characters, and the total mystery surround what the Goatman really is…or if this is the Goatman at all. Campers be warned, you may want to stay out of the woods for a while.

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.

bite

“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. 

My First Camping Trip

By: Tamara Mackie

hi

The year was 2006, and I was 12 years old. My middle school took each 8th grade class on a camping trip every year and it was finally our turn to go. This was the year we had been waiting for. I vividly remember the excitement that swarmed my classmates and me as we prepared to head off to what would be the first camping trip for many of us, myself included. We were going to brace the remote wilderness, learn to survive with nothing but a box of matches, and use the stars to navigate our way around…or so I thought. In reality, camp ended up being much like Lois described in “Death by Landscape,” there were obnoxious chants, canoeing, arts and crafts, and counselors that took their jobs very seriously. While I did enjoy myself and the time spent on outdoor activities, I found myself disappointed that I was going to leave camp without gaining any new skills or survival techniques. However, our last night at camp showed me that I had more of a survival instinct than I had realized.
The sun went down and darkness took over, the boys and girls were in our respective cabins, getting ready for bed and packing for departure the following morning. As we were packing we suddenly heard a unified scream from the boys’ cabin…causing chaos in the girls’ cabin. Some of the girls were frantically asking what on earth had scared the boys so badly and others started crying and yelling that they just wanted to go home. We all huddled together in the middle of the cabin in a frenzy and I knew it was time to step up. My friend and I did our best to calm everyone down and I told the girls that we were not going to be scared as easily as the boys were. Finally, we heard a rattling outside our window. Whatever had frightened the boys had come for us. Quickly I told all the girls to hide under their beds and not make a sound. Someone had started banging and growling at the windows and I can still remember the feeling of my heart stopping in my chest. Impressively enough, none of the girls made a sound. We all held our ground and stayed in our hiding spots. Finally, after what seemed like hours but was probably only 5 minutes, the banging and growling stopped and we heard a voice say “Are they even in there?”
It had turned out that it was a tradition of the camp counselors to give the kids a scare on the last night of every camping trip, and we were the first group to not scream and respond accordingly. I was proud of how we reacted in a fearful situation and when the counselors had realized what we had done in response to their scare, we all knew they couldn’t help but be impressed. Looking back, I wonder what would have happened next if there was actually a real threat. I would like to think that we would be equipped to handle it but I can’t help but be thankful every day that it was only our counselors trying to give us a scare and not something far worse. And admittedly, to this day whenever I hear something at my window, I can’t help but jump.