That Little Reminder

al.jpgBy: Alexis Low

One day, in 2013, I had to do laundry. The washing unit seemed to be in use, shaking and making more noise than usual, but I paid it no attention. I had a lot of dirty clothes, so it was urgent that I got them done, so I asked my mom and dad who was using it, as they were the only people who lived in the house, besides me. They denied having used it. I even thought that my sister may have been using it, as her machine at her place was broken at the time.Yet, she denied using it too. Why would a washing machine be on by itself? The machine was new and it wasn’t abused. I became more curious and wanted to know what was inside, but at the same time I felt an uncertain feeling arise within me. I opened the lid and found no clothes, just soap and water rushing too and fro. When opening the lid of our washing machine, the machine usually stops running, but it kept going. Again, I disregarded this abnormal activity of the machine. I then told my mom all that was wrong with the machine. My mother looked at me with a preternatural look, a look that all horror stories begin with. She went and checked the machine herself, and came back to me sweaty and asked, ‘did you put the detergent on top of the machine’, I denied it and said that I left the lid up. She replied in a soft tone, “just put your clothes in the machine’. I surmised after washing my clothes and everything coming out fine, that the machine acting like that was a fluke. The night of this incident I would have a nightmare.

As I was sleeping, I had a very strange nightmare, or at least I think it was a nightmare. I was laying on my bed, and in the dark I saw a figure, a glowing white almost ethereal woman, coming towards me. She was so beautiful, that the perfect appearance was scary. It freaked me out and I had a stint of sleep paralysis, so I couldn’t get away. I started to panic, because she was getting closer and closer to me, and I couldn’t move. When she came very close to being right next to the bed, I woke up. I told my mother this, and she looked perturbed by the ‘nightmare’. With apprehension, she told me a story about her childhood, that could explain the woman and the washing machine.

My mom had an Aunt Gwen, who was the only believer of the supernatural in our family, and told many stories about ghosts, spirts, and how these supernatural entities could warn you about horrible things to come. Gwen believed in it so much that she vowed to come back as a ghost after she died. When Gwen was 70, she died from unknown causes and ailments. A week later, mom went into Gwen’s bedroom to get something, and said that Gwen’s impression was left on the bed. This was weird and the only thing her and the rest of my family could surmise was that Gwen was just ‘getting some rest’. A few days later, after the bed incident, my mom was washing some clothes in the basement, and no clothes were in it; the machine was on by itself, which was strange, but she paid it no mind. Then my mom shut off the washer, to reset it and turned it on back on, proceeding to put in her clothes and close the lid. It was customary in that house to put the detergent on top of the washing machine incase it went out of wack, a rule Aunt Gwen came up with, which my mom didn’t adhere to. When my mother went to check on the clothes again, the detergent was on the washing machine, and she thought it was Gwen in the house again.

Years later, Gwen reappeared, making sure my mother remembered to put the detergent on the machine, letting my mom know that she was still there—still a ghost. But why did she come to me, approach me at night? She could have just put the detergent on the washer, send that little reminder to my mom, and have been done. But why bother me? Maybe, she was warning me of something horrible to come. Its been four years since that incident. I am puzzled and I am dreading what is to come. Is it that horrible that she has to warn me in advance? I don’t know, but thanks, Gwen, for the warning.

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Breathe

Scan (5).jpgBy: Suzanne Wdowik

It was late in the evening. Christmas eve, the night of presents and food and family bonding. My five cousins, brother, and I were in the basement of an aunt and uncle’s house, in near complete darkness. It was our annual game of hide-and-seek-in-the-dark. My brother Billy was It, and my cousin Mark and I stumbled into the closet as Billy counted up to a hundred. Mark took the spot by the door, while I slid back between the shelves and stacked boxes of forgotten trinkets.

As my brother neared a hundred, I slowed my breathing, listening to the rasp of my voice and the thump of my heart. With my pupils dilating and my eyes slowly adjusting to the dark, I could just make out the gray outlines of the objects in the closet, and the dark shadow of my cousin in front of me. I had my breathing under control, but my heart still thumped louder when the shuffling of my brother’s feet neared the closet door.

His voice called out in the darkness. “Katie? Give me a clue?”

According to the rules of our game, Katie had to give him a clue to his location, and sure enough, I heard a distant chirping noise. She must be hiding behind the couch in the main room.

I hunkered down to wait for Billy to find the others. As long as Mark and I didn’t make any mistakes, we should be the last ones found. But then a light made me squint. In the corner of the room, a floating blue orb had appeared. Was that my cousin’s phone screen? What was he doing? Did he want to lose the game?

Afraid of giving away my location, I pursed my lips and stifled a hiss at Mark. Instead, I silently hoped that he would put the light away soon. Sure enough, it started fading, and then went out altogether. I was satisfied for a short time, but then I heard a ragged breath next to my ear. Mark must have moved closer to me, so that he wouldn’t be discovered right when Billy opened the door. I understood the game strategy. But did he have to breathe so loudly? And right next to my ear, too?

I held my position in silence, my legs cramping up. Normally, Mark’s loud breathing would work in my favor, as Billy would find him before he found me, but I could practically feel how close Mark was to me; if my brother reached out towards the rattling noise, it would be a toss-up as to who he would hit, Mark or me. I hoped that, at the very least, the two of us were the last to be found.

Just as I was following this line of thought, I heard my brother’s voice call from somewhere else in the basement. “Is that it? Who else do I have to find?”

And then came the voice, muffled from the distance and the door between us. Mark’s voice. “It’s just Suzanne left.”

Mark was already found, already out of the closet and in the distant part of the pitch-black basement.

And the thing next to me drew a deep, hissing breath.

Browning Mountain: Living Horror at Indiana’s Stonehenge

By: Laura Dzubay

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in my life exploring abandoned places. Not too much time, but a nice, healthy amount. I’m from Bloomington, Indiana, and late in high school, my friends started introducing me to abandoned spots around town: an observatory, a waterslide by the lake, a fire tower, a water treatment plant. These spots were all frequently visited — the fire tower was a common lookout point, and the observatory appeared in practically every other amateur photo shoot that got turned in at my high school — and, as a result, they never felt dead to me. Birds flew in and out of the wide, punched-out windows of the water treatment plant, and the water slide gained graffiti every day, graffiti that told of late nights out, of friendship sagas and love stories.

That’s why the scariest place where I’m from is none of these places. It’s just a clearing in the woods.

If you weren’t looking for it, Browning Mountain would blend right into the surrounding slopes of forest. There is no graffiti on Browning Mountain. There are no high schoolers wandering around with cameras, posing next to trees. But it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary until you start getting truly close to it.

The only time I’ve ever been to Browning Mountain, I was going with a group of staff members from my summer camp, but we weren’t spending the night. We were hiking through it during the daytime, stopping at the top to get lunch. As we got closer, our group grew quiet. Any speakers that had been playing music switched off, and our chatter died away.

In the silence, I became aware of the woods around me: as we gained elevation, the trees seemed to bend in toward the ground. They were still big, but they furled in on themselves and twisted, their trunks even seemed to darken.

When it finally registered with me that they looked unusual, I still couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, so I said all I could think of to say. “The trees,” I said, to no one in particular. “Look at the trees.”

I repeated myself because at first I thought nobody had heard, and then somebody shushed me — which scared me, actually, more than the trees had.

It might be useful at this point to explain the connotations of Browning Mountain within camp. It had been the subject of rumors for years. The most common legend was that cults gathered there on full moon nights, even to this day, to make sacrifices. I didn’t believe this, because I didn’t see how they wouldn’t get caught and arrested if everybody knew they were doing it. But I’d never been to Browning Mountain, and people who had would bristle whenever others seemed to doubt them. Camp organized trips there occasionally — strictly for older campers — and I knew senior staff members who’d been scared to the point of never returning. Everyone who went claimed to hear voices and footsteps around them in the night. I knew one guy who said he’d had to sleep on Browning Mountain in a hammock once, and he’d lain awake all night long with his pocketknife clutched to his chest.

Eventually we reached the top, and I saw the main attraction. It was what has often been called “Indiana’s Stonehenge”: a series of limestone slabs arranged in a circle. The story goes that the rocks, impossibly heavy, would have to have been carried up the hill from very far away, years earlier, by unknown people and for some unknown but definite purpose. It was this obscurity that frightened me the most: the idea that someone had had a goal in mind when they’d brought these here and set them up in this way, and the fact that I didn’t know whether or not this goal had been met.

This place didn’t feel dead, but in a much different way from the observatory and the water slide. It felt alive in a way I didn’t want to touch. It made me think of the nighttime in horror stories — how the evil spirits always back off when the sun comes out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there. As we pulled out our sandwich supplies in the clearing, some of my friends sat down on the rocks while they started to eat. I didn’t — I couldn’t have said why, but for some reason I was thinking about the gnarled woods all around us and The Blair Witch Project, when the guy moves a pile of stones and then disappears the next day without a trace. I sat down at the trunk of the tree instead and ate my lunch, glad, for once, not to be staying in this haunting place any longer than I had to.

Unsettled In: The Road to the Creepiest Campsite Ever

ez.jpgBy: Ellie Zak

My girlfriend and I spent the entire summer on a road trip, where we would visit the most popular national park destinations as well as the most desolate hidden jewels of our country. But not all of these jewels turned out to be shiny and beautiful, and there was one place in particular that I would rather just put in my past.

We had been driving around in circles for hours trying to locate a free campsite that seemed not to exist. We were starving, as our campfire permit only allowed us to build a fire in designated areas, and our meal we had planned for that night was inedible until we could heat it. Finally, we decided to stay at a paid campsite we knew was located just 10 miles away. The sun had already set, but this was not by any means the worst road we had driven on, so we went for it.

As we drove, smaller dirt roads jutted off from us, and it seemed that almost every one of them had a warning. It was too dark to read the signs specifically, but we saw something about death, something about falling into a ravine, and definitely something about drowning. We were desperate though, so this wasn’t enough to stop us. We soon came upon a small town that consisted of just a handful of buildings, and though we saw cars parked and the porch lights of the bar on, we didn’t see a single person. Since it was late, we shook it off, assuming people were just inside, and continued toward our campsite. But I couldn’t shake the fact that surfaced in my mind at that moment: in all the time we had spent looking for the free campsite before, we had not passed a single car.

We finally saw the sign with the name of the site, but the relief that surfaced only lasted a minute or two before the fog set in. It came in quickly, thick as low-rolling clouds, surrounding our car and obscuring our view enough to slow us down to a crawl. Only through the occasional breaks in the fog could we see more than ten feet ahead of us. As we came upon the sites at last, we noticed that no one else was there. There were at least a dozen campsites, but not a single other camper. This was the first time we had ever been to a paid campsite that was empty, but even more unsettling was the fact that it took us five campsites to finally locate one that wasn’t reserved. Five out of six empty campsites were paid for, and it was getting late, but no one was in them.

It had been a very long time since either of us had seen another person, and my girlfriend said it was as though every other person in the world had disappeared, and we were the only ones left. Throughout our whole trip, we had been to more middle-of-nowhere places than we could count, but we had not yet experienced this degree of solitude.

As soon as we got out of the car, we realized the campsite was completely overrun with bugs, which in my mind helped explain the lack of people, so in truth it provided more of a reassurance than anything else. As we walked around to gather firewood, we noticed fresh wood at each of the fire pits in the surrounding sites and, in a moment of desperation, took it for ourselves. Once the fire was going, the bugs cleared away, and with food in our belly soon afterward, it seemed we were ready to put our uneasy feelings aside and get a good night of sleep. We worked together to pitch the tent when we saw headlights in the distance. They were gone as soon as we saw them, and as much as we listened, we couldn’t hear anything. No one was there. This happened at least two or three more times before we decided to put out the fire and sleep before we died of fright out there in the open.

Each of the things we had experienced that night had a perfectly reasonable explanation behind them. But something about all of them happening together makes me really wonder what was going on there, and if it might have been something that the logical mind can’t quite explain.

Fancy Some Meat Buns?

By: Jenny Hong

The Untold Story (1993) is a high grossing Hong Kong crime-thriller centered on an ex-convict, Wong Chi Hang. He started a new life in Macau and took over the Eight Immortals Restaurant not long after he began work there. When the severed hands of unidentified victims flushed ashore on a local beach, the police speculate that this was connected to the disappearance of the previous owners of Eight Immortals Restaurant and suspected Wong. However, they had no evidence- the missing bodies weren’t found and the restaurant was running regularly, doing even better with its signature pork buns (Imdb). This sounds like a mediocre thriller plot, but it shocked me and my family as it did everyone else when it came out. Not only is it set in my hometown, Macau, it is an adaptation based on a real-life tragedy.

jh

Google Street View of the current Victoria Hotel (back view) at Estr. da Areia Preta, Macau, where the Eight Immortals Restaurant used to be.
(Unfortunately, I have never taken a picture of the location (creeps me out) so I can only find the closest thing on Google Map).

The Eight Immortals Restaurant Murder is a massacre involving a family of ten that shocked the population of Hong Kong and Macau. In August, 1985, the police found 8 pieces of floating limbs near Hac Sa (Macau’s local beach) including four right hands, leading the police to speculate that there was at least 4 victims. A couple days later, 3 more limbs were found in scattered trash bags. The leading clue of the case was a missing persons report from a relative of Cheng, the restaurant owner, and he also stated that the family restaurant was suspiciously taken over by Wong Chi Hang after they went missing. The missing persons include Mr. and Mrs. Cheng, their four daughters and son (ages 18-7), Mrs. Cheng’s mother and aunt, and Mr. Cheng’s cousin (Jennifer, CT Times).

The suspect, Wong, was brought in for investigation and it is discovered that he was involved with another brutal murder in Hong Kong under a different name and successfully fled. Later, he illegally migrated to Macau with his wife and son and began work at the Eight Immortals Restaurant. Wong initially admitted that he killed the Cheng family and dismembered their limbs. He stated that the Cheng couple lost a large sum of money when gambling with him but refused to repay him, mocking that he had no solid proof, which triggered him to murder them. In prison, Wong attempted suicide and before that, he wrote a letter to a newspaper stating that he did not murder the family, and was forced to take the blame because of his criminal background and he wanted was to start a new life with his family (Jennifer, CT Times).

There are many puzzles left unsolved in this case- the remaining corpse of the family were never discovered; there wasn’t actual evidence to prove that Wong murdered the family although he had initially confessed. The police also believed that there was an accomplice since Wong was already 50 at the time but no suspect was found. What was the whole truth? The cannibalism in the movie was an exaggerated fact that aroused from the prevailing conspiracy theory that Wong had grounded the remaining flesh of the family to use in his barbeque pork buns because there was never a smell of decomposition despite the summer heat and the bodies were never found (Trivia: the sales of pork buns rapidly dropped every time an adaptation was released).

I have never watched the film since I saw it on TV when I was eight, nor do I dare walk by the alleged location of the restaurant at night. The brutal and gruesome scenes- notably the family slaughter and limb dismemberments terrified me as a child, but what truly haunts me is the cold-blooded murder that happened in my peaceful hometown where crime is rare. If you care to find out if the film horrifies you after knowing what to expect- order some Chinese and watch it here (also streams on Amazon Prime). The plot is no surprise, but you will be startled by the explicit gore scenes, morbid acting and even some ironic comic relief that criticizes the police force.

CONFIRMED: Car door is, in fact, locked

sa.jpgBy: Sarah Adams

I am writing this just off exit 378 on highway I5 somewhere in the middle of California.  It is 4:00 am, and my sister and I are alone surrounded by complete darkness.  AAA is still 45 minutes away, which would be fine if we weren’t alone with the strange green light in the field next to us and the mysterious car pulled over behind us.

Fall break has not gone as planned.  After some bad luck with flights earlier this evening, my sister and I started the drive from Los Angeles to Oakland, CA in an effort to get her back to school Monday morning. We embarked from LAX around 11:00 pm tired and unprepared for our projected six hour road trip.  By 1:00 am I was so tired that I was afraid I would fall asleep at the wheel.  We had to pull over for a nap in a gas station parking lot and re-embarked at 3:00 am.  As we pulled away from the gas station, I noticed our fuel was low but assumed we had enough to make it to the next gas station.  I was wrong.  An hour later, we had five miles of gas left and ten miles until the next gas station.

I write am writing this out of gas, just off of exit 378, at 4:00 am.  The only light is from the two street lamps that illuminate the off ramp, and we are pulled over quite out of range from them.  Far off on the horizon, there are various amber lights from homes.  However, in the dark my sister and I can see a green light that is somewhere in the field much closer than the other amber lights.  It goes off.  A sickly orange light illuminates some shapes that are indistinguishable.  They are large and abstract.  My sister is convinced it is the light from a fire, but it does not flicker and goes out as quickly as it came on.  The lonely green light stares at us again.  We try pulling closer to the street lights and get comfortable while we wait for the AAA agent to arrive.

We’ve been here for approximately 20 minutes.  A truck pulling a trailer of wooden pallets pulled off the highway and parked across the street behind us about 30 yards in the exact spot we moved away from.  They have turned off their lights and are just sitting there.  We are both sitting here is silence.  I feel completely exposed in this darkness with this green light and strange car watching us.

Our jolly AAA rescuer arrived and give us enough gas to get to the next gas station.  I was glad to have the extra light from his headlights. The green light was still on and had seemed to get closer.  As we started the car to pull away, so did the car that was parked behind us.  We peeled out of our little slice of purgatory after an hour of darkness, uncertainty, and one too many green lights.

A Blip in the Matrix

By: Courtney Cook

I have always had a fascination with things that are ‘other’, whether that be the psychology of serial killers, true-crime, conspiracy theories, or the existence (or lack-thereof) of auras, and so on. If it is peculiar in anyway, I am drawn to it, whatever “it” is. Despite my fascination, I absolutely have never wanted any of these things to melt over into my “real” life. I have anxiety, and there is a huge difference between thinking a ghost story is cool and living a ghost story. Lucky for me, I haven’t encountered a ghost, but I have encountered something that shook me in a way a ghost sighting would. From the bottom of my heart, I believe that my freshman year of college, I experienced what I’d like to call a “blip in the matrix.”

I lived in a quiet dorm at the University of Michigan, and had a kind RA who had helped me when I was struggling with my suitemate. She was above-average height with long brown hair that fell to almost her hips; she was easy to point out in a crowd. Though we weren’t close, each time I saw her we waved to one another or made small talk. In short, she wasn’t someone I would’ve been able to mistake for someone else.

One morning as I was leaving my room to go to a nearby dorm to get brunch, my RA asked if I wanted to join a dorm tie-dye party they were having outside. My dorm was providing free t-shirts and socks, and being the cheap college student I was (and am), I accepted her invitation. Brunch was open for another few hours, I wasn’t exceptionally hungry, and I was ready to make myself a super cool maize and blue swirled tie-dye shirt to flaunt around campus.

I followed her outside and sat on the grass alongside other members of my dorm while she and a few other RA’s worked to fill buckets full of water and dye for us to use. By the time they were done setting up, her hands were completely stained. She said something about wishing she’d worn gloves, but remarked that they wouldn’t have done much because the dye was splattered up to her elbows. We all laughed and pulled on the thin, flimsy plastic gloves provided and began to dip our shirts and socks into the buckets. The gloves weren’t cut out for the job, and as I worked to create my maize and blue masterpiece, my hands and forearms were just as covered as hers.

When I was done dying my shirt I thanked her and headed to my room. There was still a big group of kids waiting for their turn, and I was grateful I’d ran into her when the event was just beginning. I placed the shirt in my bathroom and tried to scrub the dye off my hands, but no matter how much soap I used or how hard I rubbed, it stayed put. I was hungry at this point so I decided to just head to the brunch.

As I walked to the dining hall I passed my RA and the group of kids she was assisting. I noticed her arms had only gotten more stained, and thought that if I thought the dye was hard to get off my arms, it was going to be impossible for her to get it off hers. Just as I was about to enter the dining hall, my RA walked out of the entrance. She was in a completely different outfit, no stains on her arms or sign that she’d been tie-dying, and she waved at me and said hello. I stopped in my tracks. There was absolutely no way that she could have gotten to the dining hall before me, no less changed clothes or gotten the dye off of her arms. I was so shocked, I couldn’t bring myself to wave back.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 9.54.51 PM.pngI immediately texted my friend Chris, who is big into the spiritual world, and told him I thought that I “saw the worlds dimensions get fucked up or something.” I was so shaken, I could hardly eat. When I returned back to my dorm, I checked my on my shirt to make sure I hadn’t imagined it all. It was still sitting in a baggie on my bathroom floor, though the maize and blue colors I’d chosen had melded together into a fluorescent green.

I think about this instance often, and it makes me question the singularity of time, and sometimes it makes me question myself. I have no explanations for what happened that day, but I do know I have never chosen to wear that t-shirt. And it’s not just because of how the colors turned out.