In the first conception of this blog entry, I was going to share my yearly ritual on Halloween, including the story of the “Jack-o-Lantern Man” that I created after my daughter was a toddler (and that I tell my children each year). Then, I was intrigued by the history of the ever mysterious dire wolf, and started to write a little something about them to share with all of you. But something happened the very next day that changed my plans entirely, and I knew exactly what I was going to write about. Halloween isn’t only about costumes, traditions, and corn stalk mazes. It’s also about being rip-roaring terrified.
My husband and I are horror movie fanatics, so it goes without saying that when we heard about this low-budget little film entitled Paranormal Activity that had fans screaming, we just had to check it out. For the sake of remaining spoiler free, I will only say this: the movie got the job done with very minimal effects. You won’t witness oodles of blood and carnage. This flick is not about what you see. It’s about what you DON’T. And sweet candy corn, if that’s not one heck of a way to deliver!
There is something so frightening about placing pieces together as your mind formulates what it believes is going on. How many of you have been alone in your home and for some unknown reason, feel as if someone is watching you. I’m talking about that hair raising, gut clenching, lemony bile in the back of your throat producing sensation of fear. In an effort to squelch the panic, you’ll turn on all the lights and travel from room to room until you are illuminated in the bright rays that your mind somehow perceives will shield you from harm. It doesn’t make any sense, but holy mother if those 60 watt bulbs don’t make you feel better.
Don’t know what I mean? Then try this.
Go to an old cemetery at night (one that has a history of haunts is even better for this). Stand in the center of a few graves and close your eyes. What was that noise just behind you? A rodent scurrying about maybe? And that slow steady pounding in your ears isn’t footsteps is it? It’s your heart hammering inside your chest…right? Much like the Bloody Mary dare, it’s a sensory exercise. You know you’ll be fine, that when you open your eyes nothing will be waiting to greet you on the other side of the mirror. But then that little inner voice in your gut whispers, “Are you really so sure about that? What if you’re wrong? What if…”
And that’s it in a nutshell. “What if?”
My first time partaking in the exercise above happened in a place called Dead Children’s Playground (pictured above). It’s a small little area directly behind Huntsville’s historic Maple Hill Cemetery (established in 1818, the hundred acre cemetery blankets the bodies of hundreds of union soldiers that were killed during the civil war, as well as numerous families from my area, pictured below).
The belief is the spirits of the dead children cross over the thin rock wall of the adjoining cemetery and play at night. I took the dare when I was seventeen and walked down the thin slats of concrete into the playground alone one night. The swings swayed but there was no wind. Muted whispers lined my ears but I was completely alone (my friends, aka the cowardly three, remained safely inside our plush 1986 Dodge Aries while I forged ahead-the wimps!). And though it was completely dark, I could see everything in that tiny circle with a vivid clarity.
Did I see the ghosts of dead children? No. But was I scared? You bet your knickers I was! I stayed the allotted 5 minutes and then I was outta there! Even now, over fourteen years later, I have the same reaction to the place. It’s not that anything has ever happened to me. It’s that, “What if?” whispering in my ears.
I’d love to hear any stories you have to share. Have you ever been sitting at your television and seen a glimpse of a face in the monitor that has no earthly business being there? Have you visited haunted houses and seen a shadow or felt a cool breeze chilling your skin? Or have you seen a movie like Paranormal Activity that reminds you that sometimes the thing that has the biggest influence over your fear is yourself?
Happy reading! Have a safe and fright filled Halloween!
Jaime AKA J.A. Saare