Monday, October 26, 2009

The Scare Factor

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


  1. Paranormal Activity scared the bejeesus out of me. My son left the lights on in the whole house after he saw the movie. And your right, it wasn't blood and gore that scared you. For me it was the thought of not knowing what lurked in the darkness as we slept. Creepy, creepy, creepy-- and I mean creepy. lol

    Hair raising experiences-don't get me started. We could have a long chat. lol I'll share one incident that has remained vivid in my mind all these years.

    My parents’ house has had visitors from the other side from time to time. This is probably why Paranormal Activity was so chilling to me.

    A little blonde haired girl is the only reoccurring ghost. At first, I was the only one who saw her. I'd usually feel the presence first. The typical tingling on the back of the neck and my heart would race, knowing she was near.

    One night, (I was sixteen,) my mother and I were the only ones up. She was in the bathtub and I was in the kitchen putting together my papers for school. She had the door open so we could talk.(She could see a portion of the kitchen from the bathtub.)

    As we talked, the air cooled like a breeze whispering across the back of my neck and the little hairs on my arm stood up. I knew the ghost girl was near, but I couldn’t see her.

    In mid-sentence, my mother stops what she’s talking about and says, “Who’s in there with you?”

    Of course I’m scared to death at that statement because no one is with me as far as I can see. I start backing up toward the bathroom, keeping my eyes toward our dark den in front of me (there’s a small hall where our dryer and washer stand. Two steps lead down into the den as large as a two car garage.) I believed the presence stood in front of me and I expected the little girl to materialize there.

    Now my mother is insistent on knowing who is up with me. I finally find my voice and tell her. “No one is in here.”

    But she can’t hear me because she’s running the water. So she asks again, only louder. “Who is in there?”

    Now I’m completely freaked and run into the bathroom shouting and stopping my feet, “No one is in there with me!”

    Of course my mother frowns, wondering why I’m acting like a lunatic with my screeching response. “That’s strange," she says, "I could have sworn I saw a hand reaching for you.”She had thought my little brother had gotten out of bed, but he was sound asleep in his room.

    I always wondered why my instincts were so wrong. I thought the entity was in front of me when all the time I was backing up right into it.

    Great Post!

  2. Hey Karen!

    WOW, creepy!! I actually have a few stories shared from my family when they lived on Clinton Avenue, close to Maple Hill. I couldn't sleep without the lights on after hearing some of those, I'll tell ya!

    Paranormal Activity was great. I really loved it. Things that that, to me, are creepy!

    Thanks for commenting and sharing. Your story gave me goosebumps!


  3. Hi Jaime,

    This is a great subject and one I'm really interested in. Growing up in my grandmother's house, we had strange activity. Voices, shadows, footsteps...I guess the typical paranormal occurences. But it was when I lived at my mother-in-law's house for a short time that I saw events first-hand.

    I never knew my father-in-law since he died when my husband was 18. When I stayed at his house, our bedroom was the very same room in which his father died. All sorts of strange things happened there, most I can explain away. But some I can't. The doors opening and closing (while being locked!), objects moving on there own, cold spots, a shadow of a man in the doorway and just the feeling of not being alone. And I was forever seeing movement from the corner of my eye, but when I turned to face it, nothing was there. It was unnerving since I never knew him but I didn't get scared. Being an avid paranormal buff, I thought it was exciting! Since we moved out, my mother-in-law says there is not much activity anymore. The house we live in now sometimes has weird knocking coming from the attic. It could be wind or maybe his dad followed us?? Who knows? lol

    Oh, and Karen, your comment was absolutely chilling. That might have really freaked me out!

    Wonderful post!

  4. Hey Tricia,

    Okay, that's just...creepy! LOL I can't imagine.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing. ;)


  5. Jaime~
    I have been sitting on pins and needles (suggestion: tired cliché—please revise)just waiting for someone I could trust to give me honest feedback on Paranormal Activity. And who would be more suited than one of "our own"? Of course, I wouldn't be here on the Dark Side of the Garden if I didn't absolutely love to be scared witless, yet, slasher movies have never done it for me—as a matter of fact, I find them rather predictable and dull—the exception, perhaps, being Scream. Just wanted to give you a two thumbs up for the review!

  6. Hey Jaime! Good to see you!
    I'm so mad after reading that because I tried to get my significant other to go see that this weekend and he was less than lukeward about it!! he's in for it!!
    And yes, I've had an 'encounter' or two. Most memorable was a terrifying experience in college when I made my then boyfriend (now the aforementioned significant other) leave a nice little secluded place he had found for 'er..well anyway. Needless to say, it wasn't what I saw so much as what I didn't see but certainly felt that made me leave. I don't care what anyone else says, our humanity isn't the only form of existence in the world!!

  7. Joelle~

    I think you'll love this movie after reading what you "like". It's very effective, and delivers suspenseful scares! Be sure to let me know what you think!


    It's not too late to go! ;) I didn't realize PA was showing in my area until we'd purchased tickets for Zombieland. We had to go back to see it. You're experience in college sounds creepy!


  8. I love the paranormal! Great topic. I have a house here in Florida. We were going to sell, but the market turned so we now rent it out. We had a resident ghost - a male. Even my practical, no nonsense husband heard him and felt his presense. He used to stand by our bd and watch us sleep (WAY before Edward and Bella) until he freaked me out and I asked him to stop. He did. About six months ago we had new renters move in. Less than a week later the woman asked me if I knew there was a ghost in the house! He was scaring her son. He would hang around the hall by the bedrooms, in the rooms and in the bathroom. She tried using magical "cleasing" to get rd of him and she said that just seemed to make him mad. I told her I knew he was there and if he was bothering them, just nicely ask him to leave them alone. She hasn't complained since, so I guess that worked! I just wish I knew who he was and why he is attached to the house!

  9. Hey Julianna,

    Wow, that sounds crazy. You're braver than I am, me thinks! I can only imagine what the new tenants think of their "extra" member of the household!