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Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Scary Story

Happy Halloween, friends. Imagine me typing away in truly gruesome zombie makeup and a skimpy zombie getup (because rotting flesh is always sexy on October 31). I love Halloween. I love being scared.

I love being scared because I’m generally not scared when it comes to horror movies and books. I have yet to find one that truly frightens me.*

When I tried to consider the scariest book I’ve read, I drew a blank. So I’ve decided to share a book that is in no way horror but includes one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read. I’m talking nightmare scary. It’s been years since I read this book and I still remember in vivid detail The Scene.

Yes, 1984. Didn’t see that coming, did you? (Or maybe you did because, you know, that video is gigantic.) I still have nightmares of a certain scene in which our protagonist, who like me is terrified of rodents, is tied up and locked in room with rats intent on devouring him. WORST EXPERIENCE EVER. 

And because I’m not recommending any other horror novels, how about a true ghost story? Or a true story from my middle school days that quite possibly involved a paranormal creature?


There might have been a ghost and there might not have been. You can decide which option is scarier.

It was a warm autumn day that started with a cold morning. I’d woken too early, as I did every weekday because the school district was determined to singlehandedly ruin my life. It was still early when I finished getting dressed, scowling at the cute outfit that wouldn’t distract from my full mouth of metal. Though I was only in middle school and technically expected to trash my room with discarded clothing and whatever else middle schoolers can’t be bothered to put away, my bedroom was spotless. I am and was and will always be a neat freak.

This is important. As I left my room, shutting off the light before I traipsed downstairs to catch the bus, everything was in its place. Clothes in the closet. Full-length mirror against the wall. Rocking chair in the corner. And a collection of framed photos arranged in a pattern beneath the circular mirror that hung over my vanity.

My father left for work first. Maybe long before the bus came or maybe minutes. It doesn’t matter. My sister and I went next. My mother, who didn’t have a job but was somehow always busy, did something unmemorable that day. The what isn’t the point. It’s the when.

She left the house some time in the morning and didn’t come home until minutes before my sister and I got out of school. It had been hot that afternoon, too hot for the long pants and shirt I’d worn that morning. I went up to my room to change into something cooler, something that wouldn’t have me sweating through hours of homework.

That’s when I saw them.

Four pictures that used to hang on the wall above my vanity lay in the middle of my room. They were too far to have fallen from the wall and tumbled down the furniture. But that didn’t matter. Even if their fall had somehow catapulted them across the room, they would never have arranged themselves, face up, in the exact pattern they appeared on my wall just that morning.

Straight lines, even spaces between frames. The precision with which the photos had been arranged was amazing. It had to be my mother.

Only it wasn’t. Nor was it my father or sister.

For years I thought they had all played a trick on me. I didn’t freak out and I didn’t lose sleep over the practical joke. But I never forgot it. A week ago, I asked my family again who had arranged my photos in the middle of my room. They all denied it. My mom even admitted to real fear over the mystery. My parents changed the locks on our house that week even though there was no sign of forced entry. They too often think about the mystery of the picture frames. It’s impossible to forget.

Because it could have been a ghost, if you believe in that sort of thing. Or it could be someone else. Someone living.

Anyone else have close encounters of a paranormal kind to share? If not, share something scary that’s happened to you!

*Though I admit to avoiding bug and rodent movies like Arachnophobia that will undoubtedly give me nightmares for the rest of my life and possibly cause a mental breakdown.

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