Terror-ific Tales


Happy Halloween! The most wonderful day of the year. It’s almost sad the Halloween season has come to an end. (Well, it doesn’t really have to end, does it? Some of us prefer to be delightfully frightful all the time.)

Started the afternoon with the original shock rocker, the wonderfully horrifying and deliciously frightening Mr. Alice Cooper on the iPod. So glad he’s still touring because maybe one day I’ll get to see him live. I’m keeping the nightmare alive.

Unfortunately, we’re confined to the hospital room today, but we’re satisfying the spirits with some Tim Burton classics and enjoying the decorations.

I’m working on another scary story to share tonight. You can read more about it here. (P.S. The frightful fun isn’t going to end just because Halloween has passed. I’m going to continue to share my own and accept your stories. >;8} )

But aside from sharing my scary stories with everyone, I’d like to share some unnerving Halloween entertainment with you. Some of my favorite books and haunting tales.

1) Anything by Poe. Really. Just anything. But if you’d like something more specific, some of my favorites:

– Premature Burial. I had this story on tape (yes, tape), and hearing it read was way more terrifying than reading it. This story is scary stuff.

– Masque of the Red Death. “There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.” Enough said.

-The Tell Tale Heart. In case you’re not familiar with this story, it involves murder, severe anxiety, and pulling up a few floor boards.

-The Black Cat. One of my favorites as a kid. I’ve always loved cats. Apparently, Poe’s characters didn’t, but they loved walling or holing people inside of things.

-The Pit and the Pendulum. What’s scarier than the Spanish Inquisition?

-The Raven. A classic. Needs no explanation.

2) Stephen King. Same as Poe. Just about anything the King of Horror has produced will induce fear. But again, I’ll share some of my favorites.

-Salem’s Lot. What? Vampires are really nightmarish creatures that want you to die in a horrible manner or else turn you into a demon-like monster like themselves? No sparkles here. Scary as hell.

-Pet Sematary. If Fluffy or Boo Boo kicks the bucket, just let them go. Seriously. You don’t want to know the alternative.

-Misery. Because being a writer isn’t terrifying enough.

-Gerald’s Game. A good example of why bondage is not a good idea in a secluded setting.

-Night Shift. Collection of short stories including The Lawnmower Man, Jerusalem’s Lot, Trucks, and Children of the Corn.

I could go on forever . . . Or at least for several hours or maybe a day.

3) Samuel Taylor Coleridge

-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If you think this tale is just a bunch of hooey you learned in 12th grade lit class, think again. This poem involves sailors lost at sea, death, a curse, a ghostly vessel manned by a nightmarish woman (“Life-in-Death, was she”) and Death, and living corpses.

“They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools –
We were a ghastly crew.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

4) Mary Shelley

-Frankenstein. I love this story. Forget everything you saw in a Universal Movie when you read it. It’s chilling, sinister, and moving.

There are so many more wonderfully chilling stories and novels available. This is a terribly short list. But it’s a start. Happy haunting boys and ghouls!

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The Spinet

Image courtesy of [Maple] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

It was cold. Colder than usual for a fall night. Carl looked upward. The stars were like far away diamond specks against the sky’s sapphire backdrop. The first quarter moon was bright and cast a smoky glare. Carl thought it looked like rain.
It’d been six months since Carl last walked the trail through the woods to the old house, his grandparents’ house. There was no reason to since grandma’s funeral. But his mother had asked him and his brothers to remove the old spinet. Once his great-great-great-grandmother’s, the instrument had literally been in the family for centuries. His brothers were supposed to be meeting him there with the truck. Carl thought they should have gone earlier in the day, but Geof didn’t get out of work until after five. And Brian couldn’t make it until eight for some reason. He didn’t have an explanation, like usual. We always do things on their schedules, thought Carl.
Carl’s foot came down on something long and narrow. It was hard, harder than a small fallen branch or brush. The thing rolled as Carl’s shoe made contact with it, and Carl’s foot slid before him for about a foot before he caught himself on an extended tree limb. He knelt down to examine this long, narrow, and hard thing.
It was difficult to see at first because Carl’s eyes hadn’t adjusted to the level of light under the canopy of trees. He held the thing, holding it in both hands, his palms open. He lifted it with care, like an infant at a baptism.
Carl squinted to see in the dimly lit woods. He brought the thing closer to his face, and when he realized what he held, he threw it down and wiped his palms against his clothes-as if he would cleanse them that way. His breath was heavy; he placed a hand on his chest. He stared at the thing. Carl turned around, looking in all directions, as if he would find an explanation as to why such a thing was laying on the path.
He contemplated turning back, but he decided it was best to walk to the house. Geof and Brian would be there. He would tell them. Maybe they would call the police.
Carl swallowed hard, but his mouth and throat were dry. He could feel his pulse in his head and in his throat.
Suddenly, Carl was aware of the sounds of the woods. Sticks cracked under the foot of some unseen animal. The bushes’ leaves thrashed and whipped, the victims of some unknown commotion. A cat shrieked.
Carl broke into a run, nearly tripping down the path as his feet attempted to outrun his body. Neither Geof nor Brian were there when he arrived at his grandparents’ dark and abandoned house. He wanted to go inside, but he didn’t have a key. He wished he’d brought the thing with him. He didn’t remember where it was. He was so frightened by his discovery that he couldn’t remember where on the path the thing was located.
Ten minutes passed as Carl stood with his back against the house. With his leg crooked, he tapped his shoe against the wooden slats. They were neglected and needed painting. Carl’s mother had sent him and his brothers to paint the house, but their grandmother refused to allow it saying she’d rather spend the afternoon with her boys. She took them all in from the heat and made them lunch and dessert. Five days later, she suffered the stroke. Carl thought of his grandmother and wished she were there now, to take him inside.
After fifteen more minutes, the headlights of Brian’s Chevy appeared on the long driveway. Carl stood in front of the house waiting for his brothers, squinting against the light. Geof exited the truck first, then Brian’s door swung open. He groaned, and he stepped out.
“Let’s get this done,” he said as he pulled up the waist of his jeans. “What’s wrong with you?” Brian asked when he saw Carl’s anxious expression.
Carl explained to his brothers about his discovery. He told them how he’d fled and didn’t exactly remember where to find it. His hands were shaking, and he crossed his arms and stuffed his hands into his armpits.
“It’s probably from some animal,” scoffed Geof.
“I’m telling you, it isn’t,” insisted Carl. “I’m in my third year of biology. I know the difference.”
Geof and Brian looked at one another then back at Carl. They decided to call the police.
“If it’s some kind of dog or something, I’m going to kick your ass, Carl,” swore Brian as Geof made the call.
“It’s not,” Carl said. “I swear to you; it’s not.”

The men moved their family’s spinet into the truck while they waited for the police to arrive. Carl thought he would feel more comfortable inside the house, but he didn’t. The electricity had been turned off, but everything else was the same. The furniture was all there, the television. All of the doors in the house were open. It was as if his grandparents simply vanished leaving everything in place. Carl thought it was creepy.
The police arrived just as Geof was locking-up. Carl explained to them about his find, and that he wasn’t sure where on the trail he’d found the thing. Another police car manned by two officers pulled into the long driveway. The seven men started on the path, walking away from the house. The officers held flashlights, and their beams joined to create one uniform glow over the path. They were almost to the end when Carl stopped them.
“It wasn’t this close to the street,” Carl explained.
“We walked the whole path, Carl,” sighed Geof.
“I know but . . .” Carl was interrupted by the sound of brush crackling and more chaos in the tall grass between the trees. The officers shone their lights in the direction of the noise. It stopped, and they walked into the woods to investigate. Brian and Geof followed, and finally so did Carl.
Carl stood several feet behind his brothers and the officers, not wanting to be left alone but not wanting to head into the danger. The officers moved the leaves of the bushes around while Geof and Brian watched. It seemed they were satisfied they hadn’t found anything significant, and all seven men turned back to the path.
“Good job, jackwad,” sneered Brian as he passed Carl and gave him a hard push.
“It was there. It was somewhere,” said Carl. It really was, he thought. Wasn’t it?
The others walked back toward the house while Carl followed, staring at the dirt the whole time. He hoped to see his thing. He didn’t imagine it.
Brian and Geof were far ahead of Carl, talking to the officers and offering apologies for their brother. Carl heard something to his left, like shoes shuffling in the dirt. Before he could turn to look, four hands were on him, forcing him into the brush. Someone pressed a long, narrow, hard thing against his throat.
“Seems you found something don’t belong to you,” a man breathed into Carl’s ear. Carl could smell his rancid breath. He tried to scream, but the thing was pressed hard against his throat. Someone else took hold of him, and then he was off his feet.
Carl struggled and writhed, but the men were too strong for him. He was losing oxygen and losing strength. When they reached their destination, the man holding Carl’s legs let go of them so that his feet struck the ground hard.The first man with the rancid breath was still holding the thing against Carl’s throat. Carl looked up at the man through his half-opened eyelids. The man realized this and spat in Carl’s face. Carl tried to turn his head, but the thing was pressed too tight against him.
The second man had Carl’s legs again, and the first man abandoned the thing he used to crush Carl’s trachea. He took Carl by the shoulders, and both men heaved him into a sort of pit. Carl was dizzy, but having his oxygen renewed, he scrambled to his feet. He looked at the high earthen walls surrounding him. Helpless, he looked up at the men. They grinned at him and turned away for a moment. Carl clawed at the dirt, but it was useless. The more he tried to climb out, the more the soft clay came apart in his hands and crumbled to the floor of the pit. With his back pressed against the cool, damp earth, Carl peered at a form crouched in the corner. His heart rate increased, and his breathing was again heavy. He swallowed, but his mouth was full of dirt. Carl knelt down beside the figure in the corner. Mud struck Carl’s head as the men shoveled dirt on top of him. Carl’s hand shook as he reached out to touch the figure. It tumbled to its side when Carl’s trembling hand felt it. He could then see it was a female skeleton, its left femur missing. Carl knew. He was in his third year of biology.

 

Copyright Donnell Jeansonne. All rights reserved. Reproduction or duplication whole or in part not permitted without permission and credit to the author.

What Two Year Old Isn’t Scared of Monsters?

The answer: Mine.

I’ve come to notice in the last two years that my son (I call him Scoots), the person produced by me, the fruit of my womb, my offspring, is not like other kids his age. He isn’t a weirdo or anything, although some who know us both may argue that point and state the weirdo gene is hereditary. Ever since he came into the world, it’s been apparent that he has a very singular personality. I foresee much creativity in the future. I’m glad about it. I intend to cultivate his small mind and teach him the wonders of a vivid imagination.

Many times I realize, though, he will be too smart for his, and my, own good. And other than creativity, I foresee a lot of worry in my future caused by this little person as his ideas sprout and thrive, and he acts on them. I envision a mad scientist child, in the bathroom creating concoctions and elixirs to later test on the family pet. Or a tiny adventurer, in the backyard wrangling local wildlife and examining the intricate workings of bee hives and ant hills.

Last October two things happened that I think changed Scoots forever. The first thing was Halloween. He was born in October and already has three Halloweens under his belt, but this year was the first year he was aware of what was really going on. He was observant of the television shows, movies, and decorations. I have a Halloween tree, a small black Christmas tree that I decorate with small skulls, pumpkins, and skeletons. Scoots loved the tree. He wanted to be outside with the tree all the time and would sit at the window looking out at the tree. We had to say hello and goodbye to the tree, skeletons, skulls, and tiny pumpkins every time we left and came home. It doesn’t hurt that Halloween is my favorite holiday. And that he received a Hallmark book of the Monster Mash fully equip with buttons that play sound effects and part of the original Monster Mash song. He is infatuated with it, and we read it nightly. That was until he went all Incredible Hulk on it and tore about five pages in half – with his mouth. And so he is not allowed access to the book. For his birthday I made some CD’s of children’s music. I also added the Monster Mash. We dance to it almost daily. He’s even memorized parts of the song.

The other thing that happened was our trip to Walt Disney World. We left right after Scoots’ birthday, and we were there on Halloween. One of our first rides was Pirates of the Caribbean. Before this, Scoots was vaguely aware of Jack Sparrow and pirates in general. But after that one experience, riding the ride one time, he was hooked. His grandparents bought him a toy pirate gun that when the trigger was pressed emitted a light in the shape of a skull and crossbones. It was his favorite toy. And even though he loses interest half-way through Toy Story, he will sit through two and a half hours of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with nary a squirm. On one of his CD’s I included the album Pirates of the Caribbean: Swashbuckling Sea Songs. Scoots calls it Jack and we also listen to it often.

We attended the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party at Magic Kingdom on Halloween night. Scoots was excited about the festivities – parade, live shows, fireworks. The only thing I wanted to do that night was ride the Haunted Mansion. I was a little concerned since the day before Scoots was frightened on the ride with Figment and screamed bloody murder on the Finding Nemo ride.

My fears were unwarranted, of course, because he wasn’t at all afraid of the Haunted Mansion. He was excited and yelled “Boo!” at the ghosts and was excited when a skeleton popped out of a casket, shouting “Skeleton!”

Which brings me to the incident that occurred last night that led me to write this blog. Another movie Scoots enjoys and of which I was at first concerned is Hellboy. I was concerned because I thought it would frighten him. Especially during the scene where the dead zombie Nazi (otherwise known as Kroenen) gets up from the table and reclaims his gear.

The aforementioned scene was on and I, fearing it would frighten my toddler, stood in front of the television to shield his innocent mind from the creepy monster. I’ll admit it creeps me out. Scoots noticed before I moved in front of him and exclaimed “Skeleton!” then proceeded to wave me out of the way.

“Mooooom,” he said waving his hand at me.  I stepped out of the way. “Is that scary?” I asked him. He nodded. “Does that scare you?” He nodded. “Do you want me to turn it off?” He shook his head no, eyes glued to the screen. Oh well, I thought. Apparently he’s not that bothered by it.

In the scene the dead zombie nazi otherwise known as Kroenen, puts all of his gear back, part of which is a mechanical hand. Scoots was elated by this. To Scoots it’s not just a skeleton, but a skeleton-robot! Mind. Blown.

Late last night, actually early this morning, Scoots woke in his bed. I heard him talking over the baby monitor, but he wasn’t crying to come out or calling for mommy. He seemed to be playing with the stuffed animals I keep strategically positioned in his bed. I heard him repeating “Ghost! Ghost!” and assumed he was hearing the wind. It was extra eerie sounding last night and loud. I heard it howling passed the windows, and so I figured Scoots heard the “Whooooo!” of the wind and mistook it for “Boooo!” Because that’s what ghosts say. I then heard Scoots growling and shouting “Rawr!” which means he was probably scaring the ghost. Yes. My toddler scares the ghost; they don’t scare him. I’m to thank for that. Right before our vacation I bought him some new clothes at Target. One of the shirts I bought him was a long-sleeved Ghost Busters t-shirt, and he learned to say “I Ain’t Scared of No Ghost.”  After a few minutes, he was making “Pew! Pew!” sounds indicating he was pretending to shoot his pirate gun and saying, “Argh! Pirate!” I lay back down and listened to him talk to his toys until he eventually got tired enough again and went back to sleep.

These are the reasons I’m apprehensive about the future. My fearless son, a savage pirate, navigating the Queen Anne’s Revenge through the back yard and wielding his cutlass, and goading supernatural beasts to their ultimate demise by his own hands.