One Night after Going to a Horror Movie… or … Why It’s Scary Being Me

What’s news?

After considerable debate, I’ve decided to put out some short stories in electronic form (with plans to eventually put out a collection, as well).  I won’t go into all the details of this decision (however, I’d love any feedback from writers who have experimented with this idea), but I did want to show you a working copy of a potential image in the hopes that you might offer your two cents.  If it helps form your opinion, here is the basic description of the story:

The Interview.  A short story by Paul D. Dail. 

Reporter Jay Kipp gets more than he expected from his interview with an old, blind homeless man calling himself simply “Phineus.”

What does the future hold?

I have a couple ideas that I’m batting around for next Friday, so for the first time since the beginning of this blog, I’ll just say that you’ll need to check back then.

But without further ado…

As some of you have seen from my post “10 movies that scared the bejeezus out of me” (and which has caused considerable debate), one movie that got me pretty spooked when it came out in theatres was The Blair Witch Project.

*shields self from rotten vegetables being thrown by the crowd*

I won’t go into all of my justifications here (although, if you’re curious, you can certainly check out the post), but what bears repeating for the sake of this story is that the marketing for this movie, back in the early days of the internet when rumors weren’t so easily disproved, was brilliant, leaving just enough question early on in its release to make the public wonder if this was actually a true story.

Now by the time I finally went to see it, I had figured out that it was not a real story. Could it have been possible, in my opinion? Sure. Even probable? Why not. But before you shake your head, you should know that this is coming from the same person who would say that quite a few bits of folklore and superstition (along with various things going bump in the night) are possible. And I’d even say some are probable.

However, when I went to see “The Blair Witch Project” with a good friend and his girlfriend, I knew that this particular story wasn’t true, even though I still had those dark smudges on my viewing perception from previously wondering. And by the time I got to the end of the movie, I had been, as I said, pretty well spooked.

As the three of us sat in the theatre, all a little stunned by the ending, my friend’s girlfriend spoke up. “So that really happened?”

I’ll be honest; I was actually jealous of her. There had been freaky enough moments knowing that it was just fiction, but I remember wishing that I could’ve gone back and watched with her eyes, believing it was all real.

But again, I give fair credence to many things others dismiss as fiction. I believe this is how many horror writers think. To give you an example, I just recently wrote a flash fiction piece entitled The Death He Expected, and in doing so, there was actually a little irrational part of me that hoped writing the story would remove what that same little part of me believed might actually be an Indian curse.

Crazy, right?

I can’t help it.

So I wasn’t lying when I told my friend Mike (also the name of one of the characters in the movie, by the way) as he drove me back to my house that if he made good on his joking threat to mess with me later that night, I would probably have a heart attack.

My "house." That was my bedroom window on the left side.

Before continuing, we should step back. It’s important that you know that at the time, I was living at the rural edges of Missoula, Montana, in an old barn that had been converted to a house. The house was surrounded on three sides by fields, and on the fourth side it was about twenty yards from the original house on the property, now mostly in ruin. And probably haunted as far as I was concerned.

The one nice thing about being more removed from town was the fact that we never had to lock our door. I had literally only locked it two other times in three years (and I think it was in the early days when I left town on a trip, back when I still thought I needed to).

One of the fields outside our house with plenty of space for lurking

This particular night would be the third time. I knew that it would probably surprise my roommate, but I figured that she could just use her key. And again, you have to remember that any other day, my logical side could’ve probably ruled out this other side of my personality. But when we’re in fearful situations (or just sat through almost two hours of someone else’s), we don’t think rationally. I mean honestly, what was I hoping to lock out? Well, probably my friend Mike, even though I suspected he would be too preoccupied with his girlfriend to seriously consider playing a prank on me.

So after staying up a little later to watch whatever sit-com I could find, I went to bed, still somewhat shaken, and refusing to look out the window right over my bed into the darkness of the field outside my bedroom, but relatively confident that I just needed to sleep it off.

Such would not be the case.

Midway through the night, I was awoken by a banging that seemed to be coming from every part of the house (reminiscent of  the terrifying scene in the movie of the violent rattling of the main characters’ tent… except on a rickety house that used to be a barn). My eyes shot open, but I didn’t move.

This was no practical joke. It was too loud, too violent.  I didn’t think it was Mike.  If it was, I’d kill him. But this was too much to be a joke.

The banging continued. And it seemed to be coming from everywhere on the house at once.  From my frozen position in bed, I could see just a sliver of the window over my bed, but I didn’t sit up. Because then my head would be right by that window. And I didn’t want to think about what might be right outside that window… what might be grinning at me, probably with a mouth full of jagged teeth, as it smashed through and attacked me.

Basically, I was paralyzed by my fear. And in the middle of the night, even though I was fully awake, I was still muddled, and I had no idea what to do.

Now, as my wife will tell you, I’m a pretty good sleeper, even if I’ve just woken myself up with one of my frequent night terrors. I’m capable of dropping back off pretty easily.

It was with this in mind that I came to the only decision that seemed to make any sense. I would force myself to go back to sleep. I knew that if the banging was just a joke, it would have to end at some point. The idea that was harder to accept, but which I ultimately did, was that if it wasn’t a joke, there was a good possibility I wouldn’t survive the night anyway.

So I forced myself to go back to sleep.  I must have been tired enough, because I remember that the banging on the house blended into a restless sleep.

What I hadn’t counted on in the midst of my mid-night terror, but which I discovered the next morning, was a roommate who had lost her key months ago.

What do I want from you?

How about you?  Have you ever convinced yourself that something supernatural was happening to you that turned out to be completely explainable (this has actually happened to me a few times)?  Or maybe something unexplained?

Also, I would love any of your two cents on the short story cover.  I already have a few ideas in mind for some changes, but curious what you think.

Finally, don’t forget to check back next week.  Again, not sure what I have on tap yet, but I hope you’ll check back anyway.

Please subscribe to this blog to receive posts via email or RSS feed (on the right hand column).  NO SPAM, I promise.

29 thoughts on “One Night after Going to a Horror Movie… or … Why It’s Scary Being Me

  1. The Blair Witch Project made my wife go into labor. She got nauseous from the jerky camera movemens, and next thing we knew, we were in the hospital! I’ve had plenty of odd things happen that had mundane explanations (the hard banging throughout the house that turned out to be a shingle that pulled away and was slapping in the breeze) and a couple that defy rational explanation. They’re what make life interesting!

    1. Funny you should mention your own experience like this. I think our wild imaginations are sometimes a little overacting. Just a fun FYI, the scene in The Imaginings in Hawaii with the rat running down the tree to the bags of garbage actually happened to me. Much of the Hawaii segment of the story actually happened to me, but I shouldn’t say much more than that.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I’ve experienced that kind of fear before, and I hate it. Probably why I don’t delve into the horror genre – except on your blog. But this was a fun post. It gave me a few sympathy shivers that kept me reading, and then a smile.

    BTW, Paul, I finally thought of who your Bookblogs avatar reminds me of…

    1. That’s awesome, Michelle. If similar appearance is any indication, perhaps I’ll one day have similar success to him 🙂

      And glad I could wrap up the story for you with a smile. Actually, she could’ve come through the garage of the house (I think that’s what she eventually did after she decided to stop trying to wake me up).

      Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

  3. Hahaha. Great story. I feel bad for your roommate. I can picture her standing on the porch in the dark freaking out while pounding on the door. When I was around 10 my brother and I were home alone one night and decided to watch Amityville Horror. We are both so scared by the end that we are just sitting on the couch in complete silence. Then the phone rings. When I picked up the phone it made a weird clicking sound and no one was on the line. Totally freaked now I called the operator and asked her what the clicking sound meant. She said it was someone calling from inside the house on another phone. The other phone in the house was in my parents room. NOONE else was in the house but my brother and I and he was sitting next to me when the phone rang. I have no rational explanation for the phone call. Still scares me when I think of it.

    1. Ooohh, that’s a good one, Kodi. I’ve actually had one experience that I was never able to explain when I was in elementary school, but I won’t go into it all here, but I like your story. Spooky.

      And actually, I don’t believe my roommate at the time was necessarily freaking out. Drunk? Probably. And mostly just irritated, I think. You’ll have to see my reply to Michelle’s comment.

      Thanks as always for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  4. Your roommate had spectacularly bad timing!

    1. Tell me about it, William. She was kind of an expert in that arena.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  5. oh the stories I could tell. Too bad I’m so tired tonight. In the end, I could always explain things logically, even if it did take some research. This just goes to show the powerful influence of fear and how it can interfere with people’s rational thought. Fear is also used in propaganda as a means of mind control. I once debunked the Bloody Mary myth for my family. Even though no image appeared in the dark mirror when I said her name, they are still convinced that she could come out and get me. My husband said that maybe Bloody Mary was in someone else’s mirror during that time. The moral of the story is that fear is more powerful than logic and it can be a very powerful weapon of control.
    I’m no fun, terribly skeptical, but I have to confess that I have felt the fear that lingers after watching a scary movie and my heart has sped up at the sounds of every day occurrences even though my mind knows it is nothing.
    As for the book cover, I’m not sure, but is that a picture of a cassette tape with skulls on it?

    1. Great comments, Lacey. I love the rationalization of the irrational (certainly Bloody Mary has other obligations tonight 🙂 )

      Fear is definitely one of the most powerful tools, be it wielded by religions or politicians. Truth is, most of me is pretty skeptical/analytical. I was a science guy for many years before I started studying writing. So I’m most often looking for explanations, but it must be the little kid in me who is still afraid of the unexplained (and willing to believe before an explanation can be found).

      And yes, the image is of a small handheld recorder. It’s old school, but I kind of liked it. Zooming out made for a little clarity, but it also made the skulls smaller.

      Thanks for your comments.

  6. carol collier 11/25/2011 — 9:09 pm

    As an exercise in cinematography, the BWP stinks, but to give credit where it’s due, it was a masterpiece of advertising and marketing. It reminded me of a House of Horrors that a friend and I created in high school as a Halloween fundraiser. We marched the poor suckers through a dark locker room festooned with “spider webs”, eerie lights, and wet, cold gobbits of animal flesh they might inadvertently encounter while feeling their way out of that place. Our house of horrors was not a novel idea, but people wanted to be frightened. The sound track featured our own panting breath, pleas for mercy, and screams. We humans love the thrill that accompanies fear, and that explains sky-diving, racing, and other life threatening activities (volunteering to go to war?) The supernatural, the unknown, and the unexplainable are the things that fascinate humans. Tapping into those dark, shadowy imaginings is what makes a good horror story. Nothing can fighten us as much as our own subconscious does.

    1. Thanks Carol. I love the story of your House of Horrors. Sounds like a blast to create. Just the two of you? Impressive. I agree that people want to be frightened. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and one for which I have a few theories (at least for my generation) as to why. But I don’t look too deep into the question. As long as they’re out there, I’m in business.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  7. I’ll ever argue with your assessment of the brilliant BWP. No less than Ramsey Campbell himself told me he loved it and thought it was a great film treatment of a Lovecraft style mythos.

    I’ve never had a supernatural experience. But my wife works in a hospital, and she tells me that every nurse has a ghost story. Thing is, they’re not scary ghost stories. They’re touching and infinitely sad ghost stories.

    1. I’m with you, Mac. In fact, didn’t you do a post on BWP as well? But it’s funny. Out of the scope of horror movies, I feel like this one raises the most debate (ergo, a little bit of trepidation when I mention it).

      That’s fascinating about nurses. It makes sense that if there was going to be a profession most subject to paranormal exposure, it would be nurses. And it raises some interesting points as a writer (and even from a theological perspective) that most of them aren’t scary stories.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope your weekend is treating you well.

  8. All of my supernatural experiences remain unexplained. I am not sure if I somehow attract strange experiences or if I possess super-awesome kinetic mind powers I can’t control, but strange things happen around me a lot. I actually get a little sad when strange things aren’t happening.

    A somewhat recent episode occurred at a notoriously haunted hotel in Austin. My husband, a see-it-to-believe-it-type if ever there was one, booked us a room there for my birthday because I wanted to see the ghosts. First, there was an issue with the TV reception. It kept fuzzing in and out of having a clear picture just like TVs with rabbit ears did if you walked in front of them, only there were no rabbit ears. We turned it off. Then the curtains kept moving, so we turned off the AC. When we turned off the lights, Mr. Aniko had his covers pulled up to his chin. This is guy who normally kicks all the covers as far away as he can because he thinks it’s hot even when I’m wearing two sweaters, a coat, double socks… you get the picture. The old room is stuffy with the AC off, we’re sweltering under the covers, and then there is this strange clicking noise coming from the desk on the other side of the room. I turn on my bedside lamp. We listen, and the clicking happens again. After some whispering, Mr. Aniko is the one to go investigate. His glasses are on their lenses on the desk, and he would never leave them that way. He puts them right side up, we agree it’s strange, and he comes back to the bed. No sooner do we turn off the light than – click! – the glasses are lens down again. We spent the rest of the night huddled together in the center of the bed, alternatively staring at the desk and at the curtains, which have begun to ripple and flail for no apparent reason. The next morning, we got an early breakfast, drove home, and then spent the rest of the day sleeping! Best birthday gift ever!

    Now, the TV and the curtains and maybe (maybe) even the repeated flipping of the glasses could be rationally explained, but the delicious part of being someplace purportedly haunted is that you don’t try to explain the experience away; instead, you revel in the possibility of something supernatural happening for you.

    As far as your cover goes, I like the placement of the title in relationship to the tape recorder. I like the font and the color and that I can read it when it is Amazon-sized. I am not too sure about the skulls. They are creepy, but perhaps it would be better if they were slightly less easy to see. Does that make sense? In any case, I’m no visual artist so if you know one of those as him/her! I’m excited to know there’ll be more of your work available for me to read! I finished The Imaginings yesterday. It is great timing to have a new work coming out soon, and yes, I’m sure this is all orchestrated for me because I have kick-ass kinetic mind powers!

    Happy Weekend!

    1. Aniko, awesome story. I’ve always wondered about places like that. The spirits must have unknown reasons for showing preference. I’ve heard of people who stayed at places like that only to have completely peaceful nights’ sleeps. Then there is your story, which was definitely creepy. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for your opinions on the cover. I have a few things in the work to change, but hope to get it out within a week. My plan is to start releasing a short every month or so (as well as an eventual collection which will contain some stories not available individually… mostly because they’re shorter and I wouldn’t feel right charging for them) while working on my next book. I’ll keep you posted.

      Thanks as always for stopping by and I hope you’ve had a good weekend.

  9. Something paranormal often shakes my bed. And I am not even making sexual innuendos this time. No one ever feels it but me. It’s too fast to be the flow of blood through my veins. I can feel everything shaking. I have mixed feelings about even posting this, because I don’t know if it can read. It has followed me since the early 1990s, no matter where I live. True story. I am not even that neurotic anymore, relatively speaking.

  10. Hi Paul, I just read your story. Haha. That’s another good one… although this one was true. I wouldn’t have been able to go back to sleep.

    1. Thanks, E. Yeah, I’m kind of surprised in retrospect that I was able to go back to sleep, as well. I’m sure my roommate was surprised, as well 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is going well for you.

      1. Now at least your wife knows if an axe murderer comes into the house at night, and she’s screaming her bloody head off, you might not wake up 😉

        Keep up the great writing, Paul.

  11. Great story Paul. As a computer programmer I see the world in 0s and 1s so the supernatural seems unnatural to me. I did however got freaked out several times for no reason.

    1. Going to show up my computer duncery here, but wasn’t there something in the Matrix about the 0’s and 1’s? Binary code, right? And look at the craziness they came up with. Glad to hear you’ve still been freaked out, though, and I like that you say “no reason.” We haven’t completely eradicated that little primitive part of ourselves just yet 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Yes, when we saw The Matrix I told my wife to pay attention because that’s how I see the world 🙂

  13. BWP freaked me out too – but, teehee, only after having the end explained to me. In what was apparently a very blonde moment (I was blonde then), I said to the friend I was sitting with “it was ok but the ending was dumb, he was just standing there…” – then he oh-so-not-kindly reminded me about the standing-in-the-corner thing and ever since then I can’t walk thru a dark basement (even my own) without freaking out about all the corners…

    The worse one for me was The Ring. I know, I know – I’ll probably take crap for saying it, but it was the creepiest movie EVER to me. There’s just something about creepy kids in movies that gets to me worse than anything else, and when that damn drowned girl climbed out of the fuzzy TV set, well, let’s just say it kept me from having a TV in the bedroom for a good long time… To this day I can’t stand a staticky TV – fortunately in the world of cable/satellite, you almost never get one – the blue screen may scare computer programmers to death, but to me it’s blissfully quiet and dead-girl free! 😉

    I like the cover – the use of the tape recorder with the superimposed images is cool and creepy. Do you do your own artwork? Because I really like The Imaginings cover too. As a person with zero artistic ability, I’m tres jealous if you can write them AND design them. One thought – it might also look cool with one creepy death head and one regular, symbolizing the interviewer and interviewee…

    Another great post Paul, as usual!

    1. Much thanks, Jill. That’s funny about the end. That was the really freaky part for me because it all tied it back to a very human sociopath… someone you might meet any day of the week. Possessed or not, there are scary real people out there.

      And yes, I think we’ve discussed The Ring. It was also on my list of 10 movies that scared the bejeezus out of me. For me, it’s the blurry pictures. I always get a little freaked out when I try and take a picture and it comes out blurry of whomever I’m photographing. And with digital, you know immediately. Yikes.

      Finally, thanks for the comments on the cover. I did that one myself (that’s actually my old school mini-recorder), but I had a friend design the cover for The Imaginings. That’s beyond my limited Photoshopping abilities.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend. By the way, are you on Twitter? I kind of hate it, but I’ve started publicly thanking my blog commenters there. I think people who take the time to comment on a blog should be recognized.

      1. I am – @Jill_a. I’m oddly ambivalent about Twitter – at first I loved the idea because it was quick and easy. But mostly now I just feel like it’s one more place I have to remember to go… 😉 Thank god for The Husband – he set it up so my blog posts auto-feed to Twitter so I don’t have to do anything. So I have a presence there without any effort -which is exactly the kind of marketing/PR I like to engage in. (teehee)
        And so cool that you can do cover stuff – I am talent-less in that regard. When it comes to that point I’m hoping the combined tech-stylings of The Husband and visual abilities of The Step-Daughter will save my bacon! Mmm… bacon. Sorry – distracted for a second there. 😉
        And definitely agree on scary real people. That’s why I find things like the end of BWP and elements of stories like The Imaginings and Exorcist so creepy. Because (a) we don’t KNOW there are no demons telling people to do things and (b) even if there aren’t objectively “real” ones, we don’t know that the crazy people don’t think there are!

  14. I LOVE the cover image for The Interview – great title font, and the skulls in the cassette recorder are perrfect! I’ve seen reviews of the Blair Witch Project completely panning it, but it completely spooked me, and I saw it in a theater in the early afternoon. There is something just terribly plausible about it. The suspense and spookiness is layered on gradually until it is ratcheted up tight. Found footage creeps me out because, well, it could be me holding the camera…

    1. Thanks Hope. Agreed on BWP. Glad you enjoyed this piece. I think it helped that I saw it in the theatre, however, we watched it again this last Halloween at home on our little 33″ television. Still scary. As an outdoors person, even just the idea of being lost in the woods is scary. Then you add in everything else.

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