Monday, October 26

I love Halloween. I love spookies and ookies and costumes and ghost stories. I used to like horror a lot but I feel sort of softer, gentler, more squeamish this year and the sort of horror that is out there is more about blood and guts than simply telling a scary story. I like a good scary story, not guts. I like Edgar Allen Poe and Hamlet for Halloween. And I like urban legends. Here are two favorites.

A man went to a hotel and walked up to the front desk to check in. The woman at the desk gave him his key and told him that on the way to his room, there was a door with no number that was locked and no one was allowed in there and that he shouldn't hang around the room. So, in spite of his curiosity, he followed the instructions of the woman at the front desk and went straight to his room without stopping at the door without numbers. He went to bed uncomfortably, wondering about the room.
The next night his curiosity would not leave him alone, he felt the room with no number on the door calling to him. He couldn't take it anymore. He walked down the hall to the door and tried the handle. Sure enough it was locked. He bent down and looked through the wide keyhole. Cold air passed through it, chilling his eye. What he saw was a hotel bedroom, like his, and in the corner was a woman whose skin was completely white. She was leaning her head against the wall, facing away from the door. He stared in confusion for a while. He almost knocked on the door, out of curiosity, but decided not to. He crept away from the door and walked back to his room. The next day, he returned to the door and looked through the wide keyhole. This time, all he saw was redness. He couldn’t make anything out besides a distinct red color, unmoving. Perhaps the inhabitants of the room knew he was spying the night before, and had blocked the keyhole with something red.
At this point he decided to consult the woman at the front desk for more information. "I looked into the room," he said, "Twice. The first time I saw a very white women, but the second time all I saw was red. I know you said to leave the room, but I felt drawn to it." She suddenly looked very scared and said, “You shouldn't have done that," she said. "A long time ago, a man murdered his wife in that room, and her ghost haunts it. But these people were not ordinary. They were white all over, except for their eyes, which were red."

In a small eastern town there once was a very busy asylum where rich people would send away their sick and silly family members to be forgotten. It was no big deal back then to dump unseemly members of your family into such an asylum. The rest of the family would be spared embarrassment and the doctors at the facility had new flesh to experiment on and "cure."
As science and the understanding of human physiology and mentality progressed, these asylums began to shut their doors. Many are still standing in the same spots they were built in, abandoned but still full of sick, sad, confused and angry occupants who were forgotten.
A group of teenagers found themselves bored one evening and decided to visit that old asylum that lay just outside of their hometown. It was a building left completely empty, and for decades teenagers had been visiting it with mischievous intentions. The rumor was that it was haunted, that so-and-so's brother saw something once, heard a whisper, felt a breath, but the building was so overrun with signs of young life, graffiti and beer cans, that a lot of the scariness had ceased to be. So it was very strange to the rest of the group when Sean, who had been to the asylum many times before, said he didn't want to go. There was a fear in his eyes. "I have a bad feeling." They all laughed at him.
"We've been up there thousands of times, what are you so afraid of?"
"I don't know," he said. "I just have a feeling. Maybe there's cops up there or something. I just don't want to go."
They prodded and joked until he relented and put him into the middle of the back seat, two friends on either side to keep him safe, and swore that nothing bad would happen. "But if something bad did happen, do you promise we'll all stick together? That nobody will ditch anyone, we'll stay together as a group?"
They all promised.
Sean seemed to get more and more afraid as they approached the asylum. He began to fidget and sweat. When the building was in sight he went pale. "Do you guys swear that we'll stick together?"
"Sean, stop it. You need to relax. You're starting to freak me out."
"Please, do you swear we'll stay together?"
"Jesus, yes, fucking relax."
The car came to a stop just in front of the darkened building. The long-broken windows pulsed deep black. They all looked at Sean. He was crying.
"What is wrong with you?!"
Sean's face streamed with tears. His breath was short, he trembled, everything about his body was screaming out in terror. He was looking down at his feet. Their eyes all fell down into the crevice where his eyes were glued and there they found a pair of glowing white hands gripping Sean's ankles from underneath the seat. Immediately they all flew out of the car and ran screaming down the lane back into town. Had they themselves not been screaming, they would have heard Sean's wild, desperate cries from the back seat of the car.

Halloween is also good for graveyards. But I don't like to go to graveyards, so instead I read the Edgar Lee Masters classic Spoon River Anthology. The book is a collection of epitaphs found in the fictional graveyard of the fictional town of Spoon River. It's not spooky, but it is full of tales from the dead. My favorite...

Edmund Pollard

I WOULD I had thrust my hands of flesh
Into the disk-flowers bee-infested,
Into the mirror-like core of fire
Of the light of life, the sun of delight.
For what are anthers worth or petals 5
Or halo-rays? Mockeries, shadows
Of the heart of the flower, the central flame!
All is yours, young passer-by;
Enter the banquet room with the thought;
Don’t sidle in as if you were doubtful
Whether you’re welcome—the feast is yours!
Nor take but a little, refusing more
With a bashful “Thank you,” when you’re hungry.
Is your soul alive? Then let it feed!
Leave no balconies where you can climb;
Nor milk-white bosoms where you can rest;
Nor golden heads with pillows to share;
Nor wine cups while the wine is sweet;
Nor ecstasies of body or soul,
You will die, no doubt, but die while living
In depths of azure, rapt and mated,
Kissing the queen-bee, Life!

Maybe I'll try to write my own spooky story/poem or something. Yeah, I think I'll give it a shot.

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