Kat Mayor, who wrote the lovely The Spirit Chaser, along with it’s follow-up Melancholy Ghost, has written for the site in the past for Halloween. Last year she gave us a lovely article on Chinese Ghosts that still gets views. This year, she presents These Are a Few of My Scariest Things. I loved this list and agree with her on almost all of them! Please feel free to chime in below and tell us what a few of your scariest things are!
My Scariest Things
Clowns in white make-up with big red balloons,
Animatronics and talking dolls, too.
Old hag and mirrors like those in The Ring
These are a few of my Scariest Things.
These Are a Few of My Scariest Things
by Kat Mayor
How many times have you watched a horror flick and thought, “Again? Can’t they come up with something new?” We may complain about it, but there are certain devices that are very effective at creating unease and that tingly feeling up and down your spine. The writers of film know this and that is why we see the same things reappear over and over in slightly different ways.
This is my personal compilation of things that I find terrifying. You may not agree with all of the things on this list, but I bet there’s at least one or two that raise the hair on the back of your neck. Especially if you’re a connoisseur of the horror genre.
- Clowns—We float down here. We all float.
Clowns have been around for thousands of years. From the court jester in Rome to the French pantomime, clowns have served the purpose of humoring and entertaining us. But it’s not all fun and games. Clowns have fairly or unfairly been linked to tragedy, depression, murder, and pedophilia. Pennywise, from Stephen King’s IT, epitomizes why children are right to fear what lurks behind the painted face and drawn on smile.
I first realized that, “Yes, I hate clowns,” while viewing Poltergeist. The boy’s creepy stuffed clown attacking and pulling him under the bed will forever be imprinted on my brain. In the nineties the fear of clowns moved from the television and book realm to real life with the conviction of John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer clown. Now with the latest rash of stalkings at school yards around the country, these pasty-faced monsters are breeding a new generation of coulrophobics.
- Mirrors—Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the most terrifying of all?
Mirrors are considered by many to be portals to other realms or windows into the soul. The idea that malevolent, inhuman beings can cross into our world is reason enough to fear them. You might not like what is staring back, and I’m not talking about your own reflection.
The woman in front of the mirror in the movie, The Ring, is a perfect example. Combing one’s hair is a mundane activity, but captured in black and white with grainy, speckled film, it creates a sense of dread in the viewer. Oculus capitalized on the scary mirror trope. House plants die and dogs disappear in in this imposing mirror’s presence. It tricks you into not eating or drinking, but it doesn’t stop there. This evil antique looking glass creates hallucinations. Those in its thrall become psychotic and homicidal.
- Dolls—I’m Chucky. Wanna play?
I have mixed feelings about dolls. The plush ones, that don’t look too human, and don’t have vacant, staring eyes, I can deal with. Typically, my fear of dolls increases with the age and size of the doll. You won’t catch me in a room alone with a life-size doll or a porcelain-headed doll from the early twentieth century. The more realistic they look, the creepier they are. I’ve noticed that fear of dolls is not something that has to be taught or learned. When my son was younger he would ask for his sister’s dolls to be removed to another room at bedtime because he didn’t like them staring at him.
The presumption that evil spirits can inhabit or attach to a doll, as in the case of Annabelle, is what I believe gave me the heebie-jeebies about dolls in the first place. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the subset of dolls that talk, and their creepy cousins, ventriloquist/dummies. There’s something inherently unsettling about a voice emanating from an inanimate, human-looking object. I blame the Twilight Zone for this particular fear. Just watch the episodes Living Doll or The Dummy and see if you don’t agree.
- Animatronics—Where a kid can be a kid. Or a haunted robotic character.
One of my first memories of Chuck E. Cheese and similar themed pizza restaurants was seeing a group of plastic robots performing on a stage. They danced with stiff, exaggerated movements and sang with clacking jaws that didn’t quite move in sync with the lyrics. Even their plastic eyelids moved up and down in an unnatural blink. It made me uncomfortable, but at the same time, I couldn’t look away.
The creators of Five Nights at Freddy’s took my fear, injected it with steroids, and packaged it as a game for my children. It is the first video game I’ve come across, that if I’m being honest, kind of unsettles me. The backstory is this: Five children are murdered at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, a kid-friendly restaurant that often hosts children’s birthday parties. Instead of passing on, they stick around as unhappy spirits inhabiting the animatronics. The game player in the earlier versions is a security guard who must survive five nights in the haunted restaurant without being “jumpscared”.
FNaF’s use of eerie music creates an anxiety-filled atmosphere. “My Grandfather’s Clock”, and the “Toreador” are inextricably linked to this game in my mind. I can’t hear either one of these tunes without imagining mangled animatronics lumbering toward me. FNaF 3 upped the creepy song game with “Die in a Fire”. As you might guess from the title, the singer, (Purple guy who killed the kids), hopes you die in a fire or suffer an equally unpleasant death.
- Sleep Paralysis
Although there are plenty of movies that feature this nightmare scenario, I can’t blame video or pop culture on this one. My fear directly stems from research I’ve done on the subject.
I know the scientific explanation of it. It’s a safety mechanism so you don’t hurt yourself sleep-walking. Sometimes your mind “wakes up” before you do and you can’t move. Scary yes—but according to scientists, not paranormal. I’ve seen the documentaries and horror movies about it. Then I read the book, Dark Intrusions by Louis Proud, and changed my mind.
Proud’s own experiences with sleep paralysis set him on a journey to find out what was happening to him and why. He presents several case studies of sleep paralysis and draws a connection between SP and poltergeist activity, mediumship, astral projection, spirit possession, and even alien abduction. While a lot of the evidence he presents is anecdotal, he does cite a host of sources to back up his claims. Proud notes that SP is not a new phenomenon. It has been described in literature and depicted in art for over three hundred years. One of the most famous examples of this is Henri Fuseli’s painting, “The Nightmare.”
What I found most convincing was the similarity of experiences for those suffering from SP. They know they are awake and that their eyes are open but they are unable to move. Sufferers describe a sense of something evil in the room with them and overwhelming fear of it. Many see the “old hag” sitting on their chest or “shadow figures” choking them. If it’s just the brain acting up in an altered sleep state, then why do all those afflicted with SP see the same hallucination? I’ll let you make up your own mind on whether SP is an occurrence with a rational, scientific explanation, or as I believe, paranormal and truly scary.
What about these things make them so scary? For me, it’s the element of realism. Unlike ghost sightings or disembodied voices, we can actually see and touch these objects. No matter what you think of its origins, sleep paralysis is a well-documented phenomenon. The possibility that these mundane things could have a supernatural side is enough to induce fear and fire up my imagination. My best advice? Steer clear of clowns and only visit pizza parlors in the day time. Keep your dolls out of sight when you go to bed, don’t gaze too long into mirrors, and pray that you never wake up to an old hag riding your chest.
Some places are too evil. Some places should be left alone.
Austin Cole has it made. Star of the hit television show Spirit Chaser Investigations, he has become the world’s most famous paranormal investigator. Although hard work, a talented investigation team, and favorable genetics have something to do with it, it’s his lack of fear and willingness to take risks no one else will that make Spirit Chaser Investigations cable’s number-one show. When a ghost-hunt-gone-wrong seriously injures his best friend and lead psychic, Austin is forced to find a replacement for a team member he considers irreplaceable.
Casey Lawson can’t catch a break. She’s been on her own since she turned eighteen and is scraping by as a part-time psychic and cashier at a New Age store. When a desperate Austin Cole calls her up and offers her a position on his team, has her fortune finally changed?
He’s a control freak; she’s stubborn and opinionated. It takes time, but when they finally realize they’re working on the same side, everything clicks, both on and off screen.
Just when things are looking up, a new threat emerges. Over the years, Austin has angered plenty of demons, and one of them has set her sights on him. Now he’s the one in danger, and it’s up to the team to rescue him from the riskiest investigation of their lives.
Buy link: Amazon
Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Kali Krew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
Though no longer involved with Ladies of Horror Fiction due to other responsibilities and a too-full plate, she was one of the original 4 co-founders.
Feel free to chat her up on Twitter as long as you aren’t hitting her up to review your book.
* Attention, Kat*
It occurs to me that Lilyn, being such a tender young thing, may not get the song reference in this article. ‘These are a few of my Favorite Things’, is a song from the sixties musical ‘The Sound of Music’. Forgive me if you already knew this Lilyn, but I know there are a few gaps in your older film experience. 🙂
Happy Halloween, y’all!
I kind of got it! I knew the tune. Not more than 2 lines, but general tune!
When the dog bites.
When the bee stings.
When I’m feeling sad.
I read something scary,
watch something terrifying,
and suddenly I don’t feeeeeeeel,
Comments are closed.