I love October for many reasons. Yes, I’m a fan of all things pumpkin, but to be honest, I prefer the Salted Caramel Mocha at Starbucks instead of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Not that I’m saying the Pumpkin Spice Latte is in any way inferior. I’m just saying I like salted caramel. And mocha. But I also love October because it’s the month when I married my romance novel hero (3 years ago today, actually!) and got to take an epic honeymoon in Walt Disney World, and it’s also the time for jumping into piles of leaves with my writing partners (my Basset hounds, Lady Barks-a-lot and Captain Licky).
But even more there is the apprehensive lure of the scary story. There is the thrill of being scared beyond all capacity that brings one back again and again to the deceptively serene words of the scary story. So in honor of the season, I’ve welcomed three amazing paranormal/fantasy authors to my blog to share their own scary stories and a little bit of why they love the season of the scary story as much as I do. Over the next three weeks, I’ll post one of their guest blogs to this page, but be sure to check them out before their guest post. We have Andrea Cooper, J.C. McKenzie, and Cynthia Luhrs guesting on the blog. Check out their websites and get a feel for their own take on scary stories.
For this post, I want to share with you two of my favorite encounters with scary stories. Both originate from Stephen King, but I’m sure that’s no surprise there. The first is my first encounter with The Shining. And yes, we’re talking the movie and not the book version. It was the day before the last day of summer vacation 1990 something, and as was my usual, I was staying up really late in the hopes that sleep deprivation would help me fall asleep the night before the first day of school. Alas, there was no sleeping at all that night as I watched Jack Nicholson morph into something unnameable. But there is a scene that has remained frozen in my mind that may not be what others remember from this movie. It is near the very beginning of the movie when Jack Nicholson’s character sits down to write at this giant table in a massive room with light pouring in from the tall windows that surround it. (For those not familiar with the story, here’s a great write up from Wikipedia.) But in that image, I see peacefulness and creativity, and in my youth, I wondered, does writing always lead to madness? Yes, dear readers, that is what this movie taught me, and that is why it’s such a special scary story to me.
The second scary story memory is much more raw and touches on a human’s ability to completely freak themselves out. This one again goes back to a Stephen King story, this one being Lisey’s Story. And this one I had the pleasure of enjoying via audiobook. I’m a big audiobook listener, so it is no surprise that in the frozen tundra of the north where I live, I should choose to enjoy this particularly horrific story when the days are so incredibly short that more often than not, I was listening to this story in the dark on nearly deserted roads in the middle of nowhere surrounded by leering piles of soot-darkened snow. And so it was that at one point, I had pulled into the parking lot of my apartment building after a long drive, and as I sat in my car listening to the audiobook play on, tilting my head to avoid the glare of the parking lot light on the windshield, I realized I was afraid to get out of the car. Now, reread that sentence. I was in the middle of a city at this point in my very well-lit apartment building parking lot in an area where I felt perfectly safe and had moved around in many times before. And yet, I could not get out of the car. Well, I did what any normal person would do. I negotiated with my sanity. The bargain we struck was that I would get out of the car if I first opened the door and looked beneath the car to ensure that was nothing hiding under the vehicle ready to grab my feet. That seemed like a perfectly good bargain. And so it was that I opened my car door, braced myself precariously against the door handle, and leaned over to ensure there were no monsters lurking under my car ready to snatch an ankle.
What these scary story lessons have taught me, dear readers, is to never trust a writer with your sanity.
Now it’s your turn. Share your scary story moments in the comments below!