Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

by the Women of Stellar Four

Photo by Sam Howzit
Nothing goes better with a dark night under the stars and a campfire at your feet than scary stories. Okay, maybe s'mores, but scary stories are in the top two. Whether it happened a long time ago, to your cousin's boyfriend's sister's BFF, or to yourself, scary stories make us feel alive even as we tremble at that snapping branch in the dark, that rustle in the bushes and the strange animal calls breaking through the quiet.

Read on after the break for some of our favorite creepy tales.

Kathy F.

I just got back from camping and am very glad that Meghan's post came out AFTER my return. She is totally right on about the giant mutated ants. Those things gave me enough nightmare fuel to last for a long time.

So I'm there, on this big family campout. Seven kids under 10 are tearing around, having fun. The grownups head to the coolers to discover that we all forgot the booze. [Cue screams of anguish.]

Just kidding. There's no way in hell we forgot that. I do, however, need to remember to stick a bottle opener in the supplies or figure out how to open bottles with my ring. That is a useful skill.

Kid toys are freaking scary.
The real story goes like this: a young teen lies sleeping in her room when she suddenly hears crying coming from behind her closet door. It's loud enough that it wakes her parents and all three stare bleary eyed wondering what is going on. Somewhat bolstered by the fact that there are grownups in the room, the girl opens the door to find her Talking Wrinkles puppet actually talking to her. She takes the puppet out of the closet. It starts to cry, then goes silent.

The parents start throwing out possible reasons for why the puppet decided after all these years of silently sitting on a shelf, to wake everyone up at an unholy hour of the morning. It was set back slightly on the shelf, so the idea that something fell and hit the puppet in the exact spot to start its routine did not quite fit. The batteries were removed and tested in another device. No issues there.

An hour later, the family received a phone call that Grandma (the same Grandma who gave the puppet to the girl) had passed away, at the same time that Wrinkles started talking.

True story. The girl was me, and I kept the puppet, sans batteries. It's still in my old room, brought out when I feel like scaring the norms. We never figured out what had happened that morning.

Meghan B.

I was at camp this one time, totally not interested in being there, when a spot a girl across the camp site who looks a shocking amount like me except with shorter hair.

She comes over to me (oh god no!) and starts to TALK to me. It becomes clear that she doesn't just LOOK like me... she IS me. She knows my parents, she has a picture of my father! She is my long lost twin!

I am horrified at this point. She wants to crawl back into our lives since we got rid of her. She wants to trade places with me, she wants to BE me! She wants to cut my hair!

Wait, what do you mean that's the plot of the Parent Trap?

What do you mean that movie isn't scary?!    

Okay, okay, I'll be serious now...

The last house I lived in with my parents was haunted. 100% sure of this fact. The amount of weird, unexplained things that happened there boggle the mind. For example, we had a giant wooden clock in the living room. My father loved that thing. But it never kept time. It was slow and then sometimes it was fast. No rhyme or reason to it. It hadn't done that in the house we lived in before. My father mentioned he would go and get it fixed. The next day the wood of the clock was split in half.

Another time, my sister was watching TV in our den. I was toiling away in the computer room nearby and my father was in his room taking a shower. Our den had big vaulted ceilings and there was a bridge-like piece of architecture that connected my room and my sister's from the master suite. My sister saw what she thought was my mother wearing a nightgown walk across the bridge, in the reflection of the windows in the den. She asked her to bring her a pair of socks. My mother walked out of the kitchen, wearing jeans and a hoodie, telling my sister she wasn't upstairs and couldn't get her socks. My sister didn't sleep for a week.

My father also saw the ghostly apparition once, thinking it was either me or my sister. Neither of us were home at the time.  

Lastly, I had my own experience with the ghost. I was rather a mess in high school, when we lived there, so I'm not sure if this meant the ghost was friendly... but late one night I was laying in bed, listening to my CD player and full of anxiety over some teenager problems. Suddenly, the CD skipped and went dead and I heard a female voice near my ear, clear as a bell say "it will be all right". The CD started back up but I had already thrown my headphones off and turned on every light in my room.

Those are just some of the stories of our old haunted house. We've since moved out of it, but since we live nearby we sometimes drive by it. No family has stayed in that house longer than a year. One couple moved out after six months. We were there for seven years.

The wooden clock was never repaired but keeps perfect time in our new house...

Sara N.

Gather 'round, children, for true tales of terror! The following events are based on true stories.

Pray for Morning

When I was about 8 years old, I was shipped off to Girl Scout summer camp — my one and only outdoor, wilderness-based camping experience. It lasted maybe two nights, and it left me a changed girl. Why? Because a praying mantis made its home on the wooden beam directly adjacent to my bunk.

A praying mantis. A foot away from my sleeping form.

I think mantises are cool in the abstract, with their stick-like, leaf-looking bodies. But up close in the night? NOPE.

I eyed it in mute terror as I tried to fall asleep, rigid with fear, convinced that as soon as I did, it was going to walk across my face or feast on my eyeballs or lay its eggs in my ears. And the thing was, it was there both nights. It had obviously come to steal my soul or poke its antennae into my nose or burrow into my luggage to insinuate itself into my bedroom at home.

Why didn't I ask a camp counselor to gently remove it and take it outside to join its insect brethren? I do not know. For all I know, I still have a colony of mantis eggs in my ears, just waiting to hatch some three decades later.

Lights Out

I'm almost asleep next to my husband in our mid-century ranch home, when I say to him sleepily, "Could you please turn off the hall light?"

"I did," he mumbles.

"But it's still on," I say.

"No, I did. I turned it off as I came to bed," he says, awake now.

We both sit bolt upright.

"Are you sure?" I ask.

We both slowly turn to look at the small patch of illuminated hallway we can see from our bed.

"I'm sure. I did. I turned it off," he says.

"So ... is it old wiring? That made the lights turn back on?" I ask.

A pause.

"Yes. It's got to be old wiring," he says.

Bravely leaving the bed, he steps to the hallway and flicks the old push button switch to turn the lights off.

By the time he's back in bed, the lights are on again.

We spend the rest of the night sitting up against our headboard, staring uneasily at the illuminated hallway.

Radio Silence

We've got an old shower radio that died a few years ago. Fresh batteries couldn't get it to make a peep, so like the true lazy slobs that we are, we left it in the corner of the shower, forgotten, to accumulate soap scum. After maybe two years of benign neglect, my husband and I heard a staticky noise coming from the bathroom one Saturday afternoon.

The radio was broadcasting a signal. It wasn't anything we could understand it, but it was definitely trying to communicate. This lasted for 10 minutes, then it fell silent again.

Did one of us drop or jostle it that morning, causing the long-dead batteries to spark briefly to life? It's possible. But neither of us had been in the bathroom for hours when it suddenly started started broadcasting.

What was it trying to tell us? We'll never know. I do know that I told my sister this story, then wrapped that radio up and mailed it to her among her birthday presents that year. She returned the favor at Christmastime. So the haunted, soap-scummy radio sits in my house still ... waiting to be gifted to a new home.

Megan S.

No other campfire story scares the bejesus out of me like Bloody Mary.  I'm not even sure I've heard the whole tale before;  I get the heebie jeebies just from the idea that some eldritch horror is looking out at me from the mirror.  Watching.  Waiting.

Um. Excuse me while I go flip on the lights to finish typing this.

Ah, that's better.  Now where was I? 

My memories of first hearing about Bloody Mary are vague and muddled.  Was I at Girl Scout camp walking a foggy trail in the dim light that filtered through the imposing redwoods?  Was I on a field trip to a graveyard where I stared into the dark recess of an alcove with a weatherbeaten Virgin Mary statue as some other little girl gleefully told me about the bloody thing behind the thin pane of glass in my bathroom?  Both recollections are equally true in my mind.  I remember not believing.  I remember the creeping fear that mushroomed later that night, in the farthest reaches of my imagination, worrying at my assuredness, that something other than my reflection might be looking out from the mirror when all of the lights were off.

How could I really be sure?  Could I be so bold as to call out her name three times in the dark?  Would I be so foolhardy as to chance it?  I never risked it as a child.  I can do it now, so many years later, if I must.  I can look at my reflection in the dark and see that no one covered in blood is there and biding its time until it can end me.  

But I never look myself in the eye.

Just in case.

Have a scary story of your own to share? We want to hear it in the comments.
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