Monday, May 18, 2015


Some years back when I worked at my first job in health care, I decided to start an unofficial survey, and spent my occasional free moments asking my coworkers to name the most annoying song on the radio that they could think of. It didn't need to be current; it just needed to be the one song they could not switch off of quick enough. The answers, as you can imagine, were all over the map, but all of them had merit! I had a physical therapist mention "Muskrat Love" and proceed to make little rodent sounds. Then there was the certified athletic trainer who wouldn't give up the name of her choice because she knew everyone would start singing it. When she finally said it out loud, she was right. The song was "Mickey." One of the doctors said, "You know that real annoying one about knowing what boys want?" I said, "The one by The Waitresses"?  And he said "Yes!" Apart from the office, a professional musician I know simply answered the question with "Where do I start?"

Unofficial surveys are fun. You never know what you'll get. At the last health care job I worked at, I spent occasional free moments asking my coworkers for the scariest movie ever. That was as much fun as the song survey. I got multiple hits on things like "The Exorcist" and "Paranormal Activity" (any one of them). My personal winner is the original "The Haunting," an older black and white adaptation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Filmed without much in terms of special effects, the entire weight of the horror is carried in pure acting, dialogue, and body language. An amazing movie and one that I believe really didn't need to be remade in color, but that's a whole different topic.

But on to other kinds of scary stuff. "I don't like wind chimes because they attract ghosts."  "I don't like being in the bathroom by myself because I'm scared of the ghosts." My grandson: Say goodnight to the boy. Me: What boy? My grandson: The one by the rocking horse...  "Who's the little girl staring in through the window?" "There was this young guy sitting cross-legged on the floor, but I could see through him." 

These are all statements that have been said to me by the young and very young. All of them were enough to bring up the hairs on my neck. All of them were stated factually without any kind of buildup or drama. I think that's what made them so frightening - the matter-of-factness of the child speaking. They don't even doubt what they see. They just tell you about it, bless their totally non-skeptical little hearts. As I always say, kids and the paranormal are one of the scariest mixes possible.

Remembering all of these examples of frightening statements from the young, I decided that it's probably time for me to continue with my survey taking.

I want to pick up with a survey that I started years ago and I will let you all know results as I go along. It's a very basic question when it comes to scary stuff, and goes like this: What is the paranormal thing that would scare you the most if it happened? Mine is looking up and seeing someone in the mirror behind me. Just the idea is enough to make me uneasy when I wash my face. A writer I met way back when Saving Jake had just been released told me that his is the glimpse of two dark spots in the place where the bottom of the door does not quite meet the threshold: two dark spots that would indicate someone standing just outside the door, even though you know no one could possibly be there. I think he had that happen to him, and it was still bothering him when we talked.

Like that writer, people who have answered this question for me frequently refer to something that has already happened to them: getting a phone call from someone who is dead, hearing the familiar sounds of a loved one puttering around in another room before remembering that the loved one has already passed on; seeing something form in the shadows just beyond the foot of the bed. I can't wait to hear what people have to tell me.

And speaking of shadows, there was something that turned up outside the powder room door the other night - but that's a different blog entry.

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