Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unusual Urges

About a week ago I was driving over the George Washington Bridge. Traffic slowed for a few seconds and I was able to look at the steel girders, beams, rivets, and thick wires that held the bridge together. My eyes followed the construction upwards and my mind put me somewhere out there about 100 feet up over the Hudson.

I could see the sparkling water below me and a seagull passed close to my right ear, and I could feel the grip of my left flip-flopped foot loose its traction--I could feel myself start to fall.

Just like in my dreams of falling, I jerked myself back to reality before I hit the chilly water, cursed aloud in the car and again wondered why my brain insists on playing these messed up games with me.

These odd moments do not happen infrequently.
When I was in Washington, D.C. I was strolling next to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool. I did not want to get wet, my balance is very good, yet as I walked hand in hand with my then boyfriend I was pretty sure if I stepped up onto the edge I would have a hard time keeping myself from jumping right in. Of course I would not drown there and most likely not even get hurt, but again--strange urge!

I have never wanted to kill or injure myself, and I do not fancy myself much of a physical daredevil with urges to climb slippery mountains or jump out of planes.

Then why, oh why do I have these odd urges and thoughts at such inopportune times?

Seems there is some real science behind this urge. A team in Florida State's psychology department gave this freaky feeling the name "high-place phenomenon." Over 400 people in the study were asked if they ever felt the urge to suddenly jump from a high place, and although people who had considered suicide in the past answered positively more often, over 50% of non-suicidal participants said they had experienced the phenomenon also.  (Complete article from NBC News here: http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/13/10657767-that-weird-urge-to-jump-off-a-bridge-explained?lite )

Imagine you have just ascended the 217 steps to reach the top of the Barnegat Light House in Long Beach Island, NJ. You step onto the completely enclosed catwalk that encircles the top-most portion of the structure and you look down and panic. Even though it would be impossible to squeeze through the iron bars you find yourself stepping away from the edge, or even retreating to the perceived safety of the inner light room.
You look back outside and realize you would be 100% safe walking around out there and enjoying the view--so why did you run in? Possibly because we had some type of urge to jump?

We test ourselves in many ways. Some climb Everest, or base jump, or search for paranormal activity with EVP equipment and infrared cameras, some use Xbox for vicarious wars and battles. We want to feel brave and get a thrill, and we all do it differently.

When I was younger I used to go to graveyards at night with my camera and some friends to try and capture something otherworldly on film. We did see some other darkly dressed characters that we called grave robbers, and we were chased away by the police, but the only thing we managed to get on film was each other.

So my personal "thrill" is discovering and exploring the dark and scary. I do NOT like heights, yet I'm sure I will find myself once again daydreaming about being far to high above my comfort zone of sea level.

I would love to know if you have ever experienced the high place phenomenon, or anything like it.

I also like to stir the pot in conversations a bit--but I think that is something different... :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fears of the Famous--What Haunts the Horror Gods

Oh, how I love to get into a horror book--REALLY into it...so much so that I'll sit a bit more still than I normally would, because if I move whatever is waiting around for a victim will know I'm there...

...and I have to wait a bit to go to the rest room because God knows what is waiting for me behind the shower curtain...

...and I definitely will NOT look out the window because there will be a man standing about halfway up my walkway just waiting for me to peek out--and he'll be smiling--and as soon as I notice him he will finish his walk to my front door...


I can scare myself more than almost any horror writer can. But I worship the few that can get under my skin.

I know it does not seem so from what I just wrote, but I am actually pretty hard to scare. I recently saw the movie Insidious in my sister's basement that was recently converted into a very cool movie viewing room, complete with old fashioned popcorn maker, comfy sofas, and a 75 inch drop down screen and projector. Next to me on the couch was my sister's stepson, all six foot three, 200 pounds of him, recently recruited to play college football on full scholarship. The lights were down and he remarked he was not very fond of the dark corner behind him, and I felt him move an almost imperceptible fraction of an inch closer to me.

He was not very good about tension in the film either. If he thought something was going to happen he would say, Ohhh, here we go....this is gonna be baaaaddd.... while curling into a bit of a ball and not quite fully looking at the screen. There was no mistaking our narrowing proximity on the couch, and when the music crescendoed and the monster appeared and we were startled, he screamed like Kim Kardashian at a shoe sale.

Exact moment of the woman scream.

Happily he is a good sport and laughed even though he was teased for the rest of the night. Apparently horror is not for him. Some are more easily scared than others.

So this got me thinking...do horror writers get scared of what they write?

Was Stephen King as scared writing about as I was scared reading about the dead boy with glowing eyes scratching patiently at the window, floating and asking let me iiinnn during Salem's Lot? What about the "other Mother" that Neil Gaiman wrote about in Coraline, with her sewn-on black button eyes. Did it creep him out for a while?

Stephen King admitted to being afraid of "Spider, snakes...and my mother-in-law," when he recently spoke at the University of Massachusetts, and Neil Gaiman doesn't seem to admit to being afraid of anything, except possibly repeating the sins of his parents on his own kids. (Have no fear, I am referring to an incident where he hoists his screaming son over his shoulder to bring him to sleep after refusing.) And he might also be afraid of falling...

Tim Burton of Edward Scissorhands fame admits to having a fear of chimps--interesting, since he directed a remake of Planet of the Apes. He said, 

“You don’t know whether chimps are going to kill you or kiss you. They’re very open on some levels and much more evil in a certain way.” I also remember him saying it is not the horror movies that scare him, but real life. I can relate.

Anne Rice, who brought vamps into vogue with Interview with a Vampire, admits to fearing the dark:   "I'm kind of scared of the dark. .... I've never seen a ghost. I've never seen an angel. I've never seen a vision of any kind. And I think I'm a little bit scared that I might."

Joe Hill, author of the shivery ghost story Heart Shaped Box says he is afraid of technology:

“AutoCorrect. AutoCorrect is the first phase in the war between the machines and mankind. I assume at some point in the near future, the President will send a text to Hu Jintao reading ‘Looking forward to our talks in Beijing soon’ and his iPhone will change the message to read ‘Looking forward to our tanks in Beijing soon.’ This will be followed by 30 minutes of frantic text messages, all over the planet, reading ‘omfg the world is ending amf!! @ least I dont have 2 go 2 work 2day lol!!’ Millions will die, but will still be unable to get out of their cellular-phone contracts. This is the stuff that keeps me up at 3 a.m.” (From Time Entertainment)

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, claims to fear nothing, just like Goosebumps writer R.L. Stine.


I imagine:

- Edgar Allan Poe was afraid of being alone, and of course being buried alive.

- Bram Stoker had a desperate fear of intimacy.

- H.P. Lovecraft was forced to eat squid as a child.

- George A. Romero spent far too much time with his older relatives.

- and Tom Cruise may be afraid of being weak or ordinary. (I know he has nothing to do with horror but he kind of scares me...)

And just so you know--I am scared of only a few things, but I won't tell you what they are because I don't want to pay for it for the rest of my life...okay--I'll tell you one.  I am a germaphobe...not for myself...for my kid. Oh, and I'm a little scared of flying...and dark, open water...

Now I would love to know what scares YOU.