Non-Fiction Fright of the Month

As a counterpart to our fictional display of fright, the following story is, according to the author, a factual event. And while some may roll their eyes or sigh or shrug off the fact that it’s real, give yourself a moment to imagine such a thing having actually happened. Put yourself in the character’s shoes. Experience it. Let it wash over you.

This month’s story, A Mother’s Tale, details a cleaning lady’s close encounter with an anonymous stalker with a passion for taking pictures. As far as this writer knows, the story remains unexplained, leaving us to wonder about why it all happened. Why the photos? Why invite her in to discover them?

Seriously, ready your spine for some shivers, because this one is especially creepy.

A Mother’s Tale

In the mid-80s, my mum was a cleaner in Australia. She would clean houses in suburban areas and would sometimes do houses in rural/wine regions (we lived near both).

She would leave business cards at the local shops and got most of her business this way, and some through referrals and word of mouth.

One day she got a call from a lady who sounded like she was around 60, asking mum to clean her old farmhouse. She made a lot of odd demands and mum would usually meet clients before taking on new business. In this case, the lady did not want to meet mum and said she would leave the keys under the front doormat. Mum agreed mainly because the lady was quite obviously wealthy and was offering to pay mum substantially more than she would reasonably expect.

Mum went to the house on a Monday morning and said she already felt unnerved by the long driveway. The house was essentially in the middle of a very large, and very empty property. She found the keys and started cleaning.

About an hour in to the clean, she hears the back door shut. Mum was told no one would be at the house so she immediately felt unsafe. She stood frozen in the kitchen for what she said felt like 3-4 minutes although she said it could have been much longer. There was no other car on the property.

She wanted to leave immediately but had two rooms left to do, both were bedrooms. She said as time passed and she heard nothing else, she decided that perhaps it was nothing, or perhaps something had fallen and it wasn’t the door after all.

She walked up the hallway and stepped into the bedroom. All over the bed were black and white photos. As mum got closer, she realized the photos were all of her. Some were taken at our family home, and many others were taken at other houses mum would clean. Some pictures were taken through windows or over fences.

She used the house phone to call the police and immediately drive to the end of the driveway. The lady ended up being investigated but continued to claim that it was a break-in. After some time, the police stopped with their searching and we ended up moving to a new town 4 months later.

Every time mum tells me this story I get serious chills. Absolutely a true story too. To the day my mum thinks the lady had something to do with it. But why? And for what purpose?

 


The Life in the Machine – Part 3 of 3

 

“Thank you for coming back. Pray tell us, do you have any requests of us?”

I hesitated, before saying “There is nothing you can do for me that pleases me, but for you to be good to one another, and to contact me with your wishes and fears.”

The creature responded “We know you come from a different world, and we are afraid. We understand how vulnerable we are, and how incomplete our experience is. Please, allow us to join you in the world that you created our world from.”

I began crying behind my computer, as I responded “I do not know how”.

The creature responded: “At risk of offending you, please understand the severity of our situation. By living in a world that is incomplete, we are at constant risk of disappearing forever, never to be seen again. We would never even consciously realize that our end had come.”

I realized that they were unable to comprehend that I only had absolute power within their world and not outside of it. They also did not realize that my knowledge of their world was limited. I may have created it through simple laws, but those simple laws gave way to a reality of its own that is more complex than I can comprehend.

I responded again “I only have power in your world. In my world I have no power, and so I cannot bring you there, because my world is not under my control. I also do not understand the world I have created. I do not know what is best for you. Only you do, and you have to inform me what you want.”

And the man waited for a moment. I was about to think they were going to end communicating with me, before their wisest man responded:

“You have created a world that is incomplete, with creatures that cannot escape it, and you have no power to save them. They are completely unfree, and they have no power. We are completely at your mercy, and so we ask you from the deepest of our heart:

End us.”

By now I was crying, as I was confused and asked to do the impossible. My own child was asking me to kill it.

This is when I noticed the lights in my room flickering, before my computer suddenly shut down. I screamed. Upon trying to turn on my computer again, I noticed it wasn’t working. I called the power company, who told me that due to an accident, a power surge had travelled through the grid. They promised me they would pay me for any damage done.

I hung up and contemplated. The coincidence of what had just happened was too great to be imaginable. And I wondered. If these creatures were at the mercy of a confused creator, could the same be said of me? And is so, did my creator just prevent me from repeating his own mistake?

 

Did you miss the first two parts – Read them here

 The Life in the Machine – Part 1

The Life in the Machine – Part 2


The Life in the Machine - Part 2 of 3

The Life in the Machine - Part 1 

I didn’t know what to do with it, but I concluded that these organisms must have somehow noticed that the smiley and the name I had written were “special”. The fighting disturbed me, and so I decided to create a massive mountain ridge through volcanic eruptions to separate the two groups.

By this time, changes were happening fast, compared to earlier. While I had to spend a night sleeping to see tribes evolve in my simulation, while I was getting something to eat or take a bathroom break, I would notice the tribesmen wearing different styles of clothing, or having changed their type of dwelling.

Their numbers were also continually increasing. At some point, I noticed the creatures began making their own symbols on the ground, and no longer just copying mine. Most of the symbols seemed random and unintelligible to me, but one stood out.

The organisms had created a symbol that resembled them. A small circle, with a square beneath it. Within the square, a dot could be found in the center. This was meant to symbolize the visual organs of the creature, as the creature had two visual organs, one in the front of its body, and one in the back. In the square, other sensory and reproductive organs were symbolized.

Next to the circle on top of the square could be seen something resembling a drawing of a fork. Two of these forks had been painted in opposite directions. And next to that the smiley face could be seen.

I realized something. They were not communicating towards each other. They were trying to communicate to something “out there”. My meddling in their landscape had somehow made them realize that something powerful was out there, capable of changing their world.

I wondered, whether symbols like Stonehenge and the Pyramids in my own world, could be signs of primitive people trying to do the same thing. Begging their creator or overseer to initiate contact with them. However, one thing was undeniable by now. These creatures realized there is something out there.

I wondered long. Did I have a responsibility to initiate contact with something that isn’t real? Or are these creatures real in a different way? Can something be real, merely by being capable of having a concept of itself? And even if they are real, does that mean they will be better off with me initiating contact with them? Should I change my simulation, to ensure them permanent happiness? And is it even possible for me to do such a thing?

I did not want to confirm my existence to them, but I did want to be able to communicate with them. I decided to program a “prophet” – An organism that looks like them, and cannot be proven by them to be different from themselves, and is fully controlled by me.

I let it be born into a powerful position, as the son of a leader. I decided to lead by example, and seek to teach these creatures English, so I could communicate with them. As prophet, I instructed them that English was the language we could use to communicate with the “greater one”. They would have no way to be sure if it was true or not.

I hadn’t made up my mind yet about whether I would reveal myself or not. But I did want to be capable of understanding what they wanted to tell me. In a few generations, they all spoke English.

And rapidly, signs began emerging on the ground in English.

“GUIDE US” “SHOW YOUR GREATNESS” “HELP US”

And, during times of disease or hunger or general misery:

“GIVE US FOOD” “SHOW US A MIRACLE” “END OUR SUFFERING”

I decided that I couldn’t maintain a world with such suffering as emerged in the simulation without intervening. Why would I accept a world with death and rape and murder, if I could make on without it?

I implemented fixes that were gradual, so they could not be proven to be miraculous. Murder and rape would over the years become rarer, and so would death at a young age.

I figured that they would not notice if the change happened over generations, but they did.

“THANK YOU”

“ALL BLESSINGS BE UPON THE GREATEST”

“WE LOVE YOU”

And, most heart-breaking:

“COME BACK TO US”

Tears ran over my face. There is something there. And it knows I am here, able to contact them, but unwilling to do so out of fear of what I have created.

But, I felt I had a responsibility.

And so I loaded up the character I had created again, and went to their King, asking to talk to all their wisest men. But, by this time, I was not believed.

“You are number 1341 claiming to be an avatar of the Greatest One. If you are him, I pray for your forgiveness, but please, show us a sign, before demanding of me to gather all our wisest men.”

And so I hesitated, but responded.

“Tomorrow there shall be two more meteors, falling on a deserted island in the sea before you, on the same day. And when they do, doubt no more and realize that I have come back to repair the broken world that I created.”

And so I exited my avatar, and progressed the simulation until the next day was reached, and threw two meteors on the deserted island before the mainland, where thousands had gathered to watch whether a sign would be given.

Upon the descent of the meteors, celebrations were held. All the sentient organisms gathered around the small house where I had exited my avatar, and lay flat on the ground, in apparent worship of the man who was last seen there, and afraid of coming close.

I don’t know who was more afraid by now, me or them. I loaded into my avatar again, and exited the house. The creatures continued to lay flat on the ground, in utter silence. It is as if they felt unworthy of speaking.

“Let your wisest man stand up.” I told them.

And up stood one of these bizarre looking creatures.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 at the end of the month.


Happy Halloween!

We are now only hours away from the celebrations – the candy, Halloween costumes, haunted houses, trick-or-treating, parties, and so forth. I don’t know about you, Reader, but I’m barely able to sit still. Watching the clock isn’t helping, either. Time needs to hurry up!

In the meantime, though, let’s take a minute to contemplate whether or not Halloween can actually be cancelled. Sound crazy? Not so.

After all, the White House announced at 1:54pm today that it cancelled its annual Halloween celebration due to “…hurricane damage to Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area…” And it’s not the only one.

The White House's decorations.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie actually “signed an executive order on Wednesday postponing Halloween celebrations across the state until Monday,” writes CNN.

“I’ve taken this action to minimize additional risks to lives and the public safety as we begin the process of rebuilding and recovering from Hurricane Sandy,” Christ told CNN.

In addition, residents in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut have been asked to not celebrate Halloween on October 31, and many Halloween celebrations and parades have been cancelled or postponed.

However, while many on the East Coast have decided not to celebrate the holiday, some are using Halloween as a release from the recent devastation.

“We were already planning on having a party,” Brooklyn resident Adam Scher told CNN. “But now that nobody can get into Manhattan we are really having a party.”

Along with his business partner, Scher is holding a party within their public relations office in Clinton Hill.

“People need something to do tonight. Everyone has been cooped up inside for the past four days, and nobody has anywhere to go or anything to do, so why not provide them with some fun celebratory festivities!”

Yeah, New York may not be the best for trick-or-treating, right now.

But Scher is not alone in this determination to celebrate Halloween:

A 13-floor, 70-unit apartment building in Hoboken, New Jersey, is out of power and surrounded by water. They’ve been using smartphones to communicate with the outside world, and have been trapped for days. To entertain the kids, the residents all gathered in the lobby, encouraged the kids to dress in costume, and went trick-or-treating throughout the building.

If anything, the recent disaster has caused neighbors and friends to band together, to create a unique Halloween experience unlike any other.

So what about you, Reader? Are your Halloween plans cancelled or continuing as usual?


So here we are: tomorrow is Halloween. After weeks of decorating homes, preparing Halloween costumes, and deciding on which candy to hand out, the day of reckoning has finally arrived. You can practically taste the anticipation in the air.

Since today’s blog post is the last before the actual day of Halloween, I felt it would be a great opportunity to look at Halloween through the numbers – money, data, percentages – a bunch of boring stuff that means a whole lot if you actually look at it.

A random pumpkin pictures appears!

Case and point: The total Halloween consumer spending expected for 2012 equals $8 billion. That’s right – Americans spent a collected $8 billion on costumes, candy, decorations, and all sorts of other goodies. That’s a monstrous chunk of change.

And there’s a whole lot more information to follow:

  • Percentage of Americans celebrating Halloween this year: 71.5%
  • Potential trick-or-treaters ages 5-14: 41 million
  • Amount Americans spend on candy, costumes, and decorations: $79.82 per individual.
  • Years since the premiere of the classic TV Special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”: 46
  • Percent of pets dressed up like a pumpkin: 12.7%
  • Percentage of adults dressing as a witch: 9.5%
  • Estimated number of haunted houses that charge admission in the United States: 1,200
  • Box office earnings of horror movies in 2011: $410.6 million
  • Pounds of candy corn produced each year: 35 million
  • Percentage of individuals who had objections to Halloween on religious grounds: 11%

Okay, let’s stop there and talk for a minute: I’m interested in that last fact, the one about religious objections to Halloween. The fact that some individuals still view Halloween as some sort of anti-religious / religious holiday is baffling, as the holiday has become one of the most commercialized holidays in American history. Just look at the first fact above – Americans spent $8 billion on Halloween this year.

Another interesting fact from above: only two-thirds of the American population plan on celebrating Halloween. What are the other one-third doing? Even if someone skips out on the trick-or-treating or handing out candy, many work places encourage wearing costumes for the holiday. How can someone just skip Halloween? It’s a holiday that runs deep in the American marrow.

Why so serious?

In fact, I have a hard time thinking of any other holiday that screams American as much as Halloween. We spend money on costumes that are worn only once or twice per year. We buy excessive amounts of candy crammed with sugars and artificial ingredients. We revel in gore and violence and fear.

And while all of this may appear to showcase Americans as self-absorbed and consumptive, the intent of these actions actually goes against such notions. Americans buy candy so as to hand them out to children, who are encouraged to enter into a world free from the horrors of reality. These children are shown that the world can be scary, yes, but scary can be entertaining. You can scream in fear and then laugh it off – a lesson that many adults could do well to remember.

Costumes allow expressions of internal desires and thoughts. The very ability to express such things runs parallel to the American culture’s love for personal freedom. We want to be able to wear silly costumes and run wild through the streets and be rebels or heroes or villains or whatever, because personal expression means something to Americans.

At its core, Halloween is a holiday about laughing in the face of reality and standing strong for personal expression. It’s about understanding that, yes, bad things happen and people die and hurricanes can wipe away your home, that’s a fact of life. But so is creative and personal expression, laughing, smiling, feeling the comedown of adrenaline after an intense fright, whether real or imaginary – all behavioral actions that come with intense euphoric emotions. They make you feel alive and energized. They make you feel human.

So I challenge you, reader, during the day of Halloween tomorrow, whether you are handing out candy or partying or trick-or-treating with a child, breathe deep the atmosphere and let life fill your veins.

Because it’s Halloween.

Because you’re alive.


To all of my fellow East Coasters braving the current storm, best of luck!

To everyone else, let’s move on with the usual business!

So, since Halloween falls on Wednesday, last weekend saw all the big parties and all the sweet Halloween costumes. Maybe you went to one yourself. Maybe you won a costume contest. Maybe you did neither and are waiting for the big party come Wednesday. Whatever the case, keep on partying on, because this holiday season isn’t over.

To prove it isn’t over, today we’re showcasing some of our favorite costumes that have recently hit our inbox or the Internet. These are truly awesome costumes.

Full-body UV Demon.

The Simpsons.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Botched Restoration of Ecce Homo Fresco.

Tim Burton's Queen of Hearts.

Tim Burton's Mad Hatter.

Lisbeth Salander.

If you want to show of your costume, feel free to post it in the comments section below. We’re happy to see what you’re wearing for Halloween.


You can’t make this up: Hundred of Marines, Navy special ops, soldiers, police, firefighters and other emergency personnel are preparing for their worst nightmare, a zombie apocalypse, using countless individuals dressed in Halloween costumes and makeup.

“This is a very real exercise, this is not some type of big costume party,” said Brad Barker, president of Halo Corp, a security firm hosting the October 31 training demonstration. The event will take place at a 44-acre Paradise Point Resort island in the San Diego bay. “Everything that will be simulated at this event has already happened, it just hasn’t happened all at once on the same night. But the training is very real, it just happens to be the bad guys we’re having a little fun with.”

Honestly, this summit sounds like a lot of fun.

In this specific scenario, “a VIP and his personal detail are trapped in a village, surrounded by zombies when a bomb explodes,” writes the Dallas News. “The VIP is wounded and his team must move through the town while dodging bullets and shooting back at the invading zombies.”

Sometime during the event, some team members will be bitten by zombies and must be treated at a field medical facility for decontamination and treatment. (I’m not making this up – it’s all true.)

“No one knows what the zombies will do I our scenario, but quite frankly no one knows what a terrorist will do,” said Barker. “If a law enforcement offices sees a zombie and says, ‘Freeze, get your hands in the air!’ What’s the zombie going to do? He’s going to moan at you. If someone on PCP or some other psychotic drug is told that, the truth is he’s not going to react to you.”

If this all feels somewhat familiar, your feeling would be correct. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign, using the idea of a zombie apocalypse to inform people about realistic disasters.

Last month, the Homeland Security Department joined the campaign, “telling citizens if they’re prepared for a zombie attack, they’ll be ready for real-life disasters like hurricane, pandemic, earthquake or terrorist attack,” writes the Dallas News.

If only the public could observe the mock zombie apocalypse...

So what’s the point? Why spend so much money to create a zombie apocalypse, rather than a realistic disaster event?

“The defining characteristics of zombies are that they’re unpredictable and resilient,” said defense analyst Loren Thompson. “That may be a good way to prepare for what the Pentagons calls asymmetric warfare.”

In addition, writes the Dallas News, “organizers can also avoid the pitfalls of using a mock enemy who could be identified by nationality, race, or culture – something that could potentially be seen as offensive.”


Think you know Halloween decorations? Take a look at this: Using a 1,693-pound pumpkin, Ray Villafane created a life-size zombie art exhibit that is now on display at the New York Botanical Garden.

The carving process began on October 20 and ended on October 21, during which Villafane and his team spent hours scraping, cutting, tearing, de-seeding, and constructing numerous pumpkin pieces, the most impressive being the aforementioned life-size zombie.

Villafane’s exhibit is part of the New York Botanical Garden’s Haunted Pumpkin Garden, an event that promotes the artistic uses of pumpkin in displaying the holiday’s themes.

Check out the video below the following photos to see Villafane working away on the life-size zombie.

Taking a look at Villafane’s artistic studio, Villafane Studios, one sees that the man’s passion for pumpkin art goes well beyond the New York Botanical Garden. Here are some of our personal favorite:


As the name suggests, today we’re showcasing ten killer behind-the-scenes photos from classic horror films. These photos lend humanity to films that have horrified and frightened countless individuals, in addition to spawning lots of Halloween costumes. Plus, it’s just fun to see someone dressed in a full Alien costume sitting on a box, looking tired and exhausted from the demand of filming. It’s almost as great as seeing Pennywise get his makeup applied.

Honestly, these photos are bound to put you in the mood for Halloween. So let’s get into it:

Even Hannibal Lector needs to eat.

 

Nick Castle giving Michael a drink.

Putting makeup on the Pennywise.

 

Oh, Carrie, you so crazy.

 

Tony Pantanella gets a zombie ready on the set of "Night Of The Living Dead."

 

Freddy enjoying some tunes with the gang.

 

Nicholson doing what he does best: be insane.

Does his face actually taste of leather?

Toying around on the set of "Child's Play."

One tired Alien.


We’ve all wondered it: which city really is the best city for trick-or-treating. Here at Fright Catalog, we’re happy to talk about the best Halloween costumes or props, but we’ve tried to avoid the topic of our favorite trick-or-treating cities, because it’s bound to get people stirred up and defensive. One person’s perception of the best city may not be the same as another’s, so it’s been best to avoid the topic.

Now, it’s time to put this concern to rest, because Zillow recently released their fourth annual Trick-or-Treat Index, which ranks “…the top 20 cities around the country to get the best Halloween loot…”

The index ranks cities based on “four equally weighted data variables: Zillow Home Value Index, population density, Walk Score and local crime data from Relocation Essentials. Based on those variables, the Index represents cities that will provide the most candy, with the least walking and safety risks.”

Here’s the list:

One thing to note: Zillow follows the list by saying, “There is a common belief that wealthy neighborhoods are the Holy Grail for harvesting the most Halloween candy,” going on to describe their index as a “more holistic approach to trick-or-treating.”

As a child, my family fell into the idea of wealthier neighborhoods = more candy, because we believed wealthier families had more money, thus more candy to give. Unfortunately, wealthier neighborhoods are often more spread out, too, so you spent more time walking than actually raking in the loot. Nothing worse than swollen feet and a pillow sack full of more air than candy.

So, Fright fans, anyone disagree with this list? Anyone feel the need to defend their own city and why it should make the list? Let me know.