DOES ANYTHING TERRIFY YOU?
Do the dead scare you?
Does the unknown?
Does anything truly TERRIFY you?
When it comes to the supernatural, let me start by stating that I am a true skeptic. About everything. That doesn’t mean I rule anything out, though. If someone says they can communicate with the deceased? Cool. Prove it.
No one has. Certainly not the practitioners of clumsy televised parlor tricks.
All that being said, I will strap into a polygraph, bellow on a bench of bibles, have Dr. Phil stare into my soul, and tell you that when I was six years-old, the faces of my deceased mother and father graced the blue Brooklyn sky above me.
Did I tell anyone at the time? I must have, but I can’t remember. I do remember that I sat alone, gazing up for what seemed like at least most of the length of whatever AM radio hit was filling my first-grade senses as I fed breadcrumbs to a colony of ants. Mom and Dad didn’t communicate with me. They just studied me as I studied the ants. I feel it is important to state one thing:
I wasn’t afraid.
Then when I was seventeen I began reading The Amityville Horror. There is a section in that novel that features a swarm of houseflies. Beelzebub, you know. Lord of the Flies. Satan. Well, my aunt’s basement apartment had a vestibule – a small, maybe 5x5 room that sat between the door from the street and the door to the actual living quarters. I opened that first door as I arrived home from high school and was met by hundreds of houseflies. The so-many-flies-I-can’t-see-the-other-door kind. There were no insects in the apartment and we’d never had an issue with them. They just all showed up that afternoon. None outside the building, none in the apartment, just hundreds in the 5x5 vestibule. No trash in there, no rotting carcass. Just the flies, same as in the book that sat in my schoolbag. I liked the ants better.
That incident was surely odd. I have no explanation for it.
But I wasn’t afraid.
That night I went to visit my two older sisters. I was going to spend the night at their place, listen to music, watch old movies, have some New York pizza.
When all of that was done we were just lounging around. It was about 2AM. We had the radio volume low as we talked about this and that. It dawned on me that I hadn’t told them about the crazy housefly incident. As I recounted the itchy episode and linked it to the book that I had brought with me to their apartment, the radio dial began to move—all on its own. We watched as it slowly slid from the station we had on to one at the far end of the dial.
Okay, I was a little afraid then.
I never finished reading The Amityville Horror. I did eventually see the movie. I liked the half-finished book better.
The thing about the flies and the radio: They happened. They happened to me. I have witnesses. But I can’t explain any of it.
None of the above had any life-changing effect on me, they are just (hopefully) interesting stories. The next and final experience however, probably saved my life.
One day, in my thirties, I was driving home from work at about 3AM. Suburban neighborhood, no one on the streets, no traffic to speak of. Just the dead of night.
I came to an intersection about a mile from home. Stopped for a red light. No other vehicles to be seen. Quiet. Still. Just low chatter from the sports-talk radio station in my car.
Then I saw it. Her, I think. You know how so many movies portray ghosts as almost translucent beings, but often wrapped in flowing white garments? Vestments even. Damned if I didn’t see that, right on that Long Island street corner. I don’t know if she was standing or floating, but the white attire flapped ornately in a breeze that wasn’t there.
As I tried to make sense of all of this, the traffic light turned green. I should have motored on, but I remained, transfixed. Just then, out of nowhere, a loud truck came blasting across in front of me. It ran the red light. It would have surely broadsided me had I moved on my green light, as I was supposed to.
I took a deep breath and looked over for the flowing white vision on the corner.
You’ve probably guessed it. She was gone.
“No fucking way”, I thought. I drove around so I could see more of the sidewalk. Nothing. There is no physical way she could have walked far enough in any direction to avoid my eyes in the seconds it took me to turn that corner, but she was gone. Vanished.
So, that happened. It happened to me. I can’t explain it. I can only report what I saw.
But I wasn’t afraid.
Oh, the radio in my car remained on the sports-talk station.
That got me to thinking about what would truly scare me. Not just a little bit. What would TERRIFY me?
As an adult, I had a full career as a police officer in New York. I wasn’t Dirty Harry–just a regular cop. Even so, there were uncomfortable moments: Disarming people with guns, entering buildings that were ablaze or filled with carbon monoxide, raiding full—and fully-armed—crack houses, trying to aid and comfort people who knew, as I did, that they were about to die. Those are all unnerving situations and my heart raced some during all of them, but were they TERRIFYING?
After all this, I’ve come to the (probably obvious) conclusion that the most terrifying situation I could come up with would be to have a loved one befallen by great catastrophe.
Imagine those you adore most. Nothing could match the terror of true harm coming to any of them...
Except the most barbaric, heartless atrocity to ever be unleashed defiled ALL of your loved ones simultaneously.
It made them want nothing more than to kill you.
And sometimes, you, them.
My brand new novel is called CANNI. My feeling is that the three strongest experiences we can have, and the three over which we have little to no control, are love, laughter, and terror.
My goal was to pay homage to each.
I hope I did them justice.
And get more of Dan's brand of terror on his blog Primal Screaming