Welcome to my Nightmare by Alice Cooper & the Muppets
Haunted House by Lonnie Johnson
Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon
Ghost Riders in the Sky by The Blues Brothers
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
It’s that time. The time the scary stuff comes out. We dress up the pumpkins. We put on someone else’s face. Usually a scary someone like Dracula or Frankenstein’s Monster or a Werewolf or a Kardashian. It’s a time when we really don’t want to go down in the basement. It gets so scary some years we may find ourselves calling for the Ghostbusters. (“Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters.”)
It’s time for a spine-chilling movie. What better spine-chilling movie than a haunted house film? But I gotta tell you. For me, there have been very few haunted-house movies that can measure up to a Big Scare.
The Haunting measures up. It was directed by Robert Wise. You mean, the Sound-of-Music, The-Day-the-Earth-Stood-Still Robert Wise. Yes, that Robert Wise. A Robert Wise who came out of the Studio System when directors got to work in a lot of different genres.
“The Haunting” is adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel, “The Haunting of Hill House”. Nelson Gidding’s screenplay does not deviate much from the novel. It is filmed in black and white, creating an aura that accentuates darkness the house gives off. (Please don’t ruin your experience by seeing the 1999 remake. It’s not good.)
The movie opens with the house silhouetted against the night sky, not an inviting scene. The house whispers to the viewer, “Stay away if you know what’s good for you.” With the appearance of the house, there is the discordant music of a harp and a piano. Then the narration begins. “An evil old house…Whatever walked there, walked alone” Suddenly I realize that it might not be good to watch this one alone.
Then there is the cast. Not your usual horror movie cast. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn (from “West Side Story” fame) and Lois Maxwell (the original Miss Moneypenny). No Vincent Price. No Boris Karloff. No Christopher Lee. No blood and gore either. Just fear.
“The dead are not quiet in Hill House,” Mrs. Sanderson, the current owner, warns the scientist. He has approached her, asking her to allow him to research the psychic phenomena in the house.
Soon we learn just how not-quiet the dead are. Which makes this one a perfect Halloween movie.
Do you have a favorite Halloween movie?
A Halloween Story
Think about it. There are shadows, and then there are shadows. Each man, each woman, each child has their shadow, must have their shadow, must carry it with forbearance, with patience, without complaint. They are our companions whether we like it or not. And whether they like it or not.
You see, shadows are lost souls who serve time for past evils. They are chained to our bodies with invisible links. But there are those who resist their punishment, their purgatory. They are the restless ones. Shadows who won’t follow the rules. Shadows who won’t behave. Shadows who will do evil. And some of these shadows with sheer willpower break their chains and escape to go hunting.
Now I am not one to say that you have one of those shadows. But have you asked yourself, what is your shadow up to when it disappears? I don’t want to unnerve you, the Reader, but think about it. And keep watch. Keep very very close watch.
William Clarence Monroe had not thought much about his shadow. Though he had spent forty years, bearing the thing around. Then he came to reside in the House.
William Clarence Monroe was a parapsychologist out to prove that the supernatural, that evil, that the occult did not exist. He was certain his investigations of the House would finally correct that misconception. When he told his colleagues of his plan, they urged him to stay away from the place. From the stories they had heard, it sent shivers down their spines. It had a history, a reputation for evil occurrences. No amount of pleading would stop William. He had a mission. He had a calling.
He would prove that things that go bump in the night are simply things that go bump in the night. There are no monsters under our beds, simply wooly boogers that make their way like tumbleweeds across a room and under the bed. They were not things to fear, rather things to laugh at. William never came across a thing or an event that could not be explained as a natural phenomenon. There was a logical explanation for the stories about the House.
The House stood on Spectre Hill, had stood there for over one hundred and fifty years. Some said it was cursed. All, who came to sleep within its walls, never left. At least, not alive. It was a dark and lonely house with vines and overgrowth covering its walls and hiding it from the road. Where there was not black, there was gray or a dark sickly green. It had no neighbors. It stood alone on that hill.
From time to time, people aways off in the town nearby would hear screams emanating from its halls. Some suggested that the House be torn down. Others said that it be best to leave well enough alone. Besides no one knew who owned the House. Perhaps the invisible inhabitants of the House were the proprietors.
William Clarence Monroe arrived at the front gate of the house early in the morning. The front door was unlocked. When he went to open it, he saw the head of Anubis, the Jackal God, carved into its wood. He stopped for a moment to study the carving and acknowledged that it was incredibly detailed.
He unloaded his equipment in the ballroom-sized room on the other side of the front door. He stood in the middle of the room and surveyed his surroundings. There were several sets of stairs leading to a second and a third story. From the ballroom, there were also three halls leading deeper into the House.
“Yes,” he said and smiled. “This should do. This should prove my premise. When I get through, maybe we can turn this place into a theme park. People do love scary things.”
He went to work wiring his wires. He plugged things into his generator that plug into generators. He set up his instruments. And he got ready for the night. He unpacked his food and ate his first day’s ration. He planned to stay for three days just to get a measure of the place.
Once he finished eating, William Clarence Monroe started exploring. He found a huge dining room, then a kitchen that was right out of the nineteenth century. Next he discovered a library with thousands of dusty volumes, tomes from bygone days that no longer existed anywhere else as far as William could tell. Some were books on the occult but not more than a small percentage. Many were books of biological science. Some works of cosmology. Nothing to make one suspect that the former residents were particularly interested in the occult or witchcraft or unlawful practices. Then he moved on to the second and third floor, counting fourteen bedrooms. Nothing out of the ordinary.
William made himself a large pot of coffee and settled in to wait through the night. The first night and the second day went by without incident. He monitored his instruments, taking the readings at random once an hour. All was quiet. All seemed peaceful, calm. Then he noticed that his shadow had disappeared. “Funny,” he said out loud, then went on to monitoring his instruments. The second night passed. He got his forty winks from time to time, then went back to his routine. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Early on the third day, William Clarence Monroe’s shadow returned. His instruments, at first, took notice, making small movements. Then other shadows. With each new shadow, the instruments moved a little more, then a little more. By dusk on the third day, the House was filled with dark silhouettes. The instruments were jumping. It was as if a seismograph was registering a ten-point earthquake. One instrument after another shut down from overload. William hurried from room to room, each room overflowing with shadows.
As he hurried, first his shadow, then the others made their way toward him, threatening. Then his hurrying turned into running. They were chasing him. Desperately he made for the front door. He turned the knob but the door wouldn’t open. The shadows pushed him toward the Jackal head, carved into the wood of the door. The Jackal opened its mouth.
In the town nearby, they heard a scream. The scream sent shivers down the townies’ spines. The pastor of the First Church dropped to his knees, supplicating his God to save him from the hell he knew he deserved. The mayor of the town turned to his son and said, “Oh, it’s just the House. Never go near it. As long as you stay within the borders of the town, you will be safe.” Parents hushed their children and told them that it was the Boogeyman. “Be good or he will get you.” Some of the older folks recalled the last scream they heard.
A uniformed police officer daily passed the green Ford parked on the street in front of the House. One Wednesday afternoon he pulled up behind the car. He had not noticed before that there was no tag on the Ford. He got out and checked out the car. The car had not moved for some time. He radioed in for a tow truck to haul the vehicle away. Several months later, it went on auction to raise money for the elementary school.
William Clarence Monroe was not missed. None of his colleagues seemed to recall where he had gone. He had no close friends, and he was without family. In his fanaticism for his mission to disprove ghosts and the occult, he kept others at a distance. When he didn’t show up for his next round of classes, his department head at the college decided that, for whatever reason, Professor Monroe would not return to teach.
Think about it. There are your shadows, and then there are your shadows.
This one is a horror story for Halloween.
From a distance, the ancient two-story house with its dozen rooms looked like it was a grand mansion. The image of the rows and rows of garden fooled folks. It made the old home place seem to be the best of houses. In fact, it was the worst of houses. It was haunted. It didn’t mean to be haunted but it was.
As the wind rotated the weather vane outside, it sounded like screaming coming from a distance. But the screaming was closer. It was inside the house and the screams came from the basement. That was where the old man kept the bodies of his mother, his sister, his wife, his two boys. He went on a rampage one night. At the end of the night, he was the only one left alive.
Why didn’t he get caught? When people came to the door, he shushed them away. The town nearby came to the conclusion that the family was strange and crazy and the townsfolk left them alone. That was best.
The old man went into town only rarely for supplies. He didn’t talk much, just bought his goods, then he went back to the house. It was only after six months when no one had seen him that people began wondering. Finally, the sheriff went out to check.
The old man’s corpse sat in his large chair. The chair was facing the basement door. He held an axe on his lap. On his face was a scream. Down in the basement, the policemen found the rest of the family, chopped into small pieces, their heads laid out on a table. On their faces were smiles. It was as if they had brought about the old man’s death and they were rejoicing.
Funny thing was. The wind carried no more screams.