Your Creepiest Halloween Stories
This week we have stories from all of you, the listeners, telling us your scariest personal Halloween experiences. What's the most frightening thing that's ever happened to you? Plenty of you sent me your stories, and we're now going to hear eight of them. But I warn you all — if you are faint of heart, or easily terrified into a state of gibbering insanity, then please do not listen to this episode. Unless, of course, it's Halloween.
The Phantom's Breath
We're getting started with a creepy tale from listener Jeff. He tells an experience that sounds familiar to us all, one that happens in just about every scary book or movie:
So I'm going to give my thoughts on each of these stories, and as you can probably guess, with Jeff's story I'd focus on the wind. It's a 1920s apartment, so it's probably really drafty, with plenty of wind coming and going through gaps around the windows and the eaves and whatever ventilation system it might have. Wind, of course, turns out to be one of the very most common causes of doors that seem to slam by themselves. So, I don't know. I'm not too scared just yet. Let's see if listener Jason can scare us a bit more:
The Prophetic Gameboard
Ah yes, the board game that comes straight from perdition itself: Ouija. What power does it have that compels the spirits to answer its questions?
Regardless of whether it was a janitor or a ghost, how did the spirits controlling the Ouija board know they were about to come in? Or did they? I wonder what question had been asked. I wonder what other things the board mysteriously spelled out — and I use the word "mysteriously" with a qualification that the ideomotor effect is hardly the only thing that can move the planchette when a group of college kids all have their hands on it. Was this indeed a meaningful thing for the board to say, or was it one lucky hit out of twenty non-answers or wrong answers? I'm still not sufficiently frightened.
The Cartoon Terror
Listener Melanie seems to have had an experience that might seem a step or two creepier. Let's hear her story and find out:
We've known about sleep paralysis for a long time, and her description checks all the boxes. Both visual and tactile hallucinations, accompanied by paralysis and the feeling of pressure pushing down on the chest. The interesting part is the form that the hallucination takes (when it's present, which it isn't always). For much of western history, it's been a character called The Old Hag — for whom Snow White's queen is certainly a dead ringer. (The Queen's name, which you didn't know, was Grimhilde — a portmanteau of the names of two daughters of Wotan, the valkyries Grimgerde and Brünnhilde from Wagner's Die Walküre — and now you do know.)
The form taken by the hallucination in a sleep paralysis episode is specific to your culture, as discussed in detail in Skeptoid #8 from 2006(!!) on Nocturnal Assaults. So, since Melanie's experience turns out to have a mundane explanation, I'm still not scared. Let's see what Derral's got for us.
Mist from Beyond
I have high hopes for this one.
Just a trick of the light? What a bummer! Another mundane explanation, and no real ghost. I'm starting to think ghosts might not be real after all. But that would certainly be an outrageous leap of logic, as so far none of these stories have disproven their existence.
The Malevolent Bedsheet
It seems that ghosts, if they exist, might have some window into our subconscious, since Neil's story also involves a state of something less than full wakefulness:
As much as I love a good hypnagogic hallucination — which is an imagined (yet often frightening) sound, touch, or visual hallucination just as you're falling asleep at night — it's still a mundane explanation for what I was hoping would be the permanent loss of Neil to the underworld via some infernal portal.
Incidentally, I keep hypnopompic and hypnagogic straight with a little mnemonic device: hypnagogic contains "go" as in "go to bed" because they happen at night when you're falling asleep; hypnopompic has a "p" as in "pour me some coffee" because they happen in the morning as you're waking up.
So if we're not going to find any ghosts, let's see if Todd's daughter's experience can at least qualify as an inexplicable coincidence:
This remembering of specific advice right at the moment it was needed is a variation of the familiar thought experiment of happening to think of some relative right at the moment when they die. We can do the math on coincidences like this: How often did she contemplate that advice; for how long did she remember that she'd contemplated it; how often does something happen where remembering the advice would have come in handy? We can get an estimate of how many times a year this might happen. And we can multiply it by how many people exist, and depending on the variables, we end up with a mathematical prediction that something so seemingly improbable probably happens to tens or hundreds of thousands of people every day. So, I'm still not scared.
The Organic Specter
A ghost made of actual organic material? OK, I'm all in. Let's see if this is the proof of the supernatural we're after:
Wait. Potatoes were the organic specters? OK, that's just lame. I am beginning to suspect there is no such thing as ghosts after all. I will give my listeners one final chance to persuade me. Let's see what listener Lee has got for us — and he's an international bestselling author so I expect his story to be told with great skill and a glorious display of literary mastery:
The Haunted Reflection
That's it — we're done — clearly the only reasonable explanation is that it was a ghost reflection. A ghost somehow inhabited the mirror and took over the reflection of whoever was looking in it. The winner of today's best ghost story can only be Lee, with his gripping masterpiece of the haunted mirror. Ghosts having thus been proven to be real, I must now go and retract about three quarters of the Skeptoid back catalog. So, if you'll excuse me, this won't take but a month or two.
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