Monday, October 17, 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Night

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Did you hear about those people who called 911 because they got lost in a corn maze? A corn maze! I can't decide whether to laugh at how silly that is--or sneer at how dumb that is---or be amazed that someone would take a three-month old infant into a corn maze at night.

But the police finally came, and the family was 25 feet from the exit, and all's well. But they had scared themselves into a panic, you know? It was dark, and the corn was 10 feet high, and they couldn't tell where they were..and the place had closed (!!) and they just--lost it. Poor things.

See, the idea of going someplace in order to be scared is quite alien to me. Why do I want to be in a position to feel fear? It's scary enough, just fighting off maniac drivers and flesh-eating bacteria and deadly cantaloupes.

But we're almost at Halloween, and things are supposed to be scary. I was traumatized, as a kid, by watching The Incredible Shrinking Man. (Remember when he fought the spider with a needle?) And what was the one with the pods? Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Eesh. Someone (it was Linda Katzenberger, actually, are you out here?) told me that story, around a Girl Scout camp campfire, and I didn't sleep for days.

In college we had to read the real Dracula, by Bram Stoker. My professor told us it was "kind of intense." At which I scoffed, then slept for the next three weeks with my arms across my chest in a cross since my roommate would not put up with garlic. (Did you know vampires can come into our room through closed windows, becoming dust motes on moonbeams?)

Blair Witch? Not scary. Rosemary's Baby? REALLY SCARY. The Exorcist? Not scary. (so, sue me.) The Vanishing? SO SCARY I wish I could un-see it.

Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery? So scary, I can't even think about it.

Would you go to a corn maze? Do you like to be scared? (By fictional things, I mean...) What's the scariest movie you've seen? Or book you've read?

JAN BROGAN: I generally don't like to be scared. Hate scary rides, horror movies, particularly don't get the appeal of vampires, and am a total bust on the whole thrill-seeking thing. But a corn maze? That's not so scary. In fact, now I want to go there and check it out. I saw that story last night, and, is this pathetic or what? These people get scared a lot more easily than even me. But then, I had missed the part where there was a three-month old baby involved. What struck me, was why do the maze as the sun is going down? That seemed pretty dumb with little ones in tow.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I agree with you, Jan. When our kids were little, we stuck to the "Happy Hallowe'en Hayride" at Smiling Hill Farm. Just exciting enough to be riding through the woods at night. The witches were all funny and the ghosts were friendly. I'm with Hank, I can't imagine paying the price of a ticket to be scared. And a corn maze isn't likely to be that scary if you've ever spent any time in the country. On the other hand, having read Stephen King's Children of the Corn...

HANK: Oh, the WORST. Really. Eeesh. Can't even think about it. Too late. Sorry, Julia. Back to you.

JULIA: Which leads me to confess as much as I don't care for horror movies or Haunted Houses, I LOVE reading scary stories. I still have "Tales of Terror" and "Tales of Terror II" which I got for Hallowe'en when I was maybe eleven. (Contrary to the schlocky titles and lurid cover art, they were collections of classic literary ghost stories.) I adore the sensation of prickly chills I get from a good horror novel. And yes, Shirley Jackson is a particular favorite of mine. The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are the creepiest books ever.

HANK: I keep hearing about We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Hmm. Must go find it. During the day.

HALLIE EPHRON: I loved the news story about the family lost in the corn maze. So funny because my husband and I were out hiking last weekend and we got lost (in a nature preserve, not a corn maze), so I turned on the GPS on my cell phone thinking that would help -- and there I was, a big dot in the middle of nowhere.

Scariest books? Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lechter books. Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. John Fowles's The Collector. All men, I know. Maybe something by Ruth Rendell, but I can't think what. Shirley Jackson of course. And of course, the movie A Clockwork Orange -- creepy and terrifying and I wish I'd never seen it.

RHYS BOWEN: Why didn't they just plunge through the corn, trample it down until they got out? I'd probably have done that--or yelled for help loudly? In their defence it really was a huge corn maze and tricky, since the paths weren't straight.

Scary things--hate them, hate them. My imagination is too strong. I can handle the sort of Giant Ant that ate New York kind of scary, Jaws, even Alien kind of scary but anything to do with the supernatural and I lie awake thinking about it. Shirley Jackson's The Lottery--it's amazing how that story sticks with you, isn't it? I've actually written some creepy short stories--one about someone being bricked into a wall at a convent has just become part of Alfred Hitchcock Magazine's new e-book anthology. But if we'd had Halloween in England I'd have been the fairy princess, I'm sure.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: No scary movies, no scary rides, no temptation to go into a corn maze! (With a baby! Did these people have no sense?) But scary books, yes, at least to a point. I love Phil Rickman's books, the standalones as well as the Merrily Watkins series (she's an exorcist for the Anglican Church.) These are seriously scary, and the evil is never wishy-washy. Great stuff.

Cannot stand slasher movies. I always want to scream, "You moron, don't go into that room/house/closet!!!!" Don't like serial killer movies, so I was surprised at how much I liked Manhunter when I finally saw it recently. But it made emotional sense, and the characters actions were plausible.

HANK: Absolutely, Debs. Did you see that Twitter hashtag? #ThingsI'veLearnedfrom the movies? Like: If the pizza delivery guy arrives and you didn't order pizza, don't answer the door.

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm a terrible wienie and my family very kindly vets things for me. Things that are too scary stay with me--like WAIT UNTIL DARK or DIAL M FOR MURDER. And then they come back out when I'm alone and it's dark...In books I can take a little more tension, for example I could read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but I would never want to see the movie. At least you can put a book down if it gets too awful.

By the way, have any of you read Tom Perotta's new book, THE LEFTOVERS? Now that is a frightening premise--1/3 of the people on the earth simply disappear from wherever they are--eating dinner or having sex or whatever. There is no explanation. The book is about the folks who are left behind, trying to understand what happened and deal with their losses. Some of them do better than others, of course. very scary idea, but handled brilliantly!

ROSEMARY HARRIS: LOVED The Leftovers...I'm a big Tom Perrotta fan. Not really scary even though lots of people disappear. I've never been interested in scary rides but I've always loved horror movies. The Mummy made a huge impression on me when I was a kid - The Brooklyn Museum has a wonderful Egyptian collection and I used to worry that at night they all got up and wandered around Brooklyn. Don't particularly like slasher books or movies, but've never seen SILENCE?? I've watched it a dozen times. "People will say we're in love...."

Would this be a good time to mention that I can't wait for Season 2 of The Walking Dead? Yes..there are zombies, but it's so much more.

HANK: Lucy! No Silence of the Lambs? Okay, that cinches it. Everyone come to my house..and we'll watch together on Halloween! Someone bring Twizzlers, someone bring champagne. But meanwhile--whats your favorite scary thing? Movie? Which one? Book?Which one? Or do you hide under the covers at things that go bump in the night?


  1. So, if I stood behind the couch while everyone is watching SILENCE, and did my Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter voice, I guess I'd be in trouble, huh?

    The Hammer Studios version of HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES terrified me when I was a child. Nothing since in a movie or book has had the same effect!

  2. By far the scariest for me was reading Truman Capotes In Cold Blood. I still shiver when I think of it.

  3. Hi - I can't even watch Criminal Minds before I go to sleep or I have nightmares!!!
    I'm with you all - why take a baby into a corn maze, and so late in the afternoon?

  4. The twizzlers and champagne sound great, but only if I can leave the room with WS when Clarisse is in the basement...WS can do his scary voice while you guys watch...

    But I'd rather we all watch SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE...

  5. Oh. In COld Blood. YOu are so right, HL! It's still chilling..

    And William, you are totially invited. No funny/scary stuff, though, we're delicate.

    HAs anyone else seen the real The Vanishing? DO you feel the same way I do about it?

  6. Oh man, The Lottery still gives me the chills. I watched Silence of the Lambs once, in the theatre, and I've never watched a scary movie since. Just don't like to be scared. Real life is hard enough at times. However, if someone turned Silence into a musical, I'd be all over it, hehe.

    We walked a corn maze once when the boys were little. I was always relieved when we got to a viewing platform. As long as I knew where I was in the maze, I felt fine. It was the not knowing that bothered me.

  7. Perry Smith told Truman Capote: “I really admired Mr. Clutter, right up until the moment I slit his throat.”


  8. I can't do scary movies at all. The Shining was really bad. I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell because it got too scary. I really think we're writers because we have such vivid imaginations, and that only screws you for scary stuff. I read all of Sherlock Holmes and Poe when I was in 4th grade. Scared myself so bad I couldn't sleep. (Now, my mother wouldn't let me watch Twilight Zone for obvious reasons, but why did she let me read The Telltale Heart, and the Adventure of the Speckled Band?!)


  9. Edith, I was about to write the same thing about Patricia Cornwell! I can no longer read anything with gratuitous and/or horrific violence--usually against women--any more. Nope. Not gonna put myself through it.

    Fortunately, my husband also does not enjoy scary movies, so I haven't seen one in decades. But that original version of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers? Yikes! I was in about the fifth grade when I saw it, on afternoon TV, in black and white, but it gave me nightmares for years. And I refused to go to the basement at night, well into adulthood. Especially in the house we lived in when I was a kid. The basement light was on a pull chain, at the foot of the stairs, so if I had to be down there I would yank that chain, then run like hell up the steps, utterly positive something was snapping at my heels.

    Something that truly scares me, though: Twizzlers? With champagne? LOL

  10. The scariest movie I think I've ever seen, and it stayed with me for weeks afterward, was The Red Dragon.

    I think the main reason this movie frightened me so much is because it COULD happen in real life. As a mother, the scenes involving the children really upset me...yet, I kept watching. I had to know how they got him...tried to understand the killers motivations.

  11. I'm glad Lucy mentioned Wait Until Dark, because that's close to the top of my list. I saw it at college in my dorm, with a room full of women, all sitting on the floor in the dark. There was one scene (I won't spoil it) at which everyone in the room screamed in unison.

    I made the mistake of reading Rosemary's Baby while baby sitting in an unfamiliar house--I don't recommend doing that!

  12. Have you all seen the trailer for The Raven, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe? Someone is killing people based on Poe's stories, and the movie takes place during the last days of Poe's life (although John Cusack looks pretty darn strapping to be a dying alcoholic poet). The trailer is creepy and violent.

  13. Edith! The Speckled Band STILL haunts me.

    Oh, Ramona, John Cusack as Poe. Lo love it.

    ANd I agree, I've got to say, Rosemary's Baby is as scary as it come.Because it's so normal, you know? And the movie is just as scary as the book, don't you think?

  14. Rosemary's Baby and The Boys From Brazil, too--eek! Ira Levin really had it going.

  15. When I was in grade school, I saw a movie at the drive-in with my grandmother called (I think) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. No idea what it was about now, but it gave me nightmares for years. And what was the one with Bette Davis and the coathangers? Argghhh. Invasion of the Body Snatchers--I think that one traumatized everyone. And what about The Thing?

  16. I'm HOWLING with laughter. My captcha word is:


  17. And remember that scene? When the kids are playing and they're singing..what was it?And the birds just..gradually.... alight on the wires?

  18. Deb--I saw the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Terrifying escpecially as I was about 10 at the time. And a play called The Cat and The Canary. The wall kept opening and a hand came through. I am a total wuss, I confess.

  19. I don't do scary - I have a very low threshold and admit, I'm a weenie! Criminal Minds is about the extent of scary for me - (and I tolerate the scary parts to get to the more intellectual parts). Still shudder thinking about campfire stories....

    Twizzlers and champagne? I'd recommend ice cream with the champagne!

    I just can't believe that the place closed while people were still in the maze!

  20. One of the scariest movies for me was WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. I was in high school, and I was the neighborhood's babysitter extraordinaire. That movie freaked me out!

    Saw the Season 2 premiere of THE WALKING DEAD last night. That kind of thing doesn't scare me. It's the not-seeing the creepy thing that scares me. As soon as the creepy thing appears on screen (whether it be an alien, ghost, whatever) I'm not scared anymore--well, except for the clown in Stephen King's IT. That clown creeps me the eff out!

    I still see scary movies with my BFFs. Screaming is a good cathartic release. :-)

  21. I don't do scary stuff -- I have too vivid an imagination... Now I would do a corn maze -- that's just a puzzle... not scary... I suspect they are now issuing a 'lost in the maze flag' to everyone & having people sign in and out... So of the other mazes I read about have number stations manned by 'corn police' and an overlook tower, also.

  22. ALIEN - "In space, no one can hear you scream." Back in '78, right after it was first released, we had No Idea what that movie was about, so one night after the 11 pm news, all us studio techs, engineers and the weather guy still wearing his suit and tie, hit the midnight show.

    Afterward, we were so freaked out, we all went to the weather guy's house and sat bug-eyed around his family room until the sun came up.

  23. Rhonda, that is HILARIOUS. That's how I felt after The Vanishing. I just--could NOT think about it. It had fried my brain.

  24. Girlygirl--there are NO corn police. (Ask me about this in a week or so.)
    And if you go up in the overlook tower, you can't see a thing. Ah--except for corn.

  25. And hey-what;s so scary about Criminal Minds? I've never seen it, I confess.

  26. Nothing scarey for me thank you.

    Don't like to see it or read it.

    Haven't seen Silence of the Lambs and sorry to say, Hank, I won't be stopping by on Halloween to do so. I'll be home giving out quarters to little kids in CUTE costumes.

    I'm a big sissy.

  27. Aw, Pat....okay, then. It IS wonderful to see the little tads who come trick or treating..xoox

  28. Sorry I'm so late - I was lost in a corn maze!!!!!


    Scariest book, scariest movie - Rosemary's Baby. That scene where Rosemary/Mia Farrow was getting rid of all the supernatural books? And oh oh oh - when she was eating that raw meat? Ewwwwww.

    Now I know I'm going to have to sleep with the light on tonight (HOW to explain this to Donald!?!)

    Happy Birthday, Hank! xxoo

  29. Oh, dear Kaye! Thank you...

    And yup. I SO agree. It's because is was all so normal. And her creepy husband..getttng the big part. Eesh.

  30. TOmorrow--come back for the answers to ALL your legal questions! And Wednesday--well, an amazing freebie. And that's just the first half of the week!

  31. I'm from Kansas, so, yes, In Cold Blood. When I was growing up in Kansas I used to think the Wizard of Oz was scary. I do love going to readings of Poe's work. Oh, the really good readings can be very chilling. Hmmm, i'm going to have to see if the Poe museum in Richmond has anything going on this weekend.