Halloween Interlude

I loved horror books and movies when I was a teenager, and although I’m less into them now (partly because I find they affect me a lot more), I do still enjoy them.  I always find myself revisiting the genre as Halloween approaches, watching clips of my favorite scary films on youtube, etc.  This year I’ve been gravitating toward true (or supposedly true) spooky tales of various sorts…


The people that experienced the haunting of their home in Amityville in the 70’s still claim that it actually happened, though some of those involved on the periphery have come forward with different stories in recent years.  It genuinely was a “murder house,” though the evidence that the house itself was evil is … well, kind of silly when you lay it all out.  The odd events are explainable or obviously embellished by people that want to believe the place is haunted or possessed by something. There’s an interesting series here called the The Real Amityville Horror that interviews many of the people involved, including the murderer who unfortunately gave the house its reputation in the first place.

I’m sure I saw the Amityville film at some point, but it was never a particular favorite.  I did read the book by Jay Anson, as well as one of his other books, 666, which also about an evil house.  Hehe…

The Exorcist

I finally saw the full version of The Exorcist a couple years back, when I decided to check out the new cut that was released.  Previously, I’d only seen the edited-for-tv version, which still scared the crap out of me.  I remember my Mom warning me that I shouldn’t read the book because it was even scarier, but of course that made it more attractive.  My friend Debbie let me borrow her copy which had the cover completely torn off, making it safer to read in the afternoons when my folks were around.  The book was terrifying, too.  I slept with the lights on.

A year or so ago, I was chatting with a coworker about The Exorcist, and she mentioned it was based on a true story.  I vaguely remembered hearing that before and decided to dig around on the internet to see what I could find about the real case.  I happened upon this series of articles called The Haunted Boy of Cottage City, in which the writer describes his efforts to find out what really happened and who it happened to.  It is a fascinating piece of investigative work.  I’m surprised more people don’t know about it.

Jack the Ripper

This is more in the realm of true crime than horror, though the murders were pretty horrifying.  (In reading a site that profiled the murdered women, I was surprised to find that one of the portraits of the victims was actually a photo of her after her death.  Eesh.)  This is a case that continues to captivate because it was never solved, of course, and there are many theories about who Jack the Ripper may have been.  The case caught my interest when I watched the various miniseries about the murders that aired in the 80’s (the dramatized one with Michael Caine, as well as another, more documentary style one — I had them both on tape).  I remember feeling like if I watched these carefully enough, I’d somehow solve the case myself.

I did pick up the Patricia Cornwell book that came out in recent years, offering a modern forensic look at the evidence in the Ripper case, but I never finished it once I read elsewhere that the DNA evidence was not conclusive.  During my other readings, I also learned of the Maybrick diary, in which merchant James Maybrick confesses that he is Jack the Ripper and includes details of the grisly murders that, supposedly, nobody other than the murderer could know.  When this diary surfaced in the early 90’s, ripperologists scrutinized it and showed that all those “unknowable” details were publically available in some way or another.  What’s amazing to me is that the people who brought the diary to the publishers eventually confessed to writing it, and despite this, some people still consider it evidence that Maybrick was the Whitechapel murderer.  Provides another theory, maybe, but evidence?  I still find sites on the internet saying that the diary “might be” a hoax.  Heh… wow.  Talk about wanting to believe.

That’s what I find most interesting about stories like these.  The Lutzes, Rob Doe (or at least his mother and grandmother), and the rest, all wanting so desperately to believe in something that they interpret events and evidence around them to match it.  We all do this to some extent, but in these cases, it’s been magnified by the improbability of what what they believe, not to mention the public interest in it.  The truth behind these stories is just as, if not more, compelling to me.


4 responses

  1. The house that the boy from The Exorcist lived in is still here in St Louis. A local radio station will be airing their Halloween special today featuring it. They spent a night in there with some “paranormal experts”. If your interested – you can listen on the web at http://www.971talk.com. It should start around 4:00 CST

    They supposedly have some strange things on tape from that night. Should be spooookkky!
    Happy Halloween!

  2. My wife actually lived in a haunted house when she was a little girl (3 or 4). It was an old schoolhouse and the german Schoolmarm was still there. She would walk around the house…rock in the rocking chair…never anything dangerous or scary. I think they stayed there a year. Her dad had seen the ghost (they called her Matilda) for a while, but never told anyone…until my wife woke from a nap to see her at the foot of the bed. She walked out and asked about the woman in her room, and then her dad had to fess up. Once her mom realized my wife could see Matilda, they weren’t long for that house.

    The real estate agent had known about the ghost beforehand, but hadn’t told them about it. The house is always going on the market and is rarely occupied for more than a couple of years at a time.

    My wife will sometimes walk into old houses and buildings and get a ‘feeling’. Most recently at The Elms hotel in Excelsior Springs. We walked into the basement indoor pool room and she didn’t go more than a couple of steps in before she stopped and walked back out. She’d had a ‘feeling’. We later found out that a guy was killed there back when it was a speak easy during prohibition and it’s one of the several haunted areas of that hotel.

  3. @Papa Floatmonkey

    Ooh, that sounds cool! I knew a guy who was big into ghost hunting and would spend the night in haunted houses, take video and audio recordings, etc. I think that would be quite fun to do sometime (even though I’m skeptical of it all). I’ll have to catch that special if I’m online when it airs. Thanks! 🙂


    Wow, how interesting (and kind of creepy). I always wonder if things like that are coincidence, but enough coincidences just lead to more wondering. If more than one person sees a thing, too, that certainly lends it credence. I do love the true ghost stories the most.

    I once saw something I couldn’t explain. My sister and I shared a room when we were young, and I awoke in the middle of the night and saw a chair sitting on top of her bed. It was a small wooden chair we’d sat in when we were very little, but we were too big for it now, so it usually sat off in the corner with a doll (or something on it). There it was, sitting on top of her blankets, over her sleeping legs, as though something were possibly sitting in it and looking down at her. Freaked me out.

    Somehow I mustered the courage to go over and take the chair off the bed. I put in on the floor at the end of her bed, on its side (so nothing could sit in it 😛 ). I hid under the covers for the rest of the night, not looking out into the room. The next morning, she asked why the chair was on the floor there, and in the light of day, it occurred to me that she may have put it on the bed there to try to scare me. She still swears she didn’t though. (At the very least, she doesn’t remember doing it.)

    The only other story I have is that my sister-in-law’s sister and her husband (hm, are they also my bro- and sis-in-law?) live in an house that they were told was haunted, though they haven’t seen evidence of ghosts themselves. It is a very big, old house. They said it’s been an electrician’s nightmare, but that’s about it. 😀

  4. Keep in mind, I’ve never experienced any of this stuff, and if it was anyone but my wife I’d think “yeah, whatever ya nutjob.” But with the three of them there talking about it, it’s pretty damn convincing. My wife remembers seeing it, her mom and dad remember the rocking chair creaking at night and him yelling down, “Knock it off Matilda” and the rocking chair stopping. They remember seeing her walk the circuit of the house like she was checking on children during a test or something. Like I said, if it was anyone else I’d be skeptical, but it’s different with folks you know and trust.

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