Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween on the Internet - Scary!

I do have some normal hobbies (blogging is normal, right?), but among my stranger pastimes is trolling the Internet, looking for scary stuff. All year long, not just around Halloween, although what better time to be scared than the end of October, as the nights grow long and the earth prepares for its annual wintry death?

I've always loved stories of ghosts and poltergeists and hauntings. Whether they were presented as horrifying fiction or as real-life (death?) phenomena, I was hooked on spooky stuff at an early age. Getting so scared that tears welled up in my eyes - that was my idea of a good time. I read and re-read every book my local library possessed (oh yeah, possessions are cool, too) about paranormal activity, famous ghost stories, spectral photography, and the like. I was a weird little kid.

I might have left my ghoulish preoccupations behind as an adult, except that modern technology makes it so damn easy to be scared. I'm not just talking about nuclear weapons, drug-resistant viruses, and Fox News. The Internet, which provides a million ways to amuse you, arouse you, inflame you, and appall you, also has the power to scare the bejeebus out of you. Yeah, a lot of it is trickery by doofuses with Photoshop and too much alone time. Some of it is genuinely creepy nonetheless. You know, I really don't care whether it's real or not, as long it's convincing. I just like to be scared.

In that spirit (get it? spirit? Halloween? never mind), here are some fun links to online ha'ants. They may creep you out, or they make you snicker; I find there's sometimes a thin line between laughter and nervous, panicky, freaked-out laughter. Have fun on that line, and remember: If it's on the Internet, it's probably all in fun. Or is it? (cue overmodulated organ crescendo and Vincent Price-style menacing laughter)

The Pantry Ghost - This is the first in a series of videos posted by a dude in California who claims to have captured a "real ghost" on tape. From this link you can watch the entire series, as well as various response videos supporting or debunking the original sightings. If they're fakes, they're spooky, convincing ones. This guy has also posted videos that purport to show that his house is absolutely crawling with ghosts, which may undermine his case a tad, so stick with the Pantry Ghost series if you want to be a purist.

"Hands Resist Him," aka The Haunted eBay Painting - People sell weird shit on eBay. In 2000, someone put a bizarre, allegorical painting up for bid, accompanied by a great (and certainly fictional) backstory about its haunted properties. Turns out the painting is a real work by a real artist, and the backstory is a great sales pitch. But make no mistake - "Hands Resist Him" is still one creepy mofo of a picture.

The Bell Witch - Nope, not the Blair Witch. I first read this story as a kid, and it scared the crap out of me. It was purportedly true, well-documented, and as a scarifying bonus, it featured a poltergeist who apparently actually killed a man. This website is maintained by a man named Pat Fitzhugh, who has exhaustively investigated the legend of the Bell Witch and presents here an excellent telling of the tale, complete with links and period illustrations.

Movie Curses - Two caveats about this site. First, it's horribly written. I mean, I'm not recommending this cat based on his command of the English language, OK? Second, aside from a few anecdotes, I can't verify that anything he says is true or even based on informed speculation. It's pretty common knowledge that a high percentage of the cast and crew of The Conqueror died of cancer after filming near a nuclear test range; and most people have heard of the the Poltergeist curse, which includes the untimely deaths of child actors Heather O'Rourke and Dominique Dunn. The rest could be conjecture, interpolation, or just bullshit. But still: scary stories about cursed movies = awesome fright.

Jim Morrison's Ghost - This one has everything: a died-too-soon rock icon, an unexplained image on a gravesite photo, even some obligatory post-photograph bad juju for the journalist who thought he was just having his picture snapped in a Paris cemetery. It helps the story that Morrison is exactly the kind of dead rock star who would dig being captured in the background of a photograph. Cheesy but undeniably creepy.

Shadow of the Vampire - I recently saw this 2000 movie (the link is to the trailer) for the first time, and it scared the hell out of me. I've loved the 1922 silent German film Nosferatu since I was 12 or so. Shadow has an absolutely brilliant premise: What if actor Max Schreck made such a convincing and terrifying vampire onscreen because he was actually one of the undead offscreen? (That's actually a longstanding urban legend, by the way.) And what if director F.W. Murnau knew it and used it to his advantage during filming? It's the second question that makes the movie so damn frightening. Oh, and when the end credits rolled, I was certain of one thing: I never want to see John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe in the same movie again. Way too scary for me.

Michael Jackson's Ghost - Here's a new one: alleged footage of a ghostly MJ roaming Neverland during a Larry King interview. It would seem a likely hoax, but...judge for yourself.

Happy Halloween, and pleasant screams.

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