If I want to be truly scared, I don't need to go very far.
My house is a real "House of Terrors."
During the day, it's not so bad. At least I can see the clutter, a few spider webs and dust bunnies. The moaning wind echoing from the living room window doesn't make me shiver too much.
Nighttime, however, is something straight out of a Stephen King novel or an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
The basement has become my biggest phobia. I've convinced myself that it has all the glamour of a cold, gray, wet, dark crypt. Whenever I have to go down there, by myself (or am I by myself?), I hurry to complete the task at hand.
My legs start to quiver as I walk down the 10 long wooden steps. The lighting isn't terrific, and I imagine that the ninth step is absent. I suppose I should stop watching so many scary movies that involve creepy cellars with missing stairs, broken windows and plenty of grotesque shadows.
When I do watch these movies, I laugh, until I think of my own basement, then I feel even more terrified.
Stephen King once commented during an interview that most horror has comic elements. People just laugh, savoring such silly nonsense. But the humor stops as soon as we believe anything frightening could happen to us. It's the every day bad stuff that constitutes horror, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a result of paranormal activity.
My basement is real. It is cold, dark and spooky. As I load the washing machine, I hear a noise behind me. Oh, it's that darn low branch tapping against the far window, the window with several jagged cracks. Does this mean bad luck?
Other times, it's as if something had been watching me. I finish what I had been doing, as if I had a plane to catch in five minutes. I climb the stairs, glancing over my shoulder, gasping for breath. My eyes deceived me when a moving shadow began to stalk me.
I missed the last two steps going up and fell. I slid on my stomach and bashed my head against a wall. Of course, then my imagination went wild. I said to myself, "Someone shoved me!" Could it have been a ghost? A monster? The Invisible Man?
My phobia kept me from going back down to the basement for a month. My poor brother was in charge of the laundry. That in itself was scary.
I mean, he was capable and knew what settings to push on the machine. But I thought something would happen to him next: a skeleton hand appearing under the stairs, proceeding to grab his ankle. Or Frankenstein's monster slowly coming up behind him.
If my house has to be haunted, then why can't all the ghosts be like Casper?
Mysterious voices also have me on guard. It's the dead of night and my phone rings. The voice on the other end kind of wheezes, then becomes clear. It's a voice that speaks to me like Hannibal Lecter from “Silence of the Lambs.”
"Why, hello, Clarisse...Are you alone?"
"Um, I think you have the wrong number," I say with dread.
"You can't fool me, Clarisse. By the way, what's shaking at the F.B.I.?"
"Are you wearing Levi's or Wrangler's?"
At this point in the conversation, I begin to wonder what the heck I'm doing talking to a brilliant psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer.
"You sound a little confused, Hannibal. Why don't you hang up and dial 911?"
"OH, NO...I always call 666. … Wait a minute. I spy that young assistant from the C.I.A. approaching my door....Well, ta-ta for now, Clarisse. We'll talk later. Dinner awaits."
Speaking of sinister characters, why can't there be more horror films of the good old days? I think of Bela Lugosi, who, in reality, died practically penniless. He portrayed "Dracula" magnificently.
I'd rather shudder as I listen to the voice of Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. In real life, Price was an excellent chef. He used to experiment by steaming fish in the dishwasher. Karloff absolutely adored young people. After all, he sang the lyrics to "Monster Mash."
Where have all the good guys gone? I always look forward to movies starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (he actually met J.R.R. Tolkien, and starred in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.)
Frank Langella, a most versatile actor, thank heavens is still alive. He portrayed a sexy vampire.
Most of the horror movies are just slaughter movies. Usually there isn't any plot. People simply go around and butcher people. If I had kids, I'd hate it if they somehow got hold of “The Strangers Prey at Night,” So bloody horrible. No wonder kids have nightmares.
And me, too.
I need to face my phobia, so I'll brave my basement again tonight. I only hope that Casper will be there to protect me.