Haunted Houses + Touching
Last week I went to a haunted house attraction for the first time. I went in with a larger than average group and they warned us that it would be better with smaller groups, but none of us wanted to split up. So maybe that's why I didn't find it very scary, but I don't think the concept itself is scary anyway. When you go to a place like this, your whole intention is for people in costumes to jump out at you in the dark and yell. You know they're going to do it, you know they're not even allowed to touch you, and you know the chainsaw isn't real because that would be a million dollar lawsuit waiting to happen. (The sawdust smell was a nice touch, though.) Some mystery remains as to the precise moments when the people in costumes will jump out at you in the dark and yell, and I did get startled a couple of times, but most of the element of surprise is gone. So I don't know why people find it scary enough to yell back. It's like in the remake of "When a Stranger Calls" (I haven't seen the original) when the protagonist finds the maid's body in the fish pond and you're supposed to be shocked even though you guessed it forty-five minutes ago.
Mind you, that's just my thought on the concept and not a criticism of this particular establishment, which had fascinating costumes and decor and atmosphere and was fun regardless. But then I'm not sure why humans go to a place to get scared for fun either. I'm not sure why activating the primal instinct that tells us we're going to die if we don't get the hell out of here is a source of pleasure. I've heard that it's cathartic to exercise this primal instinct in a controlled environment where we know we're not in real danger, and I guess that tracks. But I can imagine every other species on the planet, all the generations of our pre-industrial ancestors, and otherwise objective alien xenopologists looking at this behavior, throwing up their hands and tentacles and other appendages in consternation, and yelling at us in their various languages, "What the ----ing ---- is wrong with you?" And then when the alien xenopologists learned that a lot of humans also find pain sexually arousing, they'd blow up the Earth to save the rest of the universe.
I was in a group with five people I knew from the local YSA LDS ward - I still attend their weekday activities because I like most of them - but then somehow some girl I've never seen before ended up in our group, and she was real nice and I would have thought she was flirting if I hadn't learned from harsh experience that apparent flirting is nothing of the sort and true flirting is only discernible with years of hindsight. While we were still in line - so before the scary part, although some people found the clowns walking around with obviously fake tasers scary - she touched me on the arm. I thought about the sexual misconduct prevention trainings I had to take as both a student and a faculty member at Utah State University. As I recall, they straight-up said not to touch people at all without permission, and I rolled my eyes because we all know that isn't how neurotypical people live their lives. They don't touch me nearly as often as I'd like given that touch is one of my love languages (I have a three-way tie, which makes me thrice as needy as a normal person), but when they do, they just do it. And I never touch them in return because I don't know when it's okay, and even if I did, the action would be scripted and awkward and not a spontaneous show of platonic affection like theirs are.
Some time after I had taken those trainings, no less a figure than university president Noelle Cockett touched me without permission. It was at an event where people were supposed to eat bagels and talk to her, and I think some aide signed her up for it and forgot to tell her, because she showed up late and confused. I was the first person in line who actually had to talk to her before getting bagels. So with an awkward look on her face she asked about my major and stuff, and she touched me on the arm while she talked, and that's setting a really bad example for the student body, don't you think? (Note: I'm not serious. Please don't anybody complain about her.) I don't remember where I was going with this. Happy Halloween. Anyone interested is invited to check out this post from a couple years ago on "Some of My Favorite Halloween Carols," which is hard to top, but also here's an underrated eighties song that really has nothing to do with Halloween but has zombies in the title and has been in my head lately.
What I Did for Halloween 2021
In the last couple weeks I've watched three Halloween movies with my neighbors. The first was that old standard, Hocus Pocus. Neighbor Mikki hadn't seen it for a while and kept asking questions that would have been answered if she just kept watching. As I've said before, I can suspend my disbelief for all its absurdities except for the straight teenage boy running away from Sarah Jessica Parker. Someone asked how old the movie was, and I said "Thirty years, almost," and then I remembered that I was born the same year it came out and I got kind of depressed. We also went to the North Logan Pumpkin Walk that night or the following night; I've already forgotten.
Later, at my insistence, we watched Little Shop of Horrors. I only watched it once when I was fourteen but I've listened to both the film and Broadway cast recording soundtracks many, many times. My parents had the former on a cassette tape and I can even remember what it sounded like when I sped it up to make the voices funny. Alas, at my current age I've acquired a neurotic level of empathy for fictional characters and an unshakable insecurity about all the suffering and cruelty and injustice in the world, and I don't find Steve Martin's sadistic dentist as funny as I used to. The scene with Bill Murray as his masochistic patient is still golden though. Neighbor Sadie walked in on that scene and asked what the heck we were watching and I explained that it was a musical about a talking plant that eats people and not, as it appeared at the moment, a weird dental porno.
Also at my insistence, we watched Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost, a blast from the past. Since my neighbors talked nonstop through the first twenty minutes, they didn't anticipate the plot twist that anyone over the age of eight should be able to anticipate, so that was cool. When the Hex Girls showed up, Mikki said "That's Chris's kind of woman" and it was so random because I don't know how she correctly guessed that they turned me on as a kid.
When Emron and I sang along to their signature hit, Mikki decided that we should dress up as them, and Max, who'd never seen Scooby-Doo until now, should too because obviously we'd need a third one. That would have been really cool and made for some great pictures to share here, but I wasn't about to shell out for a costume.
My neighbors played cards after the movie, but I ran off to the institute dance, correctly anticipating that it would have candy and a movie playing. So I ate candy and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I'd never seen before, and it was cool and visually interesting but I don't really think it's worth watching more than once so I'm not sure why it's such a classic. It wasn't very humorous and most of the songs weren't very memorable. Some girl sat by me and talked to me a little bit and it was weird but I missed her when she left. She thought the movie was creepy so it's just as well she didn't stick around for the climax.
Last night I went to ex-neighbor Hailey's Dia de los Muertos party (because she has to be pretentious and do things in Spanish to show off that she knows Spanish) and ducked out early to go to graduate instructor colleague Kylie's smaller party because I've got to be loyal to my graduate instructor colleagues. We played Quiplash, which had nothing to do with Halloween, and I didn't dominate like usual because I had worthy opponents. Then we played three variations on Mafia/Werewolf - first with BYU students getting killed off by DezNats, then with villagers getting killed off by werewolves, then with colonists en route to Alpha Centauri getting killed off by native Alpha Centaurians trying to protect their race from being overrun and slaughtered. On that last occasion, the colonists scored a swift victory with only one fatality, so that was bittersweet for those socially conscious graduate students.
I don't anticipate doing any more Halloween stuff today, on Halloween, since I just want to relax and do the homework that I should have done in the last few days but didn't because I'm bad at structuring time on my own.
Before the, ah, falling out with my ex-neighbor Talease, I hung out with her one evening and she loaned me Wizard's First Rule and we watched Legion because she found horror movies relaxing. Shortly thereafter the book inspired me to create a fantasy-themed Spotify playlist and her fondness for horror movies inspired me to create a horror-themed Spotify playlist as a gift for her, and of course I still have them both even though I've long since burned the book and never developed much of a predilection for horror movies.
The horror playlist is titled "Boo" and recently I added a skull emoji as I was adding emojis to most of my playlist titles. The other day it picked up a follower for the first time, so that was cool. I hope this follower has the right expectations. The playlist has children's songs, but it is not intended or appropriate for children. It has some more intense stuff too. But not too intense because, like Halloween itself, it is meant to be in fun and not just dark and unpleasant. I have an angst-themed playlist for being dark and unpleasant. So for example, I've reluctantly excluded Rammstein's song based on a true story of erotic cannibalism (if you haven't heard of Armin Meiwes, don't Google him), but the tamer one about normal cannibalism is fine.
Like most playlists, after its initial creation and spurt of adding songs for a few days, I settled in and just added another song periodically when I stumbled upon one that would fit. Then last month a new neighbor moved into the apartment where Talease used to live, and wasted little time in putting up Halloween decorations. She put up a plastic sheet with skeletons on it over the front door, and for a while I saw them out of the corner of my eye and thought they were people, and it triggered me into actively seeking out music to increase the length of this playlist. And I asked my returning neighbor Mikki to ask her for music recommendations, and then I waited a bit, and then Mikki added her to our little neighbor group chat, and what happened next is the entire reason for this post that I've been building up to, even though I'm just now realizing it's not nearly as funny if you weren't there.
Now you may be thinking, "That is kind of sassy, but it's not that sassy, just a little sassy." That was my thought, but it turned out to be one too many pieces of sass.
Within like ten seconds, before Levi had even responded, I heard yelling through the kitchen wall. I couldn't tell what she was saying but I could tell it was directed at me. Then with impossible speed, I heard banging all over my front door like a rapid-fire battering ram. This was kind of hypocritical on Mikki's part. She and ex-neighbor Hailey made fun of me once for knocking too timidly, so after that I always made sure to knock vigorously and then they complained that I sounded "like a serial killer" because of course serial killers always knock first, unless they have a no-knock warrant. Yet here she was just pounding away.
I opened the door just a crack and she said, "Say that to my face."
I pretended not to know what she was talking about. I pretended I didn't remember what I had just said thirty seconds ago because I text a lot of people. They weren't lies because there was no risk of her believing them.
I came outside, where she threatened to beat me up. Sadie stood a few feet back with a grin and her phone out to apparently record it. A neighbor from upstairs came down to see what the commotion was about, and my roommate who usually stays cooped up in his room came to the door as well. Mikki held a hand above her head and said she'd had it up to there with me, and then, before I could make a sassy comment, explained, "That's five foot three." She said something about a camel with straw stacked on its back. And maybe, despite her size, she actually could beat me up. Her dad's a cop and may have trained her in unarmed combat. I also know she used to carry around a screwdriver for self-defense. She said she knows how to break into my apartment and she knows where I sleep. Aren't double standards interesting?
She didn't beat me up because she actually loves the rush of anger she gets when I sass her. My roommate went back to bed and the rest of us talked for at least half an hour even though I should have been doing homework. Sadie gave me an unexpected number of song suggestions because it turned out that she loved music in general, but she wouldn't like my Halloween playlist because metal is the one genre she doesn't listen to.
That story was funnier in my head. Sorry.
This weekend, some of us are ticked off because two apartments are flooding because when the roofers illegally woke us all up at 6:30 to fix the roof the week before school started, they failed to actually fix the roof. So that's nice.
Some of My Favorite Halloween Carols
If you're stuck at home tonight because of the you-know-what, here's something to keep you entertained for a little while. Note that "The Monster Mash", "Spooky Scary Skeletons", "This is Halloween", and "Thriller", though all excellent songs, have been excluded from this list on account of being severely overplayed.
Erica Silverman - Big Pumpkin
If your kindergarten teacher didn't play/read this for you, you had a deprived childhood and may be entitled to financial compensation. Don't quote me on that.
Erutan - Come Little Children
A full length version of the song sung by Sarah Jessica Parker in the cult classic "Hocus Pocus". It's a silly movie, but what really ruins my suspension of disbelief is a straight teenage boy running away from Sarah Jessica Parker.
Sierra Games Staff - Consumite Furore
Creepy Latin singing from the intro to the gory and highly controversial 1995 computer game "Phantasmagorica", which, as every article about the game is obligated to point out, was banned in Australia.
Chorus Girls - Don't Feed the Plants
This original ending to the dark comedy musical "Little Shop of Horrors", replaced because of test audiences' negative reaction but now widely regarded as superior to the happy version, ranks as one of the most expensive deleted scenes of all time.
Iced Earth - Dracula
Rather sacrilegious, except that Dracula's rebellion against God is driven by the abhorrent false doctrine that his girlfriend has been damned for eternity for killing herself, so really, with the information available to him, he isn't wrong to respond as he does.
Rob Zombie - Dragula
Not really scary so much as too epic not to include. ("Epic" is professional music critic terminology for songs with loud electric guitars.)
The Key of Awesome - Emo Vampire
Believe it or not, there was a time when the Twilight series was cool, at least if you were a girl between the ages of twelve and fifty. My mother was possessed by it, and when I first met my friend Rachel at Youth Conference, her name tag identified her only as "Edward's Girlfriend". The backlash was inevitable.
The Living Tombstone - Grim Grinning Ghosts
A better cover of this song has never been found. I say that as one who watched on older version at the beginning of Disney's "Boo Busters" and "Witcheroo" VHS tapes (ask your parents what those were) and had a huge crush on live action Maleficent.
Information Society feat. Ayria - Heffalumps and Woozles
I found the original sequence quite unnerving as a child. As an adult, I find this cover both unnerving and lots of fun to dance to in private.
Hex Girls - Hex Girl
From "Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost" (1999). Nowadays, this song is problematic because it promotes a double standard about consent, but we can still appreciate it as long as we recognize its historical context. It turns out this video also includes "Earth, Wind, Fire and Air" so that's a bonus track.
Debs & Errol - If I were an Undead Crawler
Parody of Barenaked Ladies' "If I had $1,000,000". Are zombies overrated? Yes. Is this song underrated? Heck yes.
Baha Men - It's Spooky in Here (Digimon Halloween Song)
You've probably never heard this, because it's from a CD called "Rhythm and Boos" that came in boxes of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and/or Franken Berry cereal in 2001. Some of my students weren't even born then. That's scary.
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Jurassic Park
Not that I've seen a lot of horror movies, or plan to, but I find "Jurassic Park" scarier than any horror movie I've seen. The Tyrannosaurus rex in particular always stops my heart. As a creature both fantastical and real, it's scarier than either a made-up monster or a random human serial killer. This music video is ironically much gorier than the actual movie, but it's all played for laughs, and the song's ending is unironically beautiful.
Bloodbound - Nosferatu
"Nosferatu" is a 1922 low-budget German film plagiarized from the novel Dracula that fortunately still exists even though Bram Stoker's heirs tried to have all prints destroyed. I have no idea what the word Nosferatu means, since the vampire's name is actually Count Orlok.
Judas Priest - Night Crawler
Personally my favorite Judas Priest song. And as dark and creepy as it is, it has a happy ending, or at least as happy of an ending as one could reasonably expect under the circumstances!
Jonathan Coulton - Re: Your Brains
The song that introduced me to the genius of Jonathan Coulton, and still his best work IMHO (though his music and lyrics for the Portal anthem "Still Alive" comes in close). Even my freshman year roommate playing it twenty times in a row failed to make me hate it.
Ozzy Osbourne - Scary Little Green Men
Even with his advanced age and ill health, the wizard of Ozz managed to release a killer album this year, which features this gem that beats out his other Halloween classic "Balk at the Moan" for a spot on this list. Aliens > werewolves.
Rammstein - Spieluhr
The gist of this song is that a small child wants to be left alone, so it [sic] pretends to be dead, and gets buried with a music box in its hand, and then the music box and the child's singing can be heard from beneath the earth.
Meco - Werewolf (Loose in London)
Even though werewolves < aliens, they still deserve some recognition. And so does Meco. Despite scoring a number one hit in 1977 with his disco cover of the Star Wars and cantina band themes, he's fallen into almost total obscurity, which isn't fair.
Consortium of Genius - What a Friend We Have in Cthulhu
Not a direct parody of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", but it brings in that energetic clapping-type music that's one of the few good things about conservative Southern Christianity. And makes it about a guy with an octopus for a face.
Hap Palmer - Witches' Brew
Once upon a time, one of my Primary teachers had us sing this in Primary. I liked it better than most of the boring church songs we did.
Because I find rituals comforting, I habitually listen to both of these entire soundtracks on Halloween.
Jonne Valtonen - Alien Incident
This 1996 point-and-click game ("Muukalaisten yö" or "Night of the Aliens" in the original Finnish) actually takes place on Halloween, so it's appropriate that the aliens look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Its rather strange music has really grown on me. I converted and uploaded the music files from the free Abandonia download, though there is additional music in the game that I don't know how to find and wasn't patient enough to record directly.
Alain Goraguer - La Planète Sauvage
This bizarre animated 1973 French-Czech co-production isn't a horror film as such, but the soundtrack is creepy and unearthly enough.
The Things I Did for Halloween So Far
Look at me, persevering to bring to the world this post that nobody asked for even though my laptop battery is well and truly dead. I actually am impressed that my Asus Vivobook has lasted three and a quarter years, which is about two years longer than any of my previous laptops from three different brands, and that's even considering I spilled Tang on the keyboard in January 2018. And also, the motherboard or hard drive isn't even fried like in my last three laptops, so I should just be able to get a new battery and be good to go.
The first thing I did for Halloween was the annual North Logan Pumpkin Walk. It was a walk with a bunch of pumpkins.
Then I went to a meeting of USU's Asian Student Association where they talked about scary stories and urban legends from Asia. I saw it on Facebook and went for the scary stories and urban legends, not realizing it was a standard weekly meeting, but now I have to keep going back because they were all super nice and stuff. Okay, so the scary stories and urban legends are unsettling just to think about, which is obviously the point, but they're not real. But then we transitioned from just talking to watching YouTube videos, and then this adorable Vietnamese-American metalhead wanted to watch something about "the Hello Kitty murder", and she kind of neglected to explain that this was not an urban legend but a real life event. If you don't know what it was, I highly recommend not looking it up. It's the sort of thing that I was happier not knowing had ever happened to anyone anywhere at any time. But this girl kept a calm, pleasant smile on her face throughout the video. Sicko.
I didn't dare say this, and maybe it's a stupid thing to say now either, but I noticed right away that she looked virtually identical to the victim, at least as far as I could see from the little black and white photograph, and she's about the right age to maybe possibly have been conceived around the time the victim died, and as I said her interest in the story was a little unsettling... so I'm going to pretend I believe in reincarnation because that's cool.
Another real-life YouTube video we watched had to do with the haunting of the U.S.S. Forrestal after a horrific fire that killed 134 people. Personally, I have no problem accepting the many accounts at face value and believing that this haunting is legit. Ghosts and hauntings will probably never be scientifically verifiable but I don't think all the stories and eyewitness accounts throughout the world over the years can just be dismissed with a skeptical wave of the hand, and in this case, there are many such accounts. What makes it unsettling for me is not the persistence of life beyond the grave as such, which I accept as a basic tenet of my religion, but the way these spirits met their demise and how traumatized they must have been if they were still stuck haunting that ship for decades afterward. Burning alive or choking to death are horrible ways to die. Nowhere near as horrible as the Hello Kitty murder, which I highly recommend not looking up, but still not a joyride. And many of those sailors were probably draftees who didn't even want to be there.
Prior to the Logan Institute of Religion's "Scream Fling 2019", they solicited suggestions to update their stale music selections. The guidelines of acceptable suggestions specified no profanity, even though "Cha-Cha Slide", which has played at every LDS dance I've been to since 2007, has a swear word in it, at least according to American English and nowhere else (see a recent post on that topic). They also specified no references to immoral behavior, even though "Macarena", which has played at nearly every LDS dance I've been to since 2007, is almost entirely about immoral behavior. I suggested some songs, and then I had to go to the dance to see if they implemented any of my suggestions, which spoiler alert, they did not. They played a few of their old songs, a few fresh and catchy new songs, and a lot of forgettable crap.
For those who weren't around the last time I did so, allow me to once again list my favorite dance moves.
The "George McFly"
The "Salacious Crumb"
The "Clone Troopers"
The "Obscure Peanuts"
The "Aman Mathur"
The "Emo Phillips"
The "Wayne's World"
The "The Cheat"
The "Italian Schoolgirl"
The "Russian Riverdancer"
The "What is Love?"
Because most of the music was forgettable crap, though, and because yelling small talk at a stranger for three minutes isn't my idea of a good time, I ended up laying on a couch looking at my phone. There my friend Terrah and her sister and one of their guy friends found me and made me take a picture with them. Then we left and walked home, with Terrah's sister making judgmental comments about the slutty costumes of the girls going to the university Halloween party, and the guy friend making pervy comments about same. I hit on some guy in a bra as he passed by, and he invited me to his apartment later. But we went to Terrah's apartment and played "Truth or Dare", and then around 10:30 we decided to get food, spent about twenty minutes deciding where to eat, settled on Wendy's, and returned to Terrah's apartment, and about this time I was yawning and thinking how nice it would be to go to bed, but the consensus of everyone who wasn't me was that we should watch a horror movie, and I felt like I should stay up for that because social life. Yes, I regret it today but I'll be dead someday regardless.
I'm not really into horror movies. The only ones I've seen are "Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Poltergeist", "Sleepy Hollow", "The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein", "The Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman", and "The Star Wars Holiday Special". Perhaps it's because, as the Hello Kitty murder demonstrated, many horror movies are too realistic for comfort and not the sort of escapism I have in mind when I look for escapism. The movie we picked, "When a Stranger Calls", (2006 version), is a story that technically could have happened in real life even though it didn't. Serial killers exist, cell phones exist, and incompetent parents and law enforcement exist. Too realistic for comfort.
Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find it more unsettling than scary as such. I found myself viewing it through an objective, analytical lens as if I had seen a thousand of these movies. (Spoilers alert) Okay, so there's going to be a bunch of jump-scares that are actually false alarms, and Jill probably isn't going to die because then this movie would just be depressing and nobody would like it, and the killer is no longer scary when he reveals himself and gets angry because then you know he's no longer in control of the situation, and why are they acting like Rosa's body in the fish pond is a surprise when we all saw that coming forty-five minutes ago? Also, Hulu made us watch five to seven commercials every five to seven minutes, increasing the movie's runtime by at least fifty percent and effectively preventing the suspense from getting too suspenseful. Next time I will happily chip in three bucks to skip those.
Admittedly, it was a nice touch that the killer was literally just some random white male with no motive, backstory or name given. You only see his face briefly but you can tell he's pure evil because he has a scar. The most unsettling part by far is the very end when, despite an ostensibly happy ending, Jill is in a hospital bed with her parents and the doctors trying to calm her as she screams and thrashes around and hallucinates that he's after her again. Yay for our protagonist getting possibly lifelong PTSD. It's pretty unfair that teenage girls are always the victims in these movies. I mean, not that an adult would deserve it either, but at least with her fully developed brain she would have a better chance of processing the trauma. To say nothing of the kids, though at least they survived, unlike the original movie. But what Jill should have done is keep stabbing the guy with the fire poker once she had him down, until he was well and truly dead. Then she never would have made eye contact with him and she would probably have fewer hallucinations.
I know I keep saying "unsettled" or "unsettling". I'm not trying to be all macho by claiming that these things don't actually scare me as such. They don't, but plenty of other things do. I experience soul-crushing terror on at least a weekly basis. It's just usually instilled by more mundane things like seeing my crush at church or laying awake in bed at night and suddenly thinking in vivid detail about what it would feel like to fall out of an airplane. These other things unsettle me because they remind me how permanently uncomfortable I am living in this crapsack world of pain and injustice, but what can you do?
I want to give a completely unrelated shout-out to an old friend of mine and some guy I don't know, who recently started a podcast dedicated to Star Wars in general and Knights of the Old Republic in particular. Check out their first episode here:
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.