Fear Factor: Freaky Edition

Halloween is only a few days away, so it’s time for the final edition of Fear Factor. Today’s post is about two events that gave me the shivers even though I found reasonable explanations for them… kinda… sorta.

I’m not ‘freakable’ by nature, but these occurrences were freaky.

Here goes:

Flashback to the 1970s. I haven’t picked up a Reader’s Digest in years, but back then their format included jokes, informative articles, one lurid description of some horrific event, and a health column that explained the basics of anatomy and diseases.

A brief digression: Anybody remember ‘I am Joe’s (fill in body part here)’? And I vividly recall an article about a woman who got hit by a car and had her leg ripped off – I can still see the little bird’s-eye-view sketch of cars all bunched up on the street, the woman’s body, and her leg lying in the road a couple of yards away – brrrr! I was pretty young at the time so it made a big impression.

Anyway, on to the spooky stuff. When I was around twelve or thirteen I was reading about cancer in the Reader’s Digest. I’d never heard of such a thing and as I read the article, absolute cold terror overtook me along with the certainty that something bad was going to happen. I had read lots of scary things before but this was a new level of fear, and I felt impelled to go and find my mother. I didn’t tell her what the problem was; just stuck close for a while. But the fearful feeling never really went away.

My mom died of cancer when I was nineteen.

I know the laws of probability can explain that.  Cancer is pretty common, and there’s certainly nothing unusual about a child being frightened by learning about a scary disease like that. So I filed the whole thing away as a creepy but explainable coincidence.

Until a few years later.

My then-husband and I were living in Halifax, and his brother was attending Dalhousie University. My brother-in-law’s term had ended and he was soon to return home to Calgary so we took one last drive together, puttering around down by the shore and having a pleasant day. As we were driving back, I glanced over at my brother-in-law in the driver’s seat and a thought blazed into my mind, sudden and forceful: “I’ll never see him again.”

A month later he was killed in a climbing accident in the Rocky Mountains. When I saw him again, he was dead in his coffin.

That really creeped me out.

But again, I’ve explained it to myself. People have lots of weird random thoughts in a day. Make predictions often enough and sooner or later you’re bound to hit on something that actually happens. If they don’t come true, you never think of them again, but if you actually get one right you think, “OMG, I predicted that!”

I’m sure that’s all it was.

Well, mostly sure.

But still…


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P.S. I’m on the road again, so I’ll reply to comments later today or tomorrow.  ‘Talk’ to you then!

May your Halloween be just scary enough to be fun!

Fear Factor: Creepy-Crawly Edition

Warning: There’s a snake photo at the bottom of this post!  (Just thought I’d mention that for those who hate/fear snakes.)

No Fear Factor would be complete without a few creepy-crawlies, so here we go:

Even though I’ve had quite a few close encounters with things that crawl and slither, most of them don’t really creep me out.

(See what I did there? ‘Creep’ me out…?)

*ahem*  Sorry.

Anyway, I’ll start with spiders (and I don’t mean the lovable Spider Webb from my books).

I guess after you’ve had a large spider walking around in your mouth it’s hard to get too wound up about bugs of any sort. Mind you, I didn’t tongue the spider intentionally. I just didn’t realize the potential consequences of drinking from a hose without letting it run for a few seconds first. That poor spider probably achieved low-earth orbit when I spat him out. (The world’s first spidernaut: One small step for man; eight giant steps for arachnids…)

Over the years I’ve lifted spiders off my eyebrows, shaken them out of my hair, and, if statistics are to be believed, probably eaten close to a dozen in my sleep by now. Spiders don’t bother me.

But wood ticks?

Bleah!!! I hate wood ticks! They’re bad enough when they’re crawling around all flat and icky but once they latch on and get engorged to the size of revolting dead-white grapes… *shudders*

Before the advent of flea-and-tick collars, picking engorged ticks off the cats and dogs on the farm was a disgusting but necessary chore. It was too bad they didn’t make flea-and-tick collars for humans, too, because after being outdoors in Manitoba we almost always had to evict a couple from our clothes or bodies.

Moving on to the crawlies: I’m not crazy about centipedes, mainly because I’ve heard they bite. But wooly-bear caterpillars are cute. As kids we loved to pick them up and watch them curl into a furry ball. Then after a few seconds they’d relax and crawl around our palms while we giggled at the tickly sensation.

Cold-blooded crawlies don’t bother me, either. My fifth-grade teacher confided to my mother with some dismay, “All the other children bring me flowers. Diane brings me salamanders!”

I didn’t mean to upset her. It was just that the other kids were tormenting the poor salamanders, so I rescued them and carried them home to release by our pond after school. I kept hoping they’d stay and have families, but I never saw them again. (Maybe I should have tried bringing two salamanders home. Clearly I didn’t think that part through.)

And then there are the ‘slitheries’.  I class leeches under ‘slitheries’, and they revolt me; but then again I figure it’s probably healthy to harbour an aversion to critters that want to suck my blood.  (No vampires for me, either, thank you very much.)

Snakes, on the other hand…

Years ago, friends had a six-foot long boa constrictor who loved to cuddle up and tuck his nose under my hair where it was nice and warm.

Years ago, friends had a six-foot long boa constrictor who loved to cuddle up and tuck his nose under my hair where it was nice and warm.

Snakes are okay, but I do prefer a little advance warning. Sudden snakes are rarely a good thing, particularly if you’re poking around one of our desert micro-climates where the rattlesnakes hang out.

Snakes in quantity are another thing entirely. The garter snake pits at Narcisse, Manitoba are amazing (click on the videos at the bottom of their page if you dare). I don’t know how they all manage to untangle themselves. Apparently the accepted collective nouns for snakes are ‘bed’, ‘pit’, ‘den’, ‘knot’, and ‘nest’, but I think a ‘macramé of snakes’ would be appropriate.

Which creepy-crawly do you loathe the most?

P.S.  You may have noticed that my site was down for the better part of a day last week.  My domain host crapped out completely (yes, I’m switching to a new one now) and all my emails vanished into cyberspace.  If you emailed me any time within the past couple of weeks but didn’t get a reply, please resend your message.  I promise I’m not ignoring you!

Fear Factor: Kitchen Edition

Since October is Halloween month, I’m doing a series of Fear Factor posts.  Here’s Number 1:

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This week I embarked on a perilous mission. One that forced me to confront the darkest places in my soul. An epic crusade requiring nerves and stomach of steel.

Yes, I cleaned out the vegetable drawer in the fridge.


I don’t know why I have such a mental block against vegetables. I eat a healthy diet most of the time. Fruit never goes bad in my house. But veggies? Um… yeah. If it’s not irresistibly delicious like fresh peas and beans or durable like carrots and beets and cabbage, it’s bad news.

I lifted out a bag of lettuce that had turned into soup without ever nearing a stockpot. Half a cucumber squished softly inside its plastic wrapper, its skin dotted with fuzzy black and white spots. A green pepper had only a small ring of black around the stem but when I cut it open it leaked foul-smelling liquid, like a giant green pustule.

Who knew that neglected green peppers turn into witch zits? Dang, if I’d only known, I could’ve kept it until Halloween and used it for decoration.

And speaking of the scariest night of the year, I could’ve offered a pretty good fear factor if I hadn’t cleaned out my bin of plastic storage containers. Seriously, that thing would scare anybody. Any time I need a container, it’s a quest worthy of Indiana Jones.

When I realize I need something from The Bin Of Doom, my heart sinks and a sense of impending disaster washes over me. I don’t even want to open the cupboard door because I know that therein lurks mortal peril. One time I opened it without sufficient preparation, and I spent the next week with a bruise on the bridge of my nose because one of the larger containers hurled itself at my face in a fit of unprovoked aggression. Plastic containers may look benign, but never trust those suckers.

So I cautiously open the cupboard door, muttering arcane incantations to protect myself: “Stay put, you bastards. I’m just going to eeeease out this one little tiny container- Aagh! Ow! Shit!

That’s another thing about plastic containers: They ferociously protect their young.

Anyway, I finally faced the inevitable. Donned my body armour and face shield and hauled the whole bin out. The plastics mounted a daunting counterattack, but I escaped with only a few dents in my skull and equanimity. Then I sorted and reorganized the whole thing and put it back in the cupboard with my sense of accomplishment tempered by fatalism.

For now, it’s safe to open that door. But I know my enemy all too well (and the enemy is me). After a few iterations of “Oh, I don’t feel like dragging the whole bin out just to replace this one thing; I’ll just balance it on top”, I know the situation will recur. If it happens in time for Halloween, I’ll invite the little ghosties and ghoulies in and scare the crap out of them.

Or I could introduce them to the Tower of Terror: the precarious heap of bottles and cans that threatens to inundate anyone foolish enough to reach into the corner of the pantry. That’d do the trick.

What’s the scariest place in your house?

Something Wicked This Way Comes

They’re coming for us.

Leathery features twisted in horrifying grimaces. Glistening eyeballs barely contained in lidless sockets. Grotesque warty protuberances erupting from wrinkled reptilian skin.

I’m not talking about the usual Halloween ghosties and ghoulies. These aren’t human beings in masks and makeup. This is the real thing; a nightmare come alive.

Yes, I’m talking about potatoes.

How would you like to find this when you stick your hand in the potato bin?

How would you like to find this when you stick your hand in the potato bin?


Or this?

Or this?

These are last year’s potatoes – we didn’t finish them up before we dug the new ones, and now apparently they’ve decided to reproduce all on their own. They’re actually growing new little potatoes inside the old ones.

I’m totally creeped out. It’s like one of those pod-people horror movies, only it’s happening in our potato bin. And just in time for Halloween, too.

Maybe we should put these out on our front porch instead of a jack-o-lantern. I bet that would cut down on the trick-or-treaters (or, as we often call them, Halloweeners, but that word always makes me think of a semi-artificial meat product all gussied up in a little costume).

I like Halloween.  Its origins are shrouded in mystery and nobody remembers or cares whether it was originally a religious or secular occasion. It celebrates absolutely nothing, and does it with silly costumes and free candy.  What’s not to like?

We need more days like Halloween, but I think we adults should get goodies along with the kids. Maybe candy for the kids and booze for the parents, so the adults will be sufficiently mellow when their little darlings consume the entire contents of their candy bags and become hyperactive human cannonballs with projectile vomiting. I don’t have kids of my own, but an overstimulated child with a belly full of candy sounds like the world’s scariest horror movie to me.

Hubby and I used to stay home and hand out treats, but for the last few years we’ve been Halloween grinches. We vacate the house around five o’clock and go to the bar to shoot pool, nicely avoiding both the parade of kids and our subsequent pig-out on leftover chocolate bars. (‘Cause you wouldn’t want to run out of candy, right? So you have to buy lots. And it only makes sense to buy the kinds you like.)

But maybe this year we should stay home and hand out potatoes. They’re the perfect Halloween treat: delicious, nutritious, and scary as hell.

Anybody else harbouring mutant vegetables? What are your Halloween traditions?


Lately my brain has been semi-defective.  It works most of the time, but every now and then it shorts out, leaving me standing there wondering what the hell I’d intended to do moments ago.  Or I go to do one thing and end up doing something else entirely.

I hope it’s because I’m in the final intense writing phase of Book 7 and all my spare brain power is used up.  I really hope it’s not permanent.  And I really, really hope aliens didn’t sneak into my bedroom while I was asleep and swap out my brain for a substandard model.  ‘Cause everybody knows there’s a big market for good used brains around Halloween, so it would make sense to manufacture some cheaper semi-defective ones.

I mean, really, there are lots of things that are apparently manufactured to be intentionally inferior.

Take cotton swabs, for example – one of my pet peeves.  Any time I buy a generic brand, one end of the swab has a nice soft cotton tip and the other end is a hard plastic stick with a few shreds of cotton adhering to it, just enough to blunt the edges so it doesn’t actually slice the inside of my ear to pieces.

(Don’t bother reprimanding me for sticking cotton swabs in my ears.  I know I’m not supposed to, but I’m a rebel.  Sometimes I go out doors marked ‘In Only’.  Sometimes I drink milk that’s a day past its ‘Best Before’ date.  So sticking cotton swabs in my ears?  I laugh in the face of danger!  Ha-ha!)


If Q-Tips® can make cotton swabs with nice soft cotton tips on both ends, why are all generic cotton swabs semi-defective?  Do aliens open up every single package and remove the cotton from one end of each swab?

Or is there a special cut-rate supplier for semi-defective manufacturing equipment?

I imagine the following sales pitch from SemDef Corporation:  “Yeah, you could buy a machine that actually works, but for half the price, you can have a machine that only works half the time.  Is that a deal or what?”

Which actually explains a lot about the generic food market, too.  You know what I mean.  If you buy Cheerios®, you get yummy Cheerios®.  If you buy generic oatie-o cereal, you get something that tastes like the cardboard box it’s packed in.

It has the same ingredient list.  There’s no sawdust or wallpaper paste in there.  Not even the leftover cotton from the semi-defective swabs.  So that means either they’ve somehow managed to screw up a simple recipe past the point of recognition, OR…

…SemDef also sells substandard food products:  “Why spend extra money for top quality oats?  For half the price, you can get oats that have been left out in the rain for a few days.  All you have to do is scrape off the mouldy bits and ignore the grasshopper corpses, and you’re all set.  Really, you’re going to process them past the point of recognition anyway.  Who’ll know?”

Okay, I just grossed myself out.

And I’ve created a rambling blog post that connects cotton swabs, aliens, breakfast cereal, and grasshoppers.  Yet another sabotage by my semi-defective brain.

Damn those aliens anyway.

Ooooo, Scary!

Since Halloween was this week, “scary” has been on my mind.  It was definitely on my mind when I looked in the mirror this morning, but that’s another story.

“Scary” is such a versatile word.  Halloween costumes are good-scary.  Haunted houses and ghost stories are creepy-good-scary.  Politicians are scary in a stomach-churning, “eeeuw-I-don’t-want-to-think-about-it” way.

There’s exciting-scary, when you’re hurtling down a black-diamond ski run and you catch an edge and almost lose it but you don’t, and the adrenaline slams into your veins and you let out a whoop and haul ass to the bottom grinning like a maniac.

There’s the detached sort of scary you get when you’re airborne immediately after parting company with your dirt bike or slipping on the stairs.  It’s that short moment that takes approximately forever to experience, and your brain has exactly enough time to say in calm and reasonable tones, “Oh, shit, this is really going to hurt!”

And then there’s scary-scary.  The kind of scary that makes your heart pound and your hands sweat.  The kind of scary that makes you drop your shoulder like a defensive tackle and fling little old ladies in all directions as you bull your way through the lineup to get to the toilet before you shit your pants.

Well, maybe not really.  And anyway, that only happened once.  Don’t bug me.

My point is, even though “scary” is technically defined as a bad thing, we search it out in so many ways.  When I was a kid, I always wanted to be something scary for Halloween.  Some people would argue that I achieved “scary” on a regular basis, but they may be exaggerating.  Though I do have a vivid memory of my mother saying, “Try not to be so… ferocious.”  It wasn’t even Halloween.

But I never wanted to be a clown or a princess or a ballerina.  I wanted to be a pirate, a headless person, or some other horrifying apparition.  I wanted to make people shiver in abject terror.  Note the clenched fist and fearsome grimace.  I was seven at the time, and my sword was tinfoil-covered cardboard.  I wanted a bigger, scarier sword, but cardboard wasn’t to be wasted and tinfoil was expensive.

When I got old enough to understand real fear, “scary” lost some of its attraction.  But still, in fiction and movies, we have to have a dose of scary, or the storyline just seems flat.  It makes me wonder if cave men sat around telling scary stories, too, or whether they had enough “scary” in their lives without making any up.

What is it about that burst of adrenaline?  Maybe it’s the relief afterward.  Maybe it’s the bragging rights when you’re sitting in the pub telling the story with a cold one in your hand, and your friends shiver and exclaim and laugh in all the right places.

I don’t know.  All I know is, it’s my corporate yearend, and I have to wade through my financial records again.  That’s a whole different kind of scary.  And that story isn’t going to hold anybody enthralled at the pub, either.

P.S.  I’ll be with my step-mom for the next week or two while she starts her chemo treatments, so I may be slow in responding to comments, and I might not make it around to comment on my favourite blogs.  I’m still thinking of you, though.  Thanks for visiting!