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!

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!