A week or so ago, I went to the Lake Shawnee Haunted Amusement Park just north of Princeton, West Virginia with my wife and stepdaughter. Lake Shawnee is a real abandoned amusement park where at least two children died in accidents and where the children of the first white settlers in Mercer County were scalped by Shawnee Indians. There is also an Indian burial mound nearby.
For October, the owners have set up the “Lake Shawnee Dark Carnival”. It is a quick tour of the facility combined with actors guiding you around and trying to creep you out. It was a fun evening, if not exactly what we expected. Afterwards, one of the staff told us that the rest of the year they offer tours where you can hang out and get a feel for the “supernatural” of the place. (If you’re interested in this, follow their Facebook page for more information.)
For various reasons, I’ve been to Mexico, Central and South America more than a dozen times over the last 10 years or so. Many of those cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos). It’s actually a three day observance of Allhallowtide. That includes All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) Hallowmas and All Soul’s Day. In general deceased children and infants are remembered on Nov. 1 and adults on Nov. 2. While they use skeletons dressed in clothing to represent that holiday, it doesn’t seem to be as much about the “things that go bump in the night” or that scare us. It is a time of remembrance and communicating with the dearly departed. They offer gifts of flowers and food.
That difference got me thinking about why some of us like to be scared. A couple different articles I read talked about the adrenaline rush that comes from it. Your heart beats faster, you feel stronger and more alive. Getting scared allows us to experience the forbidden without getting in trouble for doing it. If you’re reading a scary book, you know you can always close it. If you’re watching a scary movie, you know it will end.
I normally leave writing horror stuff to my colleagues, although for the last couple Halloweens I have written a ‘scary’ story to stretch my boundaries a little bit. Last year, I coerced some writer friends to contribute to a Halloween collection. Everyone wrote short stories and I posted links. We are doing it again this year.
And remember, it can’t be as scary as what you read about the upcoming election…
And here are the 2014 contributions (check back later for more stories):
- Halloween Fiction in a Flash: Big Dogs Drag Things
- The Legend of Paint Creek: A River Town Halloween Treat