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Sunday, October 20, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 20-- Where Stacey Shares Her Attempts to Read Horror

Today, it's Stacey's turn:
Stacey Peterson is the Adult Services Manager at the Batavia Public Library (www.bataviapubliclibrary.org) and the current chairperson of the Adult Reading Round Table.  (www.arrtreads.org)   You can find her, reading non-scary books, at the blog Unruly Reader. (http://unrulyreader.blogspot.com)  
Stacey bravely shared her experience with trying to read horror. I am sure some of you out there can relate.

Maybe I read too many books as a kid. Seriously, that could be it.  

My imagination? Way too vivid. 

So: scaring myself is ridiculously easy to do. Horror is available to me just about anywhere; I’ve literally scared myself with my own shadow. (Just last week, in fact.)

So seeking horror just ain’t gonna happen in my world. (Worst babysitting moment ever [and there are several to choose from]: I was in high school, and the middle school kid I was babysitting for the weekend decided it would be cool to watch Pet Sematary. Yeah. She watched with glee, while I stuck my head under a blanket.)

Even in my post-babysitting years, I find that horror creeps up on me, even though I try earnestly to avoid it. I live my sweet, simple little life, thinking (mostly) virtuous, pleasant thoughts, and still… still! horror finds me. 

In its most insidious form, horror stalks me when I’m reading non-horror books. In my reading life I can trace a long tradition of scaring myself witless merely by reading nonfiction alone late at night.

Here’s part of the trouble: I have a fondness for books about tragic events. (I’ll just say it: I love such books.) But...because often there’s untimely death happening within their pages, these books can freak me out, especially after dark. It’s like I’m haunted by ghosts. (I don’t believe in ghosts.)

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Exhibit A: High-school-age me, reading a biography of Edith Cavell, an English nurse executed by the Germans for having aided the escape of Allied soldiers during WWI. It’s late at night, and I’m alone in my room, the only person awake in the house. And I’m completely freaked out, thinking that if I turn out the lights to go to sleep, the ghost of the executed Edith Cavell will materialize.
(Repeating: I don’t believe in ghosts. Didn’t believe in them then, either.)

Exhibit B: High-school-age me, reading Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember--about the sinking of the Titanic. Again, it’s late at night, and I’m the only one awake in our house. I’m utterly terrified as I climb the stairs, because I’m convinced that the spirit of Captain Smith will be walking along the upstairs hallway banister, as though he’s patrolling the bridge of the ship. As though my reading had conjured him.

Exhibit C: College-age me, reading a book about the battle of Gettysburg. Same staircase, late at night. I’m quite certain I’m walking through a foggy field of ghost soldiers as I ascend the stairs. (I recall thinking of the book title In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead and nearly snorting when I realized that maybe that’s where the “fogginess” came from. Then I thought, James Lee Burke, you’re in trouble for making this vision worse than it already was, because even laughing at myself did not particularly relieve the terror.)

Exhibit D (oh, yes, there’s more): Young-librarian-age me, reading Norman Maclean’s magnificent Young Men and Fire for the first time. I stay up late reading, because I cannot put that book down. And this time the thing happens at the top of the stairs. (Different house, different staircase, same freak-out.) I swear, I was really scared that if I looked out of the corner of my eye, I’d see those men sidehilling down the hallway, to their deaths.

Exhibit E: Two-years-ago me, reading Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper. I knew, I knew! it was a dumb idea to keep reading this book late at night. I’m downstairs, all alone, and I (true-crime-o-phobe) am reading a book about a master criminal. Not a good idea, lady. So as I head upstairs, I turn on every light in every room as I walk through it, and I make it up the stairs without incident. I’m thinking maybe I’d conquered that old thing, and I’m feeling quite all right. Then, out of nowhere, I have the same fear that I’d had as a child (which used to cause me to leap—and I mean leap—across my room into my bed) that someone/something would reach out from under the bed and grab my ankle. D.B. Cooper might grab my ankle! I surprise myself with the crazed little hop I do as I get (let's be honest: launch myself) into bed.

This, my friends, this is why you won’t find me reading horror novels. Plain old nonfiction is scary enough for this one.

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