What Scared the Hell Out of You?

The one-question interview in which guests describe a frightening, eerie, or otherwise freaky situation that scared the hell out of them.

March 15, 2019/Mark Cassell http://www.markcassell.co.uk/

In a recent, (unrelated to this segment) interview with Mark Cassell, he revealed an unbidden story that I believe not only lends itself well to What Scared the Hell Out of You, but must also be the driving force behind the Shadow Fabric Mythos.  The following is taken–in parts–from the interview.

  1. Do you believe in the paranormal? That is, do you believe in haunted houses, ghosts, demons, or even possession?

I’d like to believe, sure. I mean, there HAS to be something beyond these four walls, right? But I’m a seeing-is-believing kinda guy, so this is where I hang my head and say that so far nothing has convinced me. I’ve sadly never witnessed anything. I write about this stuff yet have never had first-hand experience. My imagination, yeah… But real life? Nope.

Well, perhaps that’s not entirely true. There was a time when I was a child, and something odd happened to my mum and how she believed she’d attained what was essentially a haunted piece of clothing. I only heard about it later on in life.

Can I leave you with a true story? The one I mentioned earlier from my childhood:

Let’s cast aside the creepy doll thing that’s been on the big screen for decades now. My question is: could a spirit or entity exist within the stitches of a garment?

Many years ago, my parents’ alarm yanked us from sleep at around 3.30 a.m. Although set for their usual 6 a.m. wake up call, Mum and Dad put it down to a freak occurrence. Of course they would; something we’d all do. That’s if it only happened the once…

Before I say any more, I must tell you that years later while researching my debut novel, I learnt that the hours around 3 a.m. are known as the Witching Hour or the Devil’s Hour. Sometimes, it’s even referred to as the Dead Hour.

Over the course of the following few mornings, at about the same time, that relentless chime tore through our home.

On one morning in particular, Dad mumbled into his pillow and fell back asleep while Mum clutched tight the covers. She stared into the shadows with dozens of thoughts tumbling through her sleep-deprived brain. Dismissing the idea of buying a replacement clock, she wondered if something in the house had changed, whether anything new had been introduced into the home.

Strong in her beliefs of a God who incidentally I’ve never believed in, Mum considered the possibility that something significant had been acquired. Something evil, perhaps?

She’d recently bought a purple cardigan from a charity shop. Having since washed it, the garment now hung from the wardrobe door. Seeing it there across the room, unworn and yet to be put away, it was as though that cardigan took on an entirely different meaning. It symbolised a foreign entity in our home. Unknown, and now unwanted.

Mum prayed. Strong in faith, she asked for a sign to confirm this piece of clothing was the source of the alarm’s urgency.

To answer, the bell clanged, blaring into the near-darkness.

She leapt from the bed, snatched the cardigan from its hanger, and bounded down the stairs. Once outside in the garden, she threw the thing in the dustbin.

Every morning after that, the alarm only ever went off at the set time. Remember as a child when we were afraid of a T-shirt or coat hanging in the corner of our bedroom? That innocent garment appeared like a person’s silhouette, a silent spectre lurking in the shadows of a corner familiar during the day, yet morphing come the night – such is a child’s natural innocence with an imagination sparked by all things new in this world. By comparison, through the eyes of an adult, things can become unnatural.

Here it appears that my mother’s faith kept us safe from the supernatural.

Perhaps I was destined to write the Shadow Fabric Mythos. When my family encountered that sinister garment all those years ago, maybe the concept stuck with me and I went on to tell its story.

Okay, so the Shadow Fabric itself is a fictional sentient darkness (it is fiction, right?), but essentially a haunted fabric none-the-less. Was Mum’s newly acquired possession indeed possessed by an entity similar to that which 30 years later I’d write into my fiction?

If so, I’m glad my family never encountered it. Yet we will never know. Nor will my family ever learn of the origins of that cardigan. Haunted or possessed, whatever the hell it was, we escaped something.

Sleep tight.

June 2017/Jason Nugent

Jason Nugent is a great guy, a great writer, and someone I call my friend. An avid writer whose stories vacillate between the comically macabre and the outright strange, he refuses to be pinned down by any one genre, though some of his work fits nicely under the category of “horror.” I own copies–signed, no less–of two of his short story collections, Moments of Darkness, and (Almost) Average, Tales of Adventure, Loss and Oddity. I highly recommend them both, as well as his blog page: https://almostaverageblog.wordpress.com/  His writing style, much different from my own, is easily reflected in his description of a real-life “What Scared the Hell Out of You?” moment. Direct, stated, and creepy!

“What Scared the Hell Out of Me?”

When I was thirteen or fourteen, I delivered the newspaper in my neighborhood in Cleveland, Oh. I’d get up every morning around 5 am to collect the bundle at the end of my driveway. I’d throw on my headphones listening to heavy metal as I walked in the dark dropping off newspapers to my customers. My route was my street, but it was four to five blocks long and dead-ended to some woods which also ran behind one side of the street. The other side of the street, the side my house was on, had several short connecting streets to the longer street parallel to mine.

One morning, in the dark that precedes the dawn, one of the darkest moments of the night, I was near the end of the route and couldn’t stop looking and wondering about the house I could see on the street behind mine.

For several days, the local news ran a story about a serial killer on the loose in Cleveland. They nicknamed him “Vuke” because his last name was Vukavich. His family, and his sister who used to be my babysitter a few years before, lived in the house I couldn’t take my eyes off of on the next street over.

That dark morning as I delivered newspapers, walking past an old abandoned school that sat on the block between our streets, the brooding darkness only added to the eerie sense I felt as I dropped off the morning paper to the houses at that end of the street.

Dark, heavy music blared in my ears as I tried drowning out the sense of dread I felt. I was completely and utterly alone on that dark street with no cars travelling and no one walking their dog. Just me, my music, and the fear of what was in that house.

Who knew if he was lurking in the neighborhood? The police described him as wearing an old Michael Myers mask from Halloween. That image burned in my brain. I scanned the streets hoping to find, yet hoping to never find, that masked man. He could be anywhere. He could be lurking in the backyards of the homes I was walking past. He could be hiding in a car. He could be stalking me, waiting for the moment to strike. I finished my route and walked, and partially ran, all the way back home.

I never did deliver the newspaper as fast as I did that morning.

Days later, they found him dead in the woods where we played all the time at the end of our street. He’d killed himself after the publicity and manhunt was too much. When they searched his home, they found several bullets with the names of his intended victims inscribed on the shells.  Of course, my name was not on any of them. I doubt he even knew who I was.

Still, that morning as the manhunt was well underway and I neared the house of his family, I couldn’t help but feel terror growing in the dark.

May 2017/Becky Narron

I was so thrilled when Becky Narron–the Becky Narron–agreed to share her scary moment. First making a name for herself with Roadie Notes, where she has interviewed everyone from nobodies such as myself to the master of masters like Graham Masterton, Becky recently accepted a job with the up-and-coming, and somewhat already infamous, HellBound Books Publishing.  If you know Becky then you’re most likely a writer and already know what a wonderful sweetheart she is and that her occupation keeps her smack-dab in the middle of all things macabre and horrible. If this is your first meeting with Becky, then you’re in for a real treat, as her story just might be a source of insight into the reasoning behind her infatuation with ghosts, goblins,  ghouls, and morbidity in general.    

It was 1991 and I was married to my high school sweetheart. We were going to his parents house one evening. We didn’t pick a great time to decide to do this because Thunder Over Louisville was just getting over and the traffic was insane. We were driving up I65 Northbound and had just passed the Sellersburg exit when we spotted a car on the side of the road with its flashers blinking. It was getting pretty dark by then and up ahead we saw a man, woman and a little boy and girl walking towards the next exit. Car trouble or out of gas we assumed. As we drove past them I looked at my husband and he looked at me. I said we should help them and he agreed. We drove up to the next exit turned around and drove back to the Sellersburg exit got back off the interstate and back on again. The traffic seemed to have increased even more by that time. People were coming out of Louisville. We passed the car and I pulled ahead of the family so that we would not be walking up behind them and scare them. I didn’t want them to think we were going to hurt them. My husband got out of the car and started walking toward them. Cars and semi trucks blazing pasts us at the speed of light. I watched in the rear view mirror as he got closer to them. All of a sudden a semi passing us flashed his bright lights on and blew his horn. It only was seconds before he passed us and when he did the people and car were gone. I could see my husband looking for them but could see no trace of them. He ran back to our car his eyes wide. He looked at me and said you did see them too right? I told him yes I saw them. There was no place for them to go. There was a steep embankment and no way they could have gotten back to the car and back on the interstate before the semi passed us and we could see again. To this day I have never forgotten it and doubt I ever will. I have the chills now even telling this story.

April, 2017/Daniel J. Flore III

My guest for April is Daniel J. Flore III, whose poems have appeared in several publications. His first poetry collection is entitled, Lapping Water,  published by GenZ Publishing. Dan frequently haunts my FaceBook page with poetry and prose that very often teeters on the edge of the dark abyss. I asked him if he wanted to be a guest for my one-question interview, and he agreed, but only on the condition that he be allowed to relate his frightening experience in a poem. The following is his account of what scared the hell out of him…


the deck is blue
no one knows if the dealer is in
you’re anxious holding your cards
you’d like to know if they’ve been dealt at all

you’re curious if she likes you
the night looks cobalt
a solid form you’ve had to earn
and have ascended to

an ignition sound
and there’s nothing
to the street you haven’t found

under the table
you’re pretty sure
he’s got his finger in her groin
and you wonder if she’s going to screw you too

there’s a bluff to call
and your Kings are coming up
guards leading the prisoner away
they’re all thinking about the gallows
the house
scurrys into itself
you daydream

–Daniel J. Flore III


March, 2017/Pamela Morris

My first guest is Pamela Morris  http://www.pamelamorrisbooks.com/. A horror and paranormal murder-mystery novelist whose works include, Secrets of the Scarecrow MoonWhat Shadows Are Made Of, and the more recent, No Rest For The Wicked, Morris has been writing since she was eleven years old. When not working on her next novel–due out sometime this year–a psychological horror story entitled, Dark Hollow Road, Pamela spends her time on her blog pages, writes book and movie reviews, and does her best to bribe a small murder of crows with peanuts and cat food into being her friends. The following, in her own words, is a recounting of a creepy experience she had as a young girl.

This is going to be tough. I’ve had a lot of damn creepy things happen, more than your average bear, as Yogi would say. Therefore, I’m going to answer with my first experience because the first time is always the creepiest, right?

I met Sherry in fourth grade. We quickly became best friends and would spend the night at each others houses. Sherry lived in a huge, Victorian-period home with all the trimmings. There were antiques everywhere, three fireplaces, two staircases, six rooms downstairs, at least as many on the second floor and a walk up attic. All of it was very well taken care of and watched over by her mother. Her brother’s bedroom was directly across the hallway from hers, with their parents only a few steps away, all on the same end of the house. A long narrow hallway lined with doors, ran down the middle with a staircase on either end. The main staircase went down to the front entryway. The back staircase took you down into the kitchen.

When we were around eleven or twelve, I was staying the night.  We’d gone upstairs to her room to hang out, talk, and play records. As we talked we heard someone come down the hallway from the back stairs followed by a sharp triple rap on her bedroom door. Sherry got up and went to the door and found the hallway empty. Annoyed, she closed the door. We assumed it was her brother who was known for doing such things and went back to our visit.

A few minutes later, it happened again; footsteps coming down the hallway and a series of knocks on her bedroom door. “Knock it off,” Sherry yelled when, once again, she opened the door to an empty hallway and silence.

The door was closed a second time, with the two of us muttering about how annoying older brothers can be. Not ten minutes later, here came the sounds of someone hurrying up the hallway and the knocks, only this time before the door was opened we heard footsteps retreating. Sherry yanked the door open, ready to catch her brother in the act, but he wasn’t there. Angry, we went downstairs to where her mom, dad, and brother were all in the living room watching television.

Her brother, looking innocent as you please, didn’t so much as flinch, smirk, or chuckle when he saw us.

“Mom, tell him to stop coming upstairs and banging on my door,” Sherry complained.

Her mom gave her a confused look. “Nobody has been up there in at least an hour. We’ve all been sitting here watching TV,” she said.

So, who was it?

Years later we found out that a large, metal, ornamental vase that rested in an alcove by their front door was actually an unmarked cremation urn. Sherry told me that a complete stranger had shown up at the house one day asking about the urn and offered her mom several hundred dollars for it.

Did it contain the remains of the playful ghost from years before? Why was it still there? Does the family now living there experience anything?

We’ll probably never know.

CREEPY! Thanks, Pamela. We love knowing what freaks people out, especially horror writers. Check this page periodically for more scary encounters, or sign up for email notifications to stay current. There’s always something macabre and morbid to be reaped from unseen worlds  when we’re Mumbling Darkly.