Odds and Deadends : Monsters Under The Bed

It’s something we probably don’t consider, but everyone has been scared that there’s something lurking underneath us as we sleep at some point in their lives. It’s been in episodes of Doctor Who, it’s been in Luther, it’s been all over the place, and it seems to be getting more and more prevalent as time goes on. But why is it that the idea haunts us? I don’t mean to solve the issue, but present a few feelers and ideas as to possible interpretations.

Firstly, of course, we must tackle the dark. In evolutionary terms, we’re scared of the dark because it conceals predators, and as primitive man, we’re not going to last long if a beast comes and eats us. The monsters children believe in may not be the saber-toothed tiger our ancestors feared (although I’m sure some have thought that one is underneath them), but the principle applies. It is a similar story with the cupboard across the room, which I will quickly divert to. Anything might be hiding in there, and isn’t it much scarier when the door is ever so slightly open when we can just about peer into the gloom and convince ourselves that something monstrous is moving around in there?

And now for something completely different (but which will reconnect).

As we grow up, our perception of the world is shaped by past events. In essence, we build up a pattern recognition of what is, based on what has come before, and therefore we can predict what might come later. This is one reason why theorists believe it is more difficult to learn languages when you get older because language is tied to our perception of reality. We understand, for example, what a door is, because we have learned to associate the temporary opening-and-closing of a portal with the word ‘door’. Therefore, whenever we see something similar (even between different cosmic dimensions), we associate the word ‘door’ because it has similar properties to those we have seen before, even though it may not strictly be a ‘door’ as such. Try and substitute the word with something different and our inherent understanding of it changes, and we find it harder to make the connection.

Children, who have had less time to build up such an intimacy with language, are able to apply several terms to a concept more easily than adults. Following that same principle, children are less able to come to terms with the inherent cause and effect of past-present-future, because their brains aren’t as hardwired to associate past with present and with future from previous knowledge, as adults can by their previous knowledge of a door, to use the same concept. When adults know that there was nothing in the wardrobe with the light on and therefore there won’t be with the light off, because there never has been before, children are less able to come to that conclusion because the dark, for them, creates a completely different space. Our inherent understanding of human experience of reality changes as we age and experience the world around us. Children haven’t had the time to build up the understanding that the dark doesn’t change anything, so they believe that even though there was nothing there before, switching it off doesn’t necessarily mean the same holds true.

Now put that concept under the bed. The proximity of the dark place to the child is that much closer, that much more unbearable. When the monster was in the wardrobe at the end of the room, at least we had running distance. Now someone’s put a dark place, where anything could be hiding, where we can’t see, only inches away from us. What’s a child supposed to think, to believe, when the lights are off and the parents are in another room, very close and yet so incredibly far away? This is why the sheets getting pulled off the bed in Shutter, and indeed in Paranormal Activity, is disturbing. Throughout our lives the bed has been the safe place, and now something is able to tamper with that safety net. It can get to us.

There’s also perhaps the element of parent-child separation involved with this as well. For the first years of its life the child is almost constantly in contact with the mother. Now, put in a room on their own where they cannot see or hear their protector for so many years? At an impressionable age when so many images and concepts are being bombarded at them, everything comes at the worst possible time. They’re on their own, and absolutely anything they have seen or experienced could be lurking there.

And yet it is a rite of passage. Conquering this growing-up period is how children understand the dark, how they come to create the pattern-recognition that tells them that, no matter how much they imagine shapes there, logic holds that it can’t be true. It’s part of the mirror-stage, I would say, the Freudian concept of the child recognising that it is independent from the mother. Now that the child is alone, it has to realise that it must protect itself from attack. To do this it must recognise, understand, and parry potential threats, and in today’s world we don’t have tigers hunting us, but instead monsters under the bed. The child must go through the experience long enough to build up past knowledge that there are no monsters under the bed, and so eventually understand that the dark is simply obscuring something which isn’t there.

However, we as adults can look back on the past. And we can remember a time when the dark space underneath us wasn’t just filled with pillows and the odd box of Christmas decorations. We can remember it being a place where the monsters hid, and where they crept out of before we cowered under the covers and waited for it to be over. And sometimes it seems that we haven’t quite conquered our fears completely, and we return to that moment of childhood horror. And that’s when they come for us, at the moment when logic and reasoning breaks down for just a split second and we believe, we know, that there really were, and still are, monsters under the bed.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Nightmare : The Monkey Queen

Nightmares aren’t all super scary to other people. In fact, when I say I’m scared of monkeys, people often laugh. But trust me, there is nothing funny about it.

A few years ago I was asked to write about my phobia for Hidden Thoughts Press and this piece describes exactly what sort of chaos monkeys can cause. To read the PHOBIAS book in its entirety, it’s available on Amazon.


The Monkey Queen

by Emerian Rich

As a little girl, I had this reoccurring nightmare. Everything started nice and innocent. I was on a tropical island at a big luau. The dream was extremely vivid and in color, which was rare for me. A volcano in the distance spewed pink ash into the bright blue sky. The jungles were vibrant with life and color. Happy calypso music played in the background. All in attendance cheered as I was carried on a throne of bamboo and deposited at the head of a bedecked table. Dressed in a Hawaiian frock of loud oranges and greens, I sported a banana leaf skirt and flowers around my neck. Atop my head was a wreath weaved from vines and hibiscus flowers. I was fanned by palm fronds and hundreds of exotic fruits were paraded before me.

I remember the taste of the mangos, grapes, kiwi, bananas, and papaya. The smell of the tropical flowers and fruit lulled me into a false sense of peaceful tranquility. Cool ocean air wafted over me as if Mother Nature had found my perfect temperature and set the island’s thermostat to please me. In a word, it was paradise.

I was the only human there, but that didn’t bother me, because I was amongst friends. Snakes massaged my toes as they slithered past. Panthers and tigers yawned as they lay in the late afternoon sun. Macaws and toucans sang gleefully along with the drums beaten by tree frogs in tiki masks.

And then there were monkeys. Hundreds of the primates sat at my table and ate fruit, chattering happily as they paid homage to me, their ruler.

Little groups of two or three monkeys danced before me, putting on a show. They spun and twirled and did death-defying trapeze stunts. Several would come up at a time to honor me, or kiss my feet, or mist me with fragrant water. Some even sang or played musical instruments.

As the sun went down, torches were lit and the festivities got more rambunctious. Soon the merriment became too much for me. The crowd got rowdy and I closed my eyes, thinking I might pass out from exhaustion. It was eight o’clock and I knew I had to get home before my curfew.

As I stood, the music stopped and all the monkeys turned to me. Hundreds of little beady eyes stared, their tails curled upwards into question marks.

They asked a flurry of questions.

“What can we get you?”

“Are you well?”

“Do you need something to eat or drink?”

“Where are you going, my queen?”

I smiled and patted the one closest to me on the shoulder as I said, “It’s been lovely playing with you all, but now I must go home.”

The monkey put his tiny fingers on mine and said, “Oh no, you are our queen. You can never go home.”

I laughed at first, thinking he was joking, but as his fingers tightened on mine, I realized he was serious. Panic filled my heart and I screamed. I jumped down from my royal perch to the damp jungle floor. I ran as fast as I could through the dark jungle, trying to find my way home. I felt like Alice, running from all the cards. Vines tangled in my hair and lashed across my bare arms and legs as if trying to hold me back. I heard chattering and scampering of thousands of little monkeys chasing after me. The path never seemed to get clearer and as I looked around, I saw the menacing stares of red beady eyes at varying levels on trees, vines, and bushes. Every once in a while, I’d feel a scratch on my shoulder or tickle on my ankles and I could never find my way home.

With the touch of a whiskery kiss at my neck, visions of being pulled apart by minuscule monkey nails shook me awake.

My scream would bring Mom. I recounted the tale between labored breaths as my adolescent heart raced and tears blurred my eyes. She’d assure me that no monkeys were or would ever be in the house. Glancing around the room, I would spot several places they could squeeze in. Through the ripped screen on the open window, under the closet door, or from the heater vent leading to the basement. I knew the creatures would invade my home. No matter how harmless or accommodating monkeys seemed, they were out for blood.

I don’t know why I had these dreams. They were so real, they seemed like memories, not simply nightmares. Could they be a product of watching Jungle Book as a child? Were they past life memories or perhaps…a premonition?

As I grew up, my childhood nightmare blossomed into a full-blown phobia. Cute “Hang in There” posters on office walls featuring a monkey can conjure all kinds of horror stories in my mind. They are everywhere! Waiting to pluck out your eyeballs and juggle them for tips.

If you haven’t been terrorized by a hoard of primates chasing you through a jungle, you probably don’t realize just how many damned monkeys are around us every day. Curious George, Bubbles, Planet of the Apes, Barrel of Monkeys, Donkey Kong, Chunky Monkey, monkey emojis, monkey bread, sock monkeys, marmosets, orangutans, baboons, the list just doesn’t end! And don’t even get me started on those friggin’ cymbal clacking organ grinders.

When I hear in the news that some lady’s face was ripped off by a monkey, I’m not shocked. Did you ever see that movie Monkey Shines where a shoulder monkey terrorizes a man in a wheelchair? It should be turned into a public service film. I say, anyone who wants to own a monkey must watch this movie before adopting, because the things are evil, people!

I’ve tried to get over my primate aversion, but I just can’t do it. Photos of the creatures make me shiver. While other people fear typing a word in on Google and having porn or blasphemous content pop up, I panic about the possibility of seeing one of those fanged mouths open in what some would say a laugh, but I say an evil shriek. I wait in fear of the day they will attack, tiny nails digging into my skin, creating infested blotches all over my body. Have you seen the pygmy marmosets that are so small, they wrap themselves around your finger? My skin crawls at the thought of their little bodies embedding themselves under my skin. Chilling!

Despite my distaste for primates, one of them infiltrated my monkey-proof perimeter a few years back when my son was a baby. Being an alternative lifestyle, child of darkness, city dweller, people don’t normally give me things that might have monkeys on them. The Nightmare Before Christmas décor, spiders, and jack-o-lantern gifts abound, but primate nonsense? Not a whisper. I enjoyed this fact until I became pregnant with my son. Suddenly all sorts of cutesy baby gifts poured in, many of them monkey themed. Most of them went straight into the giveaway pile, but there was one soft, fuzzy blanket I fell in love with by touch before I realized its sinister side. When my fingertips found the blanket at the bottom of a pink polka-dot box, it felt like wisps of cloud from heaven. I held the blanket to my cheek for fully five minutes, breathing in the deep scent of baby lotion before my husband said, “Um, did you notice it has a monkey on it?”

Fear pierced my chest. I started breathing heavy and felt a tingle up my spine as if I were being watched. My first instinct was to throw the evil blanket across the room–to distance myself from such a vile, ghastly object–but the touch of the baby soft fabric made me hesitate. Was I being too judgmental, to chastise an item of such sensory enjoyment, just because some manufacturer had wrongly decided to decorate it with the image of my nemesis?

I ultimately put the blanket in the keep pile, somehow knowing my newborn child would adore it. As predicted, it’s become my son’s favorite blankie. Since his birth, I’ve had to endure hundreds of movies containing monkeys. I keep my head turned, eyes focused on something else, praying not to hear the shrill monkey squeals from my dreams. If I happen to miss the appearance of one of these creatures on the screen, my son will point and squeal with delight, “Momma don’t like monkeys!”

You would think my son’s innocent delight of the vile creatures would make them more acceptable in my eyes. That with every trek through the zoo or watching of a primate cartoon, it would get easier to see them, easier to push my fear in the background. No such luck. I’m still just as much a Pithikosophobian as ever.

I guess you could say a smidgen of the fear has gone, but is tolerance the same as acceptance? I don’t think so. I still get nervous when people start talking about marmosets or pretend to be a monkey as they hand me a banana. And every time I wash that blanket, I wonder if the monkey is mocking me. Perhaps one day, the little bugger will peel himself from the plush fleece and hop onto my shoulder, pledging his undying love and pulling at my hair ’til I scream. He may even take me back to Monkey Island.

But for now, the blanket can stay, as long as it behaves, keeps my son happy, and doesn’t sprout miniature fingers.


Update: The blanket did get thrown away (finally) much to my relief. My son is now fourteen and my home is once again a place of tranquil monkey-less bliss. Yet, every so often someone who doesn’t know me sends a monkey emoji or posts a monkey meme and my fear spins once again out of control.

My biggest fear is not the apocalypse. It’s an apocalypse where I am, alone with only primates as my companions. I’ve been told to write that book, that it would be the scariest tale I’ve told yet, but I’m afraid the only one it would instigate nightmares in would be me. And it’s just not worth the price.

PR: The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Unveils: Rogue

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Unveils: Rogue

Navigate a Spine-Chilling Journey of Chaos & Dread in Dark Harbor’s NEWEST MAZE

 Sink to Never-Before-Seen Depths of the Historically Haunted Ship, including Door 13 & the Boiler Room

Test the Waters with 23 Nights of Terror September 26 – November 2

Brace for impact as The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor releases a storm of fear like no other in the all-new maze: Rogue. Dark Harbor’s newest maze will take guests through the frightening voyage that nearly changed history. Sparking the creation of the Hollywood blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure, the 95-foot wall of blackness sent waves of panic through the marine community and re-defined science as we know it. All who dare will grasp for air as they plummet with fear, clinging to survival in the newest, spine-chilling maze.

 

As the tale goes, while transporting American troops during World War II, the RMS Queen Mary became known as the Grey Ghost. During a stormy December crossing from New York to Scotland, the famed ocean liner was broadsided by a monstrous force of nature: later classified by NOAA as a “rogue wave”.

 

Dark Harbor attendees will roll into the tide of this historic moment by becoming fully immersed in the panic and chaos of Rogue’s impact with deafening water effects, complete darkness, floor to ceiling seafoam, and even experience the feeling of being capsized. All those aboard will hold on to dear life, as the Grey Ghost attempts to keep herself afloat. 

 

In addition to the announcement of the all-new maze, the producers of Dark Harbor announced at Midsummer Scream, on Sunday August 4, for the first-time ever, Dark Harbor guest will have access to never-before-seen depths of the Queen Mary. In one of the newly re-imagined mazes onboard the historic ocean liner, attendees can now walk through the infamous Door 13. Dubbed one of the most haunted areas on the ship, legend has it that an 18-year old crewman was crushed to death by Door 13 in 1967, and now Dark Harbor guests can walk-thru the iconic location. Guests can also venture 6-fathoms below sea level submerged in the notorious Boiler Room to indulge in the newest secret bar offered at Dark Harbor nightly. 

 

Southern California’s most haunted Halloween event will welcome MORE scares than ever before with the season’s most authentically frightening experience available. Dark Harbor tells the truly haunted, historic tales of the Queen Mary through the infamous spirits of Captain, Chef, Iron Master, Samuel the Savage, Graceful Gale, Half-Hatch Henry, Scary Mary, Voodoo Priestess, Ringmaster, plus hundreds of their bloodcurdling henchmen await to tempt your fate. 

 

Live your nightmares aboard the Queen Mary with newly-intensified returning mazes Feast, B340 and Lullaby. Circus and Intrepid prove even more twisted and darker than before with new immersions and even more twisted scares for the 2019 season.

 

With Dark Harbor’s disturbingly creative minds, 6 mazes, 13 bars, fire shows, aerialists, sliders, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Sinister Swings, Panic! 4-D Experience, zombie DJs, Barrel Room Tastings, R.I.P. Lounge, and much more, Dark Harbor 2019 is certain to be a freakishly fun time.

 

The annual haunt opens its gates on September 26 and continues to scare those who dare on select nights through November 2. General admission ticket prices start at just $20 online, with Fast Fright, Evil Express, RIP Lounge Passes, Creepy Cabanas and lodging packages available. Dark Harbor is offering a 40% discount on general admission for select nights until August 5 at 11:59pm with promo code SCREAM. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

Odds and Dead Ends : Scaring Ourselves Silly | Monsters and the Uncanny Valley

We all love a good monster. Be it Godzilla or King Kong, werewolves or cenobites, we can’t get enough of them. Guillermo Del Toro has made a living out of them, and nobody in their right mind would begrudge him that. But when we think of being scared, perhaps what touches the nerves more than anything else are not the big, lumbering beasts towering above us. It’s those fiends that come close to being human, just one step away from actually being us.

This concept is known in the field of robotics as the ‘uncanny valley’. Coined initially by Masahiro Mori, the basic idea of it is that there is a distinct, graph-able curve in people’s emotional responses to the verisimilitude of a robot to people. Essentially, when you start to make a robot look like a person, people view it more favourably. Then, suddenly, as you keep going, there’s a point where it’s not completely robotic, but not completely human, and it’s in this stage when we have a strong feeling of revulsion or disgust. When it gets close to being indistinguishable from us, it becomes so lifelike that we view it favourably again. This dip into disgust is the uncanny valley.

The theory of the uncanny itself was used by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay The Uncanny as a way to explain why we’re so creeped out by dolls and waxwork figures and the likes. He goes back to the original German for uncanny, unheimlich, and its roots in the word heimlich which roughly means to conceal or hide. He proposes that we find something uncanny because it is a revealing of social taboos and ideas which we try to hide in everyday life. This eventually gets linked on to concepts of the id and the subconscious, which is really the subject for another article altogether.

But what does all of this mean for our monsters? How can we link these concepts together in a way that impacts our understanding of our favourite horror villains?

Well perhaps this doesn’t apply for the big Kaiju as such, but maybe it helps explain why we’re still chilled by vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. The brain sees their general shape and recognises them as human, or at least, very human-like. Yet there’s always something just a little bit off, be it the pallor of their skin, or the sharp claws or teeth, which sets them apart and makes them disturbing to us. Going back to Del Toro, think of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s got a recognisably human shape (based off Saturn in the painting Saturn Devouring His Sun by Francisco Goya), but with the skin stretched over the frame, the nostrils flared with no bridge, claw-like talons, and eyes in his hands. He’s started off human but been warped.

Even cursed or possessed dolls have something off about them; the animation of a human avatar is almost the very concept of the uncanny valley, with the robot being substituted for a doll, but the basic principle remaining. Toys are essentially us, preserved in miniature, and when they rise up against us, the human part of their design strikes a chord with us.

This is perhaps why we find masked killers a distressing concept. The shape is human, and the mask is human-like, but it doesn’t change, and as humans learn to see the face as the main projector of emotion when it doesn’t alter during extreme acts of violence, we slip down the slope of the valley. Masks such as those belonging to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, fairly blank and devoid of emotion, would, therefore, represent something uncanny. Also very often the mask represents a demon or spirit (thinking of films such as Onibaba or Scream) which conjures up concepts of possession by an unseen force. This might explain why we’re so focused on the killer’s mask in these films, because they are themselves imbued with that uncanny quality which makes them memorable beyond the killer behind them.

Think of the Scream franchise, where the mask comes to represent something much deeper, a force of evil in itself. When you see someone without the mask, they’re normal, but as soon as the face is obscured, they become terrifying, a body for the murderous will of the mask. And the mask and the murderous intent has the power to transfer its ownership from one person to another, like a spirit darting in and out of its possessed victims. Even think of the numerous killers that take on Jigsaw’s role in the Saw films. As soon as you come into possession of Billy, leading the charge of the traps, you become Jigsaw, the embodiment of John Kramer and his will to put people to the test of their drive to survive. We dip from being too human to being something slightly removed.

The idea of the uncanny valley even feeds into ghosts. Think of Kayako and Toshio from the Ju-on films. Though it sounds funny, how many of us were deeply disturbed when Toshio, a pale little boy, opened his mouth and meowed? When Kayako came crawling down the stairs, her throat croaking like a door very slowly opening? This concept of uncanniness transfers over to the sounds we make, affecting us when someone’s voice is not what it should be. This is something obviously well known to anyone who has watched The Exorcist in their time.

And so whilst the big monsters from The Ritual and Cloverfield might scare us, they don’t get anywhere close to instilling that distinct feeling of unease which those humanoid villains which nestle in the uncanny valley have the ability to do. When vampires flash their fangs, with blood in their eyes, we see something hiding inside the human form. When we see Schwarzenegger doing his own repairs in The Terminator, we find lines between humanity and inhumanity blurred. From now on, he looks just like us, but we know he isn’t.

And when we transfer over to imitation narratives such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers, suddenly we’re even more scared, because any one of us could be them. Now the uncanny transfers into paranoia, and we have to rely on looking out for the uncanny to alert us to danger. We have to fall back on something terrifying to keep us calm. In a way, we hope for something uncanny to confirm our fears. And that, more than anything, is scary.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Finney, J., 2010. The Body Snatchers. Great Britain: Orion Publishing.

Freud, S., McLintock, D. & Haughton, H., 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.

Friday the 13th. 1980. [Film] Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Unites States of America: Georgetown Productions Inc.

Godzilla. 1954. [Film] Directed by Ishiro Honda. Japan: Toho.

Goya, F., 1819 – 1823. Saturn Devouring His Son. [Art] (Museo del Prado).

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

King Kong. 1933. [Film] Directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. USA: RKO Pictures Inc..

Onibaba. 1964. [Film] Directed by Kaneto Shindo. Japan: Kindai Eiga Kyokai.

Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. [Film] Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Spain: Telecinco Cinema.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Ritual. 2017. [Film] Directed by David Bruckner. UK: The Imaginarium.

The Terminator. 1984. [Film] Directed by James Cameron. United States of America: Hemdale.

 

Vile Vacations: The Haunted Queen Mary Experience

Originally posted Jan 12, 2017

qm18Visiting the retired, permanently moored RMS Queen Mary is an experience in itself. You don’t have to experience ghost activity to feel the history on board. They offer awesome tour packs where you can see the engine rooms, one of the exposed propellers, and the rumored haunted “Vortex” near the dilapidated—but beautiful—pool. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times and even stay overnight a few years ago. I will give you a tour and then explain my experience. You can decide if the place is really haunted or not.

qm10The ship in general is a fantastic place to visit with so much history to explore. For Titanic enthusiasts, it’s a must-visit. As part of the White Star Line, this so closely resembles Titanic, that you will find yourself doing double-takes as you pass the promenade deck, the dining room, and even the inner room halls. Not only does it resemble the famous iceberg-disabled ship, many movies, and TV shows have been filmed on the Queen Mary so you might find the place familiar as you step on board, which adds to the mystique. The Queen Mary has graced the sets of movies like Titanic II, Pearl Harbor, Aviator, The Natural, The 13th Floor, and television series such as The Search for the Next Elvira, Moonlight, Murder She Wrote, Unsolved Mysteries, and Quantum Leap. They also have historical exhibits that run for a short time. If you are into the royals and fashion, you might enjoy the pricey but beautiful exhibit on now, “Diana: Legacy of a Princess” where you can see many of her iconic dresses in person. They also have other royal history and some of the clothes from the current monarch. For military buffs, the QM played a big part in the WWII effort as a transport ship for Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Per Wikipedia,

In the WWII conversion, the ship’s hull, superstructure and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new color, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the “Grey Ghost.”

As far as hauntings on the ship, there have been many reported. No wonder, since at least 49 crew and passengers are known to have died during the Queen Mary‘s service as a luxury liner.

qm16In the engine room, our tour guide told us of one such haunting. Although somewhat “set-up” by and ominous number 13, the guide recalled a sailor was crushed by this water-tight door. They aren’t clear on the “why”, but it’s attributed to him either playing chicken or going back to grab something in an emergency. The ship’s underground system of working tunnels is certainly creepy, but as for ghosts? Who knows?

qm19Another creepy location on the ship is the ominous 1st Class Pool. Those horror buffs out there will swear it was the pool in the movie Ghostship, but it’s not.
Still, the effect of the once-beautiful place being in complete disrepair sent a chill up my spine. Pardon the dim pictures because of lack of light and the fact that we could not explore the place fully because most of the pool was closed due to safety regulations. The most haunted place in the pool area is purported to be what they call the “Vortex” located in the pool showers.qm11I took a picture standing right in the middle of the “Vortex” although warned by the tour guide, “It may not come out, or your phone might die.” He said reports of this happening are frequent and that several people have found light spots or “ghost” images in their photos. I played along, and it was fun to imagine, but as you can see, that did not happen. My picture is clear of “ghosties” and I didn’t feel anything but the same creepiness you feel when entering any derelict structure.

So, if I didn’t feel anything in the most haunted part of the ship, what did I feel? I had two experiences that will stay with me forever.

qm14First, when we were walking through the bowels of the ship, I kept feeling like someone was behind me. I was the last one in the tour at that time. I kept looking behind me and would catch just a shadow or a blur. Not really anything tangible, but enough to creep you out. This was before the tour guide told us about the crewman of hatch 13 that was crushed there. It creeped me out, but only because I kept feeling the presence the entire time we were in the down below.

qm17 qm20 qm202

When we went into this particularly dark part of the ship, standing at the doorway into the place, I became nauseous. The boat is moored, so there is no movement to make me sick. I stepped into the huge room and felt like someone had given me a push into the room. Again, I was the last one in and no one was behind me. My nausea grew and I wasn’t able to even step forward to where the rest of the tour was. My husband asked if I was okay and I nodded, motioning him on so he look at the mechanics of the ship. As my stomachache grew, my attention was drawn to a door up high looking over us. The door was open, and light shone through from an unseen bulb, but it wasn’t anywhere anyone would be. However, in my periphery, I saw someone standing there. I looked up and nothing was there. It kind of creeped me out, but after the “sighting”(?) I felt fine again and was able to enjoy the rest of the tour without incident. In the pictures (Again I apologize for poor light shots.) the large shot is the massive room we entered. There are light spots, but I doubt they were ghost proof because it was so dusty in the room. In the second shot, you can see the room where I felt the presence standing. Doesn’t appear that I caught anything on film. However, a few people who have seen the shot wonder if I did catch a ghost. The head is higher than a normal human would stand. Is the partial shot of a mustached man a spirit? Or is it just a pipe and a trick of sight? I still don’t know what I believe about the picture, but I do know a male presence was following me during this part of the tour. Was a ghost or spirit following me through the crew hatches to cause menace? Or was he guiding me to make sure I stayed safe? Or was it merely making its self known to mark its territory?

 

qm3qm5My second experience happened in our suite. We stayed in the Eisenhower Suite. If anyone knows me, they know I am so not a history—especially political—buff. If I know history, it’s usually fashion or something I’ve had to research for a book. I knew nothing about Eisenhower nor did I have an impression of the president before I stayed there. The suite was beautiful. It felt luxurious to have not only a quite sizable bedroom (for a ship) and bathroom, but also another servants quarters where I could lay out my stuff and put on my makeup. qm21Probably the posh-est place I’ve stayed, not counting the inconvenience of the bathroom on a ship. (We kept stubbing our toes on the raised bathroom entry and in the shower, the tub was so circular, you had to stand with one foot in front of the other like walking tight rope while washing.) Laying down in the fresh clean sheets with my husband next to me, I thought there couldn’t be any place more comfortable.

Unfortunately, the night of sleep was not as good as we planned. Beyond the sounds of the ship (Pipes creaking and pounding, the movement of others, and various sounds we were unused to.) I found my sleep state to hover on the “almost awake” state. qm6During this night, I kept hearing the tinkling of a dog’s tags and the light pressure of a small dog hoping on the bed. It was so real to me, I woke and looked down at the foot of the bed several times, sure it had actually happened. I haven’t had a dog since I was a child and I haven’t felt that dog jumping on the bed thing since then, but it was unmistakable. The next morning, I related the story to my husband and he agreed, he had been kept in REM sleep for what seemed like all night. Although he had the same trouble sleeping, he did not feel or hear the dog. After telling a few people of my experience—and not connecting it at all with Eisenhower and his dogs—my friends started a discussion about his dogs and which one might have been alive when he traveled on the Queen Mary in 1946. The connection is interesting.

I don’t know if Eisenhower even boarded with a dog on his voyage, but it certainly makes sense. All I know is that it was a small-type dog like a Terrier. But what did I really experience? Was it the ghost or imprint of one of the President’s dogs? Or was it someone else’s dog that perished onboard? Or perhaps for the skeptic, it’s more believable that I had a kernel of a memory from years ago about Eisenhower having a dog that I didn’t remember…and my brain caused me to “dream” of this fact in my unconscious state?

Whether you visit the Queen Mary to experience it’s greatness or to attend the annual “Dark Harbor” Halloween event, this is a haunted locale you can’t miss. I would advise to come for the tours, but not to stay overnight, unless you don’t mind little sleep.

Have you been to a haunted locale? Tell us about it.

Why Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be killer

Abertoir
The International Horror Festival of Wales

13 – 18 November 2018

Coming into its thirteenth year, Abertoir goes from strength to strength. Located on the Aberystwyth University campus on the Welsh coast, the team have broken out the tents and the log cabins this year for the slasher/camping theme. Complete with the offsite screening of Friday the 13th: Part 3, in old-school 3D, the unlucky number 13 is the (un)lucky number in Wales as the year draws to a close.

Running from Nov. 13-18, and starting with a drinks reception and the classic 1984 film Sleepaway Camp, the bloody celebrations will be going off with a proper bang, or flash of the knife at the very least. No doubt the festival-goers will be partaking heavily of this year’s Abertoir ales, aptly named Black Christmas and Crystal Lake, as they plough on through a slew of slasher classics such as Slumber Party Massacre and Prom Night, along with new films such as Summer of ‘84, and Blumhouse’s new thriller, Cam, throughout the six-day run.

There are three UK premieres at this year’s festival, with Occult Bolshevism, The Black Forest, and Party Hard, Die Young, all getting their first outings on the isle in the Abertoir cinema. The short film competition (with previous years seeing modern classics like The Birch being shown) promises to be top-notch once again, showing off the new blood heading towards the horror stage.

It’s not just the films, however, that makes Abertoir unique, because there’s a whole slew of other events lined up for this year’s festival. From the traditional Bad Film Club, always a crowd favourite and chance to heckle your heart out, to the fascinating presentations and live performances, Abertoir always makes sure to make it an all-rounder of a week, not simply about the films. This is the festival that hosted the European premiere of Fabio Frizzi’s live composer’s cut for Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond a few years ago, and this year’s musical masterpiece looks to be the culminating event in The Elvis Dead, a one-man retelling of The Evil Dead, through Elvis Presley songs.

But what would a festival be without a special guest? Don’t think that just because it’s tucked away on the west coast of a little, mostly rural, country, that they don’t pull in some heavy hitters. Previous guests have included Doug Bradley, Victoria Price, Luigi Cozzi, Robin Hardy, Lamberto Bava, and a booked-but-unable-to-attend-on-the-day Sir James Herbert, so this year’s guest has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, they meet the criteria. Including a Q+A, a special screening of a new project, and a three-hour filmmaking masterclass… the one and only Sean S Cunningham will be venturing out to the windy coast. As if the festival needed another prestigious name on the list.

So if you’re in the UK and happen to have a few days free next week, Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be a week stacked with cult classics, great premieres, lots of laughter and barrels of ale. And if you can’t make it this year, well, you know where to come next year.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

For more information, visit Abertoir’s website: http://www.abertoir.co.uk/, and/or like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abertoir/