American Horror Story: Coven premiered last Wednesday, and it was AWESOME. My jaw has never dropped within the first three minutes of a television show like it did for this premiere. Kathy Bates is terrifying. It was such a delight to see everyone again, and I cannot wait to see more of Angela Bassett – I adore that woman, she is classy as all get out, and it looks like she will be a menacing and powerful addition as Creole voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
So! I know this season of AHS is about witches, but I would like to talk about ghosts for this post.
I have been thinking long and hard on what frightens people – what frightens me about things I have seen during the AHS seasons. Asylum scared me because it dealt largely with the fear of one’s rights being taken away. When you’re declared mentally incompetent and thrown into a sanatorium like that, you suddenly have no control over what they choose to do to your body and mind, and that is downright horrifying to me. The exorcism and and demon aspect also frightened me, and the alien plot line was more interesting than scary in any way.
The young adult novel I am working on for #ROW80 is a tale of a haunting. I have always wanted to do a semi-traditional ghost story. They’re also my favorite films, especially when much is left to my imagination, and atmosphere is key, whether it’s a suburban home or an orphanage: The Devil’s Backbone, The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, Poltergeist, Insidious, The Orphanage, Paranormal Activity (the first one).
My protagonist is a seventeen-year-old girl named Autumn, moving to a small town in central Illinois with her mother for a fresh start after a traumatic few years following the death of her brother. They unknowingly bring an entity with them through the simple act of buying an antique, and the haunting focuses on psychologically breaking the two women down. I wracked my brain and jotted down what would frighten me the most, if I were being haunted by something that wanted to see me suffer – especially since I am a skeptic. I made Autumn a skeptic who keeps the paranormal in books and movies and rarely entertains it in real life, and set about creating a home atmosphere that would turn her into a believer. Then I tailored my list of frightening occurrences to ones that would really get to Autumn based on her personality and her past.
It was important to me to build it slowly and give the haunting time to gain momentum. I appreciated that about the new film The Conjuring (doll introduction excluded), where the signs are subtle, and then it begins to escalate. I want there to be ample time to develop the characters and allow for the reader to care for them before the paranormal element is brought to the forefront. Misplaced items, faulty electronics, footsteps, phantom smells. Then glimpses out of the corner of the eye, feeling observed and unsafe in your own home. I have a pretty good idea of how it escalates and major instances where Autumn is truly put in danger by this entity, but there is a hazy middle ground before it gets to that point that I am trying to develop.
Here is my question to my lovely readers and fellow #ROW80 participants:
What would frighten you if your home were actually haunted? What could happen that would make you feel unsafe, that you couldn’t explain away? Has anything happened to you before? Tell me about it, I love actual ghost stories! I personally have only had one instance that I could not explain away (and I’m a pretty hardcore skeptic); other than that, I have felt odd vibes in a house when my parents and I were house hunting when I was a teenager.
What happens in paranormal movies centered around ghosts that makes you do that five foot leap to your bed when you get home, just in case something is biding its time under the box spring and waiting to snatch your ankle and drag you under? (Someone please tell me I am not the only one with this absurd fear…when I was a kid, of course). Is it the jump scares? The disembodied voices? The fear of possession? In a good old fashioned haunting…
What scares you?