I became both fascinated with and terrified of the macabre back
at my family's creaky old lodge in the Ozark wilderness. My villainous older
cousins showed me the game Bloody Mary there once during our family's Christmas
party. The lodge was an imposing character by itself. It sat a couple of miles
off the highway down a narrow, nondescript gravel lane which opened up to a
quaint clearing in the middle of the woods. It was Bavarian in appearance and
unsettling anachronistic: a three-story tall gingerbread constructed of wood
and stone with a giant stone fireplace running up both floors. There was a pond
with a waterfall on the property; a half-mile up the lane was a small dam where
a foot-wide, fifteen-foot tall slab of concrete held back the dark, still waters
of a small lake. My cousins and I used to walk across that slab all the time,
unbeknownst to our parents. Falling one way meant certain death on the rocks
below. Falling another way seemed worse as we had no idea what lied in that mini
Sargasso. Even further up the ridge and deep into the woods was a large, hidden
lake. It was pristine and beautiful but we were too afraid to hike down to it
because coyotes and pumas were common in the area.
Inside the lodge's interior décor was dated and neglected.
The lamps were amber glass; the furniture was gold, olive, and 70s. The
atmosphere had that same sepia hue visible in all photos from this era. My aunt
and uncle were the property's caretakers; the lodge's owners were a group of
rich doctor friends who would stay there a few times throughout the year.
Otherwise, we had the run of it.
The lodge was a horror film setting waiting to happen. You
have to understand this to understand my horror film neurosis.
We had our holiday parties at this lodge and while our
parents drank, played pool, ate, and visited downstairs, my cousins and I would
climb the dark, narrow back stairs and play in the maze of bedrooms on the
second floor. During one Christmas party the girls dared the boys to go into
the bathroom and say "bloody Mary" three times with one of our folks' stolen
cigarette lighters. We were all too chicken except for one cousin who did it,
only if we all went into the bathroom together. After the third "bloody Mary"
we were spooked and convinced that all hell was after us. It didn't help that
the lodge was built like the
Also why I am simultaneously a fan of, and a total pansy
about, horror stories and films. (One time in elementary school, after a kid told
me a story about murderous teddy bears, I went home and blindfolded and tied
the wrists of all the stuffed animals in my room. Then I was afraid to untie
them because WHAT IF? They didn't have a motive before but THEY SURE DID NOW. I
really wish I was joking.)
Fast-forward to last night. We had just finished watching a
ridiculously stupid, yet still pretty freaky horror movie called "Dead Mary"
and headed to bed. Chris kept teasing me: like when I was brushing my teeth
he'd flick off the lights, poke his head in and whisper "BLOODY MARY." He thought it hysterical. When we climbed into bed, I
rolled over, turned off the glass lamp, rolled back towards Chris, and felt a
lump in the bed between us. Every synapse in my body simultaneously screamed
"FREAK OUT FREAK OUT EVERYBODY FREAK OUT!!" I flipped over, turned on the
light, and when I rolled over towards the lump I saw this looking at me: