Listening to Scary Stories

Lately I’ve been listening to horror narration on YouTube. Horror narration is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case, I’m talking about a YouTube video in which someone reads scary stories, uses a few sound effects, some stock photo visuals or some kind of video clip that complements the mood of the story.

I felt a major Poe and raven vibe when I shot this.

Some of the stories are true scary encounters and  for paranormal encounters from Reddit. There are some channels that read Creepy Pastas. Creepy pastas are scary stories passed around the internet. They are modern versions of urban legends. Some are “based” on real events like these four scary stories and some are fictional like Slenderman (though that seems to have taken on a life of it’s own). The word is derived from “copypasta.” That’s slang for text that gets passed around the internet by copy and pasting. And since, in these cases, the copy and pasted texts are scary stories… voila–Creepy pasta! There are a many creepy pasta sites such as  but a story doesn’t have to be on one of these sites to be called a creepy pasta. Argh! Enough with the pasta! Carb overload!

My favorites are the “allegedly true” stories sent to the narrators by channel subscribers. Did they really happen? You have to trust that these experiences shared on the channel are true as usually there is no accompanying evidence sent in. Sometimes they writer’s let you know what search terms to use to find out more.

These true tales from subscribers can be pretty scary. Some are about bad encounters with Craigslist, the deep web or dating apps. Other stories are about paranormal events or the unexplained, but most are stories of close encounters people have with violence.  In most of these stories, the person sharing them got away with just a frightening experience, but not all the time. Sometimes it’s a victim sharing an experience that didn’t have a happy ending. Those stories are chilling and I think the subscribers are brave. It has to be hard to share when something horrible happens.

Shot in a sequoia forest in California.

I’m not really sure why I’m listening to them right now. I started over the Christmas holiday which is not exactly matching the mood of the season. There’s a kind of voyeuristic element to this but it’s kind of cathartic, too. When someone gets away, you feel good. When a victim shares an experience you feel far from good, but I think there’s something like bearing witness to someone sharing a trauma and (maybe?) coming to terms with it that moves you.

Some of the stories seem like those urban legends where the character does something stupid and then ends up paying the price for their bad decision or lack of vigilance. But we all do that while we grow up. We make dumb mistakes and survive them and learn from them–ideally. These stories also teach us to be vigilant and how to navigate what can be a pretty scary world. I know that watching Silence of the Lambs taught me to change my parking habits and to check my car before I got in. I was 21! Why wasn’t I doing that sooner?

But the flip side of using these stories to teach vigilance is how these stories reinforce the culture of fear in modern society. Don’t we get a big enough daily dose of fear in the media new cycle? How do these stories used for entertainment teach us in ways the news doesn’t? It’s frightening how similar the fear-thrill is to watching the news and listening to horror narration at times. I don’t even know where to begin with the paranormal stuff.

For me, the biggest reminder when I listen to these stories is how humans have a sense of danger. I’m not talking about obvious danger or the moment you see the flashing knife. I believe people are often aware a situation is bad before it escalates to the knife. I don’t think these are psychic vibes. These are subtle signs in our environment that our brain processes but that we can’t quite articulate. When we can’t easily label these sensations, we explain away our fears. I’m all for rational thought, but there is explaining away your fears, and there is picking up when you’re truly in danger and it’s a skill we learn to survive. Trust your instincts. If something gets your nerves up, trust yourself and don’t rationalize it away. Maybe that message is the biggest difference between these stories and the news.

Channels I’ve been listening to:

Some Favorite Poets for Poetry Potluck

So after five days of poetry I’m asked to think about which poets inspire me or I would recommend. Below is a list of poets in order that they popped into my mind. My poetry reading goals for the moment are at the bottom. Continue reading “Some Favorite Poets for Poetry Potluck”

Revisiting 15 Authors Who Influenced Me Because It’s My Birthday.

It’s weird when you come across things that you wrote a while ago. Reactions fall into two camps, Completely Cringeworthy or Still Resonating. It’s my birthday today and birthdays for me reflection. Usually I make a list of good and bad for the last year and make a list of goals for the next. But I came across an old post from three years ago and I decided to revisit and update it a tiny bit.

My friend, Missy Taylor, tagged me with this challenge to list fifteen authors “who have made some sort of lasting impact on [my] life, from early childhood to now, whether it was to make [me] read, write or both.”

Intriguing. It soon became apparent I had two categories: authors I love, authors who have caused a paradigm shift in the way I see the world. Here is the list sort of in the order I encountered the authors and the their work that influenced me.

Dr. Seuss: I Wish I Had Duck Feet
This is the first book I was able to read to myself and my siblings without help from an adult. The imagination of Seuss, the silliness and weirdly wonderful are a basis for my aesthetic today.

A.A. Milne: Winnie the Pooh
My mom gave me a hardcover. It was lovely. It had nice black and white illustrations. I loved them so much I wanted to color them. I did. Mom was not so happy. Coloring the pictures was my way to interact even more with the characters. Ernest H. Shepard, thank you for the lovely illustrations. I think this is the book that made me want a best friend. Piglet FOREVER!

Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach
I read this, then I read everything he wrote. I mean EVERYTHING! Similar to Dr. Seuss, Dahl’s way of seeing the world really affected me. I’m still attracted to the ludicrous and the darkly funny.

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey
Greek Mythology and the basis for thousands of plots in the future. And so begins an addiction to classics. I didn’t read the version I linked to, but I did read a rather kid-friendly version. I was a bit shocked to re-read it as an adult and see all the sexy stuff. Nothing wrong with the sexy stuff, it just surprised me that I just missed all that as a kid.

Anne McCaffrey: Dragon Song.
One of the first books I read with a strong, and actually interesting, female character. I don’t count Anne of Greene Gables. She was just way to girly for my tastes. Nancy Drew just seemed way too wealthy to be real. And then there is the McCaffery’s Pern series.

Frank Herbert: Dune
First there was Dune and way after there was Star Wars but that is not the order I experienced them. My first intro to complicated world building. I wanted to be Paul Atreides. Or date him. I think I spent hours trying to move just a single muscle like the Bene Gesserit. And Paul’s challenge of proving he was a human and not an animal by thinking instead of reacting to pain really challenges me to this day.

I also loved Herbert’s The White Plague. Scary book. Never piss off a geneticist who experiments with viruses.

Robert Browning: “My Last Duchess”
Okay, he is a poet, but still… MAJOR influence. This was the first dramatic monologue I encountered. Excellent example of people saying one thing and meaning it, but reality being completely different. I’d experienced that in life but to see it as a literary device blew my mind.

Ray Bradbury: “Sound of Thunder”
This is the story where the butterfly effect comes from. Pick anything by Bradbury. You won’t be disappointed.

Edgar Allen Poe: “The Cask of Amontillado”
Similar to “My Last Duchess” in terms of what is said and what is real. I imagine Poe must have scared himself so much he needed all those drugs just to be able to close his eyes. To be honest, that tv show, The Following, has kind of ruined Poe for me.

Isaac Asimov:
I think I have read everything that he wrote but I did so in my teens and twenties so now I don’t remember specific plots as much as I remember being in awe.

William Shakespeare: Macbeth
Macbeth is my favorite because I think that play is all about choices. It’s what happens if you decide to believe in prophecy instead of making your own decision free and clear. Proof positive that a story that taps into human motivations will always be relevant. Humans are still fascinated with glimpses into their future, but I think that “knowing” your future means you give up the ability to make decisions based on your free will. The knowing influences you to make events fall out differently than you might if it were simply based on your beliefs. I suppose I’ve over simplified this but distill it to the core and I think this is what you get.

Ursula K LeGuin:The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Amazing story of choices and prices for our leisure. I’m not so into her other stuff. I never was able to finish The Wizard of Earthsea.

Jane Yolen:
Her fairytale reinventions are intriguing and inspiring. Real proof that a modern storyteller can use the same plot but it is ALL in the way you tell it.

Mary Jo Putney: The Rake
The Rake is a regency romance with a realistically flawed hero. He’s and alcoholic with some serious issues and a believable redemption. This is the first romance book I read where I thought, “I want to write romance!”

Amanda Quick a.k.a Jayne Anne Krentz: Reckless
Hello Regency! I think Reckless was the second regency romance I read after The Rake, then I got hooked on Amanda Quick. Really, I like them all and I read most of her books during a summer in San Diego. I also like how her heroes were never really described in minute detail. I think her heroes and her heroines are not particularly beautiful, but they are beautiful to each other and that is more interesting. Suddenly, historical fiction was fun! I based almost a whole trip to London on visiting places I encountered in her novels.

I’d love to read what the 15 is for others. You don’t have to add commentary, but it would make it much more interesting.

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