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One Good Scare

Obscura recently announced a Halloween writing contest! We are looking for the scariest prose, short stories or poems. It must be at least 1000 words to enter the contest, which can be submitted to our email: Lehmanlitmag@gmail.com

Please submit no later than November 1st!! But in the meantime, check out this awesome flyer that will be going around Lehman, created by our very own graphic designer, Malika Victor.

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This new contest got me thinking about what really goes into writing a scary story, poem etc. I came across the most recent poem I read which happened to be in the Literature class I am currently taking. The poem was, The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe. Honestly, I have never read anything by Poe, including The Raven…I know, gasp. A professional writing student never read Poe before!?!, but its true. It’s not that I’ve never had an interest in reading his work, it’s just that I haven’t gotten around to it. But since it was part of my assignment to read it, I was looking forward to it. I know that they created a movie a few years ago called, The Raven, but that movie was about Poe and how he got the idea of writing The Raven. Long story short, that movie completely bombed and I never saw it.

Heres the poster of it:

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It “looked” awesome, but it completely flopped in theaters. I remember it went straight from the movie theaters to DVD fairly quickly, which isn’t a good sign. Good movies will last in theaters a lot longer, some times for months.

But just because a hollywood movie about Edgar Allen Poe flopped that didn’t stop me from the excitement of reading Poe.  When reading The Raven I found to be a little odd, it didn’t scare me as much as I hoped it would, but it made me wonder why a raven? what makes ravens so scary? or intimidating to people? And then I immediately thought of an instant classic film by Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds. Which believe it or not, Hitchcock mentioned how he was inspired by Poe’s writing. It wouldn’t surprise me if his 1963 classic film, The Birds, came from Poe’s  The Raven.

Hitchcock was a brilliant man in the way that he knew exactly how to scare people with such intensity. Moreover, when I saw the movie, The Birds, I remember I felt so much anxiety just watching those damn birds flying all over people’s heads and biting them. I can’t even imagine if that would happen today, how I would deal with that. New York is filled with pigeons, and if one of them started to attack and then finally a flock of them decided to gang up on us, to KILL us, I can just see it now… taxi cabs stopped in the middle of the street, women and kids running and screaming, while the men are holding up their leather briefcases on their heads while trying to get underground to the trains. (sigh)

Horror stories are made to give you thrills, chills and mental screw ups. And by mental screw ups I mean that they completely mess with your head, for instance, the boogeyman that hides under your bed or in your closet. Yup, that one. Well I have heard that story since I was a kid. But it worked, just because the boogeyman didn’t come and get me while I was sleeping in my bed, doesn’t mean I didn’t sleep with a light on for most of my childhood. I laugh about it now at the silliness that I did when growing up, but scary stories haunt kids, especially stories about a creepy man under your bed or hiding in your closet. I think I once heard that those wonderful happy, lovey dovey Disney movies we enjoy watching weren’t really made to be all that happy, but rather dark and twisted. I would have loved to have seen that take, i know that those stories can cause controversy due to the graphic nature, but its a story I haven’t heard.

As I grew up, I started to appreciate horror films, horror books, tv shows and etc. I just loved the chills I would get while watching or reading something.

So writers,  I hope you do submit something to us, because ideas can come from anywhere and anything, including a bedtime nightmare story of someone hiding under your bed or in a closet, even things that fly in the air.

By Rachel Strom

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One thought on “One Good Scare

  1. Good post, Rachel!

    I’m happy to see this blog so active this semester.

    Concerning what you said when you said: “When reading The Raven I found to be a little odd, it didn’t scare me as much as I hoped it would, but it made me wonder why a raven? what makes ravens so scary? or intimidating to people?”

    I had a similar reaction when I first read The Raven myself: I didn’t initially feel frightened or scared by the poem considered one of Poe’s greatest works. But then, a lot gets lost when reading a piece hundreds of years old (171 years in the case of The Raven), doesn’t it? So much time has passed that as readers we cannot immediately connect with the content of the literature. I certainly cannot connect with the setting or the language of The Raven without a thesaurus.

    But once you modernize the situation, or find a way in general for an audience 150+ years removed from the time to understand the situation in their own terms, then, I believe, it is easier to feel that fright.

    For instance: the narrator of The Raven is essentially in his bedroom nodding off when there’s a knock on the door and no one is at the other side. He’s alone, it’s quiet, and in the silence he hears all these subtle sounds: tapping, rustling of curtains, his own heartbeat.

    Now imagine being in your own bedroom. Alone in the house, falling asleep. It’s dark, night time. The curtains rustle, the floorboards creak. Then–a knock on the door. No one is at the other side.

    I don’t know about you, but that scenario unnerves the hell out of me. It’s also a common set up in many horror movies: alone in the house and someone/thing knocks on the door. Open the door: no one.

    As for the raven: I don’t see the raven itself scary as much as I do the context around the raven and the psychological terror it brings about. It’s a creature (which I read somewhere Poe had originally intended to be a parrot) relentlessly perched over a guy alone in his room reminding him, at least to the narrator’s interpretation, that his love Lenore is gone forever: He will see her “nevermore.” To me, in a way, that’s terrifying and a little sad (tears, not condescendingly) because it’s reminding him how final death is and how he will never see this woman he loved so much ever again. And it’s even a bit more scary how this fact drives the narrator mad.

    Now, imagine having spent so many years with a significant other or just with someone whom you love more than anything. And then, they’re gone. Forever.

    Thinking about that scenario beforehand and living it after the fact are not the same kind of horrors brought by jump scares or knocks on the door, but its a different shade of horror that can still be effectively felt by an audience, even a modern one.

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