Jessica's October Pick - Comfort in my Spooky Roots
Originally for the month of October, our high unholy month of all things scary, Kelly and I had planned to start our exploration into the severely underrated series Penny Dreadful (2014). As we normally plan our monthly theme and episodes at least six months in advance, we have had this show on our list since we first started Spinsters of Horror back in 2018. However, life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs, and with Kelly having to find a new apartment and move all within a short period of time, we decided that we needed to change things up and make our workload a bit lighter for the next few months. But, we still wanted to give the month of October its due, because despite being spooky horror loving ladies all year round, we LOVE to amp it up, and celebrate. Because, October and Halloween to us, and to all other horror/spooky fans, is like Christmas to others. That is when we came up with the idea of doing this month's podcast “Know Your Roots” and returning back to the horror classics of the 1920/30s that inspired the horror genre as a whole.
But as you all know, or can see the pattern by now, we like to make it our monthly theme; which means it curates our watching for the month and we make a point of sharing a lot on social media about said theme. Early this week, Kelly came up with this brilliant idea (as she always does) to watch movies that really give her the “wiggins” (Buffy reference) and capture that feeling of being scared again. As it tends to go, as horror fans, especially people who spend time reading, talking, dissecting and writing about all things horror, we can become jaded and find it hard to get scared. Movies just don’t have that effect as much anymore. Kelly has been a fan for over 25 years and has seen A LOT of stuff, and for myself, well you all know my story. I have only truly been a horror fan for almost six years now. However, I have ALWAYS had a fascination with the paranormal and all things spooky since I was a child - but had a cautious relationship with it because I tend to scare easily. So when Kelly said she was looking for what spooks her again, I decided to piggyback on that journey. So whatever scary films you recommend to her, I will also be watching - cause whatever scares Kelly will definitely scare me.
This also got me thinking - why not go completely back to my roots? Go back to the spooky things that scared me as a child, but that I also found oddly comforting: the supernatural and the paranormal! As a child with a Scholastic Arrow Book club membership, I would get all kinds of books on the classic monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula, order the latest Goosebumps and get books about ghost stories such as Scary Stories You Tell in the Dark. This is how I became fascinated with the paranormal. I also lived in a really creepy farmhouse in the outskirts of Kingsville, Ontario. It was something like out of a scary story. The house sat on a country road with land all around us, with a spooky forest in the back that we were not allowed to go into by ourselves. Our closest neighbours were about a 15-minute walk down the street either way and across from us was a smaller house that had people move in and out of it often. But then beside it, was an abandoned farmhouse and barn that my siblings and I would sneak into and play hide and seek. It was extremely dangerous but also eerie, and I swear I heard and saw things happen in that building. But also, I always felt like the house we were living in was haunted. I hated the locked attic that was right beside my bedroom as it was full of items abandoned by the house’s previous owners. Did I mention that when we moved in it was fully furnished? Yup, it was one of those places.
So when I started to become interested in the paranormal and thought I lived in a haunted house, my interest only became stronger! Despite the fact that reading these stories scared me, I wanted to know so much more. Fast forward to my teenage years when I also started to become interested in UFOs, urban legends from around the world, and other unexplained phenomena like The Lochness Monster, BigFoot, spontaneous combustion, etc. But my interest in the paranormal, such as ghost stories, legends, and investigations, is what I loved knowing more about despite how much it would scare me and keep me sleeping with a light on. I was not allowed to watch any programs about these things - but the internet provided me with enough content to satisfy me.
When I moved out on my own, I dived into all the paranormal shows and literature I could get my hands on. This stuff spooked the bejeezus out of me - at one point I not only owned one but two Oujia boards that lived tucked away in a box under my couch. I eventually got rid of them both because I had heard and watched too many paranormal investigations shows to mess with such a tool. It still kinda freaks me out today, despite getting a new one a few years ago from an antique seller on Etsy.
But as time goes on, we crave more. I was getting used to the same tropes in the paranormal investigation stories and reading the same ghost story over and over. Which is when I started watching horror movies. I definitely now wanted to watch movies of people’s interpretations of the paranormal and recreation of these stories - the first movie I watched was The Changeling (1980). I remember watching that with Kelly in her dark apartment and not being able to sleep for hours after because I kept hearing that ghostly child’s voice. And while I hated the fact that I lost a decent amount of sleep that night, I also loved that feeling of being scared again. It also forced me to seek out the things that comfort me - like a cup of tea, a warm blanket, snuggling a cat and anything else I do to comfort myself after a good scare.
So I dived fully into horror movies to keep the frights going. I also saw the importance of the horror genre, so I decided to add my voice to the community. But with all things, when you pull it apart and analyze it too much, you can lose that magical feeling that drew you to it in the first place. I started to lose that feeling of fear, the need to wrap a big blanket around yourself after your heart has been racing from the adrenaline rush of being scared and I have been missing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am always carrying the spooky vibes all year round and there are things that still get me from time to time. Heck! Even during the lockdowns of the pandemic, Kelly, and our friend Brandon, came up with our own “Midnight Society”, and every Sunday night we met up to share spooky stories and get our creep on. We are still doing it to this day because as much as it is fun to scare yourself, it can be comforting to do it with others. It has been nice to have this weekly gathering where I can dabble a bit in my old spooky roots to pull out things that would scare us.
So that is why I have decided that for the month of October I am also returning to my own spooky roots. As I write this, I am listening to Midnight Syndicate’s album The 13th Hour, perfect to create the atmosphere of unearthly vibes. So I would HIGHLY recommend giving them a listen as I love playing their music as I read a chilling ghost story or two - which I will be doing as I continue to read Queens of the Abyss: Lost Stories From the Women of the Weird. This book is an anthology of tales from female authors in the early 19th and 20th centuries who “developed and pushed the boundaries of the weird”. I will also be jumping back into paranormal investigation shows with my favourite series SEEKERS: A Haunting (2010-2019) led by Steven T. Shippy, who is also known as the rapper Prozak. I know people smirk at that when I tell them, but his haunting documentaries are really well done and spine-chilling. I will also be revisiting some of my favourite fear-inducing podcasts such as Lore, No Sleep Podcast, and Scare You To Sleep. As well as watching the great horror classics for the podcast and watching movies from the subgenres of horror that frighten me or scared Kelly.
It is always nice to revisit the places and things that inspire our love of horror, chasing that feeling of fear that also comforts us. So, how about you? What scares you? What drives your interest in horror and the macabre? Where do your horror roots stem from?