Some thoughts on my childhood swing set...
I'll be honest upfront: I am the biggest wuss alive.
I jump at the drop of a pin, clowns scare me to death, and I absolutely despise horror movies.
I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that my cousin told me The Exorcist was a comedy and made me watch it with her when I was about ten years old. It was the first "scary movie" I'd ever seen, and it scarred me for life. Halfway through the film my cousin fell asleep on the couch. I was so terrified at this point that I had a blanket over my head and was watching through the breaks in the knitting. Sure, I could have turned the movie off, but I forced myself to finish it. I needed to know that everything would turn out okay.
I saw this face every time I closed my eyes for the next several months:
<caption: I regret googling this photo. The image results page was downright terrifying.
As a result of this childhood trauma, I made a habit of avoiding horror movies as I grew up. To this day I've seen only a handful, and all because I foolishly believed someone who said, "This one's really not that scary. You'll be fine." (Fast-forward to me with my head on their shoulder, asking them to tell me when it was safe to look again.) I'm shockingly a huge fan of TV's Supernatural, although I truly don't know how I got through the first several seasons; something scary seems to jump out every other minute. And let's not talk about that "Everybody Loves a Clown" episode. (I may or may not have almost cried.)
So why I am telling you all this? Because while I don't have my own real-life ghost story to share, I think this look at my past will better help you understand why I find the following so terrifying:
I grew up in rural Connecticut, on a mountain street that was part of a historic district. Connecticut seems to have more ghost stories per acre than should be possible for a single state. For example: the house next to us was supposedly haunted. No family ever lived there longer than a year or two, and when they moved out, they'd always say the same thing: "The place is small...We want something bigger...I always got a strange vibe when I was home alone--like there was someone else in the house with me."
My parent's house is this old cape, set right into the mountain and surrounded by woods. The backyard was great for sledding, but absolutely nothing else because it was so darn steep. It had only one level section in the lower corner of the property, and that's where my childhood swing set stood.
(In hindsight, a level portion of land among an otherwise drastic incline sounds terribly unnatural, but as a child, and even as a teen, the thought never once crossed my mind.)
A few years ago I was home for the holidays, and everyone was sitting around the dining room table. We somehow got to talking about local ghost stories. I said something about how it would be creepy to buy an old house if you knew someone died in it, let alone haunted it.
And my mom goes: "Oh, someone died here."
To which I practically screamed: "In this house?! MOM! OMG!"
And she just calmly looked at me and said, "There used to be a pool in the backyard. Right where the swing set is. Some girl drowned in it."
Cue a million visuals of this, haunting me for forever:
<caption: If I stare at this photo long enough, I can psych myself into believing she's about to crawl out of the computer exactly like she crawls out of the TV in the film.>
I have not ventured down to that swing set since my mom revealed this lovely, historic detail. I can't look at it the same way, let alone stand where that swimming pool used to be. The thought that for years I merrily pumped my legs on swing that was hovering over the same exact spot some poor girl drowned makes me sick. And these days, if I step outside at my parents house at night, I have to almost immediately scurry inside because of that feeling. You know the one-- the sensation that someone is watching you.
The house itself has never shown any signs of being haunted, but who knows about the backyard. And I don't care to find out. Ever.
Taken by Erin Bowman
Published: HarperTeen (April 18th, 2012)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Series: Taken, #1
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends...and he’s gone.
They call it the Heist.
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
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