Testing your mettle can be done in lots of ways like riding on a zipline on vacation or watching a scary movie, but what about testing your ability to handle the elemental fear - the dark?
When was the last time you sat in the dark utterly alone? Not going to bed, but simply wide awake, and no one anywhere around? We don't often get the opportunity to experience this or to experience the amount of inner dialogue that needs to be curtailed.
When plunged into darkness, our minds race as we gather what information we can from the other senses and squint to try and make out shapes. Sometimes, however, those shapes look so human that our fingers itch to reach for a light. The longer you stare, the more it looks like...a person!
Ghost investigators do it all the time, but others don't spend their Saturday nights just sitting in the dark in silence. Give it a try some time while you are fully awake. Just turn the light and TV/music off and sit in utter darkness. Listen, look around, feel the room. That whole world is there when the lights are on too, but it sure is perceived and registered differently in the dark.
Normally, we sit in the dark forest only during camping and then it is in front of a fire.
There is something very primal about being in the forest at night with no light. Sure, take a light in, but turn it off for a time. Just listen intently, feel, and become one of the forest creatures. It's perhaps not a werewolf scenario, but as close as we can feel.
If there's enough light filtered through the trees, try continuing on your path and use your light when you question your way. As with any endeavors alone in the dark, keep your cell phone and flashlight nearby.
Cemeteries forbid visitors after dark, at least most of them do. The ones in the countryside that are left to their own devices, usually aren't monitored at night except by neighbors who don't like people tramping around after dark. And, with good reason, given the amount of destruction youths have done to cemeteries.
Sunset at a cemetery is a gorgeous event worth photographing, but after dark it becomes something very hauntingly beautiful and solemn. It is silent and the headstones glow in the moonlight. Trees cast shadows. And you often can catch glimpses of shadow people darting around.
These unusual entities are solid-looking, completely black with no detail, and most often 3-feet tall and human shaped. They can be seen out of the corner of the eye and dart away or disappear when you focus on them, except upon occasion when you can watch them for a while. Once they know they've been seen, they disappear or retreat. Most witnesses claim an immense sense of dread when they are near. They can be seen anywhere, but are very often reported in parks and cemeteries.
The countryside is riddled with haunted roadways with crybaby bridges and spooklights, ghosts, and Bigfoot sightings. Here's a LINK to one post I did on most haunted roadways. If you look up your town and "haunted roadway" or "haunted bridge" or "ghost lights," "spooklights," or "scary road," you are likely to come across a few. Take a drive. Park the car. Roll down the windows. Turn off the engine. Give it a few moments, just to feel it, experience it.
We all dread unfinished basements the most. They can be cave-like dark dwellings meant only for hibernating snakes, rats, and spiders. Even finished basements can be dark, claustrophobic bins, so much so that we are thankful the light switch is at the top of the stairs.
Have you ever stayed in your basement in the dark? When I was a child one time I set up cots for my friend and I to sleep in the unfinished basement at my childhood home.
The crawlspace of raw earth was open to the room by a big window and the darker void stared us down. We lasted all of about a half hour before we took our sleeping bags and left (and we had the light on!)
As a child, mom would send us kids down there to get canned foods where they were stored. The stairs were open and exposed to the crawlspace and in my child mind, a monster lurked in the dirty filled void and was ready to grab my ankle as I sprinted back upstairs, barely flicking the light off and slamming the door shut.
And, then there is the attic.... This space is often the storehouse for off season items, holiday boxes, grandma's items that no one would part with, extra furnishings, just in case, and mementos of unexplained origins.
Attics are also hot, suffocating, spider filled, and dusty. And an ideal challenge for those who don't like visiting, even with the lights on.
No matter where you challenge the dark, you will take it to a more hardcore level if you watch a movie that takes place in that location after dark. For instance, "Cemetery Man" seen before going into a cemetery or perhaps "Night of the Living Dead" before entering a lonely structure. "Hider in the House" is perfect if you are going to test your attic tolerance and "Don't Go in the Basement" if you plan to descend into the sublevel of your home. If you're going to sit in your home in the dark, try "Clownhouse," "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," or "The Haunting." Be sure to watch "The Howling" before going into the woods.
All of these tests will be working your ability to resist hysterical images in your mind and frightened explanatory style and teach you to utilize logic and observation to finally break through the "what if's" to realize the "what didn't happen's."
- Movies to challenge you -
"Night of the Living Dead"
"Alone in the Dark" (1982)
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
"Hider in the House"
"Don't Go in the Basement"
My book "Don't Go There! A Flash Horror Anthology" is a huge collection of horror short stories, timed so you know how long it will take you to start to finish each and fit into your daily schedule. The end of the book, I had a special treat of me writing about my experiences being alone in the dark in places no one likes to go after dark - Alone in the Woods, Alone in an Abandoned Building, Alone in an Abandoned Prison, Alone in a Haunted House, and Alone in a Cemetery.
One of the shorts from this book is going to be adapted into a feature film, "The Hay Men." I will keep everyone apprised of that progress as it goes into pre-production.
In my book Adult Halloween: Taking Back the Season! I devote a whole chapter to how to face many fears, as well as phobia-inducing movies to work on your phobia issues.