When I was a kid, from under 10 to, well, 18, we lived in a duplex apartment. It was basically a normal sized house cut into two small houses so the landlord could get twice the rent for the same space.
Both sides had concrete finished basements and the other side’s basement had been turned into a nice place, with clean floors, work benches, furniture and probably had a washer and dryer, though I don’t really remember that part.
Our side wasn’t so nice. There was a concrete floor and that was it. It didn’t flood, there was a drain at the back of it, but the floor always got wet whenever it rained. We used it mainly for storage, which meant my toys and comic books, all of which were eventually ruined. If they had all survived, I’m pretty sure I could have sold it all by now and retired.
Thanks mom, for never moving to a bigger place!
The main function of this dark, dank place was to terrify the crap out of me whenever I was left alone in the house. There were always noises coming up from it and you always wondered if the door to it (yes, it had a door that opened below the back yard, then you climbed the steps out of it) was locked, but there was no way you were going to check and see if the sun had already disappeared from the horizon.
And you have to give it serious thought even if it was the brightest part of the day.
It’s been way more than a decade since my mother moved out of that place and I’m sure if I was to see that basement now, it’d probably look ridiculously small and probably not scary at all. But when I was a kid …
I don’t know if it would have been the scariest place around here, probably a different place for each person, but it probably would have been in the top 10. But since Halloween is just a day away, and because I don’t have anything else to say about the basement, let’s take a look at the scariest places across America.
All of this is provided by a website called Thrill List, by the way. Don’t worry. We won’t look at all 50 states and we’ll save Tennessee for last.
Alabama — In 1985, somebody decided to open a playground adjacent to Maple Hill, Huntsville’s oldest cemetery, probably so the children of parents mourning at graves had something to do. But ever since it went up, people report seeing orbs of light going down the slide, swings swaying with nary a breeze, and even hearing giggles. And it’s not just the graveyard spirits occupying the playground … some locals believe that the victims of a rash of child murders in the ‘60s were buried nearby, their spirits now having eternal playdates with the cemetery’s official residents.
California — The golf course-strewn San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe regularly makes “most expensive zip codes in the USA” lists. So came a stunner in 1997, when the world learned it was home to Heaven’s Gate, a cult whose 39 members drank poisoned Kool-Aid as the Hale Bopp comet passed Earth, believing that aliens behind the comet would rapture their souls to Heaven. Even weirder than the mass suicide was their preparations: their bodies were found dressed in black sweatshirts and sweatpants, Nike sneakers, faces covered with purple cloth, and carrying $5.75 in one pocket, a toll, people speculated, to catch a ride on the comet. The grisly death pact took place in a multi-million-dollar mansion, later torn down after the property became a macabre tourist attraction. The town also changed the street name from Colina Norte to Paseo Victoria. The still-vacant lot remains a pilgrimage site. Visitors can also check out an exhibit dedicated to the cult suicide at the San Diego Sheriff’s Museum in Old Town.
Colorado (had to include this one) — If you’ve read or seen The Shining, you’ll know the feel of this often snowbound hotel: It’s the location Stephen King based his Overlook Hotel upon. It may not look like the film, unless you watched the 1990s made-for-TV movie version, which was actually shot here, but there are rumors of haunted rooms and service workers who still wander the grounds. Be warned: There’s a much more sinister danger. The hotel has such an extreme elevation that just walking to your room can drain you, so one stiff drink may have you seeing ghosts.
And I’m suddenly out of room, so here’s Tennessee — Every kid in Tennessee grows up scared of the Bell Witch, daring each other at sleepovers to say “I hate the Bell Witch” 100 times in front of the bathroom mirror to summon her malevolent spirit. In the early 19th century, “Kate” the Bell Witch ghost tormented the Bell family in Adams, Tennessee, residing in a cave behind their property. Besides pinching, pulling hair, and taunting their visitors with strange sounds, she repeatedly tried to choke patriarch John Bell. For 12 bucks you can tour the spooky cave, which has been placed on the National Historical Register and, according to the tour guides, visitors have felt sensations of being pushed, touched, or held down by a heavy weight. The famous haunting even spooked Andrew Jackson when he visited: “By the Eternal, I saw nothing, but I heard enough to convince me that I’d rather fight the British than to deal with this torment they call the Bell Witch.”