Binge-worthy: The Halloween Edition
Tomorrow is Halloween, which is one of my favorite holidays, even though I hate the whole costume/party aspect of it. I enjoy the spookier stuff and have been indulging since the beginning of the month, which may have contributed to me being more paranoid than usual when something creepy happened about a week ago.
I live in an old house that used to serve as a dormitory for electric workers who installed a huge power center in the neighborhood back in the late 50s. My portion of the house is the upstairs, where the boss and his family lived. Due to the age of the place, I have a key for my door rather than an electronic keypad, which is very unusual for Korea, and that means that I have to remember to physically lock the door when I’m inside. I have a dog who is in and out all day to use the bathroom, and we also have another big, locked gate around the entire property, so I usually don’t bother with locking until we are in for the night, but I’ve been trying to remember to do it earlier recently, given that three of the units here on the property are now being rented out on Airbnb on the regular, which is a whole other saga, but that obviously means that complete strangers now have direct access to my front door, and that means I should probably always have it locked, but as much as I’m in and out all day, I usually can’t be bothered.
The way our house is set up, the bathroom window looks out over the front porch, where a motion-detecting light has been installed. When we first moved in, I would get freaked out on the regular when the light would occasionally come on while I was in the bathroom late at night, indicating that someone had come up on the porch, but we soon realized that something as small as a stray cat skittering across the porch was enough to set the light off, so it wasn’t something to really worry about. Now we have a big metal gate around the porch to keep the dog in when we open the door, which scrapes across the cement when it’s opened and alerts us to anyone approaching the porch, and while it is possible to step over it (as B regularly does, because he’s too lazy to open and re-close it), the gate is high enough that it’s hard to make it clean over without causing the gate to scrape as your brush against it.
The other night, I was home alone and headed to the bathroom. Just as I reached to close the bathroom door, I saw Charlie, my dog, look toward the door and wag his tail as if he saw someone he knew. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I had already closed the door and then I looked up and saw that the porch light had come on. B was meant to be working late, and it was possible that he had come home early, but somehow that wasn’t my first thought. Instead I was just immediately filled with dread.
I opened the bathroom door and poked my head out only to see that the front door was wide open and there was no one there. I called B, but he was still at the office. He said it might’ve just been someone from the Airbnb properties who got confused, but then I pointed out that the normal thing to do in that case would be to open the gate to get to the door, or at least step over it, which should have made some noise, unless someone was being particularly careful to make sure it didn’t. My biggest concern at that point was that someone had come into the house during the time I had the bathroom door closed and was still inside, although Charlie wasn’t acting like anyone was there. I closed and locked the door and did a sweep of the whole house and found nothing. And I still have no idea what actually happened, but nothing else ever came of it.
So that’s my little spooky Halloween story for this year, and now I want to share some other spooky stuff for you to enjoy, if you’re the kind of person who does Halloween like I do.
1. Loitering with Intent, by Muriel Spark; novel
This book isn’t a strictly scary pick, but it definitely has elements of a psychological thriller. It was published in 1981 and draws on Scottish writer Muriel Spark’s real-life experiences as a young novelist in 1950s London. The narrator, Fleur, like most young, aspiring writers, is forced to take a day job working for Sir Quentin Oliver, who runs something called the Autobiographical Association, while she is also putting the finishing touches on her first novel and shopping it around to publishers. Something bizarre starts to happen about halfway through the book, and Spark uses the plot to show herself as a master of light-handed foreshadowing, while also including a fair amount of the pleasantest kind of female wit, reminding me at times of Dorothy Parker. This novel is also great at asking questions about the blurred line between fact and fiction, and how there may be no such thing as an objective reality, especially when it comes to writing.
2. My Favorite Murder; podcast
I am way late to the party on this one, but I’ve been listening to more podcasts recently, as they’re a great way to stay entertained while your hands are busy baking for several hours a day. My Favorite Murder is a weekly true crime podcast hosted by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff that started back in 2016, after the two got talking about the mutual obsession with murder cases at a party one evening. On each episode, they both outline the details and evidence of one of their favorite murder cases, some solved and some unsolved, which is pretty grim, but they also use the murders as a jumping off point to get into some bigger discussions about various social issues and a lot of women’s issues in particular, considering how murder is a problem that has an outsized influence on the female population. The hosts are both comedians, too, so the show vacillates mercifully between the heavier content and lighter moments.
3. The Haunting of Hill House; Netflix series
The Haunting of Hill House is based on a 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, and no one but no one is more my kind of Halloween than Shirley Jackson. It tells the story of a family who move into an old mansion one summer in order to renovate it and flip it to raise funds to build their own “forever house”. Of course, shit starts to hit the fan pretty much immediately, but what I love about this story is that it embraces Jackson’s signature reverse metaphorical touch. What happens to the family could be read as a straight-up ghost story, or it could be interpreted as an exaggerated version of the things that haunt all of us here in the real world. The show deviates pretty significantly from the novel, but is–in my opinion–all the better for it. Again, the lines between reality and perception are blurred, and it’s up to the viewer to decide what the “real” truth is, or else to embrace the fact that there is no such thing. There are also ghosts lurking in the background in nearly every scene, so keep your eyes peeled while you’re watching.
4. The Black Tapes; podcast
This is actually not something I’m listening to at the moment, as the podcast may have wrapped up at the end of last year. I say “may have”, because back in March, the Black Tapes Twitter account tweeted a mysterious sound bite that seemed to suggest the show may be back in the future. But for now at least I can say the show is on a very, very long hiatus. This was actually the podcast that started it all for me, because I’ve always enjoyed reading scary stories rather than watching scary movies, and podcasts are like that, only better. There’s something very effective about being forced to use your own imagination to conjure up images of scary things. The unseen is always more frightening than the seen, and The Black Tapes uses that principle to its fullest advantage. The podcast is presented in documentary style, as reporter Alex and her producer Nick get drawn into the story of Dr. Richard Strand, a passionate skeptic who has set himself the mission of proving that the supernatural isn’t real. The black tapes contain the cases that he hasn’t managed to debunk, and as they work their way through them, the whole group get drawn into a complicated and terrifying supernatural reality, as they begin to realize that all of the tapes might be connected. I really can’t recommend this podcast enough. It’s my favorite kind of horror.
5. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; Netflix series
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina just dropped on Netflix over the weekend, just in time for Halloween. It’s a Riverdale spinoff based on the comic books, and it’s very in keeping with the Riverdale vibe, with the horror aspect turned up to eleven. It’s not very scary, but it’s a suitably spooky storyline, and aesthetically appropriate for the Halloween season. The romantic storyline is blaaah, but I’m a jaded old person, and it’s probably not intended for me. I was a bit annoyed at some of the historical inaccuracies, but the show did a better job than I expected of drawing from the real history of witchcraft, and I like the direction I suspect it’s heading in, in terms of Sabrina not wanting to sign over her own power to the Dark Lord. This is definitely the most kitschy item on the list, so if it’s a relatively scare-free Halloween binge watch you’re after, this is the one I would recommend.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve watched/read/listened to any of the things on this list and what you thought of them, or if you have any favorites of your own when it comes the horror genre. I’m always on the lookout for something creepy, even after October has passed.
Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.