31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 1

31 Days of Horror Movies 

Day 1 | The Blair Witch Project (1999)

This movie is a classic–or soon to be classic?–horror movie. It’s one of the pioneers of the “found-footage” genre made popular by films like Paranormal Activity and The Poughkeepsie Tapes. (We may talk about both of these movies later on!)

So, this movie–as we said–is an earlier film; it’s about 15 years old now, so not old in the horror genre but definitely for the found footage. It’s kind of funny because the main issue of the movie is that the three people get lost (and into the predicament in the first place!) because they’re deep in the woods with just a compass and a map (though I don’t know who has like super accurate maps of wooded areas in a nowhere part of Maryland??). It’s hard to imagine this being much of an issue now, you know with iPhones and satellite GPS devices. Also, I just don’t know how much people would actually want to go out into the woods like that (yes, I know about urbex-ing but also the word “urban” is in there so it mostly implies that the areas being explored aren’t super remote). Regardless, they go in to the woods and they get caught in what seems to be a loop. And that’s pretty terrifying, to be honest. Even though the little sculptures dangling from the trees aren’t really all that menacing, the movie does a very good job of building the tension since you never really know what you’re gonna see, if something’s going to pop up around the corner, and that’s a quality I love to see in horror films–a bit of that building tension, the “doom” horror that we’ve discussed before.

One of the main complaints about the movie is that it’s a little “too” realistic with how shaky the camera shots are; a lot of people say it makes them nauseous (there’s actually a line about that in Legally Blonde!) and I would have to agree with that. Tread lightly if you have motion sickness! My personal complaint about the movie was how much screaming and yelling went on. I guess I understand that that’s supposed to add to the “realism” of them freaking out and having break downs, but maybe a few less f-bombs would have been nice!

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The Bell Witch Cave

This creepy cave, which was formed through erosion of soft rocks, is now named after the Bell Witch who supposedly haunted the Bell family. It’s named as such because the cave is on the land in Adams, Tennessee, (population of only 628) that the Bell family used to own.

The witch (who supposedly manifested as a poltergeist) that haunted the family was named Kate Batts and the main victim of the haunting was the daughter of the family, Betsy Bell.

There are multiple, multiple stories about what happened with the family—some of which are incredibly far-fetched—but, in the end, it certainly makes for a creepy site to visit.

The story of the Bell Witch also inspired the movie The Blair Witch Project.

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Barrow, Alaska

The northernmost city in the entire US. It is well above the arctic circle (320 miles, to be exact) and has a population of only 4212 people. The only roads in Barrow are inside the town and they are unpaved since it would be too expensive to maintain with all the permafrost the city experiences. There is no way to drive to Barrow; the only way in or out of the city is by an Alaska Airlines flight to or from Anchorage or Fairbanks, Alaska.

Ever heard of 30 Days of Night? Yeah, this is where it’s based. And it’s because in the month of December in Barrow, the sun never actually rises–a phenomenon known as the polar night.

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Bodie, California

Now I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger, but if she moved to Bodie, California in the late 1870s, she probably was there for the gold and silver ore that created this old boomtown. Despite two fires that destroyed much of the tinderbox buildings in this mining town, Bodie is the best preserved abandoned mining town in California. Each year, thousands of visitors come to see and photograph the town turned state-preserved historic park.

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The Athens L*natic Asylum

The Athens L*natic Asylum is, without a doubt, the creepiest shut down mental health institute in the United States. Opening in 1874, the facility was originally very pleasant. It hosted two wings (one for males and one for females) with 572 rooms. Patients were able to receive personalized care from the nurses. It even had farms and its own power plant, which patients could work on to help sustain the facility.

However, by the 1950s, the institute was drastically overpopulated–holding three times the recommended amount of patients with no increase in staff. They kept the same number of staff members as they had when the population of patients was much smaller in 1874. Patients were restrained in bunks in rooms that were only ever supposed to sustain one person. Nurses would be in charge of over 50 patients and more inhuman practices, such as lobotomies and shock therapy, began to be implemented.

It wasn’t until the 1960s when psychotropic drugs (while not a perfect solution, these were more humane than previous procedures used) were administered to patients. Geriatric and drug rehabilitation programs were brought into the facility and specialized care was made available to those with congenital mental handicaps.

By the 1980s, the facility housed less than 300 patients and shut its doors officially in 1993. Staff and patients were moved to a newer facility and ownership of the buildings and cemeteries was transferred to Ohio University.

The subject of much conversation, however, is a stain on the floor of Ward N. 20. On December 1, 1979, a patient named Margaret Schilling allegedly locked herself in the unused ward. She took her clothes off and folded them neatly near her, laid down on the cement floor, and died of heart failure that could have been caused by the ward’s lack of heating. She was discovered on January 12, 1980, nearly a month and a half later. Apparently, her body decomposed in the sunlight, which left an eerie stain in her shape behind. To this day no one has managed to scrub the stain off.

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Centralia, Pennsylvania

Did you know that the fictional town of Silent Hill from the film adaptation of the popular video game series of the same name was inspired by a real place? Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania. Here, dangerous carbon monoxide gas spews from beneath the ground and land collapses, leaving eerie cracks in the ground.

The source of the smoke is a fire in the coal mine beneath the city, which was discovered in May 1962. It’s unclear how the fire started, but there are several popular theories. One is that a scheduled trash-burning in the local landfill spread to the mine in the absence of a fire-resistant clay wall, the construction of which had fallen severely behind schedule. Another is that someone had dumped hot ash in the landfill the day before the waste-burning. Some even speculate that its source is actually the inextinguishable Bast Colliery coal fire of 1932, which had spread to the landfill.

Regardless of its source, the fire is estimated to burn for another 150 to 950 years. As a result, the town was condemned by the State of Pennsylvania and residents were relocated as the government bought their homes. Today, only seven people live in Centralia, and have petitioned on multiple occasions for the repeal of the condemnation, claiming the air quality is the same as Lancaster and that the fire has moved away from the town. A popular conspiracy theory is that the government, when the last remaining residents have either moved or passed away, will begin mining the valuable coal beneath the borough.

Many relocated residents are expected to return in 2016 for the unearthing of a time capsule.

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Bannerman’s Arsenal, Pollepel Island, Hudson River

On the Hudson River is Pollepel Island, home of Bannerman’s Arsenal.

Built between 1901 and 1908, and designed by its owner and namesake Francis Bannerman VI, this castle once stored decommissioned weapons and surplus ammunition that Bannerman purchased following the Spanish-American War. He had hoped to turn the arsenal into a museum one day, but died in 1918 before such plans came to fruition.

Completely abandoned by the early 1960s, the estate was sold to the State of New York in 1967 and ravaged by a fire in 1969, leaving it in its current ruined state.

The Bannerman Castle Trust is currently attempting to stabilize and restore the crumbling castle.

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The Mojave Air and Spaceport

These are not the scenes of airplane crashes!

California is host to the Mojave Air and Spaceport, which functions as both an active airport and pilot training facility, but also a boneyard for retired airplanes which have been cannibalized for valuable parts to sustain newer models of like-aircraft. Materials that can no longer be used are left behind, presumably to erode in the desert for many years to come.

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Tate’s Hell National Forest

Tate’s Hell National Forest, near Carrabelle, Florida is home to 200,000+ acres of forest, dense scrub, and swampland.

It’s colorful name is said to come from a farmer named Cebe Tate, who in 1875 allegedly became lost in the swamp for a week. There he was bitten by a venomous snake and drank unclean water. When he finally emerged from the forest, his hair had turned completely white. After announcing his name and proclaiming he had just seen Hell, Cebe fell down dead.

Since then, the area has been referred to as Tate’s Hell.

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