What makes a horror story so scary? We believe it really depends upon the person and what they may have experienced in their lifetime. Some people are easier to frighten than others, but we believe everyone is afraid of something. Hopefully we found something here in Alter’s short horror films that will frighten you!
Do we know when we’ve passed on? Or, if it’s a violent, painful, or emotionally traumatizing death, do we relive the moments that surround it? We’ve talked a lot about ghosts here at Puzzle Box Horror, we’ve tried to figure out what they are, why they come back, if they’re really ghosts or if they’re demons in disguise. We’ve also discussed their roles in ancient societies, how ghost stories still thrive in a world of skepticism, and whether or not mirrors can be portals to ghostly realms. We haven’t discussed too much about how or why ghosts are really scary, or why–maybe it’s because they show us a point in time where we may no longer be able to follow our dreams, or tell our loved ones how we feel before it’s too late. We think ghosts are fascinating regardless–we love a good haunted tale that makes our blood pump, or our breath catch in our throat.
Now that you’ve seen this original horror short film about ghosts, take a look at some of our own original short stories where we tackle haunted locations!
This next horror short film also deals with a certain level of grief, but that’s not where the horror lies–instead this story deals with monsters in the night, what we might think are just night time terrors, but are really true nightmares. Sleep paralysis is a real phenomenon in our world and has been studied throughout the ages, so we can perhaps have a medical understanding of what we go through at night. Are the monsters real, or is it just our minds trying to cope with the disturbing images that we absorb throughout the day?
We love paranormal and supernatural horror here at Puzzle Box Horror, perhaps because reality can be scary enough without the creatures in our collective imagination running wild. The real monsters in our world are bullies, the people that take advantage of the weak, pick on the underdog, or kick an injured person while they’re down. It’s always interesting to see how the victims to life’s real monsters end up being the ones who stand up the strongest against the most nightmarish creatures of horror.
We’ve taken a look at other ALTER shorts before, one in particular which was about nighttime phobias and the monsters that we face as children (and sometimes well into adulthood, to our own dismay). In Here There Be Monsters (2020) the bullies are external tormentors, but in La Noria (2018) the bullies are our own fears and the deception of the shadows at night. If you haven’t seen this horror short, it’s a great time to check it out now!
The Armoire (2019)
When you’re looking curiously at that eBay listing for a haunted doll, or a sealed dybbuk box, just remember the victims of haunted objects in horror cinema. These objects are no joke, folks! What happens though, if you stumble upon a haunted or possessed object unwittingly? What do you do then? Well, hopefully, you figure out that it’s haunted before it’s too late–otherwise you may end up like the woman in The Armoire (2019).
Author. Artist. A little bit Alaskan. Mary lives with her dog in a rural cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. They explore the bounty of the Alaskan wilderness during the summer and cozy up in their log cabin during the winter.
It stands to reason that when you make a horror movie based on a dark entity or malevolent spirits that some of that dark energy may be drawn to you or the movie set. It’s a risk that horror movie producers take especially when the horror film is based on a true story. These haunting tales come directly from actors, directors, and staff working on the movies themselves. It’s not just bad luck that cursed these movies it was everything from murder and near-death experiences to just plain creepy events – here are the top 5 cursed horror movies of all time.
This film is probably the most well-known cursed film in the world. Loosely based on a true story, the events that happened behind the scenes are just as strange as the movie itself. Death seemed to follow not just the actors that played in the first movie but also in Poltergeist 2 and 3 as well. Dominque Dunne, who played the older sister, was killed by her boyfriend. Julian Beck, who played Henry Kane, died of stomach cancer. The actress who played Carol Anne died when she was 12 from a mysterious illness before Poltergeist 3 was released. Will Sampson, who played the Shaman, died 3 years after the film was released. Then in 2009 Lou Perryman, who was in the first film, was killed in his home by an ex-convict wielding an ax. Lastly, Richard Lawson barely survived a plane crash in 1992. These deaths could be a coincidence but that’s a lot of disaster for such a small group of people. If the true story was not enough rumor also has it the director Steve Spielberg used real skeletons in the muddy pool from the first movie.
Based on real events experienced by the Lutz family. With the horrors the Lutz family went through it is no wonder the movie crew had some strange experiences. A dead body washed up on shore near the home that was used in the movie. Allegedly the cast and crew were awakened at 3:15 every morning while working on the movie. 3:15 was the time that the murders took place.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose follows the trial of a priest who conducted an exorcism and the girl(Emily) who died. It is based on the real exorcism of Anneliese Michel, who died of dehydration and malnutrition. Jennifer Carpenter, who played Emily, said during filming her radio would turn on by itself, in the middle of the night. It only played the song Alive by Pearl Jam. In fact, it only played a specific part over and over. “I’m still alive.” But it wasn’t just her. It happened to other cast members so often that they removed their radios from their rooms.
The Possession is based on the true story of a Dybbuk box. During filming, they used a fake dybbuk box but strange things still happened. There was a constant creepy, eerie feeling on set. Light bulbs exploded and props caught fire for some unknown reason. So many strange things happened that when the current owners of the box asked if the film would like to use the real box, everyone vehemently declined.
Based on a true story, The Conjuring is about a farmhouse that was haunted by a witch. Cast and crew members felt like they were being watched by a dark force. A crew member’s dog was often found growling at nothing but when filming was done, he stopped. A strange fire started on set for no reason. Actress Ver Farmiga said there were claw marks on the cover of her laptop after filming finished.
Head to any major retail store and you’ll probably find a Ouija board in the kids game section. Next to Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity? Seriously? Unless you are an occult practitioner or someone who has studied the paranormal, a Ouija board probably looks harmless, like any other board game.
But talk to people who have had a creepy or downright terrifying experience misusing a Ouija board, and they’ll tell you that it is anything but. And there are a lot of stories out there that inspire some of the most bone-chilling paranormal books and horror movies. We know many people who had the kind of experience with a Ouija board that was so bad, they will not even sit in the same room with one. Even if it is in the box.
The Origin of the Name and the Ouija Board Game
In the United States, spirit boards were used starting as early as the 1880’s. There were spiritualist camps popping up all over America, but the boards were particularly popular in Ohio. Four years later, a local businessman named Elijah Bond patented the ‘game’ and started selling it in stores. An employee (William Fuld) named it “Ouija”.
There is a popular misconception that the word “Ouija” comes from the French and German words for ‘yes’ (Oui) and (Ja). The origin of the name is a little more mysterious than that, but hotly disputed. First, William Fuld indicated that the term ‘Ouija’ was derived from an Egyptian word, meaning ‘good luck’. But this was more of a marketing thing; it helped him dispel concerns that people had about contacting the other side.
Historians claim that Elijah Bond had a sister-in-law named Helen Peters who was a strong and renowned medium and spiritualist. The story goes that they were using a spirit board together and they asked the spirits what they should call the board; it spelled out ‘Ouija’. However, Helen Peters was also wearing a locket with a picture of a women’s rights activist and novelist named Ouida.
The consensus is that the spirit saw the locket and had really bad spelling.
After the game was patented by Elijah Bond, the sales of the classic Ouija board skyrocketed between 1920 – 1960 worldwide. For the first twenty years, the board retailed at $150 which for the time was insanely expensive. In 2020, that would convert to about $1,900.00 per board. Only the rich and the elite could afford to talk to the dead. Now you can find them for under $20.00, or at thrift shops (although we definitely do not recommend buying one used).
There are actually over 20 different rules that occult experts identify as essential for safely using a Ouija board. We are going to focus on the top 5 ‘what not to do’ with a spirit board. And talk about some examples of what could happen if you do not follow the rules.
Okay, so we know this sounds counterintuitive. You bought the thing, and now you want to use it. It make sense to retreat to your bedroom or maybe your kitchen table, light a candle and start using your Ouija board. But this is actually one of the worst things you can do.
Spiritualists and mediums, white witches and other paranormal practitioners and specialists are comfortable using a spirit board because they know how to block out spiritual influences, and malevolent beings. You however, don’t have the experience to deal with an entity that comes through your Ouija board to make themselves comfortable in your home.
The more personal your space is (i.e., your bedroom or your car) the easier it is for a spirit or demon to attach its energy to you. We are pretty sure you know how that story ends, because just about every Ouija horror story and movie is based on that outcome. So, don’t do that.
2. Keep Talking to a Countdown Spirit
You cannot contain the excitement when the planchette moves for the first time. We all go through the same “Dude, you moved it” and “No man, I swear I didn’t” motions until we understand that we have actually connected with a spirit.
But if your planchette seems to be counting down numbers, what do you do? Say GOODBYE immediately. Much like a nuclear bomb, the countdown on a Ouija board is a spirit who is attempting to come through the board. And the ones that are strong enough to do that, are not always nice. In fact, they are dangerous. Don’t keep talking through a countdown, or you may be heading to the paranormal danger zone.
3. Dare the Entity to Show Proof (In a Rude Way)
In the movies, you know how the people using the Ouija board ask for some kind of proof that they are talking to a spirit? Something innocuous, like move the table, or make the lights flicker, or force the temperature of the room to become noticeably colder. We get it. You are excited that you finally have proof of intelligent paranormal life, and a chatty ghost.
Asking for a few harmless signs is okay but understand that you are taking a big risk. First of all, your average safe spirit (think Casper) does not have as much strength as a malevolent demon does. And when you ask for a demonstration of power, you may bet more than you asked for. And mocking a spirit is a definite no-no; it can flex and show you just how much power it has, and harm you, other occupants of the room, or start applying unwelcome influence that puts you at risk.
4. Communicate with a Spirit Who Demonstrates the Figure 8
This is another thing that some horror movies get really wrong. The characters are sitting at a table, and the Ouija board seems to warm up, by making a figure 8 with the planchette. Cool! You connected right? Yeah, you did, but the figure 8 is a demonic sign that implies eternity, and more specifically, eternal torment. So, if your planchette starts moving in a figure 8, immediately say GOODBYE. You are talking to the ‘Dark Side of the Force”.
5. Make Friends With a Spirit Named ‘ZoZo’
In 2009, an average joe kind of guy named Darren Evans posted a very public warning about using Ouija boards; in particular, he warned about a charming demon named ‘ZoZo’. After that announcement went viral, so did appearances of ZoZo on Ouija boards around the world.
According to lore and testimonials from victims of ZoZo, he begins with a figure-8 formation, and then rapidly pushes the planchette to spell “Z” “O” “Z” “O”. The origins of the demon are thought to be Sumerian, or African, and he was referenced in the 1818 publication Le Dictionnaire Infernal (demon encyclopedia written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy).
This celebrity entity likes to stay on top of the news feed, and is historically known for stalking individuals through spirit boards. And because demons are clever, he also goes by the name ZaZa, Oz, Zo, Za and sometimes Abacus or Mama.
He doesn’t play nice. The internet is full of stories of possessions and terrified individuals who connected with him on Ouija boards and were not able to say “GOODBYE” no matter how hard they tried.
One of the mysterious complications about using a Ouija board is getting rid of the thing. You bought it (or received it as a gag gift) and used it. You scared the crap out of yourself and now you want to get rid of it, so you can just throw it away right? Not so easy. The internet is also full of stories about Ouija boards sent to the trash, and mysteriously returning, with the planchette on top of the board. Even after it has been burned to ashes.
Ponder that one, and maybe think twice before attempting to talk to the ‘other side’ unless you are one of those rare people that will actually follow every one of the safety rules. You may not get a ‘do over’ if you mess it up.
Maybe we can blame one of the first mainstream horror movies in America for the stereotyping of women in scary films. Of course, we are talking about George C. Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” which was released on October 1st, 1968.
To the movie goers of the time, it was horrific gore. So much so, that like another favorite horror film of ours (“The Exorcist”) audience members in theaters had to be assisted because people were throwing up, visibly shaken or fainting as the zombies chowed down on the unlikely heroes trapped in the farmhouse.
Even in black and white film, the blood and gore were way too much for the average 1960s movie audience (which we think is kind of funny). If you watch the original film, it looks more like gravy than blood. We digress.
In “Night of the Living Dead” we are introduced to a feminine character called Barbara. From the beginning of the movie it is pretty clear that Barbara is the antithesis to anything heroic or brave. She is the epitome of the ‘perfect housewife’ and the persona of a helpless woman who needs to rely on a big strong man (or several of them) for survival. Yep, it is enough to get any feminist horror fan’s boy boxers in a knot. Girl power and all that? Come on Barbara!
As the movie progressed, we saw Barbara continue to mentally decline into psychological shock, and the fact that she actually almost survives the night is kind of laughable. We pegged her for Zombie chow within the first thirty minutes of the movie. Lucky for Barbara, she had those ‘big strong men’ around to rescue her. Inadvertently or deliberately, Barbara became the prototype persona for the weak and helpless female in a horror movie.
Transitioning from Female Victims of Violence to Kicking Some Serious Butt in Horror Movies
Flash forward to the 80’s and horror movies had tweaked that weak persona into a very predictable female victim. The checklist for the average female horror movie character was for a long time, a combination of these shockingly useless characteristics:
Super hot (like really good looking)
Long hair (typically blonde and brunettes lived longer)
Unable to load a gun or use weaponry
Prone to unlocking a door and investigating
Very prone to screaming when they need to be reeeallly quiet
Our favorite personality trait of the 1980’s female lead in horror movies was the unabashed grief over the loss of their [insert one] friend, sibling, parent or boyfriend. How many of them just sat there, trying to ‘wake up’ a dead person while the bad guy closed in? Game over.
I remember watching the original Friday the 13th movies with my dad, on a small television (and not in the living room because my mom hated scary movies). I was eight years old the first time I saw a scary movie and it was love at first cinematic trauma. But I remember asking my dad, “why are all the girls in horror movies stupid?” and he just laughed, and then gave me some rendition of how men are stronger as I rolled my eyes.
It was the horror movies of the 1990’s that started to portray women in more leading roles in even the most macabre films. I also remember at first, there was a big backlash. In the early 90’s horror stories that positioned women with stronger survival and tactical skills than men, were actually killed by film critics for a time. Until female horror genre fans started to get very vocal about liking and appreciating that shift. That sometimes, a woman could be the hero too, or sole survivor because of emotional and intellectual strengths, versus brawn or physical strength.
Even today though, when you watch a horror movie and a female protagonist or lead kicks some serious butt, you have to admit you are pretty surprised because it still breaks that classic “They are coming to get you Barbara” prototype. But the new generation of horror films not only make the lead a deserving survival, they frequently make her the hero, saving other characters (including big strong tough guys). And isn’t that awesome?
Hosting a horror watch party for your friends? Check out these five scary movies where the female characters took a big bite out of the bad guy and saved the day.
1. Laurie Strode – Halloween (Jamie Lee Curtis)
You know what they say, you can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your family. It is not really until Rob Zombie directed the remake of “Halloween” that we really get a glimpse into how messed up the Strode family was, and how the evil in Michael Myers was born.
If you have not watched the whole series of Halloween movies (there are 13 in total) we will not spoil it for you. Okay we are lying #SpoilerAlert! What we can say is that we were kind of disappointed with how Laurie dies, after successfully surviving so many attacks from her demonically deranged brother, Michael. The character literally lived a lifetime of evading a horrible violent death at the hands of Michael Myers and was the ultimate survivor (while perpetrating some serious injury to her assailant in some creative ways).
We’re still a little pissed off that she died. Just saying.
2. Ellen Ripley – Alien (Sigourney Weaver)
No kick a_ _ list of horror movie survivors would be complete without the legendary Ellen Ripley! This tough as nails female character fought off misogyny in the workplace, being the only female in a male penal colony on a stormy planet, and multiple attempts by a very scary species of aliens to use her as a larvae host.
Not only that, but she had to fight against ‘the man’ and a big corporation, psychotic synthetic human beings (do not call them robots, they don’t like it) but she had to continue fighting throughout several cloned incarnations of herself. Try waking up in a laboratory to restart the horror all over again. That shit sucks!
Ripley could make plans and execute them, manage other soldiers and she could use pretty much any weapon that you gave her, including a grenade launcher (or make her own). Our favorite characterization of Ripley is “Alien Resurrection” where she clearly steps into her Alpha warrior female role, with zero “F**ks” given attitude. Our favorite scene is Ripley driving the loader and beating the hell out of the Queen.
3. Nancy Thompson – A Nightmare on Elm Street (Heather Langenkamp)
What do you do when you are stalked by the paranormal presence of a child killer who can kill you in your dreams? Once you figure out that your parents actually burned him to death for killing your sibling (who you have no memory of) you make another pot of coffee, read up on boobytraps and defense, and kick some butt.
You can imagine how devasted we were to see her killed by Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. After all those years of outsmarting Freddy and surviving, she get’s catfished just like that? Once a daddy’s girl, always a daddy’s girl, I guess. She literally walked right into her five fingered death.
4. Alice – Resident Evil (Milla Jovovich)
When you think about it, there are many parallels between the Alien character Ripley and Alice from Resident Evil. Both are faced with ongoing trauma, death, and catastrophe, losing people they care about while trying to stop an apocalypse. And both of them are cloned so that they keep fighting the same battle over and over again in new iterations of their lives and existence. Kind of like the crappiest ‘Groundhog Day’ that never ends for both characters.
Do you find yourself holding your breath when you watch Alice fight deformed creatures, zombies, and soldiers? Sure, she is genetically engineered but Milla Jovovich is lean and mean; like an unstoppable female ninja, which is probably why we love the movie so much.
5. Dawn O’Keefe – Teeth (Jessica Weixler)
If you are a man and you are reading this, you might not want to watch the video clip. Dawn O’Keefe played by Jessica Weixler; has an obscure deformity you know… [down there]. The 2007 horror and comedy film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and had a limited release. Unless you are a hardcore horror fan you might not have seen this movie.
Jessica Weixler did receive the Grand Jury Prize for Acting in the movie. However, while critics loved the story line, the movie only grossed $2.4 million internationally. If you really want to know about the condition of vagina dentata (or what happens to guys who date women with the condition) you may want to look for this horror gem. It is a leg crosser.
Now we want to hear from you. Leave us a comment below and tell us which horror movie featuring a female kick a_ _ hero is your favorite of all time. And if you want to, link us with a video clip from YouTube.
When technology meets the terrifying truths of the past, you get one of our favorite podcasts: Lore. Hosted by Aaron Mahnke since 2015, each episode explores various myths, urban legends and folklore that show the dark side of human nature. While there’s plenty of ghost stories for the classic horror fans, you’ll also be exposed to chupacabras, clairvoyants, captivating creatures and more to put a little spook into your morning commute. These are the scariest episodes of lore we have found to date.
Ready to add Lore to your podcast list? There are over 100 episodes – and below are 5 of the scariest episodes.
Before there was Bigfoot, there was the Jersey Devil. Said to have the body of a kangaroo, head of a goat and dragon-like wings, there have been hundreds of documented sightings of the creature around New Jersey for nearly three centuries.
This episode discusses its origins and spookiest sightings. The scariest part? For plenty of Jersey natives, the existence of the Jersey Devil is less folklore, and more fact.
“Half-Hanged” tells the story of Mary Webster – a woman in the era of the Salem witch trials. She became the scapegoat after the town hero blames her for his worsening health and accuses her of witchcraft – simply for being a little different. She goes through (not to!) hell, but doesn’t go down without a fight.
While the story took place in the 1600’s, it’s a twisted tale that would not be out of place today. Fun fact: Mary Webster is an ancestor of The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood – who dedicated the book and television series to her.
While exorcisms are extremely common in the horror genre, you’re usually trying to rid your loved ones of demons – not evil fairies. In “Black Stocking,” Manke discusses the folklore surrounding fairy changelings, and the desperate measures people went through to get rid of them.
What’s more frightening than the depths of the sea? The lighthouse that stands beside it. This episode holds back on ghosts, monsters, or even villains – and tackles one of society’s greatest fears…ending up all alone.
“All monsters are human.” Jessica Lange says it to Evan Peters in American Horror Story: Asylum, and this iconic line comes to life in one of Lore’s most disturbing episodes. Manke takes a terrifying trip into the asylum as he discusses the events at Danvers State Hospital, the first icepick lobotomy, and the horrifying ways in which the mentally ill were treated in asylums. It’s a tough, but necessary, look at human psyche and the progress we’ve made today.
I am a lifelong pop culture junkie with immense passion for all forms of art and entertainment. On a typical weekend, I can be found at a concert or musical, chasing ghosts on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, or watching way too many makeup tutorials on YouTube.
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