4 Sinister Moments of ALTER Short Horror Films

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Scary Movies and Series

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!

3:36 (2020)

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.

Check out this ALTER horror short film that shows how pain, grief, and death all play into the horror that we feel in our own mortality. Let us know what you think about it below!

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!

Still (2020)

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?

Check out this ALTER horror short film about the monsters that prey on us in our sleep, then let us know what you think about it below!

Here There Be Monsters (2020)

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.

Check out this ALTER horror short film about the monsters we face not only in the shadows, but the ones we face on a daily basis, and tell us what you think about it below!

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).

Check out this ALTER horror short film that has to do with haunted objects that we might unintentionally bring into our lives and let us know what you think about it below!

5 Dangerous Things You Should Never Do With a Ouija Board

Categories
Featured Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

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.   

1. Never Use a Ouija Board In Your Home 

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. 

Buyer Beware: Perils of Owning Haunted Artifacts

Categories
Lifestyle
Ghost silhouette through the door
Photography by Nathan Wright

It’s interesting the types of things that are available to buy online, a quick search on eBay will reveal a number of haunted and possessed objects just waiting for the right buyer. Whether you’re an amateur paranormal investigator, or you collect these kinds of things for a living, there are always a plethora of haunted items up for sale. While it’s entirely possible these things aren’t actually haunted, it’s just as likely that they’re being sold because the current owner didn’t realize what they were getting into. The most dangerous aspect of objects that are possessed by spirits is the idea of coming into ownership without knowing about the spirit that the object hosts. There are many instances of new homeowners finding hidden rooms in old homes that contain creepy dolls that were locked away and walled off in an attempt to keep an unhappy spirit at bay.

5 Reasons to Avoid Owning Haunted Artifacts

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“The Hands Resist Him” by Bill Stoneham (1972)

Dolls, paintings, boxes, and really anything else you can imagine has the ability to become a vessel for the dead. Spirits are in death as they were in life, their personality is translated into their afterlife–were they innocent and pure, or were they full of grief, anger, or hatred? These are the kinds of things that must be taken into account when you contemplate becoming the new owner of a spirit vessel. It doesn’t truly matter if you believe in the paranormal or not, tempting fate and pursuing ownership of haunted artifacts probably isn’t the best idea—and here’s why:

1.    They aren’t toys

It may seem like a fun thing to acquire, especially around times like Halloween, but in all sincerity, they are not toys. These artifacts are vessels for people who have died and they may not be happy about the circumstances under which they died.

2.    It could result in an unhappy spirit

If you don’t really know what you’re doing when taking ownership of a haunted artifact, then you’re already in over your head. Understanding spirits and how to appease them is imperative to peacefully coexist with them. Living with spirits is difficult, even for mediums and psychics that deal with them on a regular basis—it’s exhausting and will interfere with the way you live your life, so unless you want a permanent house guest that you can’t explain to company, don’t invite it into your life.

3.    Spirits can cause behavioral changes

This is kind of a huge one, having a resident spirit in your home can cause major behavioral changes. This includes, but is not limited to depression, anxiety, mood swings, strange thoughts, anger, as well as violent and self-destructive behavior.

4.    It could already be an angry spirit

If you can’t handle an unhappy spirit, you don’t even want to know what you would be getting into with an angry spirit—let’s just say that people bury, sell, or otherwise rid themselves of these objects any way they can for a reason. If you would really like to know the type of activity an angry spirit can bring, just watch a horror movie based around malevolent ghosts and you’ll get a fairly vivid image.

5.    They might be cursed

Bear with me here—you may not believe in ghosts let alone curses, but even those who don’t believe are likely to feel quite unsettled or disturbed after handling a purportedly cursed object. Whether the angry or otherwise malevolent spirit was cursed to be confined within, or it was used during a ritualistic curse, there is a lot of negative energy attached to cursed objects. Typically speaking, objects that are used during ritualistic cursing or, “black magic,” are disposed of, so while it’s not likely, it’s still best not to tempt fate.

An open dybbuk box
Photography by Marika Martinelli

It’s important to understand that most of these kinds of auction listings begin with the phrase, “buyer beware.” While there may be a few fake listings, this phrase isn’t just a catchy way to draw attention to the listing—it really means it, that’s why there are usually strict no-return policies on them—they do not want these artifacts to find their way back to them.

Much like the dybbuk box that starred as the main terror of The Possession (2012), they aren’t objects of fascination, they are to be avoided by those who would rather live a peaceful existence.

Ghost, Demon, or Poltergeist?

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore
Silhouette Behind the Door
Photography by MontyLov

Haunted by Ghosts

As was discussed in our article Ghosts Can Be More Than Just Dead People, ghosts are generally the spirits of humans and animals that have passed away. What people assume or claim are ghosts are not necessarily fitting of their description, but it’s easy to understand why the whole thing might be a little bit confusing. The truth is, is that ghosts, demons, and poltergeists are often mislabeled and it, therefore, makes it more difficult to really know what kind of being the evidence acquired actually points to. Ghosts, spirits, and apparitions all point to the same thing—the spirit or soul of a human or animal that has passed on. These spirits haunt locations, objects, and most importantly other living creatures. Haunting living creatures is not to be confused with possessing living creatures, not to say they are unable to possess, but not all possessions are ghostly in nature—and this is an important distinction to be made.

Possessed by Demons

A lady screaming in the dark
Photography by Camila Quintero Franco

Another topic for confusion is how demons are perceived, this is unfortunate because much of the evidence for demons seems to simply be cases of malevolent ghosts and not entities that are truly demonic in nature. One such misinformed definition, from Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, is that demons are, “a type of spirit that may be either good or evil that allegedly has the ability to intervene in the affairs of humankind.” While it’s true that many cultures perceive some demonic entities to be good, the word spirit was a poor choice in attempting to define what a demon actually is.

Religious definitions, such as the one from Christianity, assert that demons are evil minions of Satan and that their sole purpose is to torment people, then inevitably lead them into sin. The strategic takeover of pagan cultures turned their deities into demons in Christianity. Other religions, however, suggest that demons can be good or evil entities—or indeed have a dual nature like human beings. Regardless of the nature of the entity, good or evil, demons quite often exercise their ability to possess or inhabit living creatures. There are instances reported where demons have possessed inanimate objects, but this can be chalked up to another case of a ghost that has been mislabeled as a demonic entity.

Terrorized by Poltergeists

Demons and poltergeists are also quite frequently confused for one another—the main reason for this is because Poltergeists are mischievous and often malicious spirits or energy. Ghosts and poltergeists also confused for each other, but poltergeists, in particular, are entities or energies identified by their consistent abilities to interact in a vigorous way with their environment. It would be unfair to say that poltergeists are not, in fact, a type of ghost or spirit, but if they are to be classified as ghosts in any sense, they are in a league of their own entirely.

The earliest reports of poltergeists tell of the different types of interactions they have within the environment that they inhabit. These interactions include, but were not limited to, throwing rocks or other objects, loud noises (such as shrieking, and knocking or rapping), inexplicable lights and apparitions, as well as in rare cases sexual assaults. Later cases would grow to include technology-related events, such as phone numbers being dialed repeatedly or televisions turning on. The speculation that remains with poltergeists relates to the scientific data that has been collected in pursuit of evidence of their existence—many cases of poltergeist activity have clear indications of mental problems within the agent (or the primary person being affected) that even support theories of psychokinesis.

Some examples of poltergeist activity caught on camera.

Hopefully, this helps answer an age-old question we often see: “What is the difference between a ghost, a demon, and a poltergeist?” Below are a few scary movie recommendations related to ghosts, demons, and poltergeists.

The Real Annabelle and Other Truly Haunted Dolls

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore
Close up view of a creepy dirty porcelain doll
Photography by Patrick Hendry

Any object can be haunted, but perhaps due to the fact that dolls are physically modeled to bear a resemblance to human beings, they have more of a proclivity to be vessels of spirit possession. According to Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend, “haunted dolls are either possessed by malign, nonhuman entities or earthbound spirits—who are usually female—either children who died as a result of a horrific accident or women who are the victims of domestic violence. In both instances, prospective buyers are cautioned to treat the dolls with respect and to rehome them with another buyer if the object becomes too much to handle; destruction would free the spirit and either cause it distress or make it more dangerous.”

The Real Annabelle doll locked up in the Warren Occult Museum
Artwork by Mary Farnstrom

An exception to the gender stereotype that plagues the haunted doll theory, is Robert the Enchanted Doll. This particular doll has been located in Key West, Florida since 1904 and is still on display in the Fort East Martello Museum. The original owner of Robert was a four-year-old boy named Robert Eugene Otto—Gene to his family—the doll was given to him by the family’s maid and activity started immediately after Gene came into possession of the doll. While the doll’s name is Robert, little is known about the spirit that haunts the doll, all is known are the stories that are told about its activity. During Gene’s childhood, Robert was frequently blamed for items being scattered across the home, as well as upturned furniture. As an adult, Gene maintained ownership of the doll, but knowing what it was capable of, he locked it in the turret of his home, where neighborhood children said they saw it staring at them from the windows, often changing places on its own.

It’s unclear as to why people still insist upon wanting to own spirit-possessed dolls, but what is clear is that it’s sure to be a trend that continues on for quite a while. One possible reason why these things continue to be items that are sought after is that there are a lot of would-be paranormal investigators who have little to no experience dealing with spirits in the first place. They get the idea that they can collect evidence and make it big if they come into ownership of a doll, simultaneously proving the existence of ghosts and the dolls they haunt, as well as making a name for themselves. Whatever their motivation, it feels like they lack the guidance to understand what they are getting themselves into and therefore are making decisions without knowing the full risks of their endeavors.

Annabelle the Doll: The Origins Documentary

The True Horror Story Behind Annabelle

Annabelle (2014) Trailer

Haunted dolls are considered a commodity in today’s culture, due to popular horror culture making them popular with horror films like The Conjuring (2013), Annabelle (2014), Annabelle: Creation (2017), and the most recent horror movie Annabelle Comes Home (2019). People enjoy the fictional horror stories so intensely that they feel a connection to haunted objects without realizing the perils that can be attached to them. The story behind The Conjuring and Annabelle franchise though is actually more real than many people realize—sure the movies are amped up to create the thrills and adrenaline rush that people so desire, but these movies were based on true accounts of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Annabelle: Creation (2017) Trailer

The Warren’s Museum of the Occult contains more haunted and cursed objects than any other museum presently known, which serves as evidence of the paranormal and supernatural forces that are at work within this world. Although I have never been to the museum myself, it is said that the collection is dominated by dolls that are haunted or inhabited by evil spirits—the most well-known of which is actually the real Annabelle doll. There is a rather long and convoluted history about the doll and its origin, which is further convoluted by the fictional embellishments added to the movies.

Annabelle Comes Home (2019) Trailer

What has been alleged is that the doll’s original owner consulted a medium who said the doll was actually inhabited by an evil spirit and not a ghost at all—which is when the Warrens took possession of it, had it exorcised, then locked it in a blessed cabinet to ward off any potential activity from starting at their own house. The whole story is spoken of in-depth in the book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. The real Annabelle is quite a bit different from her presence in the films, where she is portrayed as a fragile, yet incredibly creepy porcelain doll with exaggerated features. In reality, she is what seems to be a run of the mill Raggedy Ann doll, the same type that many of us girls owned as children, something that would seem soft, safe, and cuddly.

Dolls like Robert and Annabelle remain objects of scary stories and fascination for a lot of people across the world and while the idea of them definitely belongs to the public, the dolls belong in a place where they can be properly warded and kept away from unsuspecting bystanders.