Who Are You Calling a Scaredy-Cat?

For a skeptic, I sure do scare easy.

While I stand by the tenet that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”, it really doesn’t take all that much to scare the living bejeebers out of me.

I’m a nerd. Suspending my disbelief is a part of my genetic code.

Look at horror movies. Most of us can agree that there’s nothing quite like the rush of letting yourself get caught up in truly scary cinema. The exhilaration of a good scare is always tempered with the classic mantra, “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie …”

However, being adept at freaking myself out has a cost.

I recently stage-managed a touring show through various communities in Saskatchewan. Our last show landed us in Gravelbourg, a tiny town south of Regina. We were all sequestered in a heritage building converted into a Bed and Breakfast.

The thing is, it was an old convent. From 1926 to 1975, this was the home for The Sisters of the Precious Blood. The old cloisters are pretty much in the same shape they were originally with “Vive le Sang de Jesus” stencilled in bright red above every room’s door frame. Scattered through the building are countless old-timey pictures of nuns, and brooding portraits of Bishops.

A romantic getaway destination this ain’t.

The inherent spookiness is naturally ramped up at night, with the usual creakings and moanings you’d expect out of an 80-year-old building.

On the last night of our stay, having finished the very last show of the tour, I was “spooky” pranked not once, but twice.

We returned to the B&B in a Pilsner-(etc.)-induced state of exuberance.

Naturally, we had the bright idea to go explore the basement. We stealthily snuck down the stairs, only to find the door locked. Undaunted in our creepy adventure, we proceeded to dare each other to peek through the locked door.

There was only a small night light at the end of a long hallway. It provided more than enough shadows and atmosphere to give a frisson of fear. For me, it was all my imagination needed, picturing an eye suddenly appearing on the other side peeking at me.

Giddy with a mixture of excitement and fear, none of us expected the sudden angered voice at the top of the stairs, “Qu’est que vous faites la!?”

My heart went from zero to 60 as I pictured anything from zombie nuns to the woman that ran the place. All I knew was that the game was definitely over. My heart pounding, head bowed, I marched up with the rest of my guilty crew, only to find the tour manager around the corner, barely able to stand from laughing so hard.

The relief was pretty overwhelming. Going from one emotional extreme to another is quite the roller coaster ride … and this is truly the essence of why we like to scare ourselves in the first place.

After re-applying a layer of exuberance outside, with the sound designer, we returned to our communal room to find our other two cohorts gone.

Finally calming down, our chit-chat was interrupted by a door creak. We both assumed our pals were out in the hall, trying to have another go at us. A squeaky door was easily explained away; then, suddenly, the closet door opened just a crack.

I was the only one able to see it, and I immediately began to ignore it …

… until it opened more.

The little skeptic in my head started launching into a Rolodex of explanations: wind, wood settling, old building, continental drift … anything.

I was able to put it completely out of my head, then the door opened full and wide.

The hairs on my neck stood straight up. I could feel the blood draining from my face as my heart began a speedy tap dance in my chest. I told myself if I could concentrate on whatever we were talking about, I could ignore the ghostly revenge of dead nuns.

Then, our cohorts revealed themselves.

Again, for the second time, I got off that roller coaster.

That was more than a good scare; it was an aerobic workout.

Sure, I felt like a dunce at the time, but I was also proud that my imagination could still let me go off into an extreme flight of fancy – twice. Ultimately, it was a heck of a fun ride.

Though, if you do have a notion of packing up your own Mystery Machine for some Scooby-Doo action, I probably shouldn’t be included.

It’s humbling, but it makes a lot of sense.

I just never thought I’d be a Shaggy.

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