29 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 74

First of all, I'm sorry for having taken so long to get this post up. But I'm afraid that I can't be sorry that I listened to this latest radio play when I did, because right after I heard the part where one character sees a shadowy form in her doorway, my bedroom door creaked open and I saw a shadowy form in mine. You can't buy synchronicity like this!!!

If you haven't listened to today's play yet, I hope that you get lucky with a scare of your own when you do it now. =)


Of all the supernatural creatures we've discussed, I find the shadow people the most frightening. We can keep away from "Things" which are peacefully ignoring our existence in their underground homes, run out of strange houses where weird things keep happening, be perfectly civil to the ghosts we run into, and develop better intuition about prospective spouses . . . but is it possible to escape from shadows?

The characters' fear of what the night brings reminded me of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, in which dreams can kill you and those who have figured it out do everything in their power not to fall asleep. In both cases, they only seem to be prolonging the inevitable. It is our powerlessness to stop the sun from setting which drives the sort of horror they share. And yet we try . . .

I'd say that characters in The Shadow People could have lasted longer, had they tried harder. They could have, you know, moved to Alaska for six months and taken their sleep in broad daylight, while figuring out their next move. So I find their actual attempts at "prepping" quite pathetic. I saw the power failure coming from a mile away, but all the doctor set aside for that event was a single candle??? And his idea of not going out without a fight was asking the shadow people to come and get him? I would have defiantly--okay, fearfully--set the entire house on fire first, just for the light. Team Prometheus for the win!!!

This is one story I'd like to hear a longer version of--and I actually think it has the potential to be a TV series. (Think: The Walking Dead meets The Fugitive.) Of course, the real reason to keep the story going is to give the main cast a way out in the end. Nightfall may be inevitable, as is all death, but that doesn't mean that we all have to be taken by shadow people. There must be a way to defeat them . . . and the first step to finding out is to learn why they target some of us and not others. Sheila must be rubbing off on me or something, because my main problem with this play is that there was no explanation given for why the shadow people are after Elaine and what they intend to do with her. I know we must make allowances for the limitations of the medium, but this is an unusually big hole we're left with.

What are your thoughts on The Shadow People?

1) How would you rate the shadow people in terms of scariness?
2) What would you do to protect yourself if they were after you?
3) If you had to work on a longer version of this story, what explanation would you give for the shadow people's interest in Elaine?

Up next is a choice inspired by Mrs. Darwin: "The Werewolf" from The Weird Circle. Let's hope it delivers! Listen to it on YouTube, Relic Radio, or the Internet Archive.

13 comments:

Brandon said...

It strikes me that this might be a sort of tribute story. The name Dr. Hesselius struck me as rather odd and a bit familiar, and it turns out that he's named after an 'occult detective' in J. Sheridan Le Fanu's collection of short stories, In a Glass Darkly. I haven't read the short stories, but Sheridan Le Fanu was, if I recall correctly, a friend of Bram Stoker, and one of the most popular ghost story writers of the late nineteenth century. And De Maupassant's horror story, The Horla is directly referenced in the text.

(1) I didn't find the Shadow People very scary, but I like the idea of them.

(2) Given how dark I keep most of my house, I'd probably be dead before I had a chance.

(3) I think we get the beginnings of an answer in the story itself: Elaine is the only one who can sense the Shadow People even when the lights are on, and she is the only one who can see them before they actually show themselves. Dr. Hesselius mentions that they need to build up power to do what they do -- and although he seems to underestimate massively how much power they had already built up, we've no reason to think he's wrong here -- and it stands to reason that they'd be after the one person who could track what they were doing before they were ready.

I think you're right that this comes across a lot like a pilot episode -- although as it stands perhaps not an entirely promising one, given that everyone's dead at the end. But it might be interesting to see the adventures of a more clever Dr. Hesselius (someone more like the namesake detective) and Elaine trying to stop the Shadow People from building up the power to take over the world.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

That's very interesting background information, Brandon! Thanks. =) Would you also know if the original listeners would have been able to make those connections more quickly?

I'm sure that a pilot episode would have kept the three principal characters alive. Since this was a stand-alone, I guess it didn't matter who lived and who died. But I was quite surprised that the original narrator didn't make it and that one of the shadow people had to take over for him. That didn't seem right. =/

love the girls said...

2) Miss E. askes : "What would you do to protect yourself if they were after you?"

I have a few years of experience growing up thinking of how to avoid shadow. Even walking across the carpet as a child was a trauma late at night because there was shadow between the fibers which made me vulnerable.

but fortunately the threat was only on the lowest floor of our house, and so for the most part I was safe growing up from whatever it was that lurked in the shadows.

Even as an adult, after college I still would not venture down there at night, and if I had to I was very careful to make sure my path in and out was well lighted.

And because we have a ghost that shows itself where my studio is, (just what I want), I don't turn off the lights here either, even if the children have seen it with the lights on.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

In my family's old house, my grandfather noticed that his study had started smelling like flowers for no good reason. He didn't like it, so he moved to the rec room and made his children entertain their friends in his former study. The ghost wasn't too happy about that and it didn't take long for the scent of flowers to follow my grandfather to the rec room.

You'll love this part . . . The architect who designed our house put the light switches on the far end of the rec room, opposite the door! The location sort of made sense, because they were right next to the sliding glass door, which led to the lanai. But when you're already in the house and need to go to another room, you don't exit the house and then come in through another entrance.
Especially not when the other three rooms with doors leading to the lanai are just as dark and forbidding. With mirrors. If I accidentally forgot a beloved toy in the rec room, it had to stay there all night, keeping the ghost company, until the sunlight and I could fetch it again in the morning.

love the girls said...

I just ran across this by accident while looking for a book to listen to:
"This 1859 short story probably influenced both Maupassant's "The Horla" and Bierce's "The Damned Thing". It's pretty spooky all by itself, though. The second phase of the story is a science fiction take -- a very odd one. See what you think."

https://archive.org/details/WhatWasIt

Sheila said...

1. I'm with you, E -- these guys are definitely the scariest yet! And maybe the scariest thing is that our guys see it coming. With other stories, we are shouting, "Don't go in *there* .... turn back now .... don't split up!" And in that way we reassure ourselves that this stuff wouldn't happen to us, because we would know better. When our heroes DO know better, there's less to comfort ourselves with. We can put ourselves exactly in their shoes.

Like LTG, I also had a childhood fear of shadows. They lived under my bed, all around my bed (so I suffered many nights needing to go to the bathroom, but afraid to get out of bed), and especially in the basement. But even I never thought of the horrifying idea that they're there in the day, too, invisibly waiting for their chance. Eek!

I admit that I am afraid of ghosts. I don't know if I believe in them, but I believe in them enough to be scared! When I first got married, I had to move into John's tiny studio apartment. He claimed the bathroom was haunted, because he always used to close the bathroom cabinet -- a sliding mirrored door -- and in the morning it would always be about two inches open. It seemed an odd thing for a ghost to want to do, and I pish-toshed the notion in the day, but at night I lay awake for hours staring into the yawning black doorway and wondering if anyone was in there!

Finally I got over my embarrassment about being scared and begged to sleep next to the wall, with John between me and the bathroom, and that helped. But I was much relieved to move away from there!

2. Backups. Lots. Sleep in the day with the windows wide open. Stay awake all night with the light on, a candle, and oil lamp, a fireplace, a battery-operated flashlight, and one of those hand-crank emergency lamps. That oughta do it.

3. You know I prefer to avoid sex as an explanation for anything, but what seems most horrible for a reason would be that the leader of the shadow people is infatuated with her and determined to make her his. Furious, too, that she's choosing someone else. That's why he chooses to let her see him -- and perhaps he is further infuriated by her fear and terror at his appearance.

Star Crunch said...

*Stumbles out of Lurkerville*

Ditto Brandon on #1 and 2.

As for #3... I don't know, just yet, but having read this with NaNoWriMo right around the corner, I'm sorely tempted to come up with something and give it a go. I imagine the end result wouldn't quite win this year's Bram Stoker award, but it sounds fun anyway. :)

A point I didn't see spelled out was that, Dr. Hesselius being in possession of information on the Shadow People, it seems historically that not every encounter resulted in death for all—or at least, a few survived long enough to learn some things and commit them to writing. The Shadow People are either unaware of, or indifferent to, this material. (Or they're powerless to deal with it? Or it works in their favor?) Each possibility comes with its own set of implications.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

LTG -- Thanks for the recommendation. It's the perfect time for spooky reading, too! =)

Sheila -- Great point! What happens in this story could happen to us, too. And we aren't given the key to vanquishing the shadow people, which would be the most reassuring element.

Funnily enough, I wasn't afraid of the dark as a small child. If I needed to go to the bathroom, I would just get up, walk out of the bedroom and into the bathroom without turning on a single light! I was perfectly okay with it. How odd that a few years later, I became much more fearful of shadows. My family live in a new house now, but I still suspect that something lurks in the dark corners.

And now I see that you would be the perfect person to have around, in the event of a shadow attack! But I think I already knew that . . . =D

I think that your explanation about Elaine is plausible. We already have other stories in which "fae" creatures have become infatuated with humans, so why should a shadow person be any different?

Star Crunch -- Welcome! =D Please make yourself at home!

I agree that there are bound to be other scholars who know about the shadow people and who have better research. It's a little intriguing that the one good lead our characters have gets killed. Had they been after him, anyway, because he also noticed them gathering power (as per Brandon's theory), or do they target him because they have been spying on the main cast in the daytime and trying to keep one step ahead (as per Doctor Hesselius's first reaction)? I'd like to think that their relationship to light is like a vampire's relationship to the sun; but as Sheila reminds us, they're still all around us in the daytime, just invisible and intangible.

So far, I think the scariest part of this thread is the looming shadow of . . . NaNoWriMo! ;-) I don't think I'll be participating in any capacity this year, but of course I'll feel sad about it.

love the girls said...

I've never really been fearful of shadows, but of places that have a presence. Not unlike this radio drama where the problem not the shadows but the inhabiting.

And it doesn't need to be shadows. The floor of the Denver Art Museum dedicated to Hindu and other types of pagan religious art has a disturbing evil presence that is felt the moment one walks onto the floor.

Sheila said...

I gave serious thought to NaNoWriMo-ing a vampire book this year. I know it's not usually my bag, but I had the idea of a soccer mom who's also secretly a vampire hunter. It would be partly action and partly humor.

But I took one look around my busy and chaotic life and decided this is not the year. If anyone wants to steal my idea, please do -- I'd like to read it.

LTG, as a kid it was just about shadows. Now, it's particular places. There was an apartment I stayed in in Rome that gave all three of us there the creeping horrors. Maybe it was just that none of the lines were parallel and the corners weren't square. Maybe we were sleep deprived. John's theory was that there was exposed copper wire behind the walls which was giving off EMF radiation that was disturbing us.

Still, I couldn't shake the idea that something awful had happened there once. I had the same feeling during our entire stay in Florence. The entire city bothered me!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

My own NaNoWriMo idea involved a Filipino paleontologist finding some dinosaur bones over here. But I got stuck doing research on different types of rock, because I think the Philippines is mostly volcanic based (which means no bones), and decided I had no time to write something so "realistic." =P

Your stories about Italy remind me of a former friend's reaction to my old home. She said she could never shake the feeling that it was a "bad" place, and always ended her visits with a headache. Her father had the same impressions. I'm not so sensitive by half! I can't recall the last time I felt truly horrified by something in real life, although I've been "spooked" (by my own imagination?) many times.

But while we're on the subject, I'm trying to get another friend to visit Corregidor Island with me and to stay overnight. It's one of my favourite places in the world, despite being a World War II battleground, but she is reluctant because of its reputation for having ghosts!

love the girls said...

Sheila writes :"Still, I couldn't shake the idea that something awful had happened there once. I had the same feeling during our entire stay in Florence. The entire city bothered me!"

I asked my daughter Lucy, the Christendom grad like Sheila, about Florence. She said the entire city of Florence had an evil presence except for the small area where Dante's house, the Church, Museum and market square are. She likewise said it was notable because it was the entire city. And in the same regard Padua was remarkable for how good the city felt.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

And of course, Florence happens to be the Italian city, apart from Rome, which I want to see the most . . . #ghosthunting