When I was thirteen years old, I loved horror movies. The scarier, the better. Bring on the bloodbath, and the ghosts and the ghouls. The louder you could scream, the harder I would laugh. Nothing in a horror movie could scare me, and I wanted to see the most shocking, frightening things possible. Sadly, my brother was terrified of horror movies, so I could not get the R-Rated ones into the house. No matter how hard I tried, he’d tell Mom and Dad, and I’d be forced to put them back. With a little bit of quick thinking and the line, “it’s only PG-13”, however, I managed to see The Grudge in the summer of 2005.
That summer was a series of firsts. Along with my first time succeeding in getting a horror movie back home, it was also my first summer with a functional eardrum and working two different jobs.
During the day, I was a camp counselor for five-year-olds, who knew me as “the girl who sang Spongebob songs and swam with her clothes on.” After camp let out, I went to the neighbor’s house to watch their adorable, yet vicious tuxedo cat named Teddy, or “bowling ball”, as he was called for his fat stomach.
I had convinced my parents to let me rent The Grudge right before my work with “bowling ball” began, as a congratulatory present for getting two jobs. Little did I know what impact that movie was going to have on my cat-sitting and my love of horror movies.
For those who have not seen The Grudge, the premise is that a curse is set upon a house after an entire family is murdered in a fit of rage. All who enter the house will be destroyed by the curse. The house is frequented by caretakers for an elderly woman, and all the caretakers are fighting to survive.
At the time, I did not see how this curse could apply to me. There are no such things as ghosts, or grudges born out of murder. Time and time again in real life, the supernatural has been proven to be a figment of someone else’s imagination. Though the ghosts in The Grudge were scary and I sat through it with clenched fists, I dismissed it as innocent fun while the credits were rolling. In spite of a pet sitting job that was supposed to start in five days, nothing about The Grudge could scare me.
Sometimes, thoughts of the ghosts would enter my mind during my pet sitting. I knew I was in a position similar to that of the haunted caretakers, but I had enough grounding in reality to know no harm would come to me. No possessed woman was hiding in the rafters, waiting to rip my jaw off.
I was not going to find a ghost child waiting in a closet, holding a spitting cat. Why would I, when Teddy always walked under my legs, and wanted to play the “Pet-my-belly-and-I’ll-bite-you” game? As long as the days were hot with bright sunshine and Teddy waited for me with purrs and bites, I knew no harm would come.
A cloudy day after camp would soon come to change my mind. It started out relatively mild, with a game of capture the flag that was not a sticky mess of mud and sweat. I had ended that work day on a high note, and was looking forward to playing with Teddy. By the time I got back, the day was starting to darken. It almost looked like a storm was coming, but it was not quite intense enough for anything beyond wind. Tree branches swayed over my head as a I walked to the neighbor’s house. My afternoon of pet sitting started out perfectly normal, with Teddy’s dish full of food and the two of us eventually playing on the floor.
That’s when the noises began.
I heard strange sounds coming from the chimney, and I was not sure what made them.
Even though no one could hear me, I blurted out “What was that?”
I remembered that in The Grudge, ghosts hid all over the house. They could make these awful creaking, moaning noises, very much like those that echoed in the chimney.
“Hello?” I asked.
Where were all these noises coming from? Why had I not heard them before?
The moaning grew louder, and my hands began to shake. Banging could be heard in the laundry room, and wind was blowing against the house. I huddled Teddy close to me, trying to find the sources of the new sounds. Were these normal house noises that I had never heard before? Was this house haunted by ghosts?
I knew that the previous owners had a cat die while living here—possibly murdered by neighborhood coyotes. Maybe the cat wanted revenge on the owners for not protecting it? As new noises overwhelmed me, I found myself frightened and losing grip on reality. I told myself, “If I see anything suspicious, I’m gonna get the cat and run.” For the next 15 minutes, to complete my hours with Teddy, I continued petting him with shaking hands and looking for ghosts over every shoulder.
Ten years have passed since that scary June afternoon, and I have since learned what made each sound. The banging in the laundry room came from pipes that powered the air conditioner. Moaning chimneys were the result of wind blowing around the house. Creaking under the floorboards resulted from my own arms as I moved to find each new sound. Though my knowledge of noise has significantly increased over 10 years with an eardrum, my love of horror movies has significantly diminished.
Ideas of haunted houses and ghosts were a little too real while I was still discovering which sounds were normal and which were not. Sound can be frightening when you do not know its source, and your mind can easily run away to horrific places. Mine ran away to the angry ghosts of The Grudge because of the similarities it shared with my life. Gradually, my love of horror movies is starting to bloom again, but it will take a while to not remember the mix of new hearing and The Grudge.