Friday, October 22, 2010

Open Friday: Scary Images

I've said before that I think fantasy ought to be frightening. When I'm trying to get myself into the right frame of mind for presenting some horrific creature or scene in my campaign, I often think on images that frighten me. One of the ones that never ceases to give me the creeps is a spider descending on a thread. For some reason, that just sends shudders down my spine (above and beyond the simple fact that I am very arachnophobic -- even putting this image on the blog took some bravery on my part).

So, I'm curious: what images do you find frightening and yet inspirational?


  1. I am always terrified by images of Max Schreck in his nosferatu get-up from the old silent film...he's what a vampire should look like, not the silly glittering Twilight caricatures. Ths scene in the movie where he's looming over a victim in bed, and he slowly raises his head to look into the camera...creeps me out...

  2. I agree with the spiders. We had two HUGE ones in my backyard a couple of weeks ago -- at least an inch and a half in length. They looked much like the spider in your photo. They drop down from the trees like that, on a strand -- so you have to be careful not to walk under one.

  3. I'm irrationally terrified of maggots. As a result, about a third of my monster ideas have something in common with them.

  4. I know this doesn't help and isn't the point of the fear, but for non-phobics' benefit that particular spider is harmless and good for your yard. Not that I want them on me, either, and I'm fine with spiders.

    The idea of giant spiders, especially waxy black ones (sorry, sorry!) still gets my goat, though. Other creepy stuff would be mummified remains, particularly of children, people floating unnaturally with toes pointing downward and arms limp like they've been hung (I'm particularly creeped out by suicides in closets) and the woman from the Grudge.

  5. The concept of floating in deep water with other much larger life forms is a creepy one to me.

    Disregard breathing issues for the moment. Envision floating in a vast expanse of water. It's dark, and you can't see very far, and there are things moving out there that are at home there where you are not.


  6. Spiders. Especially the smallish ones - once they get to tarantula size, they're not scary anymore.

    Also Centipedes.

  7. Tight spaces are creepy as well. In the movie "The Descent" -- those girls worming their way through tight underground tunnels with their arms pinned to their sides... it's a disturbing thought. You can't move your arms, it's pitch black, and there's the fear of a tunnel collapse.

  8. Snakes are what creep me out the most. Just... ew. I'm getting the creepies just thinking about them. I tend to use them and things like snake-men in my campaigns as bad-guys so that the PCs can kill them!

    Also, Bigfella hit another one of mine. The way he described it is perfect. That always terrifies me, even though I pretty much never go swimming.

  9. iam very scared of anything who have yellow eyes, like gulls, or seagulls. Also tigers, cats and so.. (but onlu yelloweyed)

  10. Walking corpses in various states of decomposition scare the crap out of me. Yet zombies are a stable (after goblins) of my campaigns, and I love zombie games like Left 4 Dead

  11. I'll second the centipedes. We get those weird coleoptrata "house" centipedes and they must be the most vile creatures on the planet.

    Oh, and Big Fella, this also freaks the bejeezus out of me.

  12. What Marjasall said. The spelunking scenes in The Descent were scarier to me than the actual monsters. It's probably why I'm no good at dungeon design; I just can't envision myself traipsing around underground for days.


  13. Darkness is scary for me.

    Speaking of creepy spiders, check out this bad girl:

  14. Robots/androids like on the old Six Million Dollar man show or West World. Behind their synthetic human face is a mass of wires and circuitry. They are stronger than you and have reflexes faster than yours. They are implacable. You can't fight them You can't reason with them. You can't beg for mercy. They have no compassion. You might be able to outrun them - for awhile, but you have to sleep sometime, and they don't. They will never stop coming, never. And at some point, in some dark place, just when you're beginning to believe that you've given them the slip, a clutching hand will break through the wall behind you, gripping your throat and crushing the life from your veins.

  15. This guy..

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  17. I agree that Max Shreck was uber creepy, but maybe some of that comes from the film quality. Had it been Blue Ray...

    For me it's weird eyes on humans. Red, glowing, missing (a la Event Horizon), demony, or whatever. It gets under my skin.

  18. I have both a fear and a fascination with deep sea life. Looking through National Geographic Magazine sea life articles as a kid used to both thrill and terrify me. I hated turning the pages because I didn't really want to see more pictures, but at the same time couldn't keep from looking. Tentacles, suckers, polyps, etc. are so far removed from mammalian forms of life, it still creeps me out a bit. But I love the thrill I get while diving, visiting aquariums, watching IMAX deep sea films, and so on.

  19. If you hate spiders as much as I do, how about this one from Australia big enough to catch and eat a bird. This picture put the nail in the coffin of the idea of traveling to Australia for me.

  20. Being a little claustrophobic, anything that involves dark confined spaces can make my skin crawl. So I found the story of the Mexico City's sewer divers, inching their way through sewers where they can't see their own hands in front of their faces, both alarming and beguiling.

    And I'd agree with Marjasall too, spelunking would be like some kind of nightmare to me. And I can't believe how far underground they're prepared to go.

  21. I'll second the various 'large underwater things' comments. I'll also add that, long before I'd ever read Lovecraft, I considered the Pacific Ocean to be somehow creepier than the Atlantic, because it was the older (and still larger) ocean.

    As for spiders, quick anecdote. I'm usually not too creeped out by seeing a spider sitting still or moving, but I'm never too happy about having to DO something about the spider. So, I've had one living in my rear-view mirror for a while, and it's occasionally creeped into the car and walked around above the dash. A few weeks ago, I'm driving at night (on a sidestreet, thankfully), and I see something that I think is creeping down from the car's ceiling. I assume it's the spider, descending on a web, and not wanting to deal with a webbed-up passenger seat, I move my hand to disturb it - and it looks like the spider suddenly TAKES FLIGHT. I freak out, thinking the spider just sprouted wings, and it takes me a moment to realize that, that was never the spider - it was just a moth that got into the car. I sigh, and roll down the window to let it out, glad I didn't swerve into anything. But for two seconds, there was a certain pure terror of dealing with Something Not Right.

  22. BigFella. Yes. Probably one of my number one fears. One of the reasons the first scene from Jaws freaks me out so much.

    But apart from that, for whatever reason, Were-creatures scare the crap out of me (and yet I am fascinated with them). I think it is the idea of someone you 'know' suddenly turning against you. Something you think is safe turning out not to be. Or maybe I was just too young the first time I saw American Werewolf in London.

  23. One summer, many years ago, I was driving back to college with a buddy who'd spent the weekend with me at my parents' home.

    I was from a tiny town in south Texas, almost desert. He was from Houston.

    Country boy, city boy, right?

    Now, it had rained, hard and briefly, right before we'd left town. The brush country goes nuts when it gets a hard, brief rain in the summer; it's not used to it. Everything blooms, especially cactus ...and the spiders get washed out of their holes.

    Ever heard of Trapdoor Spiders? They're about the size of your hand, and they live in holes and wait for prey to wander by, then they spring out, grab it, and immediately withdraw into the hole.

    ...and a sudden, hard rain fills the holes with water. They have to evacuate, and move to higher ground.

    Thousands of them, all at once. It looks like something out of a seventies horror movie; the only thing missing is William Shatner.

    ...and my buddy screamed, "WHAT THE **** IS THIS ****?"

    He startled me; I'd been trying to avoid the worst clumps of them on the road as they crunched beneath my tires, and thinking unenthusiastically of how I was going to have to go through the wheel wells with a stick, knocking out spider parts, when we got back to San Marcos. "What?"

    "****! CAN'T YOU SEE? WHAT THE ****ING ****, MAN!??" He'd yanked his feet off the floorboards and curled up in a little quivering ball in the passenger seat.

    It didn't occur to me he was talking about spiders. "Huh?" I thought, "He's not afraid of spiders; I've seen him flick them out the window at school. What the hell is he talking about?"


    He stared at me, shock smeared across his face. Didn't... didn't I see the spiders, too? He looked out the windshield, then out the passenger window. They were still there, thousands of them, all marching east.

    "Oh," I said. "You mean the spiders?"

    He looked at me like I was the one losing my mind. "YES, THE ****ING SPIDERS! WHAT THE ****, MAN?" He waved his arm to indicate the seething carpet of hairy arachnids perambulating across the landscape.

    "Oh," I said. "Dude, that happens. No big deal. Don't worry, they can't get in here, and they'll thin out by the time we get to the highway."

    He stared at me like I'd grown another set of eyes. "You get a LOT of this out here?"

    "No," I said. "Hardly ever rains like this out here in summer. Usually, they all stay in their holes, except when it rains, and fills their holes."

    "*******," he said. "And I thought HOUSTON was crazy..."

    Rocket Boy wasn't afraid of spiders. He told me later that what REALLY drove him around the bend was my blase' attitude about it ... as if I COULDN'T SEE the spiders. He'd wondered for a moment if he'd lost his mind, because he simply could not imagine any sane person NOT freaking out if there was really a seething mass of spiders out there...

  24. Intense magnification pictures of microscopic parasites.

  25. I love spiders. We cultivate them outside our house so they keep down the pest insects. I guess that means you won't be dropping by for a visit any time soon, James?

    As for scary images, I love these scenes:

    1) in The Eye when the dead woman floats into the cafe unseen by the other patrons and licks the food. The scene on the elevator with the dead man floating behind her while she's afraid to turn around is also a winner.

    2) in The Sentinel (1977) when Alison investigates the supposedly empty apartment above hers at night, when abruptly out of the shadows her pale, deceased father stalks across the room in front of her then stops facing the corner and waits for her to approach.

    3) in David Cronenberg's The Fly when Seth is exploring his body's decay in the bathroom mirror and things begin to fall off.

    4) in Cronenberg's Dead Ringers when the Mantle brothers unveil their instruments for operating on mutant women.

    5) the dead eyes and vacant staring in any of the first three versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or any of the ridiculously idiotic yet mindlessly lethal dead from Romero's films, especially stumbling stupidly around the mall in Dawn of the Dead (1978). The scariest image of all, and way too much like real life.

  26. Those big bad wizards from the coast, kicking down my door because i'm using a OSRIC game!!

  27. That thing you see, when you're outside, in the dark, and alone, just out of the corner of your eye. The thing that is never there when you try to look at it. Thar freaks me out every time.

  28. One of the most frightening and inspirational images I've ever seen was the 1920 version of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde starring the incomparable John Barrymore. It features one of the most impressive early experiments of matte technology (Hyde's head on the body of a tarantula the size of the bed Jekyll is sleeping in, climbing over the bed, and then gazing lovingly down at Jekyll. It's not so much the titanic spider slowly creeping over the bed, as the sheer look of covetness on John Barrymore's Hyde face. [Although I'll add the recommendation that you do not watch this sequence if you are in any way an arachnophobe.] I like spiders and cultivate them around the house and garden (no bird eating ones though), but it still creeped me out for years.

    Although the best fear is still stuff that is imagined rather than seen. Once you can visualize something, you can generally deal with it, which is where a lot of modern horror films, with their over reliance on CGI, fall down.

    Speaking of RPG fright, the reason I don't umpire Call of Cthulhu myself is that I've played with some incomparable CoC gamemasters. You know. The ones where, after a game, whilst waiting for the train back to the city, you suddenly realise that you are all huddled closely together under the single working light on the platform (and well within each other's personal space). You laugh about it and move slightly further apart, but you are still all keeping a weather eye out on the surrounding darkness, and rush to board the train as soon as it arrives...

    I just wish I knew how they managed it.

  29. Zombies, specially those that can turn other the living into undead by means of a bite or other kind of wound. The idea of someone I know turned into a flesh eating creature, no more who it used to be, makes me feel awfully sick.

  30. Rats, earwigs, and Pinhead.

    The earwig fear comes from my mom telling me when I was small that they would crawl in my ears to get to my brain.