Thursday, October 16, 2008

It Came From the Interwebs: the Mechanical Turk Tells Scary Stories

Devil's BallIf you are easily disturbed, please skip this entry. It features true stories of actual humans who found themselves in frightening and terrible situations.

I have vivid memories of reading scary stories in bed as a child. I would lay in bed holding a book under my lamp, the rest of the room lost in strange shadows. As I became more and more involved with the story, the shadows would take on a sinister appearance.

Is that a ghost in my closet, or just dirty laundry? Is that a murder's eyes, or just a reflection off a window? Logically, I knew that I was just on edge from the story, but that didn't lessen my fright.

Despite my fear, or perhaps paralyzed by it, I often continued reading my stories late into the night. The terror was exciting and fun, but maybe just because I knew it was irrational.

In the spirit of Halloween, I used Mechanical Turk to request real-life scary stories from the internet. Like the books I read as a child, some of the responses feature supernatural encounters, while the others involve threatening, but otherwise more ordinary seeming circumstances.

Unlike my scary novels, these stories are true -- as far as I know. I can't rule out the possibility that a story was invented, nor the possibility that the writer misinterpreted the events. Maybe that ghost really was a sheet drawn down an invisible string. Perhaps the light switch wasn't flipped all the way when the author was plunged into darkness. And maybe that man trying to break in just mistook the place for his own house. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

Thanks to the Mechanical Turk workers who shared their personal scary stories! I hope your future frights are fun, not serious.

Here are two samples from the 40 I have received:

What is your gender? Female

Write two or more paragraphs about the most frightening thing to happen to you. "My husband and I had moved to Northern Virginia, and were settling into rented rooms. Strange, odd things began to happen, that we dismissed initially. Over a period of two months, things progressively got stranger and creepier. It culminated one night in August. My husband and I had dozed off reading in bed, with the lights still on in our room. The next thing we knew, we were both on the floor.

Something had pulled us out of bed, and threw us on the floor. Both doors to our room were closed- the interior door was closed, and the door leading outside was closed and locked from the inside. There was no one there but us. We both wound up bruised from hitting the floor, and we each had scratch marks on our calves where we had been grabbed. Those particular marks took a long time to heal, and they had a burning sensation that lasted for days.

Talk about scared? We were terrified. That night we grabbed some clothes, stuffed them into a bag and took off for a motel for the night. Two weeks later we moved. I have seen some spooky things, but I have never been so terrified in all my life. "

Is there anything else we should know about the story or being scared? "Fear is an odd thing. Neither one of us slept more than a few moments at a time until we moved, and there are times still that we wonder what happened, what "it" was, and will it happen again?"

Do you have any feedback for this HIT? "It will be interesting to see the other results. Thanks for the HIT!"

What is your gender? Female

Write two or more paragraphs about the most frightening thing to happen to you. "It was the middle of the afternoon my husband was in the living room checking his email, my children were playing in the living room. It was pretty loud in the house due to the kids playing. I had walked down the hall to change the laundry on my way back through to the kitchen I noticed a shadow on the walk-in porch. I stopped dead in my tracks staring through the window into the man's eyes that was standing on the other side of the door into my living room like he was just waiting for ample opportunity.

Absolute terror ripped through my bones, and I just let out this scream that could have woke the dead. My husband was like "What,What!" He had no idea what I had just seen. By the time I got the words out of my mouth the man on the inside porch had turned and ran, he was no where to be found.

I went down to the police station to file a report, and they showed me a bunch of different mug shots. Come to find out the man that had broken into my house and was waiting to do god only knows what was a homeless man. The police officer told me to make sure that I lock my doors at anytime I am home, and assured me they would look for the man.

They ended up catching the man a week later after he broke into another home. It still scares me to death to think of what could have possibly happened. People that break into your home when you are there and they know it are not in their right mind."

Is there anything else we should know about the story or being scared? "I would never have thought this would have happened in a small town in the country but it did."

Do you have any feedback for this HIT? "This was an interesting hit."

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