by: Horror Crone
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before….”
The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe
I was started on my lifelong love of horror fiction, poetry, and the occult by my Father, who used to read Edgar Allen Poe to me when I was very tiny. The musical cadences of the words, the fierce dynamism of the rhymes, and the rise and fall of my Father’s voice were mesmerizing to me, even though I didn’t understand the import of the words. As I got older and faced nightly the terror of being alone in my bedroom, I understood too well what peering deeply into the darkness, wondering and fearing meant.
What child doesn’t confront at some time in their young development, the irrational fear of the Thing Under the Bed or the Unknowable in the Closet? For my sister and I, our frightening companion was the Shadow at the End of the Hall. The apparition made itself known to us shortly after we moved into our new house when I was 8 and my sister was 10. In the beginning, it was no more than a feeling – a certainty of a presence, the prickly tingling sensation that we were being watched. Shortly thereafter, the amorphous feeling resolved itself into an indistinct darkness that simply was. The Shadow at the End of the Hall never moved, never shimmered. It was just there once the ambient light in the hall was low.
My sister and I remained in a constant state of fear. We tried to convince ourselves we were mistaken. We knew our proclivities and, by that time, well developed love of the occult – clearly this was merely a manifestation of our over-active imaginations. We spoke of the Shadow in whispers, terrified and thrilled by turns, wondering what this thing was which had decided to live with us and watch us. The Shadow’s manifestation always felt just on the verge of speech. We dreaded what it might say.
One truth was inescapable: The Shadow at the End of the Hall ensured there were no terrors in our bedrooms. Once my sister and I realized that the presence didn’t move and didn’t communicate, we were able to breathe in our rooms and sleep in the relative surety that we wouldn’t awake to something leaning over our beds. In many ways, the Shadow at the End of the Hall became a familiar, albeit creepy guest in our young adolescence. It was never ambulatory, it never shifted, and though it always felt immediate and somehow insistent. Rather like an incapacitated older relative who is desperate to say something, but unable. And soon, we realized that all presences have very distinct personalities, and are not all so demur.