It was New Years Eve and I was nine or ten. That afternoon, my mom made a big announcement: she and dad would be going to a New Years Eve party. My kid brother would be spending the evening at grandma’s house… but my cousin and I, we insisted we wanted to spend our New Year’s Eve home alone, like big kids; it would be my parents first party in over a decade, and it would be my first night alone in the dark.
That afternoon, my mom drove my cousin and I to the local video store. We wanted to pick out a movie to help us celebrate our first night alone–no parents, no rules, and there was no better genre to kick things off than horror. It was my fault. I was the one who ran to the horror section in search of the scariest VHS box I could find. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up holding The Exorcist in my sweaty little hands. The Exorcist cover is particularly scary, and yet there I was, clutching it to my chest; this was the one, the movie that would keep us company and ring in the new year. For no real reason, I was drawn to it. I had to see it. It rang in more than the new year; it marked the beginning of a lifelong obsession–one that may not be as of-this-world as I’d like to think.
My cousin and I spent all day waiting for my parents to hurry up and leave. As the longest day in kid history, it seemed that night would never come. But eventually, mom stepped out of her peach-colored bathroom looking saucy, and dad, wearing his tie and fancy blazer, looked ready to cut a rug. Mom told us to ‘be good’, and they left the house in a haze of perfume and cologne.
The first ten minutes my parents were gone, we lost our minds. We ran from room to room making as much noise as possible. We jumped on couches and beds. After raiding the pantry for all the soda’s and candy we could handle, we popped in our movie and settled onto my mom’s Victorian-styled couch (it was an odd choice for a double-wide trailer).
What happened next: well… I was like little Danny Torrance, my butt glued to the Big Wheel, my eyes as round as half-dollars; but instead of staring down a hallway of the Overlook at twin girls, I was staring at my living room television while Reagan MacNeil hissed and thrashed and stabbed herself with a cross. I clutched one of mom’s decorative pillows to my chest, high enough to hide my mouth and nose, low enough to continue watching the horror that was searing itself into the very makeup of my brain. I told myself to look away, to stop watching, but something held me there, something made me watch.
We spent the next two hours watching really bad standup comedy on basic cable, our eyes still huge with terror, our tiny child-brains screaming inside our skulls.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. We left my bedroom TV on infomercials and made sure our hands and feet were nowhere near the edge of the bed. Two girls on a twin mattress, I tried to take comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone–that my cousin was right next to me, and sleeping soundly at that. I squeezed my eyes shut and forced myself into unconsciousness.
I remember waking up because I couldn’t stop shaking. I was shaking so hard that when I finally managed to crawl out of bed I couldn’t stand up to run to my parent’s bedroom. In a dark and sleeping house, I crawled across the floor like a creeping animal. All I needed was a wicked grin spread across my face to make it a real-life Hollywood thriller. But I wasn’t smiling; I was terrified. Shaking hard enough to convince myself something terrible was happening, I eventually reached my parent’s room and scurried across the floor to mom’s side of the bed. My fingers grasped the side of the mattress, pulling myself up, I whimpered until she heard me. When she finally peeled her eyes open, I was overwhelmed with relief. It was going to be okay. She’d see that I was collapsed on the floor, shuddering as though I’d seen a ghost. My hope of rescue were shattered when she focused on me through the darkness and told me “you shouldn’t have watched that stupid movie.”
When I was nine or ten, on a particularly dark New Years Eve, my sleeping habits were forever altered. I still listen for noises in the dark, I have to sleep with doors closed and with my arms and legs clear of the edge of the bed. Two decades later, I still feel myself begin to shake when I hear Captain Howdy hiss through the mouth of a little girl. But now, older and wiser, I’ve graduated from William Peter Blatty’s nightmare to my own. Now, instead of Reagan MacNeil, it’s Charlie Winter who grins at me from the darkest corners of my room…
Charlie Winter grins at all of us, the ones who love horror despite the terror it brings… the ones who can’t turn off the lights yet keep reading and keep watching, wondering if demons are real.
It’s time for you to meet Charlie… if you dare.
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17 thoughts on “The Night I Was Possessed By The Devil”
Funny, I just rewatched the Exorcist over the weekend. That movie scared the be-Jesus out of me the first time I saw it! And I was 18 at the time haha.
It was just as spooky the second viewing, but I didn’t lose sleep this time around at least. It’s amazing how a movie creeps into your skull and wedges itself in there. I still see the Death Face (or Captain Howdy, or Pazuzu) flash across my vision every now and then as I’m drifting off to sleep, much like it flashed for only a moment on the TV screen. Only a moment, but that pasty white face is blazed into my memory where it’ll stay forever more likely than not.
Those split second scenes scared me more than anything in the movie, oddly enough.
Now it takes a lot to frighten me. I no longer fear the demons that lurk in the night…
…but then, that’s when they get you, isn’t it?
Great post 🙂
Thanks Andrew. 🙂
Yeah, don’t let your guard down. Charlie loves that.
I’m gonna say it again. This book is amazing.
I loved this; it brought back the memory of my first horror movie. Mom was in the hospital, recovering from giving birth to my brother (remember when hospital stays were longer than the line at McDonald’s?) and I was staying at my aunt’s house. Dad had come by to check on me and there I was, five years old, sitting on Dad’s lap, staring unblinkingly at the TV screen watching “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson chasing his family though the maze. By the time any of the adults realized what I (and my poor cousin Andrew) were seeing, it was too late. The damaged was done. I was ADDICTED to horror movies.
The Shining is still such an amazing film. It’s truly one of the few that have stood the test of time. I just recently watched it again–I think I could watch that movie once a week and not get tired of it.
Thanks for the reply! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂
Very good post, Ania. Thanks for sharing. I was a late-comer to “The Exorcist”, already well into my thirties before finally watching it. I’m 42 now, and I watch it again every year or two. No other film scares me the way that one does. It always take two days before I forget about it and can sleep worry-free. Until then, I hold my eye-lids firmly shut for fear of opening them in the dark and finding Regan staring at me there.
Take care and much success to you with “Seed”. I don’t know whether you caught my review, but I loved it.
Thanks so much, James!
Yeah, there’s just something about Reagan that turns the stomach. I’ve watched The Exorcist, I think once since then, and not in full. I couldn’t do it. Some people say it’s hilarious, but there’s just something about it that I can’t handle. Maybe it’s fear by association–since it terrified me as a kid I can’t handle it as an adult.
Quick note: I’ve started a newsletter that I’ll be sending out 2-3 times per year. If you haven’t already, please sign up! You can find it at http://www.aniaahlborn.com/newsletter I’ll be using that as a bit of an announcement board when I have new work out.. 🙂
Nice memory! Thanks for sharing! The Exorcist is one of the absolute creepiest movies yet made! Nothing scarier than being freaked out in your own bed!
Exorcist has always been the scariest movie,I have ever seen… I love how descriptive you are while writing, I felt like i was right there with you. Believe it or not my brother till this very day, will not see that movie…and he’s 44 now. That should say something, about the power of that film.
Love your post!
I don’t blame your brother. I can’t sit through it either. Just the sound of it… ugh, it turns my stomach.
Nice story, Ania 🙂
I think most of us horror aficionados have one like it…Hell, not too long ago I spent an evening with one of my friends and her boyfriend drinking whiskey and watching horror flicks, only to have a very weird dead-of-the-night bike ride through town back to my apartment.
I remember watching 13 ghosts alone, in the middle of the night, home alone. That was a bad idea, lol. Not that 13 Ghosts is really the scariest movie (or even close) that I’ve ever seen, but there’s something about middle of the night solo horror… 😀
I actually enjoyed 13 Ghosts. The makeup effects were fantastic, and I really liked the concept of the glass house. Not the best horror film I’ve seen, but definitely not the worst.
I remember sneaking and reading The Exorcist when I was 12 or so. That was one of the first real horror experiences I had outside of comic books. And another old creepy paperback The Sentinel. I guess that Catholic horror was big back then….the first real horror movie I watched was “Gargoyles,” and it turned out not to be that scary later on.
Hey Scott, The Sentinel…was that book turned in to the Michael Winner film starring Chris Sarandon and Burgess Meredith?
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SUCH a great post, Ania! While I’m not with you on being scared of “The Exorcist”–I found “The Exorcist III” far more unnerving–your prose reminded me so well of where my love for horror films began. I wasn’t even in grade school yet, and my dad, sick bastard that he could be, showed me “Alice, Sweet Alice.” The China doll mask. The yellow raincoat. The pint-sized killer with a butcher knife that was probably half the killer’s size. Few horror movies have been able to recreate the undeniable dread that I felt watching Alfred Sole’s film. Over the years, I’ve always been more drawn to the real life horrors like “Alice” and the original “Halloween.” Those things that can and do happen every day. Nevertheless, there have been some real supernatural standouts for me: “Session 9,” “The Exorcist III,” and now you’re book “Seed.” I can’t tell you enough how happy it makes me to see the book doing so well. Worth more than what you’re charging for it, for sure.