The Octopus in the Basement and Other Childhood Scares

When we asked Amalia Dillin, author of the forthcoming Forged by Fate, for a scary story from her childhood, she had plenty of material: she had brothers.

I wasn’t exposed to a lot of ghost stories as a kid — or even as an adult — possibly because I was already terrified enough of the aliens I knew were spying on me through the diamond-paned window at the top of the stairs, just waiting to steal me away the moment I was alone in the dark. In the back of my mind, there are at least a dozen distinct memories of getting out of the shower, finding myself alone in the upstairs of our house, and curling into a ball on the floor, hiding under my towel from the nebulous idea of these things coming to get me. And then there was the octopus in the basement, of course, which to my credit, was not a story I had imagined, but one inflicted on me by my two older brothers. Needless to say, between my own overactive imagination and my brothers doing their job as brothers, I kept myself firmly grounded on the first floor of the house unless I had a parental or sibling escort.

But the most terrifying story of them all was the story my parents told me about an old man, whose sole job it was to stalk little children. He was WATCHING me, 365 days a year, just waiting for me to misbehave. And once a year, he came to our house to dole out these accumulated punishments. I remember getting up in the middle of the night one year, on the night he was supposed to arrive, and being terrified to walk by the window to use the bathroom, because if he saw me — if he knew I was out of my bed — it would be a strike against me. I cowered in my doorway, then darted across the hall, imagining his eyes following me. And knowing he was downstairs, just waiting for a naughty little girl to leave her room, I shivered and shook until I was back in my bed, my eyes shut tight so no one would know I’d ever left it.

If my parents wanted to devise a way to keep me in my bed on Christmas morning, they certainly succeeded. Santa Claus scared the bejeezus out of me until I was a teenager.

But then again, so did the octopus in the basement.

Amalia DillinAmalia Dillin began as a Biology major at the University of North Dakota before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn’t stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats — to pull her chariot through the sky, of course.

Top photo credit: “Octopus” by szm.graham

This creepy childhood memory is part of the Haunted October blog tour featuring Specter Spectacular and The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama. Hosted by World Weaver Press.

About World Weaver Press Guest Blogger

World Weaver Press invites many guest bloggers to join us in our discussion of fantasy and science fiction. Opinions expressed by guest bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of World Weaver Press, its staff, or authors.

Posted on October 20, 2012, in from the authors of WWP, Haunted October, horror, World Weaver Press and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. That’s awesome. As a kid, I always hoped the aliens would come so I didn’t have to deal with the vampires and werewolves.

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    • My best friend as a kid was absolutely BEYOND terrified for vampires and werewolves — she used to have nightmares that they were waiting for her in the bathroom. When I slept over, we used the buddy system at all times! But Vampires and Werewolves never really felt real to me, as a threat, the way aliens did. I don’t know why I was so sure they were coming after me and watching me.

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  2. My curtains were usually open when the sun went down, so when I came back from my shower I had an agonizing choice to make. I could turn the light on, protecting myself from the vampire that lived in my closet but exposing my position to the werewolves that lived in the roses outside, or I could run into the bedroom and close the blinds in the dark.

    I actively looked for aliens with anticipation of meeting them one day.

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    • Ha! Did the werewolves live in the Roses in order to disguise their scent from the local wildlife? Which way did you most often choose?

      What kind of aliens were you expecting?

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  3. Possibly so. The roses outside my room were always creepy. They looked half-dead most of the time and they scraped the window at night, which made an eery and foreboding noise.

    I think I chose the vampires more during winter and spring and the werewolves more during summer and autumn.

    I always hoped for intelligent aliens. It was my secret wish that they would come and teach me all kinds of wonderful things. I was a big fan of the “My Teacher is an Alien” series of books.

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    • Ohhh. That would definitely be a different perspective then — I don’t know why, but I only thought aliens were out to abduct me. I think it was the effect of some news story I saw as a kid, combined with X-files in the background. I never could watch that show — to this day, anything with dark alien type themes just freaks me out. And don’t get me started about the movie trailers this time of year! Every time I see an ad for Paranormal Activity 4, it’s a set back in my “I’m totally fine being alone in the house as an adult, even at night!” confidence levels.

      I had to leave the theater when el husband and I went to go see the War of the Worlds movie with Tom Cruise.

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  4. My wife and I both love scary movies. The Paranormal Activity movies were surprisingly effective, especially given the basic budget and effects. They sure kept me on the edge of my seat.

    The scariest thing on tv when I was a kid was Telly monster from Sesame Street. I don ‘t know why but he really scared me.

    As an adult, I think the most effective scary thing I have seen is the episode “Blink” on Doctor Who. It was unexpectedly creepy and I have not looked at angel statues since without an involuntary shiver.

    I like the take on Santa. Being watched was what made the werewolves most creepy.

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    • Oh man, Doctor Who! I think Doctor Who is walking on the wrong side of horror for me to really enjoy it. Mostly I just feel unsettled. It combines scary aliens with everything else and I do not love it! I feel like a terrible person even for thinking it but I just can’t get on board. I don’t like being afraid. I don’t like scaring myself! And I don’t need any help getting scared, ha!

      My little nephew was terrified of Grover for his first two and a half years, if that makes you feel any better about Telly!

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  5. I do feel a bit better knowing I am not the only one.

    I think that a lot of my positive alien feelings came for Star Trek and later, Star Wars. I figured that they must be like people, just more advanced in technology. Some would be good and some would be bad. I never really understood alien addictions in the traditional sense. I was confused as to why they would pick who they did.

    I was also obsessed with Area 51 and secret military projects. I associated all of this with aliens. Very exciting stuff.

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    • See, I love Star Trek and Star Wars, but I think part of the reason I COULD love them, is that the aliens were depicted as more positive and friendly or benevolent, or at least with understandable and human motivations. I mean, who wouldn’t love Chewbacca? Really!

      Area 51/military stuff was never my cuppa. I don’t think my brothers were into it, either, which is maybe why I never really cottoned on — most of my early childhood interests were derived from my oldest brother, who I pretty much worshipped (and unsurprisingly, he was a writer, too, though I’m not sure he ever intended to pursue publication.)

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  6. My childhood interests came from all over. I’ve always loved science, technology, and exploration. I’ve been a huge fan of mythology since elementary school, particularly Norse, Greek, and Egyptian because we learned a bit about it in school.

    My grandpa was a contracted engineer with NASA, which places an emphasis on space exploration. He worked on the Gemini project and was friends with several of the astronauts. Mom and my uncles all got to see live rockets launched. And Dad is an electrician who always had a cool project going.

    In third grade, my friends and I were trying to build our own spaceships so we could visit the moon ourselves. I also tried to convince my parents to buy a radio dish so we could participate in SETI.

    And everyone loves Chewie.

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    • Ha!! Well that would be another big difference in influence. Your grandfather sounds AWESOME. So cool that he was part of all that — I can only imagine how exciting it must have been, and how much more invested your family must have been in everything involved with the space program.

      I’m not sure I learned all that much about Norse mythology in regular school. In fact, I’m not really sure where I started learning about Norse mythology at all, or what got me going. Classical and Egyptian we definitely covered in school, and I read and learned about it at home, too, but Norse wasn’t part of it. That said, once I got started, I couldn’t quit.

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  7. It definitely helped.

    I remember in 4th grade we had a unit on Scandinavia. I was especially taken with Thor and Loki. This would be just before The Mask came out too.

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