There’s something ominous yet welcoming about the dark. You see, I’ve started writing this article whilst parked up, in the dark, waiting for my girlfriend to finish her rehearsal for one of her shows. Its creepy, sure, but there’s street lights, buildings and at least a few signs of life. It got me thinking about why the dark is only scary in certain situations. Please note: at no point in this article am I going to mention the Iron Maiden song of the same name, or use any lyrics from it. No, really. It’s not going to happen.
I know it may seem like a strange thing to talk about, and you’re probably wondering how I can make this topic stretch into an article, but trust me, my talents and abilities know no bounds. I can talk about pretty much anything for as long as you want me to! Trust me on that! Anyway- the dark. For some people, it is a foreboding terror, filled with strange sounds and a shape in the darkness that, whilst it is most likely something innocent like a pillow, seems to you in a moment of fear to be an axe murderer intent on removing your head from your overburdened shoulders. For others- like, perhaps, the aforementioned axe murderer- it is a refuge. After all, if darkness causes fear of unseen things, it can be a welcome shelter for those members of society who simply don’t want to be noticed: sadly, most of the time the reason for wanting to disappear into the darkness is due to a sinister urge to, you know, cut people’s heads off. With an axe. For people like me, though, it has the strange effect of being partly relaxing and partly terrifying.
If I wake up in the hours of sleep for one of hotly anticipated night-time bathroom jaunts, sometimes I’ll take a detour on the trip back to the bedroom to take a look out of the window. Yes, the night sky is beautiful, with all the shining stars, but the general mood of the dark is peaceful. Everything seems so still and un-hurried. Nothing matters other than the fact I’m there, at that moment, experiencing the calm of the darkness. Then again, I have the advantage that my garden is lit, even at night, as we have those little garden lamps that make our lawn look like a landing strip for the smallest aeroplane in the world.
I can imagine that, without those lamps, my garden may have a slightly more troubling feel about it. Not being able to see is part of the terror behind the dark, I’m sure. It plays tricks on the mind. A few months ago, my entire family were awakened by the sound of the car alarm outside- my dad’s Landrover Freelander had decided it was bored and wanted to wake the entire village at three in the morning. Understandably, my first instinct was to will it to stop and then get some sleep, but after some consideration I did what any sane human would do- I perched up in the window overlooking our drive, peering suspiciously into the shadows like a judgemental father assessing his daughter’s first boyfriend. I didn’t see anything that I could actually ascertain, although I was almost certain that, crouching in the shadows just on the corner of our drive, there was a person dressed in all black. Of course, because it was shadow, I didn’t know for certain, and the only reason I had for explaining why a potential burglar would crouch rather than run was because he knew I may have seen him and didn’t want to risk it. Plausible, but also perhaps a bit too dramatic for a sleepy village in Somerset. In hindsight, the alarm was likely triggered by a wayward badger- we have a lot of badgers in the area, especially the wayward sort- or a fox. If this has happened in broad daylight, I would’ve known what the cause was, and it would’ve caused a lot less panic. However, it happened in the dark, and because of that, I couldn’t be sure what was out there- and that made my mind run wild. I truly believe that a lot of people who claim to have seen ghosts have just been massively freaked out by the dark. Those ‘Haunted House’ trips you can go on that involve spending a night amongst the presence of spirits, strike me as massive fraudulent performances. These venues are normally old houses, and so when the darkness creeps in, it does so with a vengeance. Every creak sounds like a ghost because you can’t see the cause of it, you can barely see the person next to you, and you sure as anything can’t make out what is a few inches in front of your face. That creak is more than likely nothing sinister- after all, you’re staying in a house that is older than any human you’ve ever known in your lifetime.Like an elderly person’s knees, it is going to creak with age. And those ‘cold drafts’ people claim to feel- that apparently represent the presence of a spirit- are also just caused because, you know, you’re in an old house, with holes in its walls where wind can escape through. Or possibly somebody just left a window open. In the daylight, you wouldn’t shit your pants because you caught a breeze- why should it be any different at night? And yet…it is. Darkness makes your mind go bat-shit loopy.
Its that whole notion of fearing the unknown. For me, the scariest movies were the ones where you never got to see the monster. Just glimpses. Jaws worked so well because the shark was rarely seen, which still seems like an odd choice to me. We already know what a shark looks like, so why make it a mystery? As soon as you can see a monster in all of its entirety, it isn’t quite as scary. That’s why, for me, I would feel safer with a torch in my hand and the ability to see than I would with a rounders bat in my hand but being blinded by the darkness.
Although if there was an axe murderer lurking, the torch wouldn’t do me much good. But at least I could die seeing my killer- that’s not a luxury the darkness would afford me. Also, I lied about the Iron Maiden lyrics. Fuck da po-lice.
Fear of the Dark! Fear of the darrrrrkkkkk!
I have a phobia that someone’s always therrrreeee!
I’m so, so, so sorry.