Be Very Afraid: A Virtual House of Horrors

Be Very Afraid: A Virtual House of Horrors

By OZY Editors



Because, if 2020 were a film, it would have plenty of jump scares.

By OZY Editors

Halloween offers the perfect holiday to sum up 2020: We wear masks, freak each other out and try to avoid being tricked by misinformation. To properly commemorate our annual celebration of ghouls, goblins and gore, this week’s Sunday Magazine takes you through the year’s house of horrors. A nightmarish American election — in which the mortality of both candidates is often debated — is screeching to a close, the world is battling a deadly disease, and horrors like war crimes and brutal police tactics are on the rise. So how is one to celebrate a socially distanced Halloween with all that’s going on? We’ve got you covered there too. Read on … if you dare.


Political Nightmares

What Keeps Democrats Up at Night? A re-run of 2016. And it could well be happening with a lack of Black voter outreach in places like Ohio — leading to worries about depressed turnout and Trump cutting into Democrats’ margins among their core voter base. Emilia Sykes, the Ohio state house minority leader, is sharply critical of the Democratic Party and Joe Biden campaign’s efforts with Black voters: “We didn’t have the capacity or resources because they’re giving them all to the white women groups to have wine parties.” Read more on OZY.

What Gives Republicans Nightmares? A Democratic landslide. The latest data from OZY’s exclusive election forecast show Biden easily securing an electoral college win and a Senate sweep. And if a few tossup states and races turn blue, it means a total wipeout for Republicans up and down the ballot. You’re already seeing senators like Texas’ John Cornyn and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse creep away from Trump. Dive into OZY’s Forecast.

A Scary Close Finish. If this race is close, Pennsylvania is the keystone to victory for either party. And vote-counting there is already shaping up to be a mess. From potentially 100,000 mail-in voters disenfranchised for not using the proper envelope, to delays in tallying mail ballots that mean the count could take weeks, it’s a frightening picture. Read more from Pennsylvania on OZY.

Foreign Meddling. Last week brought the news that Iran is, at least according to U.S. intelligence officials, trying to throw a monkey wrench into America’s election — joining the Russians and possibly the Chinese in the fray. With the spoofed Proud Boys emails, were the Iranians (allegedly) trying to damage Trump, cause turmoil or both? With Democrats saying the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop must be part of a Russian disinformation campaign, perhaps Vladimir Putin is just in everyone’s head. There’s no evidence that actual votes have been hacked yet, but fear abounds — and that’s the goal.

Post-Election Violence. If the election is contested, it’s not hard to imagine street clashes, given the sporadic violence we’ve seen this year already — and the growing number of Americans who are heavily armed. Gun sales surged, especially among first-time buyers, this year during the coronavirus outbreak and then spasms of racial unrest. Who should you watch out for? Here’s OZY’s look at the American fringes

Missing Migrant Parents. The parents of hundreds of migrant children separated from them by U.S. border officials in 2017 and 2018 can’t be traced, it was revealed last week. The Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy also came up in Thursday’s presidential debate, with Trump deflecting blame to the Obama administration and saying the kids were “well taken care of.” If there’s one reporter whose work is responsible for making sure America doesn’t forget the pain and suffering of those families, it’s award-winning journalist Ginger Thompson. Read more about her on OZY

World of Horrors

Celebrating War Criminals. So you helped win a war or survived enemy torture? Big deal. If you killed innocent civilians and posed next to corpses, that’s what deserves recognition — or so nationalist leaders around the world seem to believe. To demonstrate unconditional support for the military, they’re pardoning and rewarding soldiers accused or convicted of war crimes. In April, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pardoned an army sergeant convicted of the murder of Tamil civilians. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has issued a commendation to a soldier who tied a Kashmiri man to his jeep and paraded him through a village. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have outsourced their fighting in Yemen and Libya to brutal mercenaries of the Darfur civil war. President Donald Trump has pardoned soldiers implicated in cold-blooded killings. Read more on OZY.

Unfriendly Fire: Demonstrators in Nigeria have been protesting the brutality of Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, aka SARS. This week, Nigerian police and soldiers fired at peaceful protesters in Lagos, killing at least 12, according to Amnesty International. A curfew has since been imposed in Lagos and other parts of the country. It’s unlikely the shooters will be held to account.

Telegenic Authoritarianism. Judit Varga, Hungary’s justice minister, has been called Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s “Charm Cannon,” and the 40-year-old mother of three relishes her role as the chief global defender of his authoritarian approach, which has Europe worried. She’s currently quarantining at home after testing positive for the coronavirus last week. You might be unconvinced by her argument that a recent law giving Orbán the power to effectively rule by decree isn’t a power grab, but she’ll keep at it. A former soccer player, Varga can juggle the ball 37 times with her feet, so don’t expect her to drop it anytime soon. Read more on OZY.  

Hong Kong Halloween: Halloween can have its political upsides too. Last year, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong used the occasion to don Halloween-themed masks at a time the city’s government had banned face coverings to make it easier to identify troublemakers. But today there are scarier specters hanging over the city, like this spring’s security law that makes nearly any action Beijing objects to a crime. Who will be doing the haunting in 2020?


Haunted Health

Who’s Going Maskless? Let’s face it: Public health experts say wearing a mask in public is critical to limiting the spread of the virus. But there’s one group that’s less likely to don the cloth: white people. Turns out they’re 30 percent less likely than people of color to wear a mask outside when social distancing is not possible. Democrats are almost three times as likely to mask up outside as Republicans, and women are far more likely to so do than men.  Read more on OZY

Scary Stats. In the U.S., COVID-19 hospitalizations increased in 38 states last week — with many facilities starting to become overwhelmed, particularly in the Midwest and West. You can track cases by state here, with the Dakotas and Montana in the most dire shape. Globally, European Union deaths are surging, while India and Brazil remain stubbornly high.

The Long Haul. We’re all excited about advances in the race for a vaccine, but there won’t be a magic day when we all go back to normal and stop being afraid that everyone around us carries an invisible killer. Experts predict that if no vaccine or cure is forthcoming, we will need to maintain social distancing measures into 2022 in the U.S. And if there is a vaccine, it won’t reach everyone in the world until 2024 because of logistical delays, according to the world’s largest vaccine producer.

skunk ape

Getting Spooked 

Swamp Thing: Oh sure, you know about Bigfoot — the most normal cryptid of them all. But the Skunk Ape is Florida’s own version of the huge, hairy man-beast, supposedly living it up in the Everglades with the alligators and the panthers. You could scan the trees (where the four-toed legend likes to hang out), or just visit the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, which is really mostly a gift shop and reptile exhibit with a nice vibe. Read more on OZY.

Bae From the Bay: The half-fish half-human Kaaiman of South Africa is particularly confusing given that its name is a homophone for a water-dwelling reptile. For decades, residents of the Western Cape have claimed sightings of this black-haired, red-eyed creature, said to have dragged people underwater — or at least lured them into the deep pools they supposedly inhabit and let their victims drown. To be fair, before Western mermaids were made all cute by fairy tales and Disney they were feared for leading sailors to certain doom.

Ohio’s Own Nessie: Yes, her name is Bessie. In the tradition of probably-fictional lake monsters from Scotland to Vermont, Lake Erie’s critter is rumored to be a gigantic aquatic snake thing. The first sighting was in 1931 — though that reportedly turned out to be a misplaced Indian python going for a swim. After the beast was crated and removed, locals kept seeing the monster. Some think the sightings are just imaginative people getting glimpses of giant sturgeon, but we want to believe. Read more on OZY.

Fright Flight: Four days after Christmas in 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 had almost reached its destination, Miami, when it instead smashed into the Florida Everglades. Though many passengers survived, 101 died, which at the time was the highest death toll for a single-plane crash in the continental 48 states. But weirder was the aftermath: Airline employees reported multiple hauntings from the dead crew of Flight 401, so many that some were threatened with firing if they didn’t shut up about the ghosts. One theory popular with paranormal researchers: Flight 401’s salvaged parts wound up on other planes, and with them the ghosts of its crew. Read more on OZY.

Quarantining With a Ghost: Is there anything worse than going on lockdown alone? Maybe: If there’s a ghost in your house. More than 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve seen or experienced a ghost, and some self-isolating during the pandemic have claimed their own house spectres have awakened them, shaken their windows or even found long-lost items for them. Paranormal researchers say they’re hearing way more reports than usual, though they concede that the spooky noises people are hearing may be normal house sounds they aren’t used to because they’re normally at work. 

A Snowbound Nightmare: In 1959, something happened to nine hikers making their way across the Ural mountains near Dyatlov Pass. It’s hard to be more specific than that: Everyone in the group died; many were found with mysteriously broken bones and one had a missing tongue. Conspiracy theorists have proposed explanations ranging from aliens to the Yeti to severe winds to a military experiment. A Russian government inquiry earlier this year blamed an avalanche — but most devotees of the mystery have accepted that we’ll probably never know the truth.  

If It Bleeds, It Leads: What if we were all vampires? While we won’t live forever (or stop eating garlic), regular people have been advised at certain points throughout history to drink blood — whether human or animal — in order to maintain their youth and vitality. New York slaughterhouses in the 1870s reported lurkers lining up for cups of cow blood, and everyone from the Romans to Louis XI to Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel has experimented with the scientifically unsupported practice. Read more on OZY.

Who Are the Creeps? WE Are the Creeps!: It’s one thing to be scared of monsters. It’s something else entirely to be the monsters that everyone is scared of. Would you be surprised to find out that it’s about more than just saying “BOO!” and hoping everybody just plays along? Well it seems to be, so we asked Mark Steger who played the Demogorgon on Stranger Things to give us a blood-stained hand in the art of terrifying people. Read more on OZY.

Taking a Whole Hour Just to Put On Your Face: It IS possible to do the whole monster thing while looking completely … normal — think Tony Perkins as Norman Bates — but if you want to avoid the whole serial killer thing and are just there for the theatrics? A Hollywood mask genius will help you learn how. Meanwhile, someone has to play the responsible adult. Kids may still want to dress up and go on parade, despite the pandemic, and since the CDC is urging us to wear masks, here are some fun, safe and scary ones to consider. Read more on OZY.

Halloween Genius!: If necessity is the mother of invention then the quarantine has been innovation’s grand dame. Nothing tickles our fancy more than the genius workarounds for a holiday for kids or our inner children. This year’s shining example is the elegant social distancing device invented by a Virginia engineer and his pediatrician-in-training wife: The PVC candy slide. Open the window, and down the chute into a trick-or-treat bag. Perfection! 

It’s All in Your Head: Half of what successfully makes the horrible horrifying is what happens in our heads. External stimuli are useful but what if instead of a haunted house happening around you, you were immersed in it. Well, that’s precisely how horror seems to be moving in the age of the quarantine. Believe it. Read more on OZY.

And for Staying Home, Cowering in Fear? If you just want some horrific entertainment, perhaps check out these on-screen horrors: 

Ratched, The Third Day, Ghosts in the Burbs (not for kids), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (also available in book form).

Other spooky reads? The new queen of horror (who happens to be an ex-intelligence agent), the man capturing ghosts on film and Mexico’s DIY paranormal tour.