If you ever were to ask my friends something distinctive about me, they’ll say my name is James and I’m known as somebody who’s almost impossible to scare. Despite this, I’m still a huge horror movie buff. The shelves in my living room are lined with nearly every horror movie known to man. That’s an understatement compared to how many I have downloaded on my computer.
After a while, I had watched every single horror movie I could get my hands on. I have been watching them since I was very young. My dad let me watch them to experience them firsthand in hopes that I would avoid them afterwards. It definitely scared me then, but I only grew more and more absorbed. Back then, movies like "Child’s Play" and "Night of the Living Dead" frightened me the most but ever since I was about twenty-two, there was almost nothing you could do to scare me. After a while, serial killers, cheap jump scares, and tales of ghosts got rapidly stale. I had to move onto movies that gave you a psychological feeling and creepy atmosphere, but even then, it wasn’t long until I grew out of it.
My family, as well as my buddies, Dewey and Scott, have tried everything to try and scare me. It worked when I was maybe like four to eight years old. But nowadays, there’s no chance. A couple months ago, they lent me one of those obscure French movies to watch which was actually quite well done and had an entertaining plot. Then they put on clown masks and decided to wait until I got home to watch it and started banging on the windows of my house. It didn’t really scare me but they thought it was pretty funny until one of them ran behind a tree once they heard the sound of my Remington cocking and they gave themselves up. Regardless of that stupid move, I thought it was pretty funny and a superb effort nonetheless.
A couple years ago, Scott even waited an entire four hours in my bedroom closet to try and jump out at me. I’ve never seen him so disappointed in his life. Still, I congratulated him on his dedication.
Dewey works at a classic old but quality video store. It has one of the largest movie selections I have ever seen. They are mostly dedicated to horror movies and VHSs in general and I’m sure the store has made a large profit from my frequent visits. Every time I go there, I ask him if he has any new strange movies in stock or if he’s heard about any on the internet. Somehow, this store has some crazy connections. At first I was buying banned unreleased foreign horror movies from countries I didn’t know existed to shady unlicensed films from all over the world that I wasn’t even able to Google. They were mostly a gamble, sometimes I’d get a terrible movie, sometimes I’d get an okay movie, sometimes I’d get a strangely cinematic and well written movie. Dewey is a real hippie, but he’s a good guy and I’ve known him almost my whole life.
After a while, it had been far too long since I watched a movie that had gotten close to simply making me feel somewhat uneasy. Longing for much more and something completely different, I had to ask Dewey to dig much deeper than he ever had in his entire life. I was on the verge of literally consuming illegal things to feed my amusement.
On a Sunday afternoon, I went to the video store and confronted Dewey just as he was about to close up.
“Hey! I found this old box that we never opened in the attic of this place. It seems like it’s got quite a few things you’ll like” Dewey said not surprised that I showed up.
“Dewey,” I said sternly. “You’ve gotta help me out here man. I’ve watched so many movies over the course of many years and none of them have given me as much as the willies. I’m desperate now. There are a select few that came close to getting a reaction out of me, but that’s not nearly enough.”
“Come on man, you still got a whole playing field. You gotta see some of these VHSs I’ve dug up. Some of them are in these weird cases like they’re fossils.”
“No, no. I mean I need something absolutely extreme. I’ve seen fan made films that have preyed entirely on every fear known to man from start to end. I’ve seen films so violent, I’ve questioned if they were real or not. I’ve seen films that made "Cannibal Holocaust" seem as fake as a "Sesame Street" show. Hell I’ve seen makeup jobs that would impress Tom Savini. Please, Dewey. Something’s out there that I haven’t seen yet. There must be. I just haven’t found it yet.”
Dewey let out a long sigh and remained pensive. After a few moments, he seemed to have an idea.
“Well. Hmmm there is one thing… I’m a little reluctant about it. But if you’re very sure man I’m not going to stop you.”
“I don’t care what it is. I doubt it’ll be nearly enough to make me budge. I’d kill just for one good scare. You know me, give me a challenge.”
“Huh. You know, I wasn’t really planning to do this.” Dewey seemed to have a look of uncertainty and doubt on his face but I just took it as another delay. He still seemed somewhat reluctant as if I really would have refused anything. “I’ll be right back. Stay here.” His usual mood of relaxed and calm quickly turned into dismay. He walked into the back room and closed the door behind him. I didn’t see him turn on the light nor did I see any light stream out the bottom of the door frame. For 10 straight minutes, there was no sign of him. I called back for him but there was no answer. I even checked outside the store to see if he had left just to mess with me but his car was still there. I walked around for a bit looking at a bunch of movies I’ve already seen in a challenging search for titles I have not yet seen. Some of the aisles literally looked like my shelf at home. Occasionally I would hear soft rubbing against the wall from the other side where the back room was. When I made my way back to the counter, Dewey was still nowhere to be found. No noises from behind the door, nothing. The same silence that follows when nobody is in the vicinity was present. I tried to open the door but of course it was locked. It wasn’t just locked, however, the door wouldn’t budge at all. The door knob didn’t even rattle. It was stone solid.
Just as soon as I debated leaving, the door knob slowly turned. I looked up and Dewey came out. He had a clear but tinted case the size of a video tape in his hand. When he walked over to me, I thought he was giving me the tape. He held it in both hands and spoke in the most serious tone I have ever heard from him.
“Here it is. Bro, I’ve seen this before about a few years back and I can tell you I never thought I would touch it for the rest of my life. This right here… is no joke. I wasn’t going to bring this up to you but you did say you wanted a challenge. Believe me when I say this man, this is the real shit. If this is a challenge, then I pray I will never have to see the impossible. Somehow it found a way to draw in your mind and make you hallucinate. It’s crazy stuff.”
“Alright Dewey, whatever you say,” I chuckled, completely dismissing everything he said.
Dewey held the tape case up to me. Before I could take it, he held a firm grip, “I’m not kidding with you on this Jim, you have to follow all of these directions. I’m serious, you may think this is a joke, but it’s not. First, you cannot show this tape to anybody or let anybody watch it with you. Second, DO NOT stop the tape part way through, rewind, or fast forward it. Let it play the entire way through until your VCR stops it automatically.”
Dewey’s face was the most sincere I’ve ever seen it. It wasn’t intimidating in the least but I could tell that he wasn’t going to back down and start laughing as if it was some stupid gimmick.
“And third finally… When you return this tape tomorrow, hand it directly to me. Do not give it to anybody else or drop it in the dropbox from outside. You will hand this personally to me. I will be here at 11am at the earliest. Promise?”
“You got it.” I said at the time with honesty. I thanked him and as I was on my way out, I saw the video tape had a label. It was written in what seemed like carmine red marker.
It read “James the Deceased”.
I looked up at him with a displeased look. “Really? Dude you’re an ass haha.”
“What? Why?” He said with a puzzled grin.
“Really?” I said holding up the tape.
“I didn’t do anything haha what’re you trying to put on me?” he replied.
I said goodbye, got in the car, and drove home. I live deep in the woods of Pennsylvania. It takes at least a ten minute drive to get to the nearest grocery store. But I don’t mind it. A lot of my friends think my house is pretty creepy even besides the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere. If you look outside, all you will see are trees, slopes, and maybe feint lights in the background from neighbors’ houses.
“James the Deceased” I thought. Get out of here. But thinking back to it, Dewey sounded a little too sincere to be joking around. Why would he play dumb for that long to a joke I already caught him with? Dewey also has never lied to me the entire time I’ve known him. He seemed pretty serious about the simple instructions he gave me but I was still going to adhere by them.
By the time I got home and sat down on the couch, it was dark. It was the perfect setting for horror movie time. As I went to open the video case, it was very difficult to open. When it finally gave way, the tape fell into the floor making a thud instead of a plastic “clack”. I picked it up and looked at it. There was no clear plastic on it to indicate how long the video would possibly run. Deciding to see what I was in store for, I sat down, turned the TV on, and put the tape in. I own an older box TV for a classic movie feel.
It began with a message in white printed letters on a black background. Strange printed letters unlike any lettering I’ve ever seen. It was nothing like Japanese, Russian, Arabic, or even Egyptian. Each letter appeared to have some type of symbolism behind it. It disappeared after three seconds so I couldn’t make anything of it. White English text appeared that read “James the deceased” for a moment and disappeared. Approximately twenty-three seconds passed by and nothing happened.
Suddenly, a loud banging sound came straight out of my TV. On the screen was a dark corridor with hollow arches for windows on the sides with a miniscule amount of light streaming out of them. It seemed taken from inside an ancient building of some sort. It caught me slightly off guard since oddly my TV wasn’t turned up very far. After viewing the screen for another 10 seconds I realized that it wasn’t just a picture. It was a video but it was very still. I wasn’t expecting anything but still attentive.
Out of the dark void ahead, a figure slowly came into the dim light. The very first distinct thing you could see was its face. It was a man. He looked straight into the camera, revealing the whites of his widened eyes. His face was still dark and it was grey. He had a big wrinkled nose and gnashed menacing rows of white teeth. He seemed quite enraged. Looking closely he had old thin hair spiking down his face. He stayed there, but very slowly he was coming closer. It was almost as if the camera was zooming in. The longer he stared into the camera, the stranger it started to feel. I had seen everything in previous movies and for something as plain as this, it was doing very well making it seem uncanny.
The shot cut to a white background. For five seconds, nothing happened until it started creaking open like a door revealing a pair of eyes out of the shadows very close up. Eyes widened and ridden with malice and insanity looking straight at me. The picture displayed in black and white but the pupils were very dark grey. The eyes seemed to have a very personal effect, as if they were looking at something or somebody. Something or somebody that they hated with full sincerity. I’ve seen the look multiple times in movies, but none of them were as heartfelt and true as this. I could tell it wasn’t just a glare of hate. It was a glare of incessant want to murder. The want to murder with bare hands. Watching it progressively sparked a morbid feeling. I leaned back in my couch at an angle. Something didn’t appear the same about the scene. I adjusted to a different angle. The eyes seemed fixated on me. I actually slid about two feet to the left. What happened next was very grim. The pupils followed in the direction I moved. I got up and walked over to the other side of the couch. The pupils changed direction again. Directly in the position that I moved. And no, it did not come off as one of those illusions where if someone makes eye contact with the camera, their sight follows you no matter what. These eyes moved the same exact time that I did. I couldn’t shake the displeasing feeling that the eyes of malice were following me. I sat back down and they were back to staring straight forward at me. They stared deep into my soul and beyond. I wasn’t scared at all, but I experienced quite discomfort because of how the eyes appeared so alive and responsive. Eventually, the scene cut to black.
Something hit the window to my right in the dining room. It sounded like an acorn or pebble was thrown at it. Thinking nothing of it, I continued to turn my attention to the TV.
With no warning, the face of the old man from the corridor popped up on the screen with the same white background. This time, he was uncomfortably close to the camera. He stared directly at me with his insane insomniac eyes and smiled with his sharp big white teeth. They seemed to be filed into points or partially broken at the tips. His gums were mostly black and disgusting. I could see that his nose was not only big but deformed. It looked as if it had been broken multiple times. His expression definitely changed in the slightest but noticeable way. He knew I was watching him. He also knew that I grew more and more uncomfortable as each second passed by. Not only did his feeling of satisfaction increase but his face began to change. Slowly but surely his face began to look more haunting. There was a tense and horrible ambience in the background. Sometimes certain noises were audible. Noises that sounded like someone screaming, things breaking, somebody weeping, and a deep sinister laugh accompanied by a higher pitched cackle. All of a sudden I started feeling like I was 7 years old again, able to be somewhat scared at a simple image. Just when I thought the man’s face would stop distorting and digging deep into my long lost fears, he kept getting worse. I watched in disbelief and fright as his face gradually became more and more horrifically gruesome. I didn’t know when it was going to end. Either it was going to go on until it couldn’t possibly become any more terrifying or the tape would end.
Eventually, after a long couple of minutes passed. The scene cut to black. That’s when I heard another noise at the window. This time, it sounded like someone was slowly tapping it with their finger. I looked over to see what it was. I couldn’t see anything despite the fact that there would still be just enough light to see something if it was pressed against the window. It has stopped right as I turned my head.
Peculiarly, the scene that came on next was an old home video. It was when I was five years old in my parents’ living room and it was Halloween. I remember watching it before. I couldn’t accurately tell what I was since the costume was unzipped and pulled over my undershirt down to my waist dragging behind me.
“What the fuck?” I said offended in disbelief. Why the hell was a old video of me on here?
My mother, the one holding the camera, said, “Why don’t you show me all the candy that you got?”
“Okay!” My five year old self hastily complied. I placed my plastic pumpkin full of sweets on the floor and began to take them out. But as soon my kid self started to display all the treats, I stopped. My eyes widened. I pushed on my couch sitting far back as possible, petrified. I couldn’t move because of what I had seen.
In the dark window out of the night’s darkness, behind my five year old self, appeared the man. The man with the same level of horror that appeared in his face just before the scene changed. Just as before, he looked straight at the camera. I froze instantly. This could not be happening. It is not going this far... My mom just kept filming me and we both didn’t notice. Part of me began to wonder if that face had been there on the original home video. It couldn’t have, that’s impossible. Cold chills came down my spine as the man’s eyes descended to my kid self. At this point, I just wanted to eject this damned tape out of my TV and scream at Dewey, but combining both of what Dewey had instructed me to do and the fact that this video was digging deep into my mind, I had to let it keep playing. As much as I didn’t want to continue, I didn’t want to allow any possible superstitious unholy circumstances to unravel. He stared for a good couple minutes still becoming more sinister looking. There were far more wrinkles on his face becoming more apparent because of the night shade. His face said everything. He had every worst intention on his mind while he smiled extremely wide at my five year old self.
The scene cut to black again after I pulled a live wolf spider out of the bucket.
A wailing burst of laughter came from the outside sending a violent shock throughout my entire body. It was enough to make me jump straight out of my couch in one single motion. I might have let out a short scream but I wasn’t too sure since the laugh definitely would have drowned it out. Outside the window, there was still nothing. Nothing, except a dark grey object that rapidly dashed out of view. Worst yet, it didn’t dash away from the window. It dashed towards another side of the house. But there was something very strange about the noises I heard outside my house. I couldn’t hear them with my ears as much as I could with my mind. I knew they were there, but they were in my thoughts like I was imagining them. I was already a little frightened.
I pressed on thinking that it couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong in almost an instant. A shot cut to a baby probably 4 months old in a crib trying to fall asleep. The shot wasn’t an old video camera. It was unusually cinematic. Looking at it for a few seconds, I recognized the fabric in the crib. The crib was in another home video I’ve seen at my parents’ house. It was my crib as a baby. That baby must have been me. It was not long until then, the same man from before slowly approached the crib into the dim light. Oh please God no. He was smiling down at the baby, appearing more fucked up than before. The man just stared down not moving. The baby began to notice him and started crying. He couldn’t take his eyes off the man’s face. Tears streamed down the baby’s face and he began to bawl even louder. He started kicking his feet never ceasing to cry. His cry continued to become more horrifying. The man just stared down at him still not budging. At this point, the baby’s cries were almost unbearable. It didn’t matter how low the volume on my TV was, the sound was blaring out of my speakers. In a split second, the man looked up and laughed hysterically and the camera sped toward his face. It didn’t zoom in, it leaned in. The shot cut to black and for a lightning fast moment, his face appeared outside of the God damn TV and five inches away from my face. OH GOD NO!
I looked outside, and a white face grinned at me from behind the window! He began tapping the window and I just sat there in fear, obviously giving away that I was spooked. He disappeared to the other side headed towards the door. He moved so inhumanly fast that he was nothing more than an anomalistic blur. I stood up on my couch, eyes following the figure towards the door. He began banging on the door sounding like an open palm. Three bangs at a time. I didn’t dare answer that door and hoped that I would never have to see his or her face again.
Looking back at the TV, there was red text in black background that read “STAY INSIDE”. After a few seconds, it cut to a video of me walking through the woods. The dark twisted ambience was still present. It was a shot of me walking in the woods last week. The camera was again set up in a strangely cinematic shot as opposed to a secret camera angled from a certain position. I sure don’t remember seeing any cameras on my last walk a week ago. Multiple angles were present. After two minutes, a shot displayed strategically placed to show a pit trap dug underneath the leaves as well as myself walking by. The trap was a deep hole that had sharpened sticks protruding out the bottom. I thought I was going to step in it and see some twisted way that I would die. But I had barely missed it. The scene cut back to the ancient building. The man stood much closer to the camera. He slowly made his way to the camera never shaking the same expression off his horrid face. In the background, an echo of a man laughing or crying hysterically could be heard. No matter how long I stared at his face, it still produced a never ending haunting effect. He then proceeded to take his grisly fist and pound. When he pounded, the sound of hitting glass sourced straight from my TV screen. Not the speakers, not from my mind, I could actually hear my screen being hit. He hit it three times. He opened his mouth extremely wide, hit it a fourth time making a shattering glass effect, and began to scream loudly echoing out from all directions. Suddenly, it shrieked from outside.
Instantly I looked outside and there were faces everywhere! Every window had faces just as fucked up as his. They glared furiously at me laughing striking deep within me. I couldn’t get the sound out of my head. My screams of fright were drowned out by the unbearable sound of insanity. I could hear a voice underneath the screaming repeatedly bellowing, “GET OUT!!!” and “OPEN THE DOOR!!!”
I didn’t know what to do besides sit there and feel completely terrified! This video didn’t just scare the living hell out of me; it was beginning to break me. I didn’t know if I could take it.
Before I knew it, the screaming faded quickly and there was silence. The screen on the TV was black. A low quality sound of a man moaning could be heard. Whoever was moaning sounded like they had been in agonizing pain for hours and it was only getting worse. The moaning continued for a terrible minute or two.
The man’s face appeared out of the dark and came straight at me high pitched screaming, eyes and mouth wide open. When he reached my face, the next thing I knew, I heard a *BANG!* on the floor and the man’s face was gone. My hands were on my face almost covering my eyes. The TV had fallen off the shelf onto the floor. The sound of static played at the same volume I had turned it to from the beginning. It took me quite a few moments to figure out what in God’s name just fucking happened. Slowly easing my way over to the TV, I lifted it up. I placed it down in fear of seeing another horrible image. The TV was just static. The VCR read “Stop”. The tape had finally ended. This tape didn’t just get me good, it got into my head.
I called Dewey. The time was 11:45. Surprisingly, he answered.
“Dewey… What in God’s name did you do to me?”
“Hey man relax! Is it over? I told you it was some extreme stuff.”
“Where the fuck did you get this tape?! I swear I’m gonna smash it.”
“Naw man! Calm down. I know how you’re feeling. Look, just give me the tape tomorrow morning. Everything will be fine I promise. When it ends, it ends. Remember what I told you.”
I hung up. Fuck that. I’m not letting this tape anywhere near me for the rest of my life. Not after what I just experienced. I had to get rid of it. Tonight. I placed the video back into the case and drove to the video store. The entire time, I couldn’t get the man’s face out of my head and the laughing while I drove through the pitch black forest. Every few seconds I could hear the laughing and the ambience in my head. Once I got to the video store, I dropped it in the dropbox. There was a silent echo as if something supernatural was watching me once I heard it fall in. I drove home and had a restless sleep.
When I could finally wake up fully, I walked out of my bedroom and retrieved my phone in the kitchen. It was 12:42pm. I couldn’t believe I had slept for that long or at least attempted to. That’s not what caught my eye, however. I had six missed calls, a voicemail, and 7 unread text messages, all from Dewey. They mostly consisted of him telling me to call him. And they were very alarmed and urgent. I opened his voicemail and pressed play. When I walked back into my living room, I dropped the phone…
“Hey man, just checkin to see if you’re okay. Uhhh, do you still have the… you know? If you do then no worries, it’s no big deal. Just return it to me as soon as possible okay? Preferably now would be great… Like right now…”
A tape had just been inserted into the VCR. The TV turned to static. The house quickly darkened. All light was gone. And outside the windows, nothing except dark nothingness could be seen. Then a black screen with indistinct white letters appeared. It read “James’s corpse”