Editor’s note: Many of us have freaked out when working late and alone. I remember hearing some weird noise at the former Ziff towers while editing a World of Warcraft cover story — and walking around the office, Xacto-Knife in hand, to see what that noise was. Andy describes a similar, Dead Space-inspired freak out he had last year. -Jason
It’s late October 2008. I’m a big fan of Halloween (it’s more important a holiday than Christmas or New Year’s, for sure), so I’d been watching a lot of scary movies to prepare for October 31. As detailed in my last blog, I’d been playing (and had been terrified by) Dead Space.
At this point, I’m about three-quarters of the way through the game. On this specific Sunday night, I was working a night shift for a sick coworker. As anyone who’s worked in journalism can attest to, being the page designer on a daily newspaper after 10 p.m. is a very stressful job, as the printing of the next day’s edition (and the whole thing looking halfway decent) is all up to you. I’m alone in the office, my stress level is already fairly high, and I’ve had images of Necromorphs (the Big Bads from Dead Space) ripping off my face and piloting my lifeless body around Houston like a tiny horrific cowboy.
Great time for the office to be pitch black, isn’t it? See, we’re a fairly progressive office that’s big on saving energy. All of the lights in the building, save for the bathrooms, are on motion sensors. You walk into a sector of the building and all the lights there come on. You stop moving for a few minutes (or leave that area), and they turn off. Since I’ve been sitting at my desk for a few hours now without getting up, every light on the sixth floor is off.
Until they turned on.
One by one, starting on the opposite side of the building. Our office runs in this little half circle with a donut of glass in between, so we can see what’s happening on the other side of the floor. That was where the lights came on first. No one had come up the elevator, and I know for a fact that I was alone, as no one else had keycards allowing them in on Sunday nights. The lights just turned on. As if something moved. Something I couldn’t see. Something, perhaps, dragging itself on the ground?
I saw the first lights come on and got scared. I texted my wife and then did the only thing a sensible 25-year-old living in 2008 would do. I took to Twitter.
Andyphifer: Dead Space is making me see Necromorphs in the office. Freaking terrified, kinda. 30 minutes ago from web
Andyphifer: Oh shit. All the lights on this floor just came on. They’re motion sensors!!! 13 minutes ago from web
Andyphifer: Oh God. 7 minutes ago from web
Andyphifer: First the lights on the other side came on. Then the ones in the middle. Then the ones on my side. Then the ones right next to my desk. 4 minutes ago from web
Andyphifer: LIKE SOMETHING IS MOVING THROUGH THE OFFICE! 3 minutes ago from web
Andyphifer: JESUS CHRIST! A RADIO JUST TURNED ON SOMEWHERE! less than 5 seconds ago from web
Andyphifer: Can someone do this for me? http://tinyurl.com/pastrip less than 10 seconds ago from web
From Penny Arcade
When the lights came on in my area, I was terrified, excited, and almost laughing. I knew it wasn’t real. I’m a grown man, damn it, and I wasn’t going to be frightened by these lights. Necromorphs aren’t real. And if they are real, they’d be in space, so they couldn’t be in my office. Right?
It didn’t matter. I was still terrified. I was convinced that the Necromorphs were in my office, ready to rip me to shreds and use the pieces of my body as spare parts for their horrific machinations. I just knew I was dead. I was about to live out the greatest fear from my favorite horror film, made even more terrifying in glorious, bloody HD — I was going to be taken over and used as a vessel for evil, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it from happening.
I never found out what caused the lights to come on. No one ever appeared in the office, and I’ve never seen this happen again. Eventually, all of the lights turned off again, and the radio stopped playing. I stayed at work for another hour, but I never got up and walked around trying to find out if something was really there. I was too scared.
When the radio turned on in a cubicle near me, I almost peed my pants. I could hardly control my fear anymore, honestly. The crazy part was, it was so much fun, and I couldn’t help but make a little joke at my own expense about it, digging up an old Penny Arcade strip about casting demons out with the Necrowombicon.
And that’s what’s so great about movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and games like Dead Space. The horror, the fear, the sheer terror created by them can scare your pants off, but it can be so much fun in the process that that fear runs side by side with a sense of glee.
We like to be scared. We like that moment when the monster pops out and makes you gasp, only to remember that it isn’t real, that you’re still in the movie theater or on your couch and everyone else was just as scared as you. Then, you chuckle, and maybe you glance at the person next to you as if to admit you were both tricked, just for a moment.
And really, isn’t that what’s so great about Halloween? First the trick, then the treat? After all, “That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian — it’s Halloween.” — Orson Welles, in his final line of the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds.