I was working on an article for Coffee House Writers about an urban myth. You will read it next week, but I came to a part of the story describing the scream of the creature. Writing it teleported me back to a moment in the past where I had heard a shriek of my own.
I was living on a forty-acre farm in Davidsonville, Maryland. It was 3 am when this spine-tingling shriek shattered the morning and jolted me out of a dead sleep. The sound scared the crap out of me, and I immediately left the bed.
The prevailing thought in my mind after hearing that god awful sound was to check on my sons and make sure they were safe. Afterward, I started counting my pets to ensure they were all in the house too.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief, I then went around the house, making sure all the doors were locked. Ensuring the windows were closed and latched. Once I felt my home was secure, and everyone accounted for, I sat on the couch and tried to analyze the sound I heard.
Sitting on the couch there in the dark I learned about the power of fear of the unknown. I had heard a sound, and I immediately went into protective mode—first, my sons, then my pets.
We were inside the house, safe and sound. Why would a strange albeit spooky scream get me all worked up? I didn’t stop after checking the house, either. I was sitting in the dark still too wound up to sleep.
Going over different possibilities of what that sound could have been. None of them good. I first thought maybe it was a rabbit getting attacked by a Gray Horned Owl. It might have been a stray cat meeting its end in the darkness.
Quickly, my thoughts turned from mundane to the paranormal or supernatural. Maybe there was an unknown cryptid meandering around in those wooded forty acres. An urban legend comes to life, stalking my unsuspecting family and me.
You can’t tell I’m a writer, can you or that I write horror? My mind suddenly turned to wonder just how safe I was with in the walls of my home.
My beautiful open space house with all of its beautiful windows transformed by my fear into flimsy barriers.
Existing barriers that could no longer provide safety for my family and me from whatever horrible creature stalking us from outside. A scream swiftly evolved from a mere sound to a monstrous evil pursuing us.
I hurriedly pulled all the shades and blinds closed, separating us from whatever monster was observing us outside. I had worked myself up from a lousy scream to an evil monster slowly stalking us in a matter of minutes.
That is the power of fear of the unknown. I didn’t know what was outside. The noise it made scared me and filled my mind with crazy ideas of what it could have been. I would have been less fearful if I knew what it was. If I could have put a name to the howl – It was a Gray Horned Owl, that’s what it was.
I could sort through the information about what I knew about Owls and realize I was safe then I could sigh in relief. I could go back to bed – end of story.
Except I didn’t know what it was and so I was putting faces of monsters on that sound. It didn’t help; the unknown was killing me. I couldn’t see what was happening and I had to know what was out there.
So, while most people would run to safety, I would run back so I could know what it was. Strike that. I had to know what it was. I had to see whatever made that sound.
I never did, but it haunted me for days – the not knowing. Slowly, I worked past it. I was still a little jumpy for a few days after that, but I never heard that sound again.