Scary Stories to Tell in the Decently Lit Fluorescent Lighting of a Hotel

Horror fans got a head start on Halloween at a telling of real-life paranormal experiences. Master storytellers recalled various times they had personal access to life beyond the living during the panel on Saturday at 8:30PM in Courtland Grand Athens.

Alex Matsuo started the night with her telling of a near-death experience. After a car accident where she ended up in the hospital with serious injuries, she had an intense out-of-body experience. When she came back to her body, she found herself stuck with a spirit horribly upset about the fact that she got to live while he didn’t. She spent eight months being followed this spirit who would ask her, “Why are you not me? Why are you not me? Why did I die and not you?” It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear and terrifying for Matsuo to live through.

Richard Estep then told the story of his hero and dear friend Kyle. Kyle was a 23-year-old who battled bone cancer for over 13 years and, despite spending most of his life in the children’s hospital beating his cancer into remission multiple times, had an infectious and inspiring attitude about life. Through all of the pain, he stayed positive; he told Estep of the other children in the ward who passed and would visit him to let him know that at the end, everything is going to be ok. Estep’s conversations with Kyle really helped him put his own life into perspective—a rough day at the office is really nothing more than a hassle. Estep’s experiences with Kyle left the audience inspired, with one member yelling out appreciatively, “I came here for scares not tears.”

Lisa Shackleford then took the helm and reminded us exactly why it’s perfectly ok to not go looking for Big Foot. After a chilly 2am expedition seeking out our famed friend (she could have just checked at Dragon Con…maybe), she was driving away from her search site with her colleagues. While driving in the absolute middle of nowhere with no other living soul in sight, the passengers could hear a repeated tap on the side of her car that sounded like little hands—the passengers could feel the car being pushed towards the river they were passing so they stopped to investigate. While inspecting the outside of the car, whatever force was there attacked them by throwing rocks at them. They noped out of there because what else are you going to do?

Joshua Cutchin then told his story of a spirit who visited him (read: haunted him) in a dream who called himself Xibalba which roughly translates to “place of fright.” He told Cutchin to leave some black licorice in a cabinet for him and upon waking Cutchin had to decide if he was going to. His deciding factor – would he be mad at a character he was writing for not putting the licorice in the cabinet? Of course he would so following the demand was the only answer. As soon as he did, Xibalba left him alone.

Erika Lance ended the storytelling with her recalling of her childhood invisible friend Charlie. Lance emphasized that children saw things adults lost the ability to and these invisible friends were not to be mistaken for imaginary friends. The details children are able to gleam from their invisible friends are often too specific to just be imaginary—these invisible friends are observant and very active. During Lance’s childhood, her friend Charlie would often cause her to get in trouble with his actions. Charlie would pull photos off the wall and throw her hangers off of clothing rods while she was asleep and to a parent, the only reasonable explanation is that Lance did it. Eventually Lance stopped seeing Charlie. One day while she was visiting family, her niece (who knew nothing of him) brought Charlie up. When prodded for further information, Lance’s niece said Charlie was always with her making sure she was ok.

All five panelists left the audience with a feeling of wonder about the unseen parts of the world; not all paranormal experiences are scary and not all spirits aim to haunt. You can find out more about the panelists’expansive experiences in their books—exactly the real-world paranormal reading you need to get you ready for Halloween.

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