Have You Ever Really been So Scared You Could Not Scream?

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What's the most scared you have ever felt?

I'll tell you something I rarely tell anyone. One time, when I was about 10, I was so terrified I could not scream. It's important to understand that I had known fear many times before that particular night. I had all the usual frights of children - dark, spooky places, vicious dogs, that kind of thing. Plus, I had been regular witness to the kinds of violence and terror usually reserved for the nightly news. I had known fear that made me scream, cry, take flight, hide in the closet, all those things. Nothing, however, ever actually took my breath away.

What I saw that terrified me so completely was a ghost.

Now, let's get some things straight. I'm almost 4 decades removed from that night and I no longer believe in ghosts, aliens, or the Loch Ness Monster. When I was 9 and 10, every Friday night I would watch the creature feature on local TV. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man fascinated me, even made me want to imitate them on Halloween, but I was never scared by them. Also, my story is not worthy of even a made for TV movie. It was just a matter of a few seconds, really, but they were pure terror.

We had been living in this house a very short time. For reasons I did not understand at the time, we had literally moved in from another house just two houses down maybe a couple of months earlier. We moved often though, so I didn't really question it.

I shared a room with my younger brother at the time. I slept by the window. We were both asleep. He had the upper bunk. Something woke me up. Maybe it was the cold. I remember it was cold in the room, but I no longer remember if it was during the winter. I remember waking up and sitting up, feeling cold. Wondering why I was awake. I did not hear anything. The window was closed. That's when I saw the thing that literally struck me dumb. A hand reached through the window. Not a hand opened the window. The window remained closed and locked, with a screen on the other side. Nevertheless, a hand reached through. It was translucent, glowing softly, and all shades of blue and white. It reached in, only partially closed as it passed through the window, then opening as it reached in deeper. I could see the entire forearm when the hand was completely opened, fingers outstretched. Then it made a fist and pulled back outside. Nothing more.

Throughout the entire spectacle, I sat there in silence. Trying to scream. My heart beat so hard I could feel it, but I was unable to either draw breath in or exhale. I'm sure my face was white as the hand before me, and I know my eyes were as wide as they could go. However, the scream was stuck..then, it was over.

Did I scream then? I don't think so. I believe I abandoned my brother and sprinted from the room. I think I spent the rest of the night on the couch. I know I never told anyone about it for another 15 or 20 years.

That's the only thing I ever saw that frightened me in that house, though my brother saw something weird. There was an access to the attic crawlspace in our room. The cover was broken and ill fitting. It was bed time, but we had a light on. You could see the darkness of the attic space through one missing corner in the access cover. My brother in his upper bunk said he saw a rat looking at us.

"I saw a rat!" he told me, sotto voce. I got out of bed and looked, but could not see it. Rats, of course, have a terrible bite. I looked at him and told him I did not see it.
"There it is again!" his voice a hoarse stage whisper. My anxiety built, but I saw nothing. I looked away again.
Then, suddenly, he hopped down and screamed, so I screamed, and we both ran out. We ran, of course to mother.

When she asked what was wrong, she heard my brother saying he saw a man looking at us from the attic. A man, not a rat. No. Surely my mother heard wrong. I was sure he said "rat". How could anyone even imagine a man peeking at us through that little hole? I did not see anything that night, but I was 10, and frankly, fear is contagious. My brother was in full on flight mode, and I joined right in.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Maybe. Maybe you can extract something about terrorizing one patron to develop fear in the others.

I never told my mother about the "ghost", but later, I did ask her a question. I asked her whether anyone had ever died in that house that she knew of. I think now the reason we moved was the landlord had trouble renting it out.

She told me the man who lived there previously had snaked a rope through the access hatch and around a rafter. Then he hanged himself there.