fear creepsRoll the scary music. Woooeeeee woooooohhhh. What is there about the eerie haunted houses, zombie-like ghouls, and spine-chilling Halloween tales that creep us out so much?

I vividly remember one of my most frightful nights as a preteen. My parents were out with friends on a Saturday night, and my two older brothers and I were in the family room tuning into the 10:30 TV show Creature Feature. Woooeeee woooooohhhh.

Somewhere about 20 minutes into the first horror story episode, when the hideous creature was about to pounce, fear gnarled at my heart. I stifled a scream and instantly turned to my brothers for reassurance and strength. Ugh. They were sound asleep! What??!! In my rising panic, they were pathetically passed out.

So much for big brothers always protecting you from the boogie man, or in this case, a televised terrorizer. Although my memory is a bit fuzzy on how I survived that televised abhorrence, I think I scrambled to my feet and cranked the TV knob to another channel.

Fear hauntingly creeps up and creeps us out when we least expect it.


Visiting a Real Ghost Town

In the summer of 2016, friends and I visited one of Colorado’s most popular ghost towns, St. Elmo. Founded in 1880 at 9,961 feet in the Sawatch (reminds me of Sasquatch) mountain range just southwest of Buena Vista, St. Elmo flourished as a bustling mining town of some 2,000 folks. With over 150 patented mine claims for gold and silver around St. Elmo, the Denver, South Park & Pacific railroad laid tracks through St. Elmo as a hub town for supplies. In 1922, the railroad abandoned the tracks and it’s said, “St. Elmo’s population rode the last train out of town and never came back.”

The Stark family, who owned the post office, telegraph office, general store, and Home Comfort Hotel, were the last residents to leave St. Elmo in 1958. Most of these well-weathered buildings still stand today, and ghost-town tourists find plenty of snacks, drinks, T-shirts, and souvenirs in the St. Elmo General Store. (There are also treats to feed the local chipmunks. Alvin would be proud.)fear creeps

During our summertime traipsing through St. Elmo, I photographed a number of scenes, including these images of the old hotel, post office, and nearby cemetery. Wait. Was that a person looking out that window? Did you see that flash of a women’s scarf flutter past? Wait. What was that weird sound?

Fear hauntingly creeps up and creeps us out when we least expect it.

Trust me. I know all too well that there are forces of darkness in our world. Personally, I have personally encountered witch doctors and witches in my journalistic work. I know that Satan, as the Bible says, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Gulp. Evil is real. But so are our fears.

Fears Bolted in Our Mind

May I suggest that some of the most haunting moments in life are not when we tune into Creature Feature thrillers or tour a spooky ghost town, but when we listen to the fears bolted into the intimidating cages in our mind? “The doctor is running tests, I just know this is cancer. . . .Our teen kids are now driving, what if they get in an accident? . . . My finances are shot. What if I can’t pay the mortgage and buy groceries? . . . My spouse keeps lashing out, what if he can’t control his anger? . . . Our world is so messed up, I’m afraid to trust anyone anymore.”

Fear can be unending. Fear is not bashful about reproducing more fears and spawning a horde of anxiety, doubt, and worry. Descendants of fear include dread, uneasiness, distress, and faintheartedness. Any of these fear relatives can become unwelcome squatters in our mind and we may not even notice they’ve put down roots.

Stop. Stand up. Switch Off.

fear creepsSo what’s a recovering fear-aholic suggest? Stop and confront those fears head on. Don’t cower in intimidation. Don’t gather munchies for your own pity party. When you’re feeling particularly anxious or unsure or jumbled in your decisions and emotions, put an end to those fears by writing them down or typing them out. What’s bugging you most? Are any “what ifs” wigging you out? What unknown bumps in the night are keeping you from peaceful slumber? How are you setting up camp for your own ghost town in your mind? Are you feeding the chipmunks there?

Stop. Stand up. Switch off the creeped-out thinking. Consider enlisting the help and wise counsel of others who can walk and talk you through your most frightening jitters. Because even I know that although sleeping loved ones can’t always rescue you from hideous fears, you can learn to change the channel.