Red (a Ghost Story)

“So there’s this ghost story that I heard at Mock Trial state, and… it goes something like… There’s a man who checks into this hotel, and… he’s there alone.  So every night he’s there he goes down to the bar, and while he’s sitting in the bar, having a drink… he observes… up at the counter… he sees the back of this beautiful young woman.  And… he keeps trying to muster up the courage to go talk to her, but as soon as he’s close… uh… she just… goes away.  So he’s keep trying every night and every single night he sees the same beautiful woman and he keeps… trying to bring up the courage to go talk to her.  But she leaves every single time… he’s supposed to go talk to her.
So at night when he retires to his room… he… hears a scratching… at the door.  He wakes up… and he asks, “who’s there?”  But nobody responds.  So… he goes up to the door and looks through the eye hole… and all he can see is red…  There’s nothing there but the color red.  He finds this… kinda odd so he just goes back to sleep.
Uh, when he goes back to the bar he sees the woman again, same chain of events occur… he’s back at his room that night… hears the scratching again.  He looks at the eyehole, asks “who’s there?” No one’s there… it’s JUST the color red.  So the next day… he goes back to the bar… and he sees that the girl is gone.  So he goes up to the bartender and says… “Where’s that girl who sat here every night,  I really wanted to talk to her.  And… the bartender is like… “Oh… um… you mean that young woman?  Well… she left… but there was something really really odd about her.”  And the man asks, “what was that?”  And the bartender says… “Her eyes were colored red.”

My sister heard this story from a friend on a car ride back from a mock trial competition.  She and her friends were sharing scary stories when it was around evening.

My sister was particularly disturbed by this story and claims to think about/dream about it for the remainder of the day and night she hears or re-tells it.  She says that the thing that scares her the most is the connection between the girl’s eye color and the red that the man sees through the eye hole.  The catch is that every night she was here, the girl was peering through the eye hole, watching the man.  She says the thought of being watched in places of supposed privacy frightens her.

When I first heard the story, my first thought aabout the color red was that this either represented a trait of the man or the girl.  I thought that the color would imply something sexual about the story, so I was surprised that the association was quite literal – that the girl’s eyes are red and so when she went to watch the man it covered the eye hole’s view with red.  The story was not as disturbing for me, probably because I was expecting some form of bizarre twist when I had the conversation with the informant, and it was outdoors and fairly light.  The place in which this piece is performed is important. My sister heard this story during the evening in a car – the cramped and dark environment probably contributed to how the story impacted her.  However, I do agree with her on the frightening prospect of being watched without knowing.  I think the element of having the man “watch” the girl without knowing the girl was watching him all along helps emphasize that twist and underlying fear in the audience.

I also noticed that my sister learned this from a high school classmate and was performed in a group of high school students.   I think that the story is scary for high school students because privacy is something adolescents value a lot.  Although adolescents use things such as social networking and are pretty immersed in an environment of disclosure, they also want a certain extent of privacy for their own thoughts.  I feel like high school students like the informant worry about surveillance because they understand how the world they’re growing up in is becoming more and more transparent (partially because of their own practices).

In my opinion, this story shares similarities with other scary stories involving being watched.  The main recurring elements in the story (the girl and the red behind the eye hole) are kept mysterious throughout the entire story – at the end, another character/informant makes the terrifying connection for both the main character and the audience.  But the girl doesn’t really come across as a ghost to me.  She has an unusual characteristic and doesn’t actually speak to the man, but the story itself doesn’t explicitly call her a ghost.  So I find it interesting that my sister calls this a ghost story.