Friday, October 21, 2011

Frightful Fridays: Rebecca Cantrell/Bekka Black

FRIGHTFUL FRIDAYS: Guest blogging today for Frighful Fridays is Rebecca Cantrell, author of the award-winning Hannah Vogel mystery series set in 1930s Berlin. She is also known as Bekka Black, iDrakula.


In honor of Halloween, I’d like to share the true story of the scariest moment of my traveling life.

In the summer of 1989 the man who would become my husband and I took a student trip to Egypt. We were on a shoestring budget, flying from East Berlin to Budapest (both still Communist, although barely) to Cairo.

After sightseeing in and around Cairo, we haggled our way onto a felucca to drift down the Nile to Luxor. It was beautiful and romantic, but not hygienic. On the last night of the boat trip, we each drank a cup of tea that we had watched boiling away on the boat. Surely, we thought, if the water had been boiled, it would be safe. I have a picture of my husband drinking the tea entitled “In the background, the temple of Kom Ombo, in his hand a lethal cup of digestive tract death, and on his face the blissful smile of complete ignorance.”

The next day, we hopped a second class train back to Cairo. And, well, you can imagine what happened. Within the next 48 hours I would lose ten pounds. I imagine if I was any older than twenty, I wouldn’t have pulled through.

As it was, every moment took on a sense of unreality as I wandered light-headed through the Egyptian summer heat near the train station. My husband realized that I would never last on a bus, so we splurged and took a cab.

We asked the cab driver to take us to a reasonably priced hotel with air conditioning (the only air conditioning of the entire trip). When we arrived, we didn’t even look at the hotel name, just stumbled to our rooms under eerie fluorescent lighting that flickered like a George Romero horror film.

It was far from luxurious, but the air conditioning did work as promised and we had our own toilet. My husband left me alone in the air conditioned splendor of the room and went to pick up film we’d left to be developed (this was pre-digital-film era). I collapsed on the bed and slept, my first good sleep since we’d left Berlin two weeks before.

And I must have slept very deeply. Too deeply.

I woke up when he came back, unlocked the door and brought our pictures and yoghurt and limes.

Sick and light-headed, we gathered our luggage and headed to the white-painted door. It shone brightly against the pale yellow wallpaper. Next to the door, on the inside, on the pale wallpaper, was a perfect human handprint. The handprint was reddish brown, each finger clearly defined. It smelled like blood. It looked like blood.

If it was blood, someone had opened the door while I slept, put a bloody palm against the wall, and vanished.

The hair rose on the back of my neck and my arms, and a chill ran down my spine that had nothing to do with the air conditioning.

We followed the blood smears on the wall and the drops on the floor to a darkened staircase, which I refused to go down, and I wouldn’t let my husband go down either. I didn’t know who or what waited down there, but we were too sick and weak to face it. Instead, we told the hotel staff where to find injured person and left.

As the cab pulled away to the airport, I read the name of our lodging in the rear view mirror. It was called…The Everest Hotel.

What’s the spookiest thing that ever happened to you while traveling?


Bobbi Mumm said...

Rebecca, I read "A Trace of Smoke". Loved it, loved it!!

The hand print story is really creepy.

The scariest thing that happened to me while traveling is, when working as an au-pair in Paris, I was in a museum washroom and a woman came up to me and shoved her pet it my face. It was a sewer rat. It didn't touch me but it was horrible, all the same.

For another great hand print story there's the short story, The Painted Door, by Canadian literature great,Sinclair Ross.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Bobbi! And thanks for the link!

It was definitely creepy. I don't think I've slept that soundly in a hotel room since. I'm always on edge.

A sewer rat right by your face. That'll make you jump. :)

Happy Halloween!

Charlie said...

It was November. After a badddd Thanksgiving with too many relatives, I went on a walk-about solo in Western Kansas. The road was an empty two lane road full of brilliant sun, blue sky and land that went to the horizon. It was bitterly cold.

I rounded a bend and came upon a one room schoolhouse. It was surrounded by a barb wire wire fence, decorated with glass insultors which caught the sun like they were formed of ice. I blinked. The school house door opened and kids poured into the school yard. I blinked again. They were gone.

I drove off quickly and went back home. I figured the relatives remaining were the lesser of two evils.

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

Yikes! That's a scary story. I woke up one night in my house thought I heard the cats, but found a strange guy in my living room. I asked him if he was planning on hurting me. He said, "No." So I pointed to the door dramatically and told him to leave. He did.

But the bloody palm print story is scarier.


Matt said...

If that's true, that's the single scariest thing story I've ever read

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Definitely creepy. Relatives are often better than the ghosts of schoolchildren. But not always.

Thankful you got back!

Rebecca Cantrell said...


I think your story is much scarier! The guy was RIGHT THERE. I was scared afterwards, but really the danger was greatest before I woke up and saw the print. Still, *shudder*

Glad he left you in peace!

Rebecca Cantrell said...


It's true! You know how horribly honest I am. I even have the diary entries from the time. Creepy!