We’re intensely critical of people in horror films and books. We’re always saying things like, “Why is he stopping here when he knows it’s haunted?” Or, ”What a moron, why is she walking into the basement right after she heard that noise?” And yet, part of the fun of the genre is that it could happen to people just like us. So here’s our treat of tricks for you: travel wisdom accumulated from watching horror movies.
#1. When you’re checking into a hotel and the clerk tells you that you have the whole place to yourself as no guests have arrived because of the storm, three things:
a. This is not, contrary to the implication, good news.
b. It is possibly slasher-speak for “Your guts will be strung from the ceiling fan tomorrow.”
c. If the clerk doesn’t blink during this entire conversation, turn around and leave.
#2. If twin girls wearing blue dresses approach you in a hotel corridor asking you to play, throw your tricycle at them and run.
#3. Dolls are bad news. But if you do encounter one on your travels and have made the error of engaging with it, don’t throw it away. You will not be able to handle it when it comes back. And it will. Just build it a doll house, keep it happy, and keep all pointy objects out of reach.
#4. If you find your friend’s severed head in the fridge the next morning at a weekend resort, it is perfectly acceptable to leave immediately. There should be no ambiguity on whether you should wait around to see if more people die. The answer is yes.
#5. You’re travelling in a group, and someone says, “Let’s swap ghost stories after dinner.” Enthusiastically agree and promise to bring the booze. Then, lock her in her room and shift the party to yours.
#6. No matter what you hear, never look behind shower curtains that were drawn shut before you entered. In general, it’s a good idea to just avoid bathrooms with shower curtains.
#7. Nothing good ever came from unscheduled stops at towns you can’t find on a map.
#8. On a trek, if someone says, “I think we’re lost,” it’s safe to assume you’re not going to be alive to watch the rest of the Game of Thronesseasons.
#9. If that person also says, “Hey look, an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, let’s go rest a bit,” just kill him now. Save the resident demonic presence the trouble.
#10. If taxis at the train station refuse to take you to the hotel, stating categorically that it is haunted, quit being a control freak and believe them.
#11. Caretakers who appear more than a 1,000 years old usually are just that.
#12. Do not watch video tapes that have been left behind in hotels. In the spirit world, this is seen as an invitation to long-haired Japanese women to crawl out of your television set.
#13. If whatever you plan to do in your hotel room in the middle of nowhere involves handcuffs, you’re just asking for a haunting.
#14. If your hotel room number is 666, this is not a clever joke or a funny coincidence. Demons have no sense of humour. Poltergeists maybe, but not demons.
#15. If the animals leave, you should follow. Unless they’re called Cujo.
#16. If you hear children giggling in the dark, and they aren’t yours, put your noise-cancelling headphones on and hug your crucifix.
#17. It is not, under any circumstances, okay to be pleased if the stereo in your rental car switches on and off on its own. Especially if it plays songs you like.
#18. If you spot a clown in the vicinity, leave immediately. This should be true even when you’re not travelling.
#19. Don’t make out in a graveyard. Don’t be that person.
#20. If the children in the town you’re stopping at don’t smile at all, run.
#21. If you stop at a town called Desperation, all bets are off.
#22. If there is more than one mirror in your hotel room, at some point, someone’s going to come out of one of them.
#23. If you see a white haze around your husband in the vacation photos, leave him immediately. You’re going to do it much later anyway, after this really angry spirit – that he cheated on you with and killed – haunts the living daylights out of you.
#24. Never try to save the world. Because:
a. You could die.
b. You could die.
c. You could die.
#25. And last, always, always, walk AWAY from a strange noise in the dark, not towards it.
Sejal Mehta is a writer and editor. She is consultant editor at Marine Life of Mumbai, and writes about science, wildlife, travel, fiction and is a published author of children's books. Her past work includes Lonely Planet Magazine India, National Geographic Traveller India, Nature inFocus.