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Creeps, Eccentrics and Maniacs: Celebrating Art That’s on the Edge

December 16, 2022
My daughter wearing a snake as a hat.

Aside from posting the odd holiday greeting, I don’t spend much time on my personal Facebook page. I do, however, post on my author page pretty frequently. It’s a place where I can share pictures of locations I’m scouting for various scenes in a novel, poll readers, and reach out in a personal way to fellow writers and story lovers about the creative life…or just life in all its haphazard glory. If you’re not already following me on Facebook, I do recommend it. I try to offer something for everyone every day, and we have a lot of fun there.

Especially on Tuesdays.

Tuesday, on my Facebook author page, has been dubbed “Creepy Tuesday.” Every Tuesday morning, I post at least one creepy, arty photo or image. That may seem a bit odd, since I’m not a horror writer, per se, even if I do have a lot of respect for the genre. I’m not exactly a paranormal writer either, although there are plenty of ghosts and various woo-woo boundary crossings in my work. But I have a huge love of the weird, the outlandish, and yes, the creepy. Honestly, I could seek out and post creepy pictures every day of the week, but it might give readers the wrong idea about the kinds of stories I write. So, proportionally, I give my love of creep the one day a week I feel it deserves.

Artist Omar Rayyan

But here’s where I should be clear about how exactly I define such an esoteric concept – this notion of creep in the art and literature we consume.

To me, creepiness is much broader than it would seem, at least on the surface. It’s not just eerie, ominous, weird or macabre. Creeps and creepy images, concepts, and stories are zoetic and always in motion. I mean that literally. The very nature of a creep is to…creep. To move slowly, stealthily across boundaries. To reveal possibilities thought out of reach or out of bounds.

But buyer beware! Such things, while unquestionably exciting, are wrought with dangers and we are best not to forget that as we enjoy them.

As an idea or an individual, a creep will inevitably gaslight you into normalizing their casually deviant behavior. Because it is in their very interest and character to blur edges, fudge over once hard lines of demarcation, leaving room for interpretation or misinterpretation, often making you doubt yourself.

Exploitation is the darkest side of creepiness, and one we should avoid at all costs.

For an artist, however, creepiness is sublime.

Twisted Trinity by Sadan Vague

When introduced via a creative endeavor, creepiness can expand our understanding of a thought, an impression or an emotion, often turning our preconceptions upside down. It can inspire unpleasant feelings of dread or disgust, but also entice us into wonder, lust, even euphoria. Just as quickly, it can round the corner and invite us into an experience of true psychological terror – not of others, but ourselves. It is the visual equivalent of a psychedelic drug, capable of producing an extraordinary conscious experience, touching the stranger, the strangeness within us all.

Artist Unknown

The creep factor, as I like to call it, has the power to make us feel vulnerable and anxious about our own state of mind, showing us, perhaps, that we are not as predictable as we might think in our appetites and even behaviors. It rings the bell of self-awareness loudly and abruptly, showing us glimpses of circumstances under which we would taste of the wrong fruit, make love to the wrong man, even kill.

Yet creepiness also winks at us, dares us to dream, putting together people, objects, places and emotions that rarely get to play in the same arena. At least not publicly. It is a mix of the indulgent, the candid and the audacious that is worthy of a Russian novel. Or a cacophonous, delirious fever dream that appears inscrutable.

Photography duo SH Sadler

This level of head-fuckery, if you’ll pardon my creepy, out-of-school language, opens the door to seeing ourselves anew: the awkward young woman becomes the temptress, the raw and slimy thing found under a rock becomes a delicacy, the performer, in laying himself bare for his audience, becomes a star.

When put this way, perhaps I was a bit hasty when I estimated that creepiness deserves only one day a week for me to celebrate. That it is but a small piece of the way I view a story, the way I approach building a fictional world.

Maybe creepiness is the core aesthetic that gives birth to all of my thrillers, histories, and romances. Even my essays on family lore. It is the conduit, the elixir, the wrinkle, and the spark. It is the lens through which I see beauty.

Maybe creepiness is everything.

Artist Guillermo Lorca Garcia

And here’s a sample of my own sense of creep and how it plays out…

Of Sand and Bone (excerpt)

By Yours Truly

London, 1902

I do realize that, to the residents of Whitechapel, the Ripper murders are more than a sensational news story. Jack the Ripper preyed on their own, and filled their streets, already pitiable and dangerous, with the specter of horror and evil. I look at the spot on the ground where Annie Chapman fell, her body thumping against the fence and causing a neighbor to call out in concern.

“You must have been very young when it happened.”

“Oh, aye. But you never forget something like that. Especially when you done seen the devil who did it.”

I turn to my guide, as my jaw drops open. He stands staring at the same spot that had mesmerized me. For a moment, I see him as the little boy Lieutenant General Blackwood described. The one he spoke to shortly after poor Annie’s grisly murder.

“That was you?” I ask him. “The boy who saw a man rush away from the scene.”

“Aye, it was,” he tells me. “Only he wasn’t rushing. He walked away from Miss Annie and past me like he was strolling. And when he looked at me, I knew. I knew demons are real and that I’d seen one.”

“Eyes of fire. That’s what you said, isn’t it?”

“Aye. Almost like coal aglow, you know? Except more like the color of a-pricots.”


“Mm. Never ate one, but always wanted to. I seen painted pictures of ‘em though. You know, they was temptin’, too, The Ripper’s eyes. That I’ll tell ya. The way a demon’s eyes would be. Temptin’ and beautiful. I still can’t sleep at night from the nightmares. I just go out wanderin’ from place to place on most nights. Walkin’ the girls home, like I told ya.”

He rubs his bloodshot eyes and sniffs. The smell of him may very well fade from my memory, but the pain and terror in his voice never will. It’s still fresh, as if he saw The Ripper only yesterday.

“Seems like you need some sleep. Why don’t you go home? I can make my way alone.”

“Oh, no, I’ll be walkin’ ya,” he says with a truly sweet smile. “I don’t ever leave no lady alone here. Especially one who don’t belong, and who ain’t no cousin of Annie Chapman neither.”

As we walk, I pepper him with questions about the man he saw, but having been so captivated by the killer’s eyes, it’s all he speaks of. While he does, his voice raspy and aquiver, I start to fade away, feeling like a ghost within my own life. A sense of dread stirs deep in my belly.

All at once, I can see the shadowy moments just before Annie’s murder, as if they’re right before me. The killer, dressed in shabby elegance, is talking to her. He turns, the way he did towards the young Irishman when he was a boy, and I, too, see The Ripper’s eyes. The eyes of a burning sunset, of the ripest apricot. Eyes so deeply familiar that I nearly cry out.

The Ripper’s hand, dark and slender, reaches out to me. I hear his breath. “Help me,” he says.

  1. Deb permalink

    You outdid yourself with the creep factor. Quoting Radiohead would make my 37-year-old son worship at your feet. I don’t know why I am not part of your Facebook group. Especially if you have a creepy Tuesday. And wondering why you never invited me. I will have to think of a suitable punishment. I tease. Your Ripper scene was marvelous. I loved your sentence, “Her body thumping against the fence.” Now that is creepy V. I could feel it! The artwork you chose for this column was fantastic. I feel like I got an early Christmas present. Warm holiday wishes, my friend. Nothing creepy about that.

  2. Happiest of Holidays to you, too, Deb. Hope you’ve joined for Creepy Tuesday.

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