At the end of January, I had the good fortune to spend a weekend in a real Cabin in the Woods. Several other geology graduate students and I thought it would be a brilliant way to spend our last weekend of winter break before Spring Semester classes started the following Monday.
The morning we were set to leave, one of my office mates pointed out that this forestry cabin we were all so excited about visiting was, in fact, a Cabin in the Woods. I suddenly had irrational fears that zombies would crawl out of the ground and try to kill us and that the world would end well before classes started on Monday morning. If you didn’t catch that reference, you have lived a sadly sheltered life.
As we drove for several hours to reach this magical cabin, I kept drawing parallels between Joss Whedon’s epic movie and our own adventure.
- We had three guys and two girls.
- We were going to a remote location without cell phone service.
- It was indeed a Cabin in the Woods.
- There was a creepy gas station along the way (unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – we didn’t see this one until we were on the way home).
Yes, I admit, not really enough for a normal person to get too excited about, but I am a Whedonite, and the minor parallels amused me. It became a running joke the whole weekend, especially when someone pointed out that none of us had any intention of having sex, so we were probably all safe from a cliched horror movie fate.
Two of us arrived before the rest of our party, and we were thrilled to go inside after a long car ride.
But the cabin was ice-cold.
This place was pretty ancient, though it had recently been remodeled by the forest service, so – no electricity, but we did have a giant propane tank by the wood shed and a wood stove oven to warm it up. They just don’t tell you that it takes about 2 hours before it’s comfortably warm (this is a thing I didn’t realize until my friend was chopping wood and I was hovering by the stove, waiting for the magical fire to warm my frigid bones). What can I say? I’m a city girl, and my family never owned a vacation cabin.
So, with only two of us in the cabin for a couple hours, I started to think about why cabins are as creepy as we seem to think. This particular line of thought was spurred when I convinced myself I could see a trap door under the rug in the living room. There I was, minding my own business, grading some geology 101 lab exams, and I let my eyes focus on the rug. I sat there starting at it for a few long minutes, until I was sure there was a door under it. My friend actually offered to lift the rug up and check for me, because I was glued to my seat. But did I really want to know the answer? If I didn’t look, I could eventually convince myself that there was nothing there. But if we did look, and there WAS a trapdoor leading under the cabin, would we have to investigate? Would I lie awake at night imagining that something would find it’s way up from the cellar? In the end, I decided ignorance was bliss.
But why ARE cabins so creepy? Why are they featured so often in horror films?
I am no psychologist, but here’s what I came up with. Cabins (especially those out in the woods or the middle of nowhere) can produce internal and external fears in a person. The internal fear comes from the overwhelming solitude one might feel if one thinks about how remote their location is for long enough. The external fear comes from the unknown – outside the cabin (or under it, in some cases).
It starts to get dark outside, you realize you’re alone, you can’t see what’s outside when the lamps are on, cell phone service is MIA, you are miles away from any substantial amount of civilization. You really are off the radar, cut off from the rest of the world. For some people, this is relaxing. For many others, it’s terrifying. These are the reasons cabins make such great horror story settings.
After we survived the night and my rational brain had taken over, we spent the rest of the cabin trip plotting someone’s demise, smoking cigars, hiking on ice, watching moose meander down the creek, playing games, and cooking delicious meals. It was a spectacular two days, and I highly recommend going on a cabin adventure if you get the chance. Forestry cabins are pretty cheap (I ended up paying about $25 for the whole weekend).