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Scott Woods: Horror Movies That Could Happen in Columbus

Alien football players, murderous developers, the terror of gentrification and other plausible scary-movie scenarios

Scott Woods
Columbus Monthly
Ohio State dorm Morrill Tower (right) was briefly the home of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. (Columbus Dispatch photo by Doral Chenoweth III)

As we round the corner on the spookiest season of the year, not to mention the most vibrant autumn in several years, everyone has Halloween on the brain. For once it looks like trick or treat weather will hold. Even if it doesn’t, we can all do what we’ve been doing for the last two years: retreat into our homes and curl up to a horror movie.

Being a horror aficionado, I’ve already delivered my annual list of Halloween picks for the general public. However, we still have some time on the clock, so here’s a similar list, but with movies that could happen in real life in Columbus, Ohio. Put on your OSU jersey and carb up on a handful of chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes, because things are about to get real hairy.

“The Amityville Horror” (1979)

Two words: Thurber House. Their claim to fame outside of awarding the American Prize in Humor every year is that their main offices are in James Thurber’s old house, which is purportedly haunted. I will state from personal experience that A) a weird thing did happen, which I then investigated by B) spending the night there. And how did a ghost generate in Thurber House? A self–inflicted fatal gunshot kill in 1904. This one has a 50/50 shot at being real right now.

“The Faculty” (1998)

When the local football team starts exhibiting some very weird behavior, a group of savvy teens determine that they’ve been taken over by an alien life-form. If you’ve been on campus after a big win, you learn quick not to be on campus after a big win.

“Poltergeist” (1982)If you’re ever in the Short North and weird stuff starts flying around North Market, blame the fact that they built their parking lot over a bunch of gravesites that no one could be bothered to move.  

“Ready or Not” (2019)

With all the rich developers in this town, if you don’t think at least three of them aren’t running a murderous game of hide-and-seek with the commoners on their property, you’re naive. 

“The Car” (1977)

Some things you can’t blame on the pandemic, like Columbus driving. We were bad before we were locked up with nothing to do for a year or two, and we’re still bad. Every time I cross from one side of town to the other I feel like I’m facing off against driverless vehicles possessed by Satan.

“Children of the Corn” (1984)

This may seem out of place because Columbus isn’t rural, but all you have to do is drive 10 minutes in almost any direction past 270 and you’ll run smack into some pastoral heartland. And if you think there aren’t some Bible-thumping killer children in those cornrows, well, you’re very likely mistaken.

“Candyman” (2021)

This reboot/sequel of the classic 1992 version takes aim at gentrification, which, if you’ve been reading my column for any length of time, you already know where I’m going with this.

“They Live” (1988)

If it feels like your local politicians aren’t listening to you or your vote doesn’t matter, it’s wholly possible that they’re all aliens hiding in plain sight. If nothing else, they certainly have an agenda that doesn’t possess an ounce of human concern.

Scott Woods

“Happy Death Day” (2017)

At a whopping two quarters, the most famous person enrolled at OSU for less time than me was Jeffrey Dahmer. Ohio State has lots of ghost stories, but the one true terror we can confirm is that Dahmer was once a student, and that by the time he took up residence in Morrill Tower, he had already killed his first victim a mere two months before moving in. And he’s not the only one: In 1983-84, serial killer Michael Swango was a medical internist at what is now the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. His claim to fame? Poisoning people.

Scott Woods is a poet, cultural critic, essayist and founder of the arts nonprofit Streetlight Guild.