Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Windup Space hosts annual night of scary stories

By KATHERINE LOGAN | October 20, 2016

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COURTESY OF KATHERINE LOGAN The 7th annual Scary Stories Night showcased a Baltimore tradition.

I walked into The Windup Space on Monday night to see a huge screen, several sparsely populated tables with Halloween-themed décor and little baskets of candy, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the 7th Annual Scary Stories Night. I felt like a foreigner among the crowd, who were talking and laughing amongst each other that  I got the sense that the majority of them had definitely been there before.

The title of the night’s selected film, Something Wicked This Way Comes (based on the classic 1962 novel by science-fiction/fantasy writer Ray Bradbury), flashed across the screen in bright red, and we were off to the races.

Host Chris LaMartina kicked off the open-mic portion of the evening, with a story of how his wife serendipitously stumbled across Rosemary Brown’s album A Musical Séance. What made Brown unique was that she believed that, while composing her piano pieces, she was channeling the spirts of some of the world’s most famous composers including Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and Schubert, writing the symphonies they were never able to.

“I bring this up because, you know, we’re rushing through life, and I’m sure all of us sort of feel this way […] and it was sort of cool that chance sort of brought us to this amazing find and hopefully some of the stories we hear tonight are about seeing some rare glimpse into a belief that maybe there is something greater than ourselves,” LaMartina said.

Next, LaMartina laid out the five rules for the night: 1.) Anyone could share a story; they just had to ask Chris for a time slot. 2.) Anyone sharing should present a tale of a firsthand paranormal/supernatural experience. 3.) Storytellers could bend the truth a little bit; hyperbole was allowed. 4.) Every narrative was supposed to last five minutes (or so) in order to maximize the number of performers. 5.) As much as possible, those sharing were encouraged to speak directly to audience rather than relying on reading from the page or screen

Bob Rose, who has been coming to the event for five years, described how he’s seen it grow and change.

“Every year it keeps snowballing with more and more people. I feel like, in a good way, the stories are getting way more self-indulgent, which means that they’re probably real, but everyone is adding a little bit of spice. Because it’s gotten to the point where we’ve all told the stories we have, so now everyone has to really dig deep and, when you dig deep, they’re probably not as good, so you have to add a few things to make them better. It’s actually making the night all the more colorful.

I spoke with Chris LaMartina about what inspired him to start the event seven years ago.

“Ever since I was a kid, I loved telling ghost stories. I mean, some of my earliest memories were talking to my godmother. She’d sit down, and I’d dictate scary stories to her at her typewriter in the late eighties.”

“I’ve always loved and been attracted to the supernatural, the paranormal, and that’s what’s made me make horror films, and at their core horror films are really just telling great scary stories. So I used to come up to Windup when I lived over in Bolton Hill, and I would come here and hang out with Russell, the owner and would just tell weird f*cking stupid stores when no one else was around the bar, and Russell said ‘One night we should just do ghost stories, live on stage.’  We decided to make it an event. It started about seven years ago. The first time we did it, it was about 10, 15 people, and every year since, it’s grown and grown and grown into this.”

He said that one of his favorite parts of the event is seeing friends and members of the Baltimore community who may not usually consider themselves to be performers on stage, and he cited similar opportunities provided by The Windup, such as their Stoop Storytelling Series.

“I think it’s really fun to let people that normally don’t perform tell their most wild experiences.”

Talking with a couple of my fellow attendees revealed that some were familiar with the space, but new to theAnnual Scary Story Night.

“I’ve been to a lot of events at the Windup, but I haven’t been to this before... I love spooky things and Halloween,” said Leanna Powell.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been to this particular event, but I come to the Windup Space a lot. I host an event here every month, and I mainly came to the event because I really like that we have a lot of events in Baltimore like this where people can flex their creative muscle, be silly, be scary, and express themselves in a creative way with a lot of people to experience it,” added her friend, Martine Richards.

In addition, Richards noted that the “sh*tty, waxy chocolate” was also a plus.

Over the course of the show, we were taught valuable life lessons such as: Don’t do meth and burn down your house for the insurance money with your kid still inside, and be sure not to mistake your weird landlord’s hidden sex doll for a dead body.

We were also reminded that the scariest monster of all this season isn’t actually a supernatural creature at all; It’s current presidential candidate Donald Trump.

After one particularly poignant story about the ruins of a mental institution, we were reminded of the “metaphorical ghosts of the awful things we do.”

But just as soon were we treated to a hilarious, updated rendition of M.R. James’s “There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard” that featured Pokémon Go, the HBO show West World and an Assassin’s Creed hoodie. Last but not least, of course, since we’re in Baltimore, The Blair Witch Project came up.

The Windup Space itself has a number of upcoming events, including their popular Brews and Board Games series (featuring both beer and tabletop gaming) next Tuesday and their equally popular monthly dance series, Four Hours of Funk this upcoming Friday. Additionally, The Baltimore Boom Bap Society  will meet on the first Wednesday of November.


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