It’s become something of an annual tradition for us at this time of year.

Starting at the beginning of October my better half and I again enjoy watching our collection of supernatural/psychological thriller films. We have nearly forty movies now and we try to play at least two or three of them a week up to and including Halloween night. We relish this genre but we can be a little picky. We avoid humorous stories, for example, as well as those that have “teenage slasher” plots.

My attraction to horror films began as an adolescent when my friends and I went to Jeanerette’s Avalon Theater where we gleefully cringed through gems like “The Mole People,” “The Creature From The Black Lagoon,” (and its sequels) or “Mr. Sardonicus,” to name a few.

L. and I are drawn to British films whose supernatural themes are enhanced by both excellent acting and unusual plot twists. Among our favorites are: “Haunted” (Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale), “Asylum” (Peter Cushing), “The Innocents” (Deborah Kerr), and “Tales From The Crypt” (Sir Ralph Richardson, Peter Cushing). All are beautifully produced and project the right amount of menace.

Five American films that we also watch frequently include “The Hand” (Michael Caine), “The Changeling” (George C. Scott), “The Haunting” (Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor), “The Blair Witch Project” (Michael Williams), and “The Skeleton Key” (Kate Hudson).

Incidentally, that last movie was shot in New Orleans and in locations along the great River Road in St. James Parish. I take a special interest in this feature because it was near one of those locales two years ago where I experienced an unexplainable incident. Whether it was a supernatural event or not I’ll never know for sure.

I would, however, like to share my adventure with you.

A friend, Bill, and I drove to Vacherie, near the site where “The Skeleton Key” was filmed. We had been invited to the ancestral home of a family that was related to him. The early 19th century dwelling smelled of aromatic aged cypress but had the aura of lingering melancholy. The mansion was not open to the public and was occupied by a kind, elderly couple seemingly preoccupied with the past.

While my buddy visited with his relatives (I’ll respect their privacy by not mentioning their names), I walked into a foyer where I paused in front of a painting whose gilded frame appeared to entrap the angelic child within. The portrait was of a girl about nine or ten, with a pale face surrounded by auburn curls. I suddenly felt an unmistakable yank on my sleeve near the right elbow. Thinking that I had caught my shirt on something I looked around me but other than the wall more than two feet away — there was nothing there.

On the way home I told Bill what had happened and asked him about the youngster in the painting. He replied nonchalantly, “Oh, that’s Mariette, an ancestor. She died of a fever before the Civil War. She sometimes tugs on people’s clothes, maybe to let them know that she’s still around.”

Whether in the plot of a good movie thriller or in real life, mystery and the unknown abound.

O.J. GONZALEZ is a native and resident of Jeanerette. He graduated from USL in printmaking and photography and his photographs have appeared in publications in Louisiana, Alaska, Canada, New Zealand and England.

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