I recently purchased another copy of October Country by Ray Bradbury after losing my copy purchased years ago (and I mean years), wanting to reread some of the stories. Last night I read the story, The Jar, and boy, did it remind me of why I love Bradbury so much. Aside from his wonderful use of descriptive language, the story is about a jar containing a strange substance, described by Bradbury: one of those pale things drifting in alcohol plasma, forever dreaming and circling, with its peeled, dead eyes staring out at you and never seeing.
The protagonist, Charlie, buys the jar from a carnie because he wants attention and respect in his holler, and people begin gathering at his house to stare and wonder about what the jar contains. And as Hitchcock would agree, their imaginings are much more bizarre and frightening that the reality of the jar’s contents. One man dredged up a traumatic childhood memory after staring at the jar. Another provided a wonderful take on the contents, as something that crawled out of the primordial swamp: That am the center of creation! That am Middibamboo Mama, from which we all come ten thousand year ago. Believe it! To come up with Middibamboo Mama. That’s hilarious.
I won’t give the ending away. You do find out what the jar really contains, but that’s not the scariest part of the story.
This is why horror movies that don’t show you the boogey man are so effective, like Blair Witch Project. You never actually see a witch and really don’t know what killed the students, if anything at all. And with writing, why withholding bits of information, and letting the reader fill in the blanks also works.