Oct 24 2012

Spooky Spines

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Most of us, during childhood (usually on one of those long car trips, foreheads pressed against the cool glass) have played the cloud game: searching the billowy skies for recognizable shapes. Discovering objects sometimes hilarious. Sometimes a stretch. Sometimes creepy.

A few weeks ago when I took a hike with my friend Kathy, clouds weren’t the carriers of these hidden images. Over and over, I saw things ‘not really there’ among cactus spines and rotted plant carcasses. And in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d share a few.

Do you see what I see below?

Tell me I'm not the only one who sees a face and an "o" shaped mouth on this crested saguaro arm to the right. Click to enlarge.

I've never before seen saguaro skeletons with these tendrils hanging from them. With the dark clouds in the background, I saw Medusa-like snake curls hanging from this dead saguaro. Click to enlarge.

Look closely. Do you see the "orbs" covering this saguaro? (Okay - so I've watched too many ghost-hunting shows). While I know this is nothing more than the sun glinting off my dirty camera lens, I started wondering about ghosts when I downloaded this shot. Click to enlarge.

Yes, we're back to the coveted crested saguaro I've named Bertha. And this may be the creepiest thing I saw. Look at the 'arm' on the right (foreground). Do you see the chin pushed out, the pug-like nose, the ridges of the brow on top, the eye sockets? Do you also see the alien-shaped head and eyes on the arm in the back (left)? Click to enlarge.

I took a half-dozen shots of this crooked cactus, and each time, that wispy, ethereal halo formed about the top of the cactus. Spoooky. Click to enlarge.

For Readers & Writers: The cactus isn’t usually a symbol of fear in the literary world. But many objects, critters and settings are. What images symbolize fear in the novels you read? In your own novels? Are they the standard symbols – ravens and spiders – or something altogether unique?


25 Responses to “Spooky Spines”

  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    Ooo, very fun, Melissa! I especially love the saguaro skeletons. Spooky and atmospheric! Take those down and spray-paint them and they’d make a gorgeous Halloween table centerpiece.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Look at you, so artsy. I’d never have considered that. But, of course, those curlicues were attached to a rotted skeleton about 10 feet tall, so I won’t be bringing them home anytime soon ;-).

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  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    This is the coolest! I absolutely love the face with the “o” shaped mouth… so perfect for Halloween. And the halo around the cactus is just beautiful!

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    Melissa Reply:

    So timely, too, for Halloween. Laurie Buchanan found MORE faces in that first photo!

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    How darned COOL is that?!

    In the first picture, there’s two more faces: (1) Second cactus in from the left (at the top) is the profile of a dinosaur face, and (2) bottom left, profile shot of a guy with a bulbous nose.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, wow. I totally see BOTH of the faces you pointed out. Yes, one is very dinosaur-esque!

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  • avatar Lara Schiffbauer Says:

    The face in the first one is so cute! The cactus looks shocked. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    I agree. He has the cute expression. The others? Kind of ghoulish!

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Those pictures!! Awe! As you know, Melissa, I am married to a biologist so many of the typical creepy critters are well loved and de-creeped in our house. Bats, for example–love them! Even spiders. But you’ll love this one: My mom was here this summer and we had a big palmetto bug in the house and my mom, understandably, was skeeved out so my six year-old steps right up and says: “Grammy, it’s okay. You have to show roaches respect.” All my husband’s doing but wow, right? We take it to the extreme here;)

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    Melissa Reply:

    Bats, while I love and appreciate their vital role in the environment, are not one of my faves. I hate the head-swooping they do! I absolutely ADORE that your daughter has the appreciation for life in all forms. So many times, I think humans kill things out of simple fear and misunderstanding. Go biologist hubby and nature-lovin’ mom!

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    Erika Marks Reply:

    And woe unto the kid who thinks it’s fun to harass/squish insects at the playground. My daughters let him have it!;)

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    Melissa Reply:

    That reminds me of when my little sister (Big Bros Big Sis) tried to pluck the wings off a lightning bug. I FREAKED OUT. And you’ll be happy to know that my hunting neighbors have changed two significant things in their lives after my constant harassing: 1) wife does not deliberately run over tarantulas – but now swerves to miss them 2) Husband relocates rattlers instead of killing them. YAY!

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    Erika Marks Reply:

    You are amazing! SO great!

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    yay! The cacti are back! I always associate you with those incredible shots. Yes, I see that face. Totally spooky. Your pictures keep getting more and more artistic and expressive.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Why thank you for saying I’m becoming more artistic and expressive. I won’t tell anyone that most of it is pure luck.

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  • avatar K Says:

    Melissa, your imagination amazes me. When we hike you see a creature or plant and a story pops into your head. Yes, you are in your element writing and bringing beautiful stories to others. For me a wolf or coyote symbolize fear because they travel in packs. Packs can do more damage along with intimidate and turn that prey it is after, to panic. Gnarling, slobbering teeth, need I say any more!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I think you have the makings of a poem here, Kathy — with the gnarling, slobbering teeth of pack animals! Thanks for the years of hiking fun and introducing me to so many cool spots in the area. Sometimes the stories don’t come until I get home and upload the photos. So much more to see and contemplate even after the hike. Cameras rule!

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  • avatar Shary Says:

    Fabulous photos. Just think what a photoshop artist could do to bring out the creepy factor. I can only imagine the scary stories that could emerge.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I had considered putting google eyes on the first photo, but alas, I haven’t used PhotoShop since I was a young pup. I imagine some pretty cool special effects could be created.

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    That was like a haunted desert tour. Very cool! What IS that thing hanging down from the cactus? I’ve never seen anything like that.

    On another note, and this is probably totally ignorant, but: What is that blue circle with an i in it that is always up in the corner of each post these days? 😀

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    Melissa Reply:

    I just don’t know what the tendrils are; about four dead saguaros in that area had the same thing on them? They remind me of dried up arteries. Thanks for the heads-up about my incorrectly working tweet meme. It should be fixed now! Have a spooky Halloween. I hope you’re still on the mend!

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    The first picture is unbelievable! I can definitely see the “O” face on the cactus. Very neat find! I don’t really use creatures as villains, but I do use weather to increase the mood–perhaps I should employ a creature or two, too. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    Weather is THE ultimate mood enhancer, I agree! Surely some of those wild critters lurking around your In-Real-Life backyard have made it into your fiction?

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  • avatar Diann_D Says:

    Love these! I think my favorite is the saguaro skeleton! : )

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  • avatar Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) Says:

    Very cool pics. I always see images in random objects myself. I think dark spaces always represent fear in the novels I read. Dark forests, dark corners, dark, moonless nights. Heebie jeebies, check!

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