We were talking about scary movies at work when someone said, “You know the last thing I did that really scared me? I rode my bike back from the stage to the office last night.”
I knew exactly what he was about to say. “Oh, God!” I shouted. “You rode through Stars Hollow at night!”
“And right now it’s decorated for Halloween, so there’s all the pumpkins!”
When the sun is out, riding a bike through Stars Hollow is one of the best parts of the day. Sometimes I ride past pretty Alexis Bledel on her own bike, and sometimes we ride in a pack through the abandoned set. I often play tour guide, as I’m the only one who can tell the history of just about every house on the street. (“This is Lane’s mother’s house, and this is Stars Hollow High, which I wouldn’t have realized is so close to the gazebo. Down there is Luke’s, and… oh, gosh, I didn’t know Stars Hollow had a Repertory Theater!”) The others put up with my constant babbling of Gilmore fun facts, and that’s a credit to their patience and sweet natures.
Anyway, Stars Hollow during the day is a pretty, peaceful, sweet little bike ride through Quaint Town, USA.
But at night. At night, Stars Hollow goes dark. There are no lights illuminating your way. All those twinkle lights they’ve got when Rory and Lorelai walk home from the diner? They are not there when nobody’s on the set. So you ride your bike through what looks like the beginning of a horror film. Small Town USA. Abandoned. A gazebo. A little house with statues and antiques out front, ready to come to life and kill you.
Sometimes one of the houses will be lit from the inside, and you can see shelves or props or sometimes… nothing. Just an empty house, lit and abandoned, on a dark, dark street, where there are pumpkins… and a man waiting to kill you.
I thought it was just me who got spooked out by Stars Hollow at night. I never said anything because I didn’t want to look like a dork. So I was relieved to hear other people tell me how terrifying it was to be alone on that street. “Because at first you’re on New York street, and you feel all tough, and then you round the corner and it’s like… ‘In a quiet, sleepy town… a killer waits.’”
Not that we weren’t teased by the others for getting freaked out on a studio lot. But it’s easy to forget you live in a fabricated reality. There’s a prop building we pass on our way to the stage that houses different kinds of prop bodies. It fools me every damn time. It fooled me when they had bodies set up in a semi-circle, like some kind of class was going on. We shushed each other, even. It fooled me the other month, when bloodied bodies were lined up, waiting to get carted to a set. And it fooled me yesterday when a half-eaten body dangled from a doorway.
That last one might be the sleep deprivation, and not the magic of Hollywood, that made me think I saw dead people on my way to work.
Part of the reason Stars Hollow is so spooky to me at night is because I know so much about it. Like when I studied the folklore of the Blair Witch before I went to see the movie — the more knowledge you have, the more you can freak yourself out. What’s really going on inside Gypsy’s garage? Did they always have a video store, or did it move closer? And what about the Twickum house? Did a light just go on up there, or was it on the whole time?
There’s something about that place when it’s silent and dark, when you’re straining to see and the place is so familiar you knew it before you ever stepped foot on the cement, that it’s like riding a bike into a nightmare — one where you know something bad is about to happen and you cannot stop it because it’s all your fault it’s happening in the first place and you cannot wake yourself up.
The more you try to calm yourself, to keep yourself from freaking out, the scarier it gets. Because you’re smart enough to know you’re being irrational, and then something inside you reminds you that you’re smart, so if you’re actually scared there must be something to be scared of, and the next thing you know you’re pedaling so quickly you might actually fall off the bike when you hit a cable stretched across the street and you’ll fall off your bike headfirst and get a concussion and die in front of that cafe Rory and Lorelai only use when Lorelai’s fighting with Luke and they’ll find your body in the morning and think it escaped from the body prop building which really isn’t far enough away from Stars Hollow for me to feel safe riding my bike through there at night. Because, really, they could come to life at any moment and chase me and my bike down the dark, dark street.
All of which is to say I still haven’t made it through Stars Hollow’s main street at night. I always chicken out and turn back around. I might do it with a buddy, if I had to, if we agreed that we were going to pedal as quickly as possible and talk to each other the entire time in this “TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE, JOSH!” sort of way because otherwise I will lose my shit right there in front of the high school and it won’t be pretty.