Prepare to be scared! Local film producer shares spooky tales on new Amazon Prime series
By Jill Draper
When Steve Scearcy was a boy, he often spent Saturday nights eating popcorn, drinking Coca-Cola and watching “The Twilight Zone” on TV with his grandma. Afterwards she would tell stories about her aunts and uncles who had their own strange experiences.
That might be the best way to watch Scearcy’s new film, “13 Midnights,” available now on Amazon Prime. Gather ’round with friends or family, tune in to his collection of chilling episodes where actors tell real people’s unsettling stories, and when the movie ends, listen to the tales your own gathering is inspired to tell.
Most of us have spooky or mysterious encounters at some point in our lives, Scearcy thinks, “but a large portion of people dismiss them. Because if you have these experiences, your world is changed afterward. It becomes a different place.”
His film, shot in black and white with dramatic lighting, transports the viewer to places where children hear questionable advice from imaginary “friends,” supernatural forces leave violent marks, ghostly images appear in mirrors and time turns unusually fluid.
“These stories are all based on actual events,” announces Scearcy, in his role as narrator. “Someone had to anguish through them.”
A writer and producer, Scearcy lives in south Kansas City near Wornall and West Country Lane. He shot the film with Midwestern actors in the metro area using backdrops that include the historic Alexander Majors house and barn and one of the old limestone quarries scattered throughout the landscape. The final creepy tale, number 13, was filmed afterhours at Martin City Coffee on Holmes Road.
“I’ve been in the shop before and like the space. It has a nice vibe,” he says, adding the owner, Penny Romero, was very welcoming. To celebrate the film’s release, they worked together to create a special 13 Midnights drink—a slightly sweet, rich mocha made from espresso and marshmallow syrup with the option of adding milk or a dairy substitute.
Scearcy, who does marketing videos and other creative projects for clients, got the idea for “13 Midnights” during a meeting with several Ph.D.-level psychologists in Oklahoma two years ago. “Are you going to tell him what happened to us?” one psychologist asked the others, before relaying a missing time experience they all shared during a car drive.
“They hadn’t talked about it because of the stigma,” Scearcy remembers. “I thought, well, I bet there’s other people who have stories, and I put the word out.” The psychologists will be featured in Season 2 of “13 Midnights,” which he hopes to produce in the next year.
At first Scearcy planned to write a book about the weird tales he was gathering, but he came to realize that verbal stories told by professional actors would be most effective.
“Man, talk about goosebumps,” he says. “Your mind is actively involved in recreating what the actor is telling. It’s like being right there where it happened.”
Scearcy has a degree in political science and he planned to become a lawyer and go into politics. He changed his mind after working for a politician and enrolled at UMKC, where he had “a wonderful experience” earning a master’s in theater.
“I’m lucky because I get to do what I absolutely love,” he says. “I’m addicted to stories and what they can do to people. To me, they’re everything.”
If you’ve had an encounter with the unknown, something unsettling you couldn’t explain, you can leave contact information and an outline of your story on Scearcy’s website at 13midnights.com. He’s still in the collecting phase for Season 2.
“I don’t pre-judge,” he says. “If somebody tells me they saw the Jolly Green Giant, I’m gonna listen to their story. I may not use it.”
Is he a believer? “I believe these things occurred at some level. There’s something else out there,” he says. “When you hear about these experiences, your world is altered. And when the light flickers the next day, you’re gonna go ‘uh-oh.’”