The Thing I Like About …

1408: When he refuses the express check-out service.

In 1408, Mike Enslin, coping with the death of his young daughter and the subsequent collapse of his marriage, spends his time writing books about haunted places – after checking those places out firsthand. We watch him spend the night in a “haunted” house, where absolutely nothing happens. We hear him describing other research trips wherein, outside of the “creepy” factor, the paranormal was entirely absent. He, in fact, doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal at all – which suggests that in all his stays in haunted locales, he’s never actually experienced anything even particularly strange.

And that makes the extraordinarily haunted Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel all the more shocking for him. Although in the beginning he says into his little voice recorder that “we don’t rattle,” he proceeds to get rattled – thoroughly rattled. He quickly gets to a point where he doesn’t know where reality ends and nightmare begins, and, like the others who have been attacked by the Room, he reaches a point where death might seem far preferable to five more minutes in this wretched place. Those before him had indeed chosen suicide, and when the alarmingly cheerful woman on the phone offers Mike the “express check-out service”, we suppose he might take that clear path out of this ghastly situation.

But he says no.

He says, “We don’t rattle.”

And he finds a way not only to get out of 1408, but to get rid of 1408 altogether.

Most of us haven’t had the opportunity to witness a lot of things we would call “paranormal” (which most of those are perfectly happy about), but almost all of us, at some point, end up in a place where we really, really, don’t like where we are or what’s happening to us. We feel ourselves getting swept away in a flood of anxiety, heartache, dread, fear, and panic. We know somewhere in the backs of our minds that we just need to breathe, and regroup, and stay calm enough to find a way out of the situation … but that small voice of reason is drowned out entirely by the shrill screaming of confused terror. It could be something as simple and mundane as walking into a room full of strangers, or it could be a more pressing danger, like a car accident, a broken bone, a sudden illness, a mugging. It could be a long-term, gradual panic, as we watch ourselves falling into a life we didn’t want – a terrible job, an addiction, a person or entity that seeks to entrap and control us – and we feel more desperate with each passing moment.

Some of us take the express check-out.

But Mike Enslin decides to stick it out, to breathe, to regroup, to stay calm enough to assess the situation for what it really is. And when he does that, he sees not only a way out, but a chink in the armour of his aggressor that, once breached, will eliminate the Room as a threat forever.

He’s able to do this because he realizes that the creepy-perky voice on the phone is the real enemy, rather than the illusions that the Room has thrown in front of him. He takes a stand against that real enemy, and brings himself back from the brink.

It isn’t whatever untenable situation we’re in that gets us; it’s the thought – the fear – that there isn’t any way out of it. But that’s the real enemy – that voice that says, “This is too bad to survive! This is the worst thing ever! You’re not strong enough or smart enough to deal with this! We’re gonna die!” It says, “We’re never getting out of here.” It says, “Express check-out – that’s the ticket.”

That’s the enemy we have to face, the one we have to stand up to and say, “No, thank you.” We have to say to ourselves, “We don’t rattle.”

From there we can fix anything.

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