It was a dark and stormy night…” It’s classic, a cliché for scary stories, but for good reason. Spooky tales have been told by shadowy voices around campfires and read by flashlight for generations.

If you go back in time, horror stories are some of the first stories ever told, says Langley West. “The most visceral and primordial thing that connects us all as humans is fear,” he says. “Fear drives art and fear drives literature.”

West is one of three co-founders of Bleedingham, a local horror shortfilm festival, being held Oct. 27–28, the weekend before Halloween, in Downtown Bellingham.

Since 2012, the festival has been giving filmmakers a chance to bring their own terrifying stories to the screen. Storytellers submit their work to a panel of judges in the hope of winning a “Bloody” in categories ranging from sound design to editing. The winner of Best Film receives a grand prize of $1,000.

The festival was built around the idea of combining filmmaking with horror, a genre that another co-founder, Gary Washington, says naturally brings people together.

Washington attended Fairhaven College at Western Washington University for documentary film. After graduation, Washington says he felt filmmakers were limited in what they could create. He wanted to help provide an outlet for people to perfect their craft.

“Under the guise of blood and guts and shadows, the experience of creating a film, submitting it, and having it screened is going to make you a stronger filmmaker,” he says.

Over the years, the festival has expanded, with screenings now shown at both the Pickford Film Center, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and its nearby Limelight Cinema in downtown Bellingham. Co-founder
Michelle Barklind has also worked to organize a Night Gallery where vendors can sell their creepy wares. This year,
the gallery will be held at The Majestic Ballroom on Oct. 26.

As Bleedingham grows, the submissions come in at greater numbers, higher qualities, and competition to get screened increases. “It’s become that restaurant you can’t get into in American Psycho,” Washington laughs. But the core idea behind Bleedingham remains effective storytelling—no matter what camera you’re carrying.

“We don’t lose touch with the ‘do it yourself’ storytelling background, because that’s where it all starts,” Washington says. “We don’t want to lose that connection.”

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"'It was a dark and stormy night...' It's classic, a cliche for scary stories, but for a good reason. "