May 29, 2019
Thoughts on my first childhood horror (suggestion from author Alan Baxter)
One Halloween, my dad took me and my sisters out trick-or-treating around town. There was one house that always decorated for Halloween and they went all out. My sisters were too scared to go up the small walkway to the porch. We all stood at the entrance and really scoped the place out to see if the candy would be worth the trouble of being scared.
The walkway was surrounded by a makeshift cemetery with a fog machine pumping out cool, grey mist and there were cardboard tombstones everywhere.
It looked pretty real. My sisters stayed back where it was safe.
My dad held my hand as we walked between two trees, a mummy in a coffin leaning against the trunk of one tree and a skeleton hanging from a noose in the branches of the other tree. We were halfway to the porch when I turned around and saw a werewolf creeping on all fours behind me. I froze. The werewolf stopped and stared. My dad tried to get me to keep going, “He’s not going to bother you, right buddy?” I think he said that to the werewolf, thinking back on it, but I thought he was talking to me and I was not persuaded.
He pulled me up on the porch and we got my candy and some for my sisters. Then we turned around. I was expecting to see that awful werewolf again but to my relief, he was gone. Suddenly, something grabbed my ankle! I looked down and saw a hairy claw holding me tight. I screamed. My dad said something or did something to make the werewolf let go but the damage had been done. I would never, to this very day, visit anything resembling a haunted house ever again. That man in the wolf suit broke the “no touching” code of ethics for haunted houses and he ruined me for life! I wish that guy knew that. How there’s a 43 year old woman out there terrified as a little baby to ever go to a haunted house now because of him. Jerk.
Flash forward to like 7th or 8th grade and I’m at a sleepover. One of my good friends, Dawn. She decides that for her birthday, she wants to have a scary movie marathon. WHAAAAAT?? WHYYYY?! So her mom rents like Nightmare on Elm St. and Friday the 13th, all the scary movies. As soon as the movie starts, I pretend that I have a stomach ache, “Probably all that birthday cake.” I say, even though I hate birthday cake and I didn’t eat any. I tell everyone I’m going to go lay down. So I go in Dawn’s room and her little Chinese, Potbelly Pig follows me to keep me company. I find a couple of chapter books in Dawn’s room, hop in her bed with the pig and I’m good to go. After about an hour, Dawn must have told her older brother that I was too scared and I was hiding in her room. He’s in high school and he has a girlfriend and we all thought Dawn’s brother was the coolest. He puts on his Freddy mask from Halloween and decides to scare the shit out of me. Which he does. He throws open the door and gets me screaming. This is my context for horror so far. A grabby wolfman and a jerk brother in a Freddy mask.
I’m a pretty cautious, timid person in my real life. I don’t really do anything that’s potentially scary, dangerous or adventurous. And it’s really not because I wrestle with crippling fear or anxiety, I’m not an anxious person. It’s more like I’m just really practical.
Jump out of an airplane for a thrill? Why? Sounds risky.
Go camping in the woods? Why? Sounds dirty, potentially hazardous.
Scary movies? Why? I could have a nightmare or have trouble sleeping.
Go whale watching? The boat could capsize. We don’t belong in the ocean. SHARKS.
Jungle tour? Nope. Spiders. Man eating animals. I’m fine reading my book by the pool.
And sometimes I challenge myself. I’m not a total party pooper. I have a family that loves adventure so I get outnumbered A LOT and I go do stuff (against my quiet will) often.
Horror books are my way of being risky and adventurous. It’s my way of pushing all the envelopes and going well beyond where other people have set boundaries. It’s the way I’m challenged. It gives me food for thought. I love the ways in which horror taps my fears and gives me a safe place to process them. Horror is truly my happy place. One of my favorite gifts. Thank you to all the horror writers who have made me feel all kinds of feelings.
I also thought you might enjoy seeing my family and old pictures of me. Sometimes we think we know someone but our online personas are just a slice of who we are. There are people in my life: My husband, my three kids, my mom and dad and sisters, and my dog Owen and my in-laws and nieces and nephews, friends, co-workers...these people know me. They are the framework of my life and I want to share these photos with you.
Thanks for being my horror-loving friends! I love you guys!