Given that it’s the Halloween Season and some of us may have spooky and creepy things on our minds, we thought that it would be fun to revisit the books and media that scared us as children. Sometimes looking back at childhood fears can be funny and cute, and other times it just reinforces the fact that these things are freakin’ scary at any age.
“The Ankle Grabber” by Rose Impey
Yes, mine is literally a book about scary things under a bed. But this book was truly traumatic, and a bunch of reviews on the books’ Goodreads page back me up on this. I didn’t even remember this book until we started brainstorming this blog post, apparently having successfully blocked it from my mind like all other traumatizing memories. So…thanks blog, for that! Supposedly, this story is supposed to help kids conquer their fears of the dark and things under the bed, but the pictures! The pictures were so creepy that it did just the opposite, ensuring that I took a running leap to my bed for years. For some reason, I kept re-reading to this book in some type of masochistic ritual throughout my childhood. It got so bad that my mom got some type of air freshener can, created a funny paper logo that she wrapped around it that said “Scary Stuff,” and convinced my sister and I to spray it around our room at night and that would someone chase of the Ankle Grabber.
“The Tale of the Dollmaker” (TV episode from “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”)
As any kid who watched early 90s TV knows, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” wasn’t messing around with its “horror stories for kids” concept. I mean, the “for kids” portion is really questionable, in my opinion. I could probably rattle off 10 episodes from this show that were scary as hell, but the one that always stood out was “The Tale of the Dollmaker” in which a cursed dollhouse traps little girls and slowly turns them into porcelain dolls. Throughout the episode, we see one of the girls, Susan, slowly lose her ability to talk and move as her body turns to porcelain. She almost loses an arm when her porcelain body breaks from too much movement. This of course lead my crazed, overly imaginative mind to begin fearing that if I sat still too long I’d start to turn to porcelain or stone or something. And as a kid who read a lot, a very stationary activity, this was a concern that popped into my brain more often than I would care to admit. I would be holding my book and literally start worrying that my arms were somehow firming up….
“Gooey Gus” (TV episode from “Ghost Writer”
Look at that thing?!?! What’s not to be afraid of?? The story is simple enough, Ghooey Gus is an evil toy that systematically attacks and goos to death every kid he comes in contact with. The fact that the goo tastes like bubble gum somehow made the whole thing worse. I’m convinced that whoever wrote this episode pretty much just thought to themselves “Hey, adults have had to be traumatized by ‘Chucky.’ Let’s not leave out the kids! Here, have your own toy-like terror monster!” The whole idea of drowning, suffocating, whatever, by being covered in some gross goo is horrible enough on its own, regardless of having it all tied up in the nightmare fuel of toys coming to life and attacking kids.
“Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones” by Alvin Schwartz
I’ve mentioned here that one of my absolute favorite book collections as a kid were the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” series by Alvin Schwartz. But along with loving them, there were a few stories, mostly because of the pictures, that scared the living daylights out of me. The story that messed me up the most was that of “Harold”, a story about a scarecrow that comes to life and murders one of his creators. I think that it was the combination of the drawing of the terrible Harold (I mean just look at him!) and the final line of the story, which talks about Harold laying out a piece of flesh on the roof to ‘dry in the sun’. Like, what the hell is that about? In my nightmares about these books, Harold made the most frequent appearances. I still don’t really care for scarecrows.
“Fire in the Sky” (Film)
I don’t know whose genius idea it was to advertise this movie with shots from an alien abduction and experiment scene, but they can bite my ass. When this movie came out I was in grade school, and since I would watch “Star Trek” with my Dad I would see the promos for this film. It’s supposedly based on a true story (whatever that means) in which a logger named Travis Walton disappeared for a few days, and when he returned he said that he had been abducted by aliens. So then I was convinced that I was going to be abducted by aliens and experimented on as well, because BASED ON A TRUE STORY, GUYS! When I was an adult I saw that it was on Netflix Instant for a time, and thought that I should face my childhood fear and laugh about how silly I was. Except, oops, the alien abduction and experimentation scene was still super upsetting and I just kind of wanted to die while watching it. Here, have a trailer. It has a glimpse of the sequence I’m referring to.
“Matilda” by Roald Dahl
Yup, another instance in which I loved a book and yet it scared me to death. And what was it that scared me to death about this book? Was it Miss Trunchbull and her penchant for throwing children? Was is Matilda’s awful parents and they way that they abused her? Was it The Chokey? Oh no. It was the part where Matilda glues her father’s hat to his head with superglue. Yep, you heard it here first, folks, Kate had RIDICULOUS anxiety about that concept. What if it would never come off? What if a hat got glued to MY head and then IT would never come off?! Honestly, I had so many crazy anxieties as a child that made no sense I probably should have been in therapy for them, and the hat glue scene from “Matilda” is really just the one that takes the biggest WTF cake. I hid that damn book behind my bookshelf after reading that scene, and didn’t come back for it for a week or two.
What did you fear when you were a child? Let us know in the comments! We won’t judge you if you don’t judge us!