Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Earliest Scaries

Hi. This is me, age 4. So for those counting, circa 1980 or thereabouts. Around this time, I was afraid of a great many things. The dark. Thunder 'n' lightning. Warm milk (yeah, don't ask). I was just thinking about this today, the crazy things that would frighten me as a boy. Some of it, like the warm milk mentioned above, doesn't make much sense to me now as an adult. It's an interesting reflection into the mind of a child, though, don't you think? I mean, it explains how we adults sometimes don't understand why kids wake up screaming in the middle of the night. All sorts of silly things scare them, and sometimes as a parent you can only try your best to understand. I'm not a parent, but I know parents. And, also, I remember my mother's reaction to my own "scaries" growing up. Unlike most people, however, I actually do recall many examples of my fears when I was child. Below are just a handful of the more entertaining ones. They revolved mostly around sound, oddly enough. And while some you'll just have to take my word for, others should be more obvious in their horrifying elements. I'm sure you share a few of these terrors yourself. Or, at least, the little version of you probably did, once upon a when.

The Shoprite Can-Can Girls.

If you grew up in the 80s, and if your town had a Shoprite, then most likely you remember these entertaining commercials. Us kids were drawn to them because they featured cartoon people in motion. And kids freakin love cartoons! Except these animated, provocatively-clad beauties scared the sweet loving beejebus out of me for some reason! I kid you not. I would lie awake in bed some nights (no, seriously, I would!) afraid to close my eyes for fear of seeing these high-kicking femme fatales sweeping down the supermarket aisles as I ran and ran and ran away from them.

ABC Eyewitness News, Late Night Edition.

Hey, don't look at me like that. Yes, it was a news program. Here in NYC Eyewitness News would, and still does, air on local channel 7. The little intro music that played back when I was a kid is still in use to this day. But back then, it would put the fear of God into me!

To this day I shudder a little whenever Eyewitness News comes on and that damn urgent jingling begins. Oddly enough, apparently I had a part to play in the top news of the night--as seen in the clip below. According to legend--okay, okay, according to my grandma--my mother got herself and 10-month old little me trapped down in the subway during the start of that infamous city-wide blackout. I was told I behaved very well and never made a sound, though. Which is probably true, but also probably explains why I was so deftly afraid of the dark as a toddler. Hmm, I wonder what could have happened down in those tunnels . . .

Sam Donaldson.

I think maybe I might get some sympathy here. I mean, look at the man. Does he not look like an alien? A sinister figure bent on kidnapping children when the adults are not looking, and whisking them aboard his mother ship? Well around the age of five--I sure thought so! And to make matters worse, as an anchor on ABC News, sometimes I would be subjected to his demonic visage whilst that blasted Eyewitness News music was playing in the background, devouring my tiny innocent soul. My mother would watch ABC news after tucking us kids into bed, and sometimes--just sometimes--I would not fall asleep fast enough and make the mistake of peeking into the living room just as this Satanic double-whammy of creepy music and serial-killer visage would appear on the screen. Yes, it was the stuff of nightmares. And Sam Donaldson was always the Willy Wonka of that scary, demented mad world I would sometimes slip into once the Sandman came and lead me into dreamland. I was always afraid of this man, even to this day.

Tales From The Darkside.

I don't think much explanation needs to be given here. This was a scary television show which ran in the 80s, and if you watch the opening sequence below you can well understand why it might give a little boy nightmares. Oh. My. GOD! That chilling music . . . that ominous voice over . . . the bright, sunny landscape switching over to monochrome darkness. It got me every. single. time! And yet, despite being terrified of this show, I absolutely loved it! I'm not much of a horror fan today (too silly for my tastes), but back between the ages of 5 and 12, this stuff ruled my world. Did it rule yours?

The Twilight Zone.

Ah, at last. The granddaddy of all nightmarish triggers. At least, when we're talking scary soundtracks. Like Tales above, the music to The Twilight Zone opening scared the living hell out of me. Especially since I was very young when I first started watching the show in syndication. I guess the composers who come up with these sick melodies really know what they're doing. Because, while being too young at first to even understand what each episode was about, I somehow knew at the time that this was a show I probably shouldn't be watching. And whenever that music played -- oh man! I would curl up and clutch my pajamas top to my chin. So deliciously scaaaaaary!

And there you have it. Yes, I was a very interesting little boy, as you can see. I'm not ashamed to admit what spooked me back then. The invisible man living in our closet. The landlord's demonic dobermans in the basement of our building. And even The Watusi! Again, don't ask.

But it's fun in the safety of adulthood to look back and marvel at the crazy little warped perception of the world I held back then. I guess if I were to put on my sociologist hat here for sec, it only lends credence to the theory that a lot of human civilization as we know today arose from explaining away the night terrors our ancestors faced when looking out into this big bad world of ours and imagining what must be waiting out there to pounce at us from out of the darkness. In some ways, institutions like religion, philosophy, and science developed as a means to shed light on these collected "scaries" of the human race. And now, here we are today.

I guess it's only a natural part of our individual development, then, to be so afraid of everything as children. The world doesn't yet make sense to us at this stage. And being afraid, in a weird way, is the first step toward understanding and eventual enlightenment.

Yeah, that's a nice thought. But damn if I still don't feel like curling up into the fetal position whenever that blasted Twilight Zone theme plays!


  1. Hmmm...I can see those can-can girls coming across as a bit creepy.

    One thing I vividly remember as a child was being terrified of the gas water heater over my grandfather's kitchen sink. I was afraid even to walk past the door of the kitchen.

    1. Yeah, major creep factor, those can-can girls. I think the song really creeped me out too, for some odd reason.

      And I can see that being scary for a child, Ian. I was scared of the big bad gas heater in the basement of my grandmother's building as well. Except, this was the boiler for a huge, 30-unit apartment complex and she was the building's caretaker. I was sure that thing was of the devil! :)

  2. I must have been the opposite. I LOVED scary. Stephen King was one of my favorites - but that was after the Exorcist. Mhwa-ha-ha. I was always a freak - still am... :p

    1. Well, once I got older that was a different story. But what about when you were a toddler? What scared you then? And did you enjoy it? ;)

  3. Sam Donaldson scared me too. So did lightening and wind. I'm not sure why really. Clowns still scare me. They are just, so, so disturbing. And I was always afraid my mom would die in her sleep. Seriously. Anytime she would take a nap on the couch or her bed, I would go and wake her up. This as you can imagine, made her angry after awhile. It would have made me mad too, if someone kept waking me up while trying to take a napster. The odd thing about that was that it only bothered me when she napped during the day. I had no problem with her sleeping at night. I know, I know, I was a weird kid. :)

    1. LOL! I would've locked you in your room while I napped were you my kid, Yvonne. :) But that's too funny. I was never afraid of clowns, but I also didn't see what was so great about them. They were always the worst part of going to the circus. All I wanted to see were the animals!

      And, yay! Someone else who understands my Sam Donaldson fear!

  4. I was afraid of home invasions by Asian gangs which was very common in my neighborhood as a kid. Sucked. Maybe did not sleep for a two year span one time.

    1. Asian gangs? I never would have thought your hometown had such a problem. We don't even have that problem here in NYC. In the Bronx where I grew up we had different types of gangs to worry about. If you ever watched the movie New Jack City, you'd know what I'm talking about. :)

      But, yeah, that does sound like it sucked. Although I'm afraid this inevitably reminds me of Ben Stiller in Jim Carrey's The Cable Guy when we hear the 911 call: "I think it was an Asian gang or something *sob* *sob* ... he was speaking another language. I'm pretty sure it was *sob* *sob* AAASIAN!" LOL! Check out the clip by clicking here.

  5. Hey, who ate my comment? I read this in New York. I'm going to beat Blogger up.

    Look how cute you are. You really haven't changed much! My girlfriends all want your number, LOL.

    1. OMG, Jen! I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me. Grrrr! I hate Blogger sometimes, too!

      Oh, and your girlfriends must be blind! Yup, that's it. LOL! :)


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