This week on WoW we’re talking all things frightening, namely the childhood variety that sent you into spasms of fear.
I barely know where to begin this (long) list but suffice to say my scaredy cat days started from a very early age.
Why children’s folk stories were ever called fairy tales is beyond me.
What is there to love about an old lady luring children into her house so she can eat them (yes Hansel and Gretel, I’m referring to you) or to like about the fact a wild animal has seen fit to devour your much loved Nanna, and that you are listed on the menu for dessert (well hello Red Riding Hood). Both came from the Brothers Grimm collections as well – an apt name for authors indeed…
Witches seem to rank quite high on the fear factor scale for me. Along with those who popped up in other children books (such as the nasty old soul from Snow White) there was the truly terrifying image that was the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. To this day, catching sight of her ghoulishly green skin, gnarled, spidery hands with talons so sharp, not forgetting those beady black eyes lodges a big bubble of anxiety in my throat. And that scene where she suddenly morphs from a cranky old mistress on a bicycle to a cackling, broomstick riding witch? I STILL cannot comfortably sit through a viewing of that, 25 years on.
Being a very vivid dreamer didn’t help. It only took a solitary viewing of something scary on TV, and it was bound to be my nightmare fodder for weeks to come. And it didn’t always have to be a traditional horror movie either. I spent one night clutching my top bunk bed rails in pure dread, after dreaming ghoulish, skeletal pirates were after me, after watching an episode of Garfield. Yes, you read that right – the lasagne loving ginger cat Garfield! Surely you can’t get more harmless that that, but such is the extend of my inability to separate fact from fiction… In my mind, ANYTHING is possible. According to my mind even a sadistic doll with spiky hair and blood red eye could come to life and try and attack me while sitting at a sewing machine (hello Chucky Doll franchise).
There was also the time I heard my first horror story (aka urban myth) as a child; countless nights later I lay awake in my bed, in constant state of fearful sweat, quite certain I was the next victim on its list. I'd hear the creak of the staircase, and what sounded eerily like laboured breathing and the slow, subtle turning of the door knob. If electricity bills were high in my house back in those days, it was because by this point I'd have to sleep with a lamp on. If I was lucky to sleep at all...
My biggest undoing, and horror movie that will forever hold the mantle of being the first official scary movie I saw, was the American Werewolf in London. I’m fairly sure I didn’t sleep soundly for 6 months after I sat through the terror that was that movie. I had to have been about 8 or 9, and found myself wanting to watch it along with my older (and ergo cooler) city cousins who were visiting for the Summer holidays. And even though it was watched during a Sunday morning (not even any night time shadows were being thrown on the wall for extra alarming effect) to this day I cannot get the image of some of those scenes out of my head. I visibly shake if I think about it for too long.
Much like the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West I have long hoped my irrational remnants of fear, left over from childhood, would eventually melt away. And while I must be improving slightly (I'm a sucker - literally - for the Twilight franchise) I dont see me sitting through any Stephen King inspired movies any time soon.