"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A good scare is good for you

As I said in yesterday's post, my early contact with Tennessee Ernie Ford was so frightening beyond all reason, my mother decided I was to never be exposed to anything that would scare me.

Good luck with that.

The result was that a lot of things scared me because everyone was fixated on not scaring me. Our house was always full of sound, either from the TV or the radio, so there was always something to avert my eyes from, or some big brassy music to startle me. Although, this guy didn't scare me at all:

When I was four and saw Harry Belafonte on TV, I said (paraphrasing), "That is the most beautiful man I've ever seen."

My mom was scared then.

There was a particular scare every weeknight, when the Late Movie would come on. If I wasn't in bed before 10:30 (our household was a little lax about bedtime, among other things), the opening credits of the Late Movie would show a sort of "lazy susan" with characters, while the announcer listed the kind of genres you might see tonight. Romance, comedy, drama and ...

Yep. Horror, with this guy as their model. It was my singular motivation for getting to bed early, although, since my bedroom shared a wall with the living room, I could still hear the eerie organ music they played while Lon Chaney menaced the screen. It didn't help that the TV set was on that wall.

But a funny thing happened when I was 8 years old.

The Twilight Zone had been on for three or four years by then, but I managed to walk into the living room and catch an episode called "Little Girl Lost." A little girl falls through an interdimensional portal behind her bed and gets lost, along with a dog, in some kind of alternate universe. Good thing her dad has an astro-physicist as a friend!

The show totally creeped me out. I went to my room and checked the walls and floor. No portals, but I still found myself thinking about the episode, getting chills, and enjoying it. Wow, scares could be fun. I tuned in to every episode after that.

What could possibly be better? Tune in tomorrow and find out.

In the meantime, when was your first good scare? You know, the one that made you jump or creeped you out, but you laughed and went back for more?

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