Since my debut short horror collection, THIS WAY DARKNESS, a lot of people have asked, “What draws you to horror?” Truth be told, I was influenced as a child by two especially creepy events. One I will share on this post.The other,well,I may use it for a future novella. Anyway, I think every child has a horror story.
As children, we’ve been to the scary basement we swore contained monsters. Or visited a friends home that was especially creepy. Or something we saw, something truly frightening that has been etched into our memory. More than likely, it influenced us in some way. At first we were terrified, but for people like me, the terror became a slow hunger. A few of my fellow horror writers stopped by to share some of their personal horror stories. Enjoy.
From Dale Ester:
Being a baby brother to three older sisters – three sisters who knew how to scare the hell out of me! – was pretty much torture for a little kid, but it was the BEST thing that could ever happen to a young horror author!
OK – I confess. I had no idea I was going to grow up to write horror fiction. Neither did my sisters. Maybe they were responsible for awakening my attraction to all the things that go bump-in-the-night. I like to think so. Either way, it seems appropriate to give them the credit. They earned it.
The girls discovered (I imagine with a certain, perverse glee) that I was afraid of clowns one summer afternoon at a parade when a clown – intending no harm, mind you – happened by, entertaining all the kids gathered at the edges of the street.
I freaked. I didn’t know I was going to freak – neither did my poor mother, who suddenly had a panicked toddler clawing at her, desperate to escape the painted face and floppy-shoed tyrant fast approaching from the east!
That fear translated to Halloween masks. You guessed it – for a while there in my pre-school to Kindergarten years, my favorite holiday was a living nightmare for me. Knowing this, every October my sisters would lure me into the department store on promises of toy trucks and candy treats, only to lead me blindly into the costume aisle where they promptly abandoned me for a few terrifying minutes until my frustrated mother could rescue me.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but one of them around this period of my life discovered another fear of mine. One that I carry to this day. My fear of spiders. But that’s another story.
From Ken Newman:
When I was a teenager, I awoke one night utterly terrified. Looking around, the bedroom was pitch dark, which ordinarily was impossible due to the street light fifty feet from my window. I literally could not see my hand before my face. To make matters worse, the darkness was alive, as if fear had become a physical thing. Anyway, being a Christian, I cast whatever it was, out. It seemed that every dog in the neighborhood went berserk as I watched the black mist dissipate into the ceiling.
Years later, I am married and I watch my wife leave for her late shift on patrol. As she leaves, the black mist returns and envelopes my bedroom. It was as terrifying as I remembered. As before, I cast it out, and while no neighborhood dog hysterics this time, it rose through the ceiling, and disappeared.I guess this is why I write about creepy things, because whether I like it or not, there really are things that go bump in the night.
From Billy Crash:
In the early 1970s my parents took me to a drive-in where we indulged in the hopeless drama THE RED TENT, and the movie that freaked me out: THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK. The latter Bigfoot tale kept me up crying for three nights – even with the bedroom door open and a powerful nightlight. I guess that was the catalyst, which fueled my love for horror (including the early GODZILLA films from Toho). I was compelled to engage in the macabre, I believe, in order to take it and stand up to the fear. Consider it immersion therapy. As an adult, I now look for horror films to instill the dread! However, that seems to be lacking in most movies.
Regardless, I recently revisited THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, and nearly laughed myself silly. The movie that once frightened me no longer had any teeth. Even so, I search for those great horror films that bring wit, intelligence, and emotion to the genre because it is wrongfully maligned by critics and academicians as something trite and ludicrous.
From Craig McGray:
As a kid, hell even as an adult, I think a universal nightmare everyone had at one time or another is the dreaded forget-to-put-your-pants on dream. Nothing like showing up to home room in high school wearing only your boxers, or whatever your undergarment of choice may have been. That comes in a close second to an experience that I had as a kid that still surfaces from time to time in my dreams, and it’s also something that I’ve never really talked about. It was my first real exposure to death, and it fascinated me.I warn you now that it may be pretty rough to read for some, so if the death of a family pet is going to bother you, well, you get the hint (no, I didn’t do anything to it, give me a little credit).
I was probably six or seven at the time and apparently we had some type of a bug problem in our house that warranted the need to “tent” the house. We packed up some of our things and headed out of town for the weekend.
I think we had a good time while away we were away, though I had a bit of a rocky childhood at times and I believe this was around the time of my parents’ divorce, so it’s all a bit foggy. One thing that I do remember about that time, was the fact that when we arrived home, my dad, or maybe it was my mom, went into the house and came back out in a panic. A parent conference took place in the driveway and whatever was being said wasn’t good. There was crying, then yelling, then more crying. I had no idea what happened, but I knew I was in the clear because I had nothing to do with it for a change.
Well, it appears as though neither one of my parents were rocket scientists and apparently each one assumed the other had taken care of our dog, Sabbath, (I know, sweet name, huh? What do you expect, she was a black lab and it was the late seventies) but she was somehow left inside the house. FYI, bugs aren’t the only thing that the poison they use targeted. We hadn’t had her that long but still, it was a pretty traumatic thing to go through. Even more damaging to my psyche, was the fact that my dad went in and brought the dog out onto the lawn while I sat in the bed of the pickup truck. For whatever reason though, I couldn’t pry my eyes away from our dead dog. That horrific visual is still one of the creepiest things I’ve ever experienced, an image I can recall at any time, not that I ever want to but it was etched that deeply into my young mind.
Every so often, Sabbath will show up in a dream of mine, usually just in the background and not the main theme of the dream, but she is there. I’m not going to be too descriptive as to her appearance, but it’s not the lively puppy I remember, not at all. It’s the lifeless version that I saw my dad carry out from the house that Sunday afternoon.
From Latashia Figueroa:
I was about eight years old. My mom had to work a double shift one summer evening,unexpectedly. She enlisted the aid of my teen cousin, who lived down the street, for brat duty. She didn’t want to do it, that was clear. When she arrived at my home, her first words to me were, “Go sit down and don’t bother me.” I did what I was told, played with my dolls while my cousin watched television with the volume way up. About an hour passed when the doorbell rang. It was a couple of her friends. She happily invited the lanky teens in.
Now, I knew the rules, and was quite sure they had been delegated to my cousin: “No one in the house when my mom was not at home.” I decided to share this rule with the teens. After a brief discussion in whispers between the group my cousin looked at me with a grin. “Wanna play hide and seek?” She asked. Of course I did. But we weren’t going to play in the house, no. They had somewhere better in mind.The cemetery, which was located only three blocks away.
I was both scared and excited. Excited because I was playing hide and seek the big kids way. And I was certain my older cousin would protect me from whatever was hiding in the home of the dead we were eager to invade. She held my hand securely, swinging it in the night air with that grin on her face. When we got there, we walked deeper into the quiet cemetery, and then without warning, they ran. Yes, including my cousin. They thought it would be a hoot to hide from me; to leave an eight year old in the middle of a dark cemetery, alone.
I stood there for what seemed like hours. I didn’t make much of an effort to find them. I was too afraid. So, I did the only thing I could do: I cried, very loudly. My tormentors eventually came out of hiding. And I could not wait to tell my mother who would be home sometime in the wee hours of the morning. As we walked home, the friends of my cousin went their separate ways. She walked a couple of feet ahead of me, looking back occasionally to see if I was behind her. I didn’t go to sleep that night. Nope, I eagerly waited for my mom to get home. I barely gave her a chance to walk inside the door.
I told my exhausted mom about the event while my cousin slept in her sleeping bag in my bedroom. My mom slowly took off her clothes in her bedroom and listened. She didn’t respond the way I thought she would. Instead of getting a switch and waking my cousin with a few lashes, she said something that has become the theme to the stories I write:
“It’s not the dead we should fear, but the living.”