Okay horror fans, you’re in for a treat. Two very talented horror writers share their chilling childhood memories and what drove them to their love / obsession of the horror genre. Hunter Shea, and Jackson Dean Chase shares with us, “What Horror? This Horror.”
From Hunter Shea:
I was raised on horror. No big secret there. By the time I could walk and talk, I’d seen more scary flicks than most teens. My parents loved going to the local drive-in and most of the second features were monster or biker flicks. At home, I often sat with my dad absorbing all of the terror-filled delights Chiller Theatre had to offer.
The thing is, horror movies didn’t frighten me. Oh, they gave me the occasional start and made me reluctant to sleep with the lights off, but I was always able to separate the scares on the screen from reality. The Exorcist was a fun way to spend a night. Worrying about thieves breaking into our house while we slept was a dread concern that weighed heavily on me.
Until I was 8, we lived in an apartment building in the Bronx. The various sounds of our neighbors knocking around never failed to put me in a state of panic. When we moved to a house in the suburbs, the silence of the night was deafening. When raccoons dumped our garbage can lids or wind made the old house groan, my heart would gallop into overdrive.
My bedroom was on the second floor, the first room a person would come to when they ascended the stairs. I was absolutely terrified by the thought of opening my eyes at night and seeing a strange face leering at me from the top of the stairs.
As I got older, the grip that fear had on me lessened, until I no longer thought about it as a teen.
But then came the night of the ‘visitors’. Let me set it up for you. My parents and sister were away on summer vacation. I was 19, had a job and a girlfriend that I wasn’t about to leave for a week. One day, I came down with what I thought was the flu. I had body cramps, fever, chills, you name it. My girlfriend came over to take care of me. I remember telling her I needed to take a nap and for her to hang out downstairs in the living room where she could watch TV. It was late in the day, around 7. My body aching, I collapsed onto the bed.
I wasn’t asleep for long before I felt a presence in the room. Assuming it was my girlfriend, I wiped the sweat from my brow and opened my eyes.
What I saw stole the breath from me. I tried to scream but nothing would come out.
My room was bathed in a pale, green light. I could see the coming dusk outside my windows. The light was in the room, emanating from the walls and ceiling!
Standing around my bed were a half-dozen figures, their features hidden in shadow. They were tall and lean and each one pressed a hand onto my bed. It seemed as if they had been waiting for me to awaken. Unmitigated terror locked my joints and seized my muscles. I couldn’t move, couldn’t cry out.
One of the figures bent down towards my face. How could I not see what it looked like? It was impossible. A large, featureless head peered at me. I felt the weight of its hand on the bed.
I thought I was going to pass out. Was it sniffing me? I couldn’t take anymore. Mustering all the strength I had, I managed to release a cry that was more croak than anything. The figure straightened up, looking at the others. There was a creak on the steps. My girlfriend had to have heard me!
I turned to face the stairs. When I saw her, my head jerked round to the figures. They were gone. There was no strange, verdant light. I was alone, sweating in a dark room.
It took me years to come to the comforting realization that it had all been a fever dream. It felt so real, the panic so raw, I was sure I had been visited by ghosts or aliens, or maybe even both. It was a moment conjured by my delirious brain that has marked me forever. The one thing it showed me is that if I could create something so strange I frightened myself, I could tap into that power to scare others.
From a nightmare was born a writer. The welcome sign is always on for the visitors of my subconscious…or are they?
From Jackson Dean Chase:
“…Creatures from the past are alive today.”
—Peter Graves, The Mysterious Monsters
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, you hear a lot of stories about Bigfoot. When I was just seven years old, my father took me to see The Mysterious Monsters, a documentary about Bigfoot, The Yeti, and The Loch Ness Monster. Mission: Impossible star Peter Graves was the host, and went around interviewing those who had survived meeting the monsters.
Those parts weren’t all that interesting, but what screwed me up for life were the dramatic reenactments of the encounters. My young mind couldn’t tell the difference between what was fact and fiction—I assumed someone had been with the survivors filming the events as they happened!
The most terrifying of these reenactments took place in a rural setting at night: a house surrounded by dense forest, a forest alive with the sounds of crickets, owls, and an ominous rustling in the bushes…
Inside, a housewife sits watching TV while her husband works in another room. She hears a stealthy noise outside and peers out the window. Seeing nothing, she goes back to watching TV. But through the curtain, a giant, ape-like shadow passes by, completely unknown to her.
When the woman hears the noise again and goes to look out the window, a giant hairy hand smashes through the glass, clawing at her! She screams for her husband. He comes running with a rifle. He opens the front door and comes face to face with Bigfoot!
The reenactment ended there, but my horror didn’t. I’d seen scary movies before, but never like this. This one said the monsters were real. And they were out there somewhere, waiting to get me!
- Link to the Bigfoot clip that terrified me: http://youtu.be/YiQXnR1J7Jg
I spent many sleepless nights peering out my window, afraid the slightest sound meant Bigfoot was coming. Every day on the bus ride home from school, I would stare into the woods, wondering if this would be the day I would catch a glimpse of the monster. I never did, but I began to wonder… if Bigfoot was real, why not Dracula or the Wolf Man? Why not ghosts and demons and all kinds of sinister things?
The best defense I could think of was to study up on as many different kinds of monsters as I could. I read and watched everything that was even remotely horror-related. Much to my mother’s disappointment, I even considered a career as a “monster hunter.” Although it’s been decades since I saw The Mysterious Monsters, the horror of that night still haunts me. It always will.
In a way, I did become become a monster hunter—only the monsters I hunt are the ones in my mind, and I defeat them by dragging them out, exposing them to the light of the printed page.
I would like to thank my friends Hunter Shea and Jackson Dean Chase for stopping by and sharing those childhood terrors with us.
There’s more to come sweet horror fans. Check back next Friday. Horror writers are lined up, waiting to share those creepy childhood moments that drove them to write about the monsters that still haunt their memories.
If you’re a horror writer and would like to share a scary childhood memory , contact me.
There’s plenty of room for you here, in the dark.