Five Things that Terrified Me When I Was Young

by a contributor

from Ian Starttoday, author of My Housemate’s Dead Cat:

  1. The Peanut Butter Solution – A boy enters the remains of a burnt-out, abandoned mansion. Opens a chest to find a glowing, green light of terror! Goes home, begins going bald, and has to wear a wig. Boy’s wig gets snatched at school by a bully. A ghost tells the boy in his sleep that he can regrow his hair by slathering peanut butter on his head. This ludicrous Eighties movie was too much for me as a six-year-old. It’s embarrassing to admit, but hey—it’s not like we get to choose what freaks us out.
  2. The Witches – I saw the movie adaptation of this Roald Dahl book in the theater and it stayed with me for years to come. The scene where the boy is hiding under a table in the hotel’s function room, and fifty proper English ladies turn into the most hideous collection of witches imaginable, very nearly ruined my childhood, or made it a million times better. Still trying to decide which.
  3. Disturbing painting at my grandfather’s apartment – My grandfather was a prolific painter, and naturally, his works adorned his home’s walls. When I stayed over night there, I slept in the living room on a sofa bed that was directly across from a portrait of a woman on a handsome, gold-colored canvas. The woman’s face was looking away from the observer, but my grandfather had drawn an ornate mirror in which you could see a portion of her milk-white face, framed by long black hair that screamed WITCH to me. The negative space was painted entirely black, and the woman’s grotesquely long fingernails also appeared in the mirror. For sure, the painting had some kind of dark energy about it.
  4. “Riders on the Storm” – My dad used to play this haunting track a lot, as he was a Doors fan. The stormy sound effects in the beginning, combined with Jim Morrison’s grim vocals, just unsettled me. I didn’t know who sang the song at the time, and I think I thought it was some sort of old Halloween song.
  5. Unsolved Mysteries – I was mesmerized by this TV show. It boggled my mind that there were things that happened in this world that had never been explained. It also rattled me something fierce. This was before the Internet was popular, and so you couldn’t go poking around on your computer for more information after the show ended. You had whatever Robert Stack gave you. The details were filled in by your imagination, and that was where things got truly frightening.