I was an only child, raised by parents who’d already raised four children to adulthood. I had a great time. I think their parenting philosophy, though, was, “Get them out of the house! Let ‘em go play.” That’s one thing when there are four kids, and another when there’s just one, and she’s shy, bent toward the melancholic, and let’s admit it, a little strange.
I had a lot of time for reading and over-thoughtful introspection. Here are my most nostalgic, night terror-inducing books, TV episodes and actual night
1 and 2
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
and More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz.
I was reading in kindergarten, I was young for a kindergartner, and never remember a time I did not have these books. I think they were a Christmas present (from Satan). They were illustrated by sick, sick Stephen Gammell and have haunted my dreams all my life. No wonder he won a Caldecott Medal. It was like someone told him, “Scare the pants off kids.” And he said, “Okay?” And they said, “Sure! Why not? Scare the pants off kids.” And he did.
Actual tombstones, when tree roots are all weird and above-ground, dark water in ponds, mirrors at night, and the Revolutionary War.
My parents were very sociable, and liked to take me with them wherever they went. Not one to eavesdrop on adult conversations, I wandered around strange yards, peering into old wells, gazing at broken attic windows, making up ghost stories for myself. Many were Revolutionary War-themed because I grew up in South Jersey.
The Rocking Chair Ghost: An Easy to Read Mystery, Mary C. Jane
Illustrated by the less terrifying Tommie de Paola.
The Patchwork Monkey, by Beverly Butler
I just Googled this, and there is, apparently, a 2003 movie, and the casting director made an actual “patchwork monkey” for the thing. I don’t think I could have been involved with this project at all.
The story goes that a babysitter gives some children a delightful patchwork monkey, and it ends up terrorizing all of them. The story’s in a collection called “Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures,” which Amazon promises is a “book of short stories containing everything a young child fears.” Four stars!
The episode of the 1980s Incredible Hulk TV series where Bruce Banner’s trapped in a basement full of water. It’s a ghost story, and the ghost enjoys singing the lullaby, “Hush little baby, don’t you cry/ Momma’s gonna buy you a mocking bird,” in a minor key.
The series is on Hulu! I can’t wait. It’ll be cathartic for my fears of the sump-pump. We had a sump-pump hole in our South Jersey basement, full of water. “Where’s Buffy?” My mom would ask, sometimes, when she hadn’t seen the cat in a while. “I hope she didn’t fall in the sump pump!” Envision a small girl standing behind her mother, eyes widening with terror.
An old 70s Archie Comics story about a sea monster.
I just found it, referenced in a scholarly comics blog by Jamie Weinman, titled “Bob Bolling and the Pursuit of Melancholy Innocence.” (That sounds about right.) Bolling drew this story where Little Archie goes out to sea, and is met by a very realistically drawn plesiosaur-type “sea monster” (who’s soothed by the sound of Archie’s rock stylings, but you had me at realistically drawn sea monster, Bob Bolling. This comic, inspired a lifelong love of cryptozoology).
The article, and link to the comic:
Comic books of the 70s.
I’m in my 30s, but my older brother and sisters are in their 40s and 50s. They left a lot of stuff behind when they moved out, namely, some predominantly gothic comics. Gotham, Metropolis and the Underworld (Hercules Unbound), were not happy places in the 1970s.
Hercules Unbound, Wikipedia
All of my night-terrors, collectively.
Night Terrors, Wikipedia
The one where the hand comes out of the grave.
A most-cherished nightmare, sublime in its detail and emotion– the overly saturated green hillock, the child-sized tombstones, the chain link fence, the gray sky, and the hand! Oh, the exquisite hand that rises from the grave! Thanks for letting me share. I feel a little better.