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Scarier than Rip Taylor’s Toupee

Tim will pay top dollar for a bootleg video of this show

It’s Friday the thirteenth; the first Friday the thirteenth since last May and the last until this April [edit–there’s a third in July]! We were reminded of the awesome wonderfulness of the words “triskaidekaphobia” (fear of 13) and “paraskevidekatriaphobia” (fear of Friday the thirteenth) and various other scary things, and we thought it’d be fun to unburden ourselves and admit some of our darkest fears and our favorite/unfavorite scary books and movies. Please share yours in the comment area!

Tu Anh: My third-grade teacher used to read aloud to my class every late afternoon. She let the students bring in their own books and we all voted on our favorites. I remember books pulled from personal family libraries, ones that were precious and ridiculous when toted by young children: Crime and Punishment, The Sound and the Fury, Macbeth, etc.

But there were boys who delighted in bringing Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. They’d get all the other boys worked up into a frenzy, and I used to want to crawl into a closet and hide every time Mrs. S. started yet another “true story” about ghosts calling out to their corporeal bodies while some poor girl opened up the portal to Hell in her bedroom. Or maybe that’s not actually one of the stories; I don’t remember specifics, since during those traumatizing readings I was usually hyperventilating and trying not to look at the illustrations. (Except, obviously, I peeked at every illustration because it was frightening.) The artist, Stephen Gammell, created drawings of what I imagine to be A Carnival of Pain, and I was convinced the author, Alvin Schwartz, kept company with the Crypt Keeper.

In hindsight, Scary Stories was refreshing in the way it never underestimated children and their ability to process fear and fiction, but also in hindsight, I spent a lot of nights wondering if I lived above ancient burial grounds.

Paul: My scariest movie when I was a kid? The Wolf Man. I used to hide around the doorway of our family room and watch from there. Then I could easily duck away if I got scared. He really scared the [redacted] out of me.

Lois: Worst fears: rats or mice, especially when they gambol in the walls. Oddest fear (very young, in Saudi Arabia): that my mother would hit a camel while driving. Now I realize the real danger in Jeddah was that she was driving.

And the night my apartment in Brooklyn was robbed, friends took us to David Lynch’s Blue Velvet to distract us. We were hiding under our seats by the end. . . .

Virginia: As some of you know I am afraid of heights. No, not like that. I love heights. I’m afraid I’m going to jump. It’s a problem. You don’t want to be with me on a bridge or on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or in my office, for that matter.

Sylvie: The first scary movie I went to see (my parents thought it was a type of National Geographic movie) was Jaws. It gave me my fear of sharks. And to top it all off we went to see it in French (we were on a road trip in the south of France)!

Martha: Oddest fears? Fish: They don’t have eyelids, so they don’t blink, they’re slimy-looking, and they are too thin to have brains. Worms: Slimy. No eyes. No brains. HOW DO THESE CREATURES THINK? If they turn on you, you can’t reason with things that can’t think.

Favorite scary book: Wait Till Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn. I can’t tell you how many times I checked this out of the library and terrified myself. Favorite scary movie: The Shining.

Tim: Biggest phobia? Bird mites. I’m afraid of any little black dot, including the periods in manuscripts and galleys. And I have never made up the personal sleep deficit I created as a tween by reading the Exorcist and Amityville Horror novels. O.M.G.



  1. mwt says:

    I remember that when I went to see the movie ALIENS the 2 minute trailer for THE FLY freaked me out so much more than the whole movie that followed it . . .

    That thing about little black dots, Tim, that’s so sad. I s.y.m.p.a.t.h.i.z.e.

  2. Jody Feldman says:

    It’s quieter than I thought in Commentland. Are people too afraid to confess what they’re afraid of?

  3. cindy says:

    i am a chicken[redacted]!
    so i don’t watch scary movies.
    but somehow, my bff and i got
    into some hellraiser film when
    we were around 12. that was a mistake.

    i also bought an anthology of
    scary stories from our school library
    or some such around the same time
    in middle school and they scared the
    [redacted] out of me! i still remember
    snippets of those stories. one was titled
    “Sweets for the Sweet”.

    the first king novel i read was IT
    and i loved it. but yes, pennywise
    is very frightening. does anyone like
    clowns? no. no one.

    i’m actually trying to read more horror
    this year. it’s a new year’s resolution,
    so if you have any recs, please leave a

  4. cindy says:

    tim, i have a friend in my art class
    who can’t stand any kind of patterns
    like beehives and such. it makes her sick.

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