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.
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.