Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Monster Under the Bed

RHYS BOWEN: Halloween is fast approaching and lots of tiny tots are going to be scaring themselves silly by dressing up like ghosts and monsters and going out into the dark streets where there are giant spiders and cobwebs. I wonder why we like to be scared? Maybe it's the delicious thrill of being scared yet knowing we are essentially safe. Having never grown up with Halloween (it didn't really exist in England but it's big there now) I didn't ever experience the thrill of being scared in a controlled environment. And I confess, I am a natural wimp. I have never enjoyed horror stories, horror movies.

Actually I didn't need Halloween to scare me. I grew up in a scary house. It was a big, rambling country house with corridors long enough for me to practice my roller skating. My brother and I slept on the top floor, up a twisting flight of stairs from our parents. And I was convinced the house was haunted. The rug outside my bedroom door would flap by itself.... flap, flap, flap in the darkness. My window opened once in the middle of the night. And I used to dream about a procession of hooded figures coming up the stairs toward me. I suppose in an old house a draft could make the rug flap, the window blow open, and the hooded figures were because that staircase stood between me and my parents. However... years later I mentioned to my brother that I thought Britomart (the name of the house) was haunted. He replied, 'Of course it was."

So I didn't need things to frighten me, but I'm curious as to what scared you when you were a child. Did you think there was a monster under the bed? Did you have to have a nightlight on? Did you like being scared at Halloween? Confession time....

HALLIE EPHRON: No night lights or monsters under the bed for me. And I confess, I never found Halloween scary. Wasn't it about candy? Maybe because those rubber Halloween masks hadn't been invented yet and I'd never been to see a horror film. We lived up the street from a famous 'witch's house' which was built for a movie. Here's a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spadena_House - The big thing on Halloween was to go there trick or treating. Or to the house around the corner where Lana Turner's daughter killed Johnny Stompanato. We carried pillow cases for our loot and filled them.

LUCY BURDETTE: Ooohhh, Rhys have you written about Britomart?? If not, you must! I don't like to be scared, not one bit. Maybe I'm managing that by writing mysteries?? anyway, I agree with Hallie, Halloween was about the candy. But also about being someone other than myself by wearing a costume. Maybe my favorite ever was going to a party in grad school as Wonder Woman...

RHYS: Lucy, I've just written about a spooky house in Cornwall for my next Royal Spyness book! And I love the uh...breastplates???

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I scared myself in my formative years by watching The Twilight Zone, so my entire pre-teen life was spent trying to  figure out what horrific and life-changing twist was about to happen. and YIKES, the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I was terrified of that. Halloween, though, doesn't seem scary to me. And yes, Lucy, the good part is getting to dress up as something else. And the Twizzlers. But the decorations some people have in their yards are more grotesque than scary..unless, I suppose, you see them at night . Which, duh, is the point. Never mind.
Oh--I was at an event today with another author--who said  her son was not scared about the monsters under the bed because every night they used a special spray to keep them away.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I love scary books and the old-fashioned scary movies, now and when I was a kid. I had several "Tales of Terror" books which, I realized as an adult, were classic short stories repackaged with a few illustrations for kids. Very smart of my mother, who got me reading Poe, de Maupassant and Henry James before I was twelve. I still think those older tales are the absolute creepiest - I defy anyone to read Shirley Jackson and get a good night's sleep afterwards.

We lived in my grandmother's 1840s country house for a couple of years, and of course slept over many other times. I used to be scared of the mysterious thumps and creaks, until my grandma pointed out that we had owned the house since it was built, any ghosts residing there were family members. She used to swear she could hear her grandmother in the kitchen, rattling pots and pans, getting ready to feed her large brood. Now I own a 200-year-old house in the country, and I'm afraid all the mysterious noises are caused by mice. :-P

JENN McKINLAY: I'm with Julia! I love the scary stuff! Candy helps, too, of course. I was always scared as a kid since my brother, who is eleven months older than me, just thought it was the funniest thing to hide around corners, under stairs, behind doors and jump out at me. I am the scream queen, seriously, Jamie Lee Curtis has nothing on me. I remember one night while I was doing the dishes, we lived in a remote area in a house on a lake, my brother crept up to the kitchen window, which overlooked the lake, and popped up wearing a rubber mask from The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I think I screamed for five minutes straight. And yet, I still love all things scary. There is clearly something wrong with me. By the way, I already have my tickets to Zombieland this weekend!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I don't like scary. Not when I was a kid, not now. My brother was too much older than me to have bothered teasing me, or I might have developed a thicker scary-skin. And I don't ever remember being scared on Halloween. It was just about dressing up (which I wasn't very good at either) and the candy. But I do love Zombieland, Jenn, so am all in on the new one! My hubby, by the way, is the oldest of five, and LOVED scaring his siblings.

RHYS: So how about you? Who likes to be scared? Who is a wimp (or maybe a sensible person) like me ?

37 comments:

  1. I absolutely don’t like to be scared. [And when I was growing up, there were lots of things that scared me. Roller coasters. Scary alien science fiction movies. Yes, Hank, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was one of those really scary films.] But Halloween was different. Halloween was always about dressing up and lots of candy. It was never a scary time for me.

    Monsters under the bed? Not for me, but my grandbaby worries about monsters. [I told him I had a special lamp that scared the monsters and it would keep him safe. And I sent the lamp home with him to scare away all the monsters in his house.] Problem solved . . . .

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    1. good idea on the lamp Joan! I bet his parents were grateful.

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  2. Weighing in as a wimp. Scared to the point of nightmares by Twilight Zone (I wasn't allowed to watch it for that reason), by the stories I read in Poe and Conan Doyle (but I read them anyway...), by the thought that stepping on a crack would literally break my mother's back. I still avoid stepping on cracks and lines!

    I do LOVE to dress up for Halloween as some kind of person I am not. That - and the candy - are my favorite parts of the holiday.

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    1. I forgot about the Twilight Zone--I still remember some of those terrifying plots. as Hank said, they were full of realistic and horrifying twists!

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    2. “Next stop Willoughby.”

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    3. Oh I love the dressing up part, Edith. But nothing like my grandson who went as The Scream!

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  3. Raising another wimpy hand here! Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Yep. Scared the bejesus out of me. Nightmares about creepy clowns in the cherry tree outside our house. Waking up in the dark and creeping into my parents' bedroom to stand silently close to the bed. But Halloween? Nah. Dress up and candy, fer sure. And Rhys, I read Shirley Jackson's The House in broad daylight with other people in the room and still scared myself silly.

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  4. I don't recall Halloween being scary for me. It was more about dressing up and going from house to house getting treats. In those days, it was usually home made goodies like fudge, cookies, donuts. My mother made popcorn balls and sometimes candied apples. Imagine that today. Out kids are limited to cheap candy with intact wrappers, or, if lucky a comic book from Jay.

    This year we will be at Bouchercon, and yes, I do have a costume. Of sorts. If my daughter doesn't take it from me to wear herself.

    Julia and I would get along just fine, watching old horror movies. Remember "The Beast with Five Fingers?" "Plan 9 From Outer Space?" The original Frankenstein with Boris Karloff?

    Later on I screamed through "The Exorcist", "Babadook", "Alien", "Get Out", "Jaws", "Halloween", and my very favorite of all time, "El Orfanato" with Belen Rueda. The latter I saw by myself on two consecutive days, just me an a bag of popcorn. Julia, see this one.




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    1. I've read all of Guy de Maupassent and most of Poe. The latter was usually scary but I never blanched at de Maupassent. Not to mention Stephen King, of course. And Shirley Jackson, who is unsurpassed in terrifying.

      And then there is HOLD MY HAND by Serena Mackesy. It's one of her earlier one, written befoe Alex Marwood was born, and it was the scariest of them all.

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    2. How about John Carpenter's The Thing, Ann? I actually like that one and it's really scary.

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    3. Hmmm, not familiar with it but I'll go have a look.

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  5. Total wimp here, although I LOVE Halloween. I'm in the middle of decorating for our big party next weekend, hauling out the skeletons, skulls, bloody eyeballs, and black everything. This year's outdoor decorations, if I can pull it off, will include a cool (no ghouls) cemetery, spectral holograms and floating ghosts. Stay tuned.

    But I was a fraidy cat as a kid, scared of my own shadow. Once I saw The Invasion of the Body Snatchers on TV, in black and white, I never again went to the basement without the light on, and even then I'd scamper back upstairs as if the hounds of hell were on my tail. This terror, by the way, lasted embarrassingly far into adulthood.

    Why was that movie so terrifying? Seeing it in the modern times, you can see how perfectly cheesy and clunky it was, especially compared to today's fancy CGI effects and thundering sound clips. Maybe because it was so low-key? Because it clearly scared the bejeebers out of a lot of us from that era!

    Jenn, I'm also easily startled, which my husband thinks is hilarious. The rat.

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    1. Oh my gosh. I have an incredibly high startle reflex. My husband scares me silly all the time.

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    2. The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers was the most terrifying thing ever for me. And I still need a light on at night

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  6. I *love* Halloween and have many happy memories of trick-or-treating in our neighborhood while my dad dressed up and scared the neighbors. We STILL laugh about that!

    I like scary movies and books but I can't read Stephen King or Shirley Jackson at bedtime. How does King know every scary thing from my childhood that I thought I had forgotten?

    Rhys, I would love to stay in a haunted house! As a kid I was sure there were monsters under the bed. In fact, I still can't sleep with my toes hanging off the bed. LOL

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  7. speaking of horror films, has anyone else seen GET OUT! I had to fast forward through that scary bit when we realize what those nice suburban folks are really up to. Fast forward is my friend.

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    1. Hallie, one of my favorites and a great film

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  8. Growing up I was scared of everything! And that included people making scary faces. I do not like scary movies. For some reason, way back when my mother and I went to see the movie Who's Afraid of Baby Jane. I spent most of that movie with my eyes covered.
    Call me a wimp - I don't care!

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  9. Believe it or not, I have pretty much zero interest in all things scary. I'm talking horror movies or horror novels. I just don't get into them. I think the last time I did was the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street movie (The one subtitled Dream Warriors) and that was mostly because a rock band I liked did the title song for the soundtrack.

    Now I don't mind scary in a suspense type movie. After all, my favorite movie is The Silence of the Lambs. And I did like the first few seasons of The Walking Dead before it got boring. But all this other stuff like the endless sequels where Jason (or other serial killer du jour) keeps coming back despite being atomized in the previous film just irritates my senses.

    And let's face it, if you have watched the more modern day horror films, they are just torture porn.

    I've got a friend named Ann, and she is a HUGE Halloween/horror fan. She does the haunt circuit, goes to parties, throws her own parties and just generally does it all up. And she lives in a house that is haunted she says. As a matter of fact, she went to a party yesterday where she was dressed up as a dead gangster and the person that went with her was a bullet-riddled bootlegger. The photos are always great but otherwise, I don't get it myself. But I'll be there for her Halloween/Christmas party in early December where the theme is a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland. She's going as the Cheshire Cat...if the cat was a zombiefied version of itself.

    I don't know if it makes me sensible or a wimp, but there you have it. I just am missing the gene that makes one goofy for gore.

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  10. THE VANISHING. I wish I could un-see it!

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  11. Rhys, how old was the rambling country house that you grew up in? For me, I grew up with Halloween. I remember wearing a costume and going trick or treating.

    Not a fan of horror movies or horror books either. I know several people who love these. However I like movies like Beetlejuice, which is more funny than scary.

    Mystery novels can be scary and it is scary enough for me.

    Diana

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    1. The house was young by British standards. Built mid 1800s

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    2. That is indeed young by British standards.

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  12. I am definitely a wimp, and I blame my mother. She loved Alfred Hitchcock and all those movies of the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte variety, and she let me watch them with her at an alarmingly young age. Honest to goodness, I think The Birds scarred me for life! So once I was old enough to control my own viewing, I don't do scary.

    I'm not drawn to scary books, either, but occasionally when one is really well-reviewed I will make an exception -- Stephen King's works are a great example. His writing is so good it makes the fear worth enduring. I feel like I can take those because I have more control: if a scene gets too scary, I can put the book down and walk away for a bit.

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  13. Shalom Reds and fans. My life has been relatively free from fear. My parents did a great job of sheltering us from what might terrify us. I did as a child wake from sleep having had what some call “Night terrors.” My father was convinced that The Wizard of Oz that was one of my favorite stories that my dad would read to me before bed, was the culprit. So he thought the proximate cause was the “Winged Monkeys.” In any case, I outgrew those scary episodes.

    I won’t deliberately try to scare myself or allow myself to be scared. While I have read all of Poe and deMaupassant, I’ve never read a Stephen King novel. I won’t see Jaws. I avoid all horror or slasher films. I do get a little uncomfortable when watching Gaslight, which I’ve seen more than a few times. Now, when I watch a DVD or streaming video and I get anxious, I will stop the machine and go outside for a cigarette and some fresh air.

    Halloween is about sugar and an excuse to drink to excess, if I ever needed one. (I am now sober 27 years.) I don’t remember any of the costumes of my youth. I lived in the “projects” when I was a kid, so there were endless doors that we could knock on. One or two years, my mom hooked us up with UNICEF charity boxes. So we went “Trick or treating for UNICEF.” As an adult, when I was young, I dressed up twice for Halloween. Once I went as Tarzan. One year I dressed up as the Urim and Thumim. They are in the Bible and nobody knows what they were. I took the front and back pages of an Israeli Hebrew newspaper and wore them like a sandwich board.

    As an eighteen-year-old, I was mugged at knife point. Ever since, I am “on guard” when walking in deserted urban neighborhoods, particularly at night.

    I did buy some candy as we have one little boy who lives in our building. I ate it all already and need to buy some more. Usually no one knocks on our door. My roommate dresses every year as a pirate and has had the decorations out since the middle of September.

    There was a cartoon a couple of years back. It showed a couple watch a program about politics. One says to the other, “Can we watch something more realistic, like Star Wars?” Trump is pretty scary.

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    1. The winged monkeys freaked me out as a child. That was an entirely scary movie for me!

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  14. I loved Halloween. Dressing up. Running around like hooligans. Free candy! I also loved scary movies. Big brother and I would see the latest at the neighborhood theater. I remember Godzilla scared the heck out of me. The original one with Raymond Burr edited in. I love all the old movies from the 30s and 40s: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman. I felt so sorry for the wolfman (I was a very sensitive child). It wasn't his fault! I watched scary stuff on TV: Twilight Zone, Thriller, Alcoa Presents, and others. Read scary stories. I still remember reading The Birds from an Alfred Hitchcock paperback. Nowadays I enjoy funny scary movies: Zombieland, Cockneys Vs Zombies, Bubba Ho Tep. Mostly ridiculous but fun. Eight Legged Freaks. Oddly enough, the shows I found frightening as a child were those where a child was separated from his parents. Twilight Zone had one of those where a kid fell into a fifth dimension. In that regard Wizard of Oz was disturbing too; Dorothy being marooned in a land with flying monkeys who stole her dog. Nightmares.

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  15. Call me a Wimp. Big time. All through my childhood and early adolescence, I was pretty wary of ghostly things, of which there were NONE in any house I ever lived in, and I have never (well, almost never) encountered something inexplicable in the dead of night.

    Lying awake in my bed at night as a kid, my imagination was my best friend and my worst enemy.

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  16. GET OUT was the perfect horror movie, IMHO. The suspense, the build up of how truly awful these people were, it was so well done! I'm not a lover of slasher films and much prefer the suspenseful ones - like Halloween, so scary!!!

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  17. I don't like things that go bump in the day or night. My grandparents house, was haunted but only after it was sold. Granddad was haunting the new owner's tenants because Granddad didn't like the new owner and never would sold to him if he hadn't been trying to get everything in order before he died or knew the creep was part of the buyers group. That house/property had an attic, basement, barn, warehouse with an empty chicken coop attached. I didn't like the back of the warehouse or chicken coop mainly because little critters liked it in there which attracted the slithering things that fed off them. Brrr. Yup, no scary movies, avoid those scary books. Wimp through and through and proud of it!

    Halloween is for the children, young children, in my mind. I've never liked teenagers trick or treating, which I've mentioned before. When we were kids our costumes were simple, usually something Mom could pull together from the closets in our home or our grandparents home. We only went around our neighborhood. I do remember as a 1st grader we had a costume parade into the park next to the school. The costumes had to be simple because we brought them to school and changed into them after lunch. I doubt they still are allowed to have that parade today.

    I did have a shiver while reading this - Twizzlers? Really? Red Vines or the Black licorice by the same company, American Licorice Co., that's the way to go. Costume for Bouchercon? I'm doomed.... :-)

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  18. I don't like really scary, and I can't tell really scary stories either, even my "Mary Culhane" is tame compared to others.
    I'd advise students to dial back any violence (or sex) and say I couldn't read Stephen King (except for "Quitters, Inc" which a trusted student told me I'd like). Twilight Zone didn't scare me, a favorite of mine; I showed some episodes to my classes -- good writing led to good discussions. Those pod people, though, truly scary, and there are many movies I've known to stay away from. Here's my "Black Bubble Gum" loosely based on a Steinbeck story "An Affair at 7 Rue de M-"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DvvltvnfFo&list=OLAK5uy_nv8Ttgxj7vi4gDR4kwjZRlNOaiaBwWxEY&index=11

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  19. I didn't realize that link was so crazy-long. If it doesn't work, try storytellermary.com and click on "stories on YouTube" link. ;-)

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  20. I think Halloween might be my favorite time of year, with the leaves turning and the scary everywhere. But, I have a love/hate relationship with scary of horror, too. For scary/horror movies, I want to be able to mute it or look away when it gets too intense, even when it's hokey scary. Last night I was flipping through the television stations and came across the end of one of the Halloween movies. The young couple think they're safe. She thinks she's killed the killer, but I know it's going to end badly. I had to mute it, even though I was telling the couple how stupid they were and knowing it was about to be over for them. I do love reading scary or highly atmospheric stories and books during the Halloween season. Old favorites, like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Agatha Christie's The Halloween Party are thrilling every year. This year, right now, I'm finishing up Strangers at the Gate by Catriona McPherson, and I highly recommend it as your Halloween read this year. It comes out next Tuesday, Oct 22nd.

    Rhys, I second the thought that you write about your house where you grew up. A short story would be great.

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  21. I don't like scary movies or books, although I did watch some Twilight Zone, Frankenstein movies, etc. when I was younger. I'm not that big on Halloween, even the candy because I was and still am picky about my candy. I used to come home and trade my brother for as much chocolate as I could. He had his candy eaten right away but mine would last until Thanksgiving!

    I never was in a haunted house that I know of but since we live on a busy street, the streetlights used to scare me sometimes. They made patterns on the walls and ceiling. Also, steam heat makes tons of noise.

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  22. A day late but have this to add, direclty realtning to Rhys childhood home: my sister is a normally very rational, even hard headed person, not overly imaginative person. So I was very surprised when she admitted to a belief in ghosts. Cause was that when she lived in England for four years, she simply heard too many stories of personal experiences with very old houses!

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