For no particular reason, here are my childhood fears laid out in an easy to access top ten list:
10. Giraffes under the door – My mother put a rubber strip on the bottom of the door to the garage. I asked her what it was for. She told me it was “to keep the giraffes out.” This was creepy because up to that point I didn’t think giraffes lived in Connecticut, nor could I imagine them sticking their long necks under the door if the rubber strip wasn’t there. I can’t remember how old I was when I figured out that she actually said “drafts.”
9. The Boogens – I never saw this movie but television execs assaulted my childhood by repeatedly showing commercials for this horror movie during my favorite shows. There was a time when I had to leave the room during commercial breaks. Other movies that freaked me out as a kid include The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, Poltergeist, the boat scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and the whole “astronaut goes into a hotel and becomes and old man and then a giant floating space fetus” sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
8. Richard Nixon – Like most children, I had my share of monsters under the bed, and a recurring dream of a triceratops marauding through my bedroom. Less typical, I often had nightmares of Richard Nixon hiding in my closet. Granted, I never heard much good about him and he was kind of creepy looking, but the linking of Nixon with the bogeyman seems a stretch to me today.
7. Bugs – One house we lived in had an infestation of water bugs with something like a million legs each. Very creepy. Really any insect or arachnid large enough that I could see their joints freaked me out. And then there were the Indian Meal Moths in the pantry. I’m too creeped out to write about them.
6. The basement staircase – The last house I lived in as a child had a steep, creaky wooden staircase with no railing leading to the basement. I was convinced I was going to meet my end falling down those steps.
5. Mummenschanz – What the heck were they thinking showing these creepy mimes with toilet paper on their heads on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show?!
4. Land of the Lost – I think more than anything else it was the poor production values and that tree with all the computer control panels, and the fact that none of this made any sense that freaked me out. Apparently, it was just a Sleestak library.
3. The Public Hospital – Colonial Williamsburg very boldly reconstructed the first mental hospital in the US and opened it as a museum in the 1980’s. It was a big move for a living history museum to show another side of colonial/early American life apart from the homes of wealthy colonists. And they figured the best way to get their educational message across would be by scaring the crap out of children. Included in the exhibit were representations of cells with audio recordings of raving lunatics shaking their shackles. This was freakier than if they’d put in manikins or even live actors, because the empty cell with the audio recordings just sounded like ghosts. Creepy lunatic ghosts.
2. The Van de Graaff generator – The Museum of Science wins the prize among museums for freaking me out. Basically two large balls produce gigantic bolts of lightning and we’re supposed to just stand there and think some piano wire will save us. Yeah right. I ran my little legs off and hid in the brain exhibit. I haven’t been back to the MOS Theater of Electricity since I moved to Boston either. Granted natural thunder and lightning storms also freaked me out as a child (and they still do).
1. King Kong bank – My mom and grandmother were going shopping. I wanted to go but they wanted me to stay at home and watch the game on tv with my dad. Instead, I threw a temper tantrum and then fell asleep on the floor. Meanwhile, while shopping my mom felt guilty and decided to get me a treat: a plastic King Kong piggy bank! She placed it by my head so I would see when I woke up. Needless to say, they were not tears of joy that I shed when I woke up to see a big ape grimacing at me. Later on though, I became very fond of King Kong and when I built the Empire State Building with wooden blocks I would place him on top.