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Traumafession:: Senski on Gold Key Comics and Gloomy Sunday Suicides

March 18th, 2015 · 4 Comments

I’ve written before about how comic books were my gateway drug into the harder horror of movies, television and literature. While my parents would buy funny cartoon animal titles for me when I was all of two, it wasn’t until I turned six and made my initial forays into fright with comics from Gold Key (formerly Dell, often referred to as Western Publishing). They had a trio of terror titles: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (presumably true tales of ghosts, demons, uncanny occurrences), The Twilight Zone (stories that would not have been out of place on Rod Serling’s classic series) and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. That book started life in 1962 as Thriller, undergoing a name change for its third issue after the cancellation of the TV namesake. “Tales of Mystery” was somewhat of an undersell and a misnomer, as most stories dealt with giant monsters and hideous aliens that would not have been out of place in a 1950’s Creature Feature. The three books were great gobs of fun, all managing nearly two decades of publishing life (no small feat for a comic book.) With their sophisticated painted covers, they looked classy on the newsstand next to their Marvel and DC counterparts.

The Gold Key titles did not bear the voluntary Comics Code Authority seal due to an implicit agreement publishers had that their content would be both benign and educational. Other Disney characters and licensed TV franchises could be found between the pages of Gold Key comics, and certainly Donald Duck and Gunsmoke would never offend, right? (This self-policing was spotty on occasion. The 1970 cover of BKToM #32 featured a gorgeous canvas of the living dead emerging from the sea; the Code strictly forbade the depiction of zombies, and Code-stamped Marvel/DC would never have been able to get away with such artwork.)

As to that “educational” element…all three horror titles featured a text page that was devoted to the exploration of strange real life phenomena; ESP, weird weather, ghosts in the White House, etc. Kids were expected to read, dammit, and the Gold Key titles delivered a lot of bang for only 15 cents.

Which brings me to the point of this Traumafession…

Published in the Fall of 1968, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery #24 was only my second issue of the title, and I was already quite hooked (with that stunning George Wilson cover painting, who wouldn’t be?). But the text page for that issue was not only educational, it was deeply unnerving. Entitled “Melody of Death,” it told the history of the tune “Gloomy Sunday,” which soon after its creation had become known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song” due to its legendary propensity to inspire self-destruction in those who heard it. The song was composed by Rezső Seress in 1933 but didn’t achieve notoriety until recorded by Billie Holiday in 1941. It has been rumored to be a factor in dozens of suicides worldwide; indeed, its vocal version was banned by the BBC for its fear of contributing to public depression, a ban that was in place until 2002!

Well, that was terrifying to me. Imagine a song that held such malevolent power! And the fact that it was not readily hearable on the public airwaves only gave credence to the legend. I became that little boy in the article who was happily bicycling along, enjoying life, only to encounter the strains of “Gloomy Sunday”…and fling myself into the river! How could such evil be allowed to exist in the world? And the ultra-creepy accompanying illustration (by Joe Certa, who would fittingly go on to draw Barnabas Collins and cohorts for Gold Key’s Dark Shadows) didn’t help matters. That poor woman!

As fate would have it, I never heard a version of “Gloomy Sunday” until 1984, when ex-J. Geils Band vocalist Peter Wolf released his first solo LP “Lights Out,” but by then I was quite sanguine over the affair and wondered what the fuss was all about. And now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can hear numerous cover versions by everyone from Ray Charles to Björk. But they all pale in comparison to what my childhood imagination concocted…all from the pages of a comic book.

Oh, and composer Rezső Seress? He died in 1968 – the year I read this article.


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Tags: The Amazing Senski · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Carl M. on Judgment at Nuremberg

March 2nd, 2015 · 6 Comments

Forget the horror movies. What scar(r)ed me the most when I was but 8 years old was seeing “Judgment At Nuremberg” and learning about something called “The Holocaust” for the very first time! It was all I could think about for weeks!!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Taryn C. on The Psychopath (1966)

February 23rd, 2015 · 6 Comments

I just turned 50 last week (still trying to figure out how THAT happened?) and I loved watching horror and science fiction movies during my formative years. I checked the archives but didn’t see a mention of a fairly obscure 1966 movie called “The Psychopath“. Although it wasn’t a big hit at the time, it was written by Robert Bloch, directed by Freddie Francis and starred Patrick Wymark. As a child, I used to beg my parents to allow me to spend Friday nights at my best friend, Julie’s, house. Julie’s family always stayed up to watch horror movies on the Big Chuck & Hoolihan show (Cleveland, Ohio – REPRESENT!) and I really enjoyed this Friday evening ritual. I saw “The Psychopath” in 1975 when I was 10 years old, on an old black & white TV in my friend’s basement/rec-room. It disturbed me on a level I wasn’t even aware existed! Suddenly, I realized that not all ‘monsters’ were covered in thick fur, or drank blood, or had large bolts sticking out of their necks. Sometimes a ‘monster’ can be the normal-looking person who lives next door…

I can’t begin to convey how the ending of this movie terrified me. My friend and I would always bunk down in sleeping bags (on the shag-carpeted floor!) after the movie was over, but I didn’t get any sleep that night because it was spent clutching the pillow up around my face! The mental image of the movie’s shocking ‘reveal’ played over and over in my head for a looooong time afterwards….and even years later, I would still get the chills thinking about it.

I couldn’t recall the name of this movie for the next 27 years but thankfully, the internet and IMDB came through for me and at the age of 37, I had the opportunity to purchase a bootleg copy of this film and watch it again as an adult. Perhaps it’s due to my childhood memories, but – honestly – the movie STILL manages to frighten and disturb. While it can be a difficult title to track down, I strongly recommend viewing this one to anyone who loves a good, psychological horror story!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Name That Trauma:: Chris on Kids, Matches and Fire Safety

January 10th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Every time I’ve tried to search Youtube for this, I’ve come up with either the famous PIF where a camera is slowly gliding through a burnt-out house with dubbed on shrieks, or the other one where a kid ends up burning down his home because he was too careless lighting the fire in the living room and was more interested in reading the Dandy or whatever. This isn’t either of those. Instead, this is something that I saw once, and only once, during the always-unsaleable ad-break time of around about 5:45 am during an edition of the ITN Early Morning News in 1996.

The PIF began with two kids playing with matches in a blacked-out room – I think they were meant to be sister and brother. The older girl inevitably dropped one and a conflagration started. Which was nasty enough, but then the soundtrack went insane, ultra-heavy delay being applied to the girl screaming “MUM, MUM, MUM, MUM, MUM -” and then there was a massive film splice and the sound cut out and the action froze, the girl’s face remaining on screen mid-scream.

No word of a lie, my blood genuinely ran cold. I was rooted to the spot with fear. I have never been so glad as I was when it was faded out and part 2 of the bulletin began. The fact that there seems to be absolutely no mention of this PIF anywhere on the net, and all my searches for “PIF matches kids fire” or variations thereof all come up with the other two PIFs I mentioned earlier, makes me wonder if it was actually some terrifying broadcast from another dimension that only I could see.


UNK SEZ: Chris, I think I may have found it! I just googled “playing with matches PSA” looking for an image to illustrate your NTT and it popped up! Can this really be it? It seems so much like what you described….

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Tags: Name That Trauma! · Traumafessions

Traumafession From Dr. Future:: Chick Tracts and Christian Scare Literature

January 5th, 2015 · 8 Comments

As a fairly long-time devotee of Kindertrauma, I have tried to contribute my few submissions to the Kindertrauma “family” (which is much like the “Manson Family”) in the fields of “oddball” topics that have child-traumatizing elements, such as “Sesame Street” film segments or apocalyptic nuclear war themes. To continue that direction, I would like to address a field that, for people like me raised in evangelical Christian homes in the mid to late 1900s, caused potential traumas that are far greater than the scary movies and stories of monsters and ghosts – the threat of demons grabbing one and dragging them off to Hell, and the prophesied imminent End of the World.

As an older adult who still espouses Christian beliefs, and has even contributed to the field by writing on serious research topics in the field of prophecy in the Bible which still holds my respect, I have to clarify that my work has been of an intended non-exploitational nature (if that is possible) and targeted for a mature Christian adult audience. However, even in the pre-Internet and cable television days of the early 70s, it was very possible for a new generation of “Christian scare” literature and films, bolstered by a revival of Last Days apocalypticism and phenomena such as the Thief in the Night “last days” films (which everyone should watch on Youtube if not having been seen them in their churches previously), to randomly fall into the hands of easily-scared or otherwise fascinated children, such as yours truly.

On my “watch” as an impressionable child of the early 70s, the “grand daddy” (and reigning champion) of all “Godsploitation”, “Christian scare” literature was the “Chick tracts” produced by the enigmatic and reclusive Jack Chick. His small rectangular tracts were ubiquitous in the 1970s public realm – Chick Publications reportedly claims to have sold 750 million tracts since 1960, and having been translated into over 100 languages – what other type of propaganda literature (good or bad) can make such a claim in terms of its impact on society and its worldview, even if communicated in the shadows, and its message preserved in unspoken form in the back recesses of the readers’ minds?

In 2003 Los Angeles Magazine did an extended expose on Chick and his impact (HERE). It notes that, “In the pocket-sized tracts, people are stabbed, burned alive, and eaten by snakes. There is cannibalism and human sacrifice. The apocalyptic works are equal parts hate literature and fire-and-brimstone sermonizing, with a tough-guy Christ – ‘Jesus is not a weak fairy’, he writes – as protagonist”. They note that “Chick is the world’s most published living author”, with his works “handed out on subways and campuses or left behind in diners and bus stations”, and his tracts having been displayed at the Smithsonian. The screenplay writer of the film Ghost World was noted as saying of Chick’s work, “I had never been so terrified by a comic book”. They note that his work, targeting the Satanic work of Catholics, gays and a long list of culprits (including those who use any Bible but the King James), was banned by many Christian bookstores, denounced by Christianity Today, and led Chick to quit the Christian Booksellers Association, thereby cementing his reputation as the king of “Christian outsider literature” (my term). His few favorable subjects include Israel and Tony Alamo, a Los Angeles-based cult leader.

I must have come across my first Chick tract as a six or seven year old at a restaurant or public bathroom – where most Chick tracts are discovered. Inside I found the most grotesque and stupifyingly horrifying images that have seared into my mind and nightmares, as they have with millions of others for decades. Like many such younger readers, I am sure, my mother told me to discard it because it was “not good” – which of course led me to crave the perusal of its contents as taboo, “forbidden fruit” of dangerous knowledge and ideas. They permanently form the enduring, defining images of demons and Hell in all of us who have been touched at a tender age by them.

While they may seem a little more quaint in today’s “Saw”, “Hostel” era of “no limit” depravity, they still pack a mighty wallop – magnified a hundred fold for sheltered youth. While the Chick Publications website features their scores of famous tracts, with online illustrations of their pages, I would like to mention four Chick tracts that I have not forgotten, almost forty five years later – indelible images not privy then to the notes-sharing and discourse now possible with the Internet, and rather kept in the isolated thoughts of those damned to find such a tract on their own in the mysterious pre-Internet world of discovery.

The first, The Beast, (HERE), clearly warns the reader of its contents with a cover picture of a father, mother and child – marked on their foreheads with the dreaded “666”, and thus damned for eternity. The contents reveal widespread death from the Flood, gay encounters in “today’s world” (with one perpetrator’s phrase of “You know you’re the only man for me” remembered by a senior friend of mine fifty years later), Lucifer worship, the Antichrist embraced at the Vatican, guillotining, black eyed and fanged demons, werewolves, a Goat of Mendes, and the Lake of Fire – all in one tract!

The next, the cleverly quaint Somebody Goofed (HERE), reveals an adult mentor of a child sneering at others who appeal to the child to follow Christ (and avoid “overdosing on speed”) or be “eternally lost”, leading to the eventual car wreck and descent to Hell, where the “mentor” reveals himself to be in fact a ugly, masked demon who intended to drag the child to hell.

The tract The Last Generation (HERE) has a cover with a costumed super-villain offering a syringe of drugs to youth, features death camps for Christians, a Damien-like child informant of his parents because they are “straight” and who sacrifices cats and dogs on Halloween, reincarnation and the Mother Goddess, all taught to children in public schools, concluding by noting that “Little Bobby died in his sins, because he never prayed a prayer”.

The legendary This Was Your Life (HERE) shows a man who dies, and is forced to watch all the creepy and lecherous thoughts he ever had, until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire.

The purpose of my post is not to mock or belittle the message (and warnings) of Christianity, but rather to spotlight an iconic, social impacting role of a “king traumatizer” and controversial but undeniably influential individual from the magical days of the youth of my generation and evangelical circles, and the amazingly “traumatic” influences of religious extremist expression (even when communicating spiritual truth) in the “good old days”, which really weren’t so “innocent” in comparison to the “Dungeons and Dragons” and demon-filled video game culture of today.

If you like exploring such topics, please trot over and check out the hundreds of free archived radio shows I hosted over on my website FUTURE QUAKE.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Hilary F. on Problem Child and Problem Child 2

January 1st, 2015 · 3 Comments

I was an introverted only child with an admittedly unhealthy love for my own possessions (thanks Brave Little Toaster). Edward Scissorhands, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Gremlins 1 & 2 were definitely some of the few somewhat-traumatizing movies I experienced during my childhood, but at least I knew that they lived in a world of make-believe, or they were puppets. The kid from the Problem Child movies, however, lived in my world–the real world–and while there might not be so many kids with the brains for the sheer amount of hate-filled evil he wrought, there were definitely a few in my classroom with the personality for it.

I remember watching Problem Child 1 at a sleepover when I was 7. The scene where he decides to trash his bedroom is what really horrified me, setting it on fire, just because he didn’t like clowns. Those were TOYS. That was his HOME. To me toys had inherent personalities–and as we all know just as adults from watching Toy Story: when toys with personalities are about to get melted down–even that jaded, stone-hearted bear–it’s SAD and AWFUL. Oh yeah and then there was the animal abuse of that poor cat he feeds soap to. At that young age, I still lived in dread that my parents hadn’t finished making babies and I might get some little demon brother or sister like the Problem Child. It was a fear I lived with nightly for years. And I blame the Problem Child for my unwillingness to have kids of my own now. Now how many supposedly awful and evil movie villains actually have that kind of effect on an adult’s big life milestones?

Then in Problem Child 2 (another movie forced onto me at a sleepover), he sets a sprinkler off in the whiny little girl’s room, soaking her stuffed animals, confirming my fear that not only would he trash his own sanctuary, he’d trash someone else’s.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Warren F. on Ed Sullivan and a Gluttonous Muppet

December 18th, 2014 · No Comments

I remember watching The Ed Sullivan Show (or program) on a “black and white” (grey scale) TV with my parents circa “1967”. Ed Sullivan was showing the puppetry talents of Jim Henson and one of his puppet performances was “The Glutton”. This was a very large Muppet operated by Jim that would eat everything in sight incessantly (the “cookie monster” of Sesame Street is a grossly watered down version of this “uncanny valley” mega puppet that Jim created). The glutton was interrupted in his eating by a small flying saucer. The saucer shot a ray at him and made him small. When he was small, a “normal sized” version of him walked into the scene, looked down at him, picked him up, and ate the smaller version of himself… needless to say the 5 year old me ran screaming from the room…

UNK SEZ: Thanks for the traumafession, Warren! Sadly I couldn’t find “The Glutton” on YouTube but I did find a clip of JIM HENSON’s first appearance on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, check it out below!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Father of Tears on Deckard Versus Pris in Blade Runner

December 17th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Blade Runner” as a childhood trauma? Considering how I was introduced to it yes! Way back in the early 1980s at the age of 15 I was channel surfing while watching TV. When I got to HBO I stumbled upon the scene in “Blade Runner” where Deckard confronted Pris. Deckard goes into the toy room filled with creepy dolls. When he finds Pris trying to imitate one of the life sized dolls she gets up and attacks him. As she beats him up I’m thinking, “This spike haired crazy lady with the weird makeup is creepy!” She’s screaming the whole time and she even gets him in a “standing headlock” with her legs. When she twisted his head and body around I thought she twisted just his head! Pris then temporally lets him go she decides to run at him to finish him off…..while doing gymnastic flips! While she’s in mid-flip Deckard gets his gun and shoots her in the abdomen. Now this is the part that REALLY had me creeped out: Pris lands on her back and she violently, and rapidly, pounds her fists and feet on the floor while she’s screaming her head off. Quite an unnerving thing to stumble upon!

Oh, this isn’t the first time I was “introduced” to a movie via seeing a traumatic death scene. Can you say “Heavenly Creatures“?


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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Eric D. on Wolfman (1979) and Hugo’s Video Store

December 15th, 2014 · 2 Comments

I was a child in the early 90’s and there were two things I loved; werewolves and the video store. A combination which got along together like peanut butter and jelly. Werewolves had been my favorite monster since I had been shown The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. by my father. The other side of this match made in horror heaven, the video store was where I acquired my love of film and indulged my imagination.

In short, the video store was my salvation. I loved everything about it, going there and seeing all the strange box covers promising entry into a strange, fantastic and often terrifying world where all the rules and limitations of mundane reality no longer applied. Werewolves, vampires, unstoppable indestructible undead maniacs and monsters of every description were not only very much real but out to get you; you were in their world now. It was simply the biggest thrill in my life. The first video store that I ever frequented was Hugo’s video store.

It was a small independent operation run by none other than the man himself, the eponymous; Hugo. The place had wooden shelves upon which sat all the box covers. I was compulsively drawn to the horror section because I adored the genre more than any other due to an early introduction given me by my father of all the old Universal Monster movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. Now one box in particular stood out and scared me, positively sent shivers down my spine. It featured a werewolf with what appeared to be bluish-blackish hair, an off white or light tan dress shirt, bearing his fangs and staring down from the shelf with the most terrifying look my young eyes had ever seen. My heart skipped a beat looking up at that face and made me feel as though my stomach dropped out.

My father rented it for me, I got it home, put the tape into the VCR and by the end, I was captivated, frightened and utterly distraught. It was the saddest movie my young self had ever seen. Many years past, Hugo’s video store packed up and moved to another location in the neighborhood for a short while and then eventually went out of business. Other video stores opened up at the same time as or shortly after Hugo’s and they in turn went defunct as the decade gave way to the millennium and the rise of the internet sounded the death knell of these emporiums of my adolescent phantasmagorical celluloid neuroses.

For years I could not remember the name of the film. Maybe I never knew it. I could only remember bits and pieces of it, certain pictures. A priest walking in the autumn woods, pensively traipsing over orange, yellow and brown leaves. A werewolf pierced by a mystical dagger falling to his death followed by an end credit crawl. I had forgotten the name of the movie but these images stayed with me.

The feeling the movie gave me stayed with me. I tried to find it on the internet but could not. I only remembered the box cover with that face and the ‘Thorn/EMI’ logo I had become familiar with through encounter of it on numerous other films I had rented over the course of many years. Then finally one day a year or two ago, I succeeded in rediscovering for myself this terror archetype long submerged and obscured yet nonetheless looming mightily in my subconscious memory.

There it was staring at me from my luminescent laptop screen opened to Google images. It was a recherche little title from 1979 called “WolfMan“, starring Earl Owensby. Elation took hold of me, I had finally satisfied the nagging question from my youth; “what was that movie called?”. I flew to Ebay immediately and purchased a copy for my collection immediately. The tape arrived in the mail several days later and on a warm summer’s night in the icy cold dark of an air conditioned bedroom, much like the one in my childhood on which I first saw the film, I watched WolfMan.

One thing was different however this time around; the movie was not good. Apparently time and maturity instill in one things lacking in the adolescent; namely taste and discernment. Not to say the movie was entirely without merit nor held any enjoyment, for there is something to be said for the sets and camera work which are quite well done. However, the acting is simply subpar and laughably wooden especially from the star, Mr. Owensby, who also produced the film. The story is typical for a werewolf movie involving a family curse and a tragic love angle, nothing to write home about.

What this did for me was to deepen my appreciation for the wide gulf which exists between the perceptions we have of something as a child or in the form of a memory and the reality of the thing in itself as it actually is when perceived through the lens of adulthood and a sense of discernment. I will always cherish WolfMan for the emotions it stirred in me and the memories I had of it as I experienced it in childhood, but it isn’t a good movie.

I can see why Earl Owensby is not as well known and consequently has not developed the same sort of following as have fellow producers of southern-fried horror such as Charles B. Pierce with his well crafted and thoroughly enjoyable films Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Though this be the case, I don’t think he should go unmentioned entirely as he seems to because despite the lack of quality dialogue and general dullness of his movies, you can tell that Mr. Owensby is truly passionate about film and has had quite a career outside of acting, building a successful film studio in North Carolina and has contributed to movies such as James Cameron‘s The Abyss.

Wolfman by MargaliMorwentari

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Tags: Traumafessions

Trauma Solved:: RatSawGod on The Little Match Girl

December 11th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Finally. I finally found it. It took almost six years, but I finally found my Little Match Girl.

In December of 2008 you published my original Name That Trauma involving my early 1970’s viewing of an animated version of The Little Match Girl that seriously wrecked my frail childhood psyche. With you published post I got a few helpful suggestions that, unfortunately, all came to dead ends. A few years of poking around the Internet proved fruitless. I was ready to give up the search.

I finally, FINALLY had a solid lead when someone uploaded an incomplete clip to YouTube that featured an animated The Little Match Girl with narration. The narrative sounded like it was another girl telling the tale, but at the end of the clip you see the narrator speaking… and it was a little boy. The clip abruptly ended there. I was floored! A boy! Could this be the version I had been seeking?!

I went back to Amazon.com and redid my movie search. Mercifully, I was able to find a DVD with the exact same boy narrator on the cover. The movie was The World of Hans Christian Andersen from 1971, which was a Japanese animated feature that had been dubbed and re-released here in the states. I ordered the DVD on the spot.

When it finally arrived I sat through the whole damn thing on the edge of my seat (though in truth the movie wound up being pretty terrible), then at the end of the movie came the telling of The Little Match Girl. It seems I had not gotten some of the details right; he’s actually telling the story to a cat and a crying child on the steps of an opera house (hey, I was a few years shy of ten when I originally saw this so give me some credit.) Still, this SEEMED like the version I saw. But I knew I could only be certain if the story ended with the reveal that the boy’s story had captured the attention of a huge crowd on the street.

The tale ended. It cut back to the boy telling the tale. But in this version it is thunderous applause that pulls the boy out of his reverie. And yes, YES YES that applause is revealed to be an enormous crowd on the street that had been listening. Like the intro to the tale I had gotten some of the minor details wrong about the tales conclusion, but I knew, then and there, that THIS was the version I saw as a child.

I actually exploded in tears. I had found it. At long last, I got to see it again.

Despite the fact the whole movie was pretty bad, they actually did a stellar job on The Little Match Girl story itself. It definitely holds up… turns out I also had good taste as a child. Who knew? Heh-heh! Anyway, I uploaded the whole clip to YouTube, which can be viewed HERE. See for yourself.

I wanted to thank Kindertrauma for getting me actively thinking about traumas from my childhood, which had made me more consciously aware of this formative moment from my youth. Even though The Little Match Girl seriously messed childhood self up, its message was so important and formative in making me the man I am today.

Very Appreciatively,


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Tags: Name That Trauma! · Traumafessions