Official Traumatizer :: Dan Curtis

There are some names that appear again and again on the pages of Kindertrauma (STEPHEN KING and JOHN CARPENTER being two of the most obvious multiple trauma inflictors). One name that is perhaps less well known but belongs to an equally prolific trauma supplier is DAN CURTIS. Producer, director and writer, DAN CURTIS not only supplied us with the innovative gothic daytime soap opera DARK SHADOWS, but he also pretty much redefined horror television in the 70’s across the board. Besides introducing us to the ever influential character of Kolchak from the seminal television movie THE NIGHT STALKER, he was also the man responsible for the unforgettably terrifying Zuni fetish doll from the classic TRILOGY OF TERROR. His directorial work on the big screen includes the creepy haunted house flick BURNT OFFERINGS which, like much of DAN‘s output, is frequently cited as a movie which many young folks were forever scarred by (particularly when they stumbled across it on late night television).

His list of genre contributions go on and on and he can be thanked for bringing such classics to the small screen as DRACULA (’73), THE TURN OF THE SCREW (’74) and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (’73). The presence of his name in a film’s or television movie’s credits signals the fact that you are about to see something from somebody who truly knows his way around a horror tale. DAN CURTIS may not exactly be a household name, but there is no household that has a television that this man did not profoundly affect.

We here at Kindertrauma have no choice but to honor his brilliant career with an Official Traumatizer award. DAN the man’s extensive credits speak volumes but honestly, he could have earned this baby with the Zuni fetish doll alone!

Traumafessions :: Reader Matthew H. on Ghostwriter

Reading all the previous entries, I’m REALLY glad my folks were always so careful about what I could and couldn’t watch as a child.

That said, there was one show I stubbornly insisted on watching, because I loved it so much and ‘oh it’s not scary at all!!’–


It aired, as I recall, some time in the ‘90s, so I guess I was about six or seven. For those who have never seen it, it’s about a group of kids that are sometimes contacted by a ghost–a spirit of some kid who died in the 1800’s, I think this was revealed at some point–who writes messages to them that only they can see. How does he do this? Why, by altering text on anything they happen to be looking at, of course! So if they happen to be reading the back of the cereal box at breakfast, suddenly the cheery cartoon is glowing and the letters rearrange themselves to spell anything from ‘Gabby’s in trouble! Find her!’ to ‘Party at Jamal’s!’ With his help and guidance the gang solves mysteries. Cool premise, to a kid’s way of thinking, and I loved it.

There was one specific episode, however, that to this day remains the only thing I can ever recall giving me a nightmare. It dealt with a gang coming into town, taking over some turf the protagonists used as a hangout. This gang was no ordinary gang, however–they wore masks. Big green rubber masks, with horridly-bulging eyes. Shudder. Worse yet, each member wore TWO masks, one on his/her face and the other on the back of their head! At one point Alex, one of the protagonists, decided to join up with the gang to infiltrate them and take them down from within. Part of his joining entailed signing an oath of some sort, and a member offered her back to him as a writing surface, her mask leering down at him all the while. I woke up screaming bloody murder that night, convinced that a dual-headed green-faced monster with bulgy eyes was lurking the closet.

Just thought I’d share. Thanks!

AUNT JOHN SEZ: Well Matthew, thank you for sharing that with us. The episode that terrified you was first show of its first season, and it’s called GHOST STORY. Below are the clips for your viewing pleasure.

The Kids of Crystal Lake

With a remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH just around the corner, I think it’s time we take a look at the role kids have played in the Crystal Lake saga. Their significance has not been entirely consistent throughout the series, but their presence on several occasions created formidable and lasting waves…

Aw look it’s little Jason whose imagined drowning death sparked more than a decade’s long bloodbath! Flashback scenes reveal two omnipresent qualities in the young man, first of all he had a face only a mother could love and secondly he’s no MARK SPITZ! Less you think he was just a tragic victim, he pops up at film’s end to involve himself in one of the greatest most startling shocker finales in the history of horror!

Remember this kid? PART 2 begins with him jumping around in puddles and just barely missing being jumped on himself by a now grown, adult Jason Voorhees. No kid likes to have to come in when called by mom but this guy should be very thankful he did. If Jason has taught us one thing it is to always heed your mother!

Tommy Jarvis (COREY FELDMAN) stands supreme as the ultimate FRIDAY child; not only did he accomplish what so many had tried and failed to do by ending Jason’s mortal life, but he also had quite a talent for suspiciously SAVINI-esque make-up effects. Voyeuristic tendencies aside, this Crystal Lake critter is a true hero!

When DIFF’RENT STROKES’ “Dudley” shows up, trouble is not far behind. Having narrowly avoided the cruel fate of being a bicycle shop owner’s bride, poor Dudley (SHAVAR ROSS here as “Reggie”) now has to face off against Señor Voorhees. Why so serious Dudster? That’s not Jason, it’s just a bonkers ambulance driver avenging the death of his son who was a recent casualty of a violent candy bar dispute!

You don’t have to be Benjamin Franklin to know that lightening has the power to reanimate the dead. In this installment Jason comes back to life only to find that, for the first time ever, Camp Crystal Lake is crawling with kiddie campers! This little girl is named Nancy and she is plagued by bad dreams in what must be a baiting nod to competing franchise A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET!

Little Tina here is a pint sized Carrie White sans the oppressive Catholic upbringing. With her awesome psychic powers she smashes her beloved daddy beneath a dock but don’t worry, he’ll show up again years later and not looking any worse for the wear!

We’ve gone full circle and the little Jason that drowned in the lake is kicking his way back into our universe via blurry flashbacks again! This time he’s looking less mongo-licious than we remember, but then that’s nothing compared to how stupid adult Jason looks later when he takes off his mask. This unloved addition to our story is not without its bright spots, but ultimately I must quote the GREEN ACRES theme song “Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!”

So you see, kids really did play a large part in the FRIDAY franchise even if they sat out the 3-D one and declined traveling with Jason into hell and outer space. In fact, a conversation between two children supplies my favorite line in the entire series. In PART 6 JASON LIVES, two little boys are shown hiding under a bed and awaiting what appears to be their inevitable doom at the hands of Jason. One boy turns to the other and deadpans “So, what WERE you going to be when you grew up?”

Traumafessions :: Kinderpal Gilligan of Retrospace on the Sleestaks

Could it possibly be that no one has mentioned the Sleestak from LAND OF THE LOST as a leading cause of childhood night terrors? Surely I must have missed that post.

The way they would creep silently around their labyrinthine cave passages stalking their prey was simply chilling. The Sleestak would slowly emerge from the blackness not unlike Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN to claim their prey. Nocturnal hunters, they prowled the darkened forests in packs; large, reptilian, and totally without mercy. They were known to sacrifice their human victims to their God who dwelt deep within a pit in the bowels of the subterranean city (a creature Holly would confront face to face). And don’t get me started on their Library of Skulls. Amazingly, these terrifying denizens of darkness were creatures from a Saturday morning T.V. show for kids!

Fast forward to the present, and most folks remember LAND OF THE LOST as just a silly little children’s show from the ’70s. They’ve forgotten the dark underside of LAND OF THE LOST: the sinister Mist Marsh, the mysterious Zarn, and, most of all, the brooding horror of the Sleestak.

AUNT JOHN SEZ: What child of the ’70s could really forget about those nasty Sleestaks? Kindertrauma surely hasn’t, and Unkle Lancifer personally inducted them into the Official Traumatizer Hall of Fame this past year. Speaking of the ’70s, be sure to check out Kinderpal Gilligan’s super-cool Retrospace!

Traumafessions :: Reader PhantomWerewolf on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Growing up I watched a lot of horror movies; guess you could say I grew up with them. My cousins are not the bravest of folk and when they rented horror movies I was “forced” to watch them as well. This started when I was about 4 years old. I’ve watched everything from ‘80s slashers, to old classics, to horrid B-movies even MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 wouldn’t touch. I was not afraid, the only thing that remotely frightened me was CHILD’S PLAY, but that wasn’t even bad. I was quite confident I could watch anything or see anything and not be scared.

I was wrong.

My horrors came not from movies… but from a book. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. I believe this has already been covered, but only a particular picture was discussed and it wasn’t the one that made me sleepless for months.

I was about 10 when I discovered this book in my school library; the cover was rather eerie so I was drawn to it. Without looking inside, confident I would be entertained judging by the cover alone, I checked out the book and was on my way back to class.

It wasn’t until I got home that I started to read the book. The stories were rather cruddy but the pictures were what struck me. They were so otherworldly in the way they were drawn it sent shivers down my spine in a good way. That all ended when I saw ‘the picture.’

The story I believe was called “The Haunted House” or something close and the image that accompanied it was that of a woman’s face; if it could be called a face. Decay had taken most of her visage away leaving a wraith like being with scraggly hair and empty sockets with piercing pinpoints of light visible in the back of the skull. Her mouth was agape, lips nearly rotting off her and her teeth were few and far between. I was literally frozen with fear, staring at this being in the pages of a book.

Once I regained my composure, I slammed the book shut and threw it from me, never to finish it. My mother had apparently heard me yelp, I didn’t recall making any noise, and came in to see what had happened. I explained what I saw and she had to see for herself and was shocked to see such a graphic image in a kids’ book. She promptly did the mother thing and told me it was just a picture and couldn’t hurt me, but what kid really believes that? I was convinced this thing would come and kill me in my sleep.

The face haunted my dreams for the next few days, that simple image and my explosive imagination had done what no horror movie had ever done to me. I was afraid to sleep in the dark; I couldn’t sleep without waking up from a nightmare in a cold sweat. After a month or two the initial scare wore off and only trauma remained. To this day I cannot look at that image without shuddering, so imagine my despair when they released a new edition of the same book with that face adorning the cover.

Kinderpal FatherOfTears on Kill Baby Kill

There is a nice list on this website featuring little kids who are killers and they are all great examples. There is another killer kid that should be mentioned; Melissa Graps (VALERIA VALERI) from MARIO BAVA‘s KILL BABY KILL. Melissa was the daughter of some local hated Baroness and was accidentally killed by a bull during a town festival. The locals were too busy getting plastered and they didn’t like the kid, so they ignored her, even when she rang a church bell for help and so she eventually bled to death. Momma Baroness, who happened to be a medium, decided to get revenge on the town by summoning up her dead 7-year-old and having her kill the locals.

The first time Melissa would appear to her victims she would only creep them out. The second time she appeared to them she would force them to kill themselves! She would show up with a mischievous giggle that was years ahead of DR. GIGGLES and there would be P.O.V. shots of her swinging on a swing in the dead of night. One victim, the town inn keeper’s daughter, was taunted by the ghost child when Melissa put her hands on her window, placed her face up to it and simply stared at the poor kid!

Of course the teenager knew that she was Melissa’s next target so her parents enlisted the help of a local witch who, among other things, flogs the kid with thorny bushes! She also makes the kid wear a ring of barbed wire around her torso to ward off Melissa. The doctor who was sent to town to investigate the suicides finds this out and thinks it’s crazy. He removes the barbed wire from the girl and assumes that it is all superstition and that the girl will be alright. WRONG!!! The next night the girl is woken from her sleep and she sees Melissa by the window again. Melissa puts the girl in a trance and she forces her to impale herself with a piece of metal that’s sticking out of a wall mounted candle holder. There is another scene where the doctor goes to the Baroness’s castle and he runs into the ghost who announces her presence by throwing a bouncing ball down the hallway.

Melissa then tells the doctor her name and runs off giggling down a spiral staircase. The kid has this sadistic look in her eyes. This is seen when she shows up in the closet of the town burgermiester as he’s about to give the doctor’s new found assistant, a local med student played by ERIKA BLANC of THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE fame, a birth certificate showing her who her true parents were (ERIKA is apparently tied in to the killer kid’s history).

O.K., I don’t want to give much more away, but near the end the doctor and ERIKA go to the Baroness’s place and she takes him to Melissa’s bedroom which is full of dolls. Well guess who is sitting on the floor with the dolls!

(That repeating room sequence HAD to have inspired DAVID LYNCH when he did that Red Room sequence in the last episode of TWIN PEAKS!)

Creepy kid eh? So there she is. Melissa Graps, creepy killer child who could fit in with all the other Kindertrauma kids who kill!

Traumafessions :: Reader TickleMeCthulhu on Sssssss

Does anybody remember the 1973 movie, Sssssss in which a young DIRK BENEDICT undertakes a position as lab assistant and is slowly transformed into a cobra? I believe I first saw this film at a drive-in theater in New Jersey, though I remember also seeing it on T.V. I’m not sure. I would have been 3 in 1973, so I’m not sure if we saw it that early, but it’s possible (maybe ’74-’85).

Before seeing it again on DVD in the past couple of years, my memory of the film was sketchy, at best. I remember key scenes: the freak half-snake, half-man hybrid at the carnival; the snake eating the man after choosing to select a key to his locked room from a coral snake or a milk snake; DIRK BENEDICT peeling his shedding skin off in the bathroom; but mostly I remember “Snakeman.” In fact, that’s what I used to call the movie- I didn’t know it was Sssssss until much later. My memory of the Snakeman was a phase in DIRK BENEDICT’s transformation in which he turned pale and hairless, his folded arms fused to his body, and his mouth became wide and speechless (with the exception of pained “mmmmm-mmm!” sounds). He was locked in the lab by the professor character and his scenes involved him clumsily stumbling around the lab, bumping into things and going “mmmm-mmmm!” In actuality, this memory is actually a fusion of various scenes in the movie: the carnival freak; the discovery of the previous lab assistant; the final transformation; and the actual scene (shown below).

After seeing this, my nighttime fears became an obsession with Snakeman. Snakeman was under the bed, Snakeman was in the closet, Snakeman was looking in the window, my brothers’ suggestions as to Snakeman‘s whereabouts and intentions didn’t help.

Well, as I mentioned before, I watched it again on the no-frills DVD my brother lent me. It’s a terribly insipid movie. The Snakeman scenes are only a few minutes of screen time and hardly the stuff of horror legend. I cannot overstate the inevitable let down you’re setting yourself up for when re-viewing movies that effected you as a child. It’s best just to let these things remain what they were to you. Most of my childhood terrors were comprised of the bits and pieces of horror films I had seen (until my parents told me to close my eyes or go upstairs to bed) and the creative continuations and reconstructions of those scenes. This was one movie where I fixated on one scene and just blew it out of horror proportion.

NOTE: Even more Sssssss induced trauma can be found HERE.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

Last night your Unkle Lancifer was lucky enough to catch MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D. To tell you the truth, I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun seeing a movie in the theater. It is an absolutely straightforward funhouse ride with likable characters, a great use of location and a highly contagious mischievous spirit. We’re talking simple, absolute fun. This movie actually has the rare wisdom to trust the validity of its predecessor and the slasher genre itself while adding its own clever spin. Frankly, I felt like a teenager again sitting in a room full of total strangers screaming, laughing and in this case, ducking from flying body parts. I think that if you go see this movie and you don’t have a good time than you should just grab a shovel, walk into your backyard, dig a hole and then just lie down and call it a life. Not being able to find joy here means that there is something so broken and twisted in your soul that you are clearly beyond any type of repair and that you should really think seriously about taking your negative energy out of the universe. If you have any love for your eyeballs at all, you will go see this movie immediately and in 3-D. (No, I do not own stock in this fine film.)

P.S.: Did I mention it stars TOM ATKINS?

Traumafessions :: Reader djalicat on The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.

I am writing to you about the weirdest musical ever…and the only movie written by Dr. Seuss himself! THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T.! This is a classic Kindertrauma film. Imagine a live action version of Dr. Seuss’s drawings but way before RON HOWARD’s HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and MIKE MYERS’ CAT IN THE HAT.

Dr. Seuss wrote the script and the lyrics and designed the sets (of course). This is an amazingly weird, wonderful film that will creep the crap out of you. There’s a dungeon for all non-piano players who then perform an extend dance sequence. There are doors in floors and stairs that lead to nowhere and hands coming out of the wall. There are Siamese twin guards, connected by their beard, on roller skates. Oh yeah, the main kid Bart and all the other boys forced to play piano, wear a hat with a hand coming out of the top!

The best part is that the adults in the film learn to, “Always listen to kids, even when they lie.”