Name That Trauma :: Reader Christa T. on a Subway Scavenger Hunt

Hi there,

Okay, when I was a kid we would check out a rotating series of VHS tapes from the public library – mostly fairly benign things SHELLEY DUVALL’S FAIRIE TALE THEATRE or RAMONA, but there was one particular clip from some video that still haunts me and I can’t figure out what it was. For a long time I remembered it as 1980s CAPTAIN KANGAROO, but now I think it might have been from ROALD DAHL’S TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED. Just knowing how my parents are, I’ve always assumed it was something produced by or aired on PBS.

Anyway, in it this man is out on a dark foggy night and he runs into someone he knows. He is going to write something down for this person, but when he pulls out his family heirloom pen he drops it down the stairs of the subway. He runs down the stairs to get the pen just as the subway closes, trapping him on the platform. A mysterious man emerges and tells him that in order to get out, he has to collect a fork, spoon, and knife. (Bear with me; it’s been 20 years.) He gets into a subway car that is totally empty to travel through this foggy underworld (basically, empty sets with a lot of dry ice) to find the requisite silverware. The train would stop and he’d get out and find some strange character swinging from a soup ladle or standing at fork in the road (get it?).

The creepiest part of the whole story was that while on the train, the lights would blink on and off – sometimes the train would be full of mannequins sitting as passenger, and then the lights would blink off and then back on, with the train totally empty. It scared the shit out of me as a child. As a result I still prefer packed subway cars.

The guy eventually completes the tasks and emerges from the subway netherworld, just as morning breaks and the subway reopens.

If you have any idea what kids’ show series this is from, I would be so happy/terrified!


UPDATE: NAME THAT TRAUMA SOLVED! Believe it or not, it actually did come from CAPTAIN KANGAROO. Special thanks to Reader P. for emailing the confirmation!

Traumafessions :: Reader Eskimoposh on Bert & Ernie’s Egyptian Adventure

This by far trumps everything else that put the fear of God in me as a child; and of course it had to star another range of puppets….from JIM HENSON….(WTF!!!!)….the loveable duo, Ernie and Bert.

I must have been 4 years old when I first saw this episode on T.V., and it was the first time that I witnessed fear in one of the SESAME STREET characters. Now, as a four year old, you’re pretty much completely naive to all things frightening, so you would never think that you’re favourite first-openly-gay-puppet-couple would even think of stepping foot in a dark Egyptian pyramid….but I was sorely mistaken. They didn’t just walk in…they ended up splitting up because Ernie was too scared to go into a “dark and scary cave” with Bert. As I sat watching in absolute disbelief that they had even stepped foot in there in the first place, Ernie started to show signs of true panic and uneasiness. I TOO started to feel the same…..this all started to get way too out of hand when Ernie walked past two “statues” (looking exactly like Bert and Ernie, but in ‘King Tut’ wardrobes) and one of them poked him on the back with his cane.

The mere fact that it moved made me instantly start screaming and crying. I had never ever seen my little buddy Ernie so scared….so what happens next? Bert comes racing back into the main chamber and the statue goes back to its spot, making Ernie look like he was just “seeing things.” BERT DIDN’T BELIEVE HIM!!! I even remember trying to yell at Bert to look at the goddamn statue, or touch it, or something so that he would believe Ernie and then they could get the hell outta there!

Anyways, it wasn’t until a few years later that I saw it again…and although the fear came back in floods…I quickly scoffed it all off, changed the channel back to T.M.N.T. and carried on with my fantasies of living in sewers and being taught to fight by a huge rat. (now how the hell is that not scary?!)

Kinder-dudes, you guys have created a site that allows us all to open up our memories to what truly scarred us as children. And now that I have two daughters I am always questioning to myself when THEY are going to have their first…. Kindertrauma ….mwuuuaaahahahahahahaaaaaa!!!!! (I hope they don’t though because I love them and I don’t want them to ever be scared….mwuuuahahhaha..ah forget it…).

After Midnight

Once upon a time, yours ghoulie had his very own “Name That Trauma!” Picture a young, vital (O.K., more like idle) Unk Lancifer living it up back in the early nineties, on his own in the big city for the first time. Technotronic’s “Pump up the Jam” had children and oldsters alike dancing in the streets, SKI PATROL was blasting box office records worldwide and dear cousin Pam had just moved into the Cosby house. The world was my oyster (stinky and impossible to pry open.)

One night after drinking far too many Meister Braus and passing out on my trash picked couch I awoke to find I had left the television on (as ever I didn’t care how Top Ramen poor I was, I had to have cable!) A movie was playing that involved a group of teenage girls lost in a warehouse district of some city being terrorized by wild dogs. Maybe I was half asleep or maybe it was the Meister Brau fairies tap dancing on my head, but I thought the whole thing to be pretty unnerving and it tapped instantly into my steadily growing urban paranoia. It was an anthology movie, but I didn’t stick around for the following chapter. Instead I went back to sleep surely to dream of snarling pooches.

I forgot about the whole thing and soon it was too late to track down the flick’s title. (This was before the Internet and before Google became my third eye.) Still, every once in a while the movie would spring back into my consciousness. As always with such things, whenever I asked others if they ever saw, “The movie with the girls being chased by dogs in the warehouse district” the answer was a big fat “No!”

Well, a couple years back while reading somewhere about the release of AFTER MIDNIGHT on DVD I realized that it was indeed my missing nameless jam. I bought it immediately and jumped happily head first into the wayback machine. Now I can’t tell ya that AFTER MIDNIGHT is the best movie in the world but if you dig anthologies or even just late eighties horror as much as I do, you could certainly find worse ways to spend your time.

Directed and written by the brother team of KEN & JIM WHEAT who also had their hands in such pots as SILENT SCREAM, ELM STREET 4 and even PITCH BLACK, AFTER MIDNIGHT is a strange little package. It opens with a couple of young ladies (one of them is pint-sized PAMELA SEGAL of not only GREASE 2 but THE GATE 2!) on their way to a college class entitled “The Psychology of Fear”. Once there they are witness to something, to put it lightly, a teacher wouldn’t get away with these days. To illustrate some point or other about fear the professor whips out a gun and points it at his students. He then feigns blowing his own brains out.

Rather than call the police or switch schools, a group of the kids meet up with the Prof at his home to exchange scary stories while a humiliated jock who wet himself during the presentation wanders around with an axe outside planning retribution. The stories told by the students become the meat of the film.

The first story told is a classic old dark house tale with a twist finale, the second, my doggie dilemma tale and the third involves CSI’s MARGE HELGENBERGER battling a ski injury, an empty building and a raging psycho. The middle segment remains my favorite. It is not nearly as frightening as I recalled but for compensation it stars PENELOPE SUDROW the, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and the wonderous TRACY WELLS of MR. BELVEDERE fame illustrating that life may actually NOT be “more than mere survival” by being chomped on hounds and left for dead in the street by her awesomely outfitted gal pals.

I’ll admit it, I’ve had a giant soft spot for horror anthology movies ever since I was traumatized by the weak in retrospect SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT. AFTER MIDNIGHT may not curl your toes, but it has a more successful wrap around story than most and you just can’t underestimate the power of MR. BELVEDERE alumni. Plus it has the scene below in its favor. How can you turn your back on a stop-motion skeleton and the classic decapitated talking head routine? Faults and random lameness aside I say this baby is one LEON REDBONE theme song short of being a keeper. It’s not nearly as good as I remember, but then again I’m sure the same could be said about Meister Brau.

Traumafessions :: Reader Steve G. on Ghosts (Book)

Ghosts | Written by Seymour Stein | Illustrations by Stephen Gammell | © 1976

AUNT JOHN SEZ: This is one of them there TRAUMAFESSIONS that first came over the transom as a NAME THAT TRAUMA! Here’s the first dispatch from Reader Steve G.:

Hey there,

I’ve recently finished a course in cognitive psychology that focused on the ways memory fails and is distorted, all the while becoming more firmly entrenched. So I’m even less confident of this recollection than I was a year ago. But I have the advantage of repeated exposure, so I think I can report some details that are probably not way off.

This is a literary request, and I can even give you the name of the book. “Ghosts.” Yes, this is kind of a needle-in-haystack sort of search. I don’t know the author’s name or the illustrator, but I promise you that this book is worth finding. It’s non-fiction, a collection of “true” ghost stories aimed at kids about grade-school age. It contains several of the classics: Fifty Berkeley Square in London, the restless coffins in that tomb in Barbados, and maybe half a dozen more, told in a fairly lurid style that doesn’t pulls its punches. And illustrated with…how shall I describe the illustrations? Black-and-white watercolor? A bit like the “Scary Stories” collections except more subdued.

Ah, except for one of the illustrations. And here’s where we come to the money shot. In the chapter about Fifty Berkeley Square there was one depiction of a ghost that I can only compare to the screaming, insane specter that you would get if you were to torture to death Eck, the nightmare-inducing thing from the OUTER LIMITS episode Behold Eck!” Yeah, that guy. But even worse, because he’d be dead… AND COMING TO EAT YOUR EYES!

Phew, nasty stuff. There was a copy of this book in my grade-school library and I would terrify myself by sneaking peeks at that picture during daylight. I owned a copy of the book in paperback for awhile but had to give it away because it was really freaking me out knowing it was on my bookshelf. So I quite well recall the cover art and it may be the best lead, seeing as how the book’s title was so generic.

The cover’s background was dominantly a deep blue, and the foreground featured the silhouette of a “haunted” mansion prominently. You knew it was haunted because within the borders of the mansion (which was limned with a thin yellow border) there was a stylized face (cackling mouth and eyes) repeated several times. Not cartoony, but looking more jolly than scary. The title “GHOSTS” was printed in a frazzled kind of font, but quite readable, top center.

Man, I wish I hadn’t started thinking about that picture this late at night. I think I’ll maybe stay up til it gets light, just in case.

AUNT JOHN SEZ: Upon reading this, my mind went directly to prolific, elementary-school-oriented paranormal writer DANIEL COHEN, and I asked Steve if he was thinking of either this or even this. Steve responded right quick with this:

Hey there,

Seemed like a plausible candidate until I checked the publication date, 1992. I should have mentioned the time frame, of course. It would have to have been published at least as early as 1980 to have been available in my grade-school library.

I did some further Googling using the keywords “restless coffins.” I recall that the chapter about the Barbados caskets was presented in a rather matter-of-fact style, and used that odd phrase or something similar. Evidently that’s the “canonical” name for the events. That led to this card catalog entry.

Those chapter names sound familiar, and Amazon says it was illustrated and published in the right era. Might be it, but I can’t find a cover scan, even among the finished auctions on eBay, which is usually a good hunting ground. A used version is pretty cheap, so I’ll take a chance.

Thanks for the leads. If this turns out to be the one, I’ll send a scan of the nightmarish Berkeley Square illustration. The names “ghosts simon gammell” show up in plenty of library databases even today, so it wouldn’t surprise me if new generations are being traumatized still by this modest-looking book. Hooray!

AUNT JOHN SEZ: The same day Steve sent that, I set out to get my grubby paws on a copy of GHOSTS by SEYMOUR STEIN. While I was waiting for it to arrive via inner-library loan, Steve shot us this message:

It turns out that this was indeed the culprit. The copy I bought was a library edition, and guess what page it happens to fall open to?

ghosts seymour stein

Looks like I wasn’t the only kid compulsively returning to that godawful picture.

I had forgotten that several of the other illustrations were quite upsetting in their own right, such as the baby-faced coffin that appears in the chapter about Barbados. I probably could have saved myself a lot of work if I had realized that GAMMELL is also the illustrator of the SCARY STORIES books, hardly coincidentally.

It’s even mentioned on his CLN profile.

Now, time to track down that novel about cemeteries and alphabet rhymes….

AUNT JOHN SEZ: When I finally got a copy of this book in the mail, I had an intense flashback of wearing Toughskins and obsessively borrowing this title from my grade-school library.

I feel you Steve, seriously, and here are the scans to prove it:

Little House on the Prairie :: Season 7 :: Sylvia

Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Voiceover: In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In Walnut Grove, the dedicated detectives who investigate theses vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Prairie Victims Unit. These are their stories:

The Webb Farm House; May 1:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Walnut Grove Schoolhouse; May 2:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Some Creepy Forest; Less Than Two Minutes Later, May 2:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Kitchen, Nellie's Restaurant & Hotel; May 3:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Barn, The Old Atkins' Place; May 4:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Barn, The Old Atkins' Place; 4 Minutes Later; May 4:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Barn, The Old Atkins' Place; 1 Minute After That; May 4:
Little House on the Prairie Mime Episode

Traumafessions :: Reader Maxson M. on The Magic School Bus

the magic school bus

When I was 6 or 7, there were these videos I used to rent called THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS. It was about a school bus that could shrink and do other things so the students could go on whimsical field trips. There was on episode where the bus got trapped on this one kid’s food and was digested. The bus went through all the major organs and eventually got sneezed out. The idea of being digested by a classmate scared the crap out of me, and several other segments of the episode were freaky, such as the bus almost getting destroyed by the stomach acid. I found the whole episode on youtube and it isn’t as scary as I remembered it being. I have posted the links below for anyone who wants to waste 20 minutes watching a bad children’s show.

Part II | Part III

Name That Trauma :: Reader Julian D. on a Beastly Brooch


I just came upon your site today…I LOVE IT!!!!

Now, hopefully you and the readers can help me out…

All I remember was a scene of a woman, running at night in nice clothes, with some kind of brooch on…and as she’s running, the brooch gets bigger, until it looks like some kind of opossum/red-eyed monster that eventually attacks her…

I imagine it was some kind of “Friday Fright Night” ’70s film….but I remember that scene as clear as day…

UPDATE: NAME THAT TRAUMA SOLVED! Thanks to Reader Eyetron for identifying THE NIGHT GALLERY episode titled “A FEAST OF BLOOD.”