Name That Trauma :: Reader Rachel R. on a Mannequin Maker & a Stony Statue

I’m hoping your wonderful website can help me identify a couple of my Kindertraumas:

The first movie would have been shown on HBO or Showtime in the early 1980s, and would have been made in that same era. It involved the typical group of stupid young people, and they go into a large white plantation-type house or hotel. The building is being used by a creepy man who makes manikins. There are also manikins and manikin pieces stored there. The horror element is that the creepy man actually turns people into manikins, then dismantles them. He can make the manikins, and even just the pieces, come alive and turn inanimate again. He can put the pieces of different people together. I seem to remember him removing one girl’s arm while she was alive and it turned into a manikin arm before her eyes.

The creepy man picks off about half the group one by one. Further toward the end of the movie, when the creepy man is going after the last 2 or 3 young people left from the group, all hell breaks loose. Two things really freaked me out:

1) The hanging, jointed, very fake looking manikin arms suddenly turn alive and very human looking and start grabbing at the remaining young people as they run out of the building.

2) The creepy man is chasing the remaining young people. I can’t remember if it is just from creepy man’s touch, or if he’s actually cutting off body parts with something, but one young person’s arms and head fly off. You see the body parts flying through the air and landing on the ground and they have turned to manikin pieces. The pieces then turn alive again, but are obviously not attached to each other any more. The head is crying and screaming. This scared the bejesus out of me. I turned it off at that point and switched to a nicer movie so I could go to sleep MUCH later. It was absolutely horrifying to me to think about that head being alive and knowing what had happened to it. Far more scary than just being turned into a manikin head.

I have no idea when this other movie was made, but I watched in the early or mid-1970’s, very late at night, I think as part of “Creature Feature.” I think it was in color, but I’m not positive.

I remember a statue of a woman, maybe even a Medusa, that turned people to stone at night. I remember the statue’s face would be shown very close-up and then the people would turn to stone. I also remember close-ups of bushes and vines. I think the statue was deep in a large garden or park. People would walk through the vines and run into the statue. I seem to remember a striking cuckoo or Black Forest-type clock being shown right before or during the attacks. I think maybe the statue would only turn you to stone at midnight, but I’m not sure.

I was pretty young when I saw it and never came across the movie again, so I may not be remembering that part correctly. I know this is not much to go on, but I’m hoping it rings a bell for someone.

Thanks in advance,

Rachel R.

UNK SEZ: Rachel R., thanks for the NTTs! Even though all the details don’t fit snug, I think the first movie you’re talking about must be 1979’s TOURIST TRAP. I can’t think of any other movie as mannequin crazy as that one. Check out the trailer below…

My guess for the second trauma would be the 1964 HAMMER flick THE GORGON but that seems almost too easy. There is a simple way to confirm that one though, you can watch THE GORGON in its entirety HERE or check out the trailer below! Let us know!

Traumafessions :: Reader Bigwig on The Snow Queen

Hi Aunt and Unk,

They used to show an animated film somewhere around Christmas every year, before the advent of VCRs; one that our mother used to circle in the TV Guide as not to miss. “It’s a beautiful story”, she would say. Mom also thought that the story of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL was beautiful, so you see where this is leading. Not surprising, both were by HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN, who evidently gave the BROTHERS GRIMM some stiff competition in terms of painting the bleakest possible situations for children in stories.

THE SNOW QUEEN, at least the version I saw, and I guess there have been others, almost had a ’40s Disney vibe to it, at least in terms of animation quality. And along the lines of PINOCCHIO and SNOW WHITE, it didn’t hold back in dishing out some old school fear. It was narrated by a little fat elf named Old Dreamy.

The main gist of THE SNOW QUEEN is that it spins the tale of two blonde-haired kids, a girl and boy, up North in Finland or somewhere in the 1800s, who are happy by the fire in their cottage during a cold winter’s night. One of them makes a joking remark, offending the Snow Queen, who is some kind of supernatural goddess type with an icy heart who rules in a castle even further north, and has command of the weather. I guess she can hear all too, and is not to be taken lightly.

In retribution, we see her large face fill up the window looking inside. The kids gasp, and she sends an ice storm into the house, which blows open the window, and somehow affects the young boy by entering him through his eye, turning him into a cold-hearted, mean-spirited jerk. I remember him stomping on the little girl’s roses and making her cry. He is later picked up by the Snow Queen in a sleigh, and held captive in her castle, much the same in spirit as the Narnia Ice Queen. The rest of the story is the little girl’s harrowing ordeal to get him back, since Lord knows, no adults seem to be interested.

Fast-forward to the end, where she gets to the castle, hugs the mean boy, and melts his icy heart, bringing him back to her. Something is expelled from his eye, and we get a look at it… an ice splinter, about two inches long. Somehow after that, it all gets better and the story ends.

My sister and I both found this more horrible than a decapitation. We grew up in an old wood house without much carpeting, with plenty of splinters extracted by Dad, armed with a needle and a cigarette lighter for “sterilization,” so splinter trauma abounded. Couple that trauma with the eyeball, and even a normal splinter would be too awful to bear, but to get a look at the roofing nail of a pointy ice dagger that was somehow stuck in this little boy’s eye…..oh, I’m getting nauseated just writing about it.

I’m almost certain this was pulled from the Yuletide T.V. schedule for being just too plain miserable for kids to watch.

Anyone remember this?


UNK SEZ: Bigwig, thanks for the frosty traumafession! Sorry if the images I gathered are from a different version of THE SNOW QUEEN than the one you speak of. (They are all from the acclaimed, 1957 Soviet version.) I myself seem to recall THE SNOW QUEEN being shown back-to-back with THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL in the early eighties but I can’t find any reference to it on IMDb even when I search under HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN. Let me know if you ever locate the version you are looking for. By the way, my mom had a thing for THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL too!

Traumafessions :: Reader CJ on “Room 217”

Should a 44-year-old man actually ask for a different room when on his last trip out of town he was going to be assigned Room 217 in the hotel he stayed at? I did. I INSISTED on a different room. Here’s why:

One day when I was 13 years old, I noticed a book my Dad was reading, with a silver cover and a picture of what looked like a man without a face. I was immediately drawn to it. Good old Dad, knowing how overactive an imagination his son had, and his son’s fondness for scary movies and Aurora monster models, just mentioned it was about an old hotel, nothing I would find interesting. I knew then, I must read it. I watched and waited until I knew he was finished. I searched carefully though his closet and dresser until I found the book tucked in the back of his “junk” drawer.

“The Shining” by STEPHEN KING.

Oh God.

The chapter “Inside 217” and what waited there.

I was still enough of a little kid to be there right with Danny Torrance. To be Danny Torrance, to know that what grinned in the bathtub was just as much my problem as his, and if she couldn’t get him she was gonna get ME.

I still have a real problem with hotel rooms sometimes. Sometimes I sleep with the light on when I have to stay in a hotel room alone. The shower curtain must be open at all times. She even haunts my house. Once as I was drifting off to sleep, I suddenly bolted upright in sheer terror and panic because I heard the shower curtain rattle loudly and a thud from the bathroom. Did I reach the logical conclusion that the new kitten had leapt up on the shower curtain and fallen down? No. I was suddenly 13 again and SHE WAS FINALLY COMING FOR ME! I hadn’t thought of my dead friend in years, but it all came back to me like I had read that damnable book that very evening.

I am a grown man, I am 44 years old, I know there is no dead, grinning, decaying, stinking, reanimated, corpse waiting for me in a hotel room somewhere, waiting to drag me into whatever foul pit she came from I know that it is not real… no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

I saw the movie. It took me a few years to work up the balls to sit through it. I was strangely unfazed. It was so unlike the book, and while I am a fan of the movie, JACK NICHOLSON’s encounter with the resident of room “237” was not what haunted me. What haunts me is infinitely worse. If I could somehow let you into my head to show you what was in that bathroom. . .

Really, I’m O.K., I don’t cower in the face of a strange shower, I still love scary movies and monsters and books. I live as normal (whatever that means) a life as anyone else. In a way, my special shower friend has helped me face many other fears; real ones even, because nothing could possibly be more frightening than her. Oh, and for any armchair psychoanalysts out there, I was not abused by my mother or other female relatives and/or teachers/friends/acquaintances. I do not know why that book and that scene in that book had such an enormous impact on me. I have theories, but I won’t bore you with them here.

One think I will always know is this:

If there is a hell, it’s a bathroom in a resort hotel where I stand facing a tub with the shower curtain drawn and a shadowy shape behind it, about to pull the curtain back.


UNK SEZ: CJ, thanks for the literary traumafession! I pity the horror fan who has never read STEPHEN KING‘s THE SHINING! Now of course, in KUBRICK‘s film version we never get to see Danny’s encounter with the bloated hag-ghost. He walks into the room and then is later shown in a daze with his shirt torn. His mother assumes he was abused by his dad.

In KUBRICK‘s movie the room is shown as 237 because the real hotel didn’t want people freaking out about staying in room 217 and since they didn’t have a room 237 it seemed a better idea. MICK GARRIS‘ 1997 television adaptation corrected the room number (it’s actually filmed in the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the book) and gave Danny and the decrepit oldster their face to face meeting. Unfortunetly I don’t think it’s as scary as KUBRICK‘s Jack and hag encounter and I know it’s not as scary as the version in your head!

By the way, have you ever noticed that in the novel THE SHINING page number 217 occurs within the chapter you mentioned, “Inside 217” ?

Name That Trauma :: Reader bdwilcox on Satanic Sub-Flooring

O.K., here’s one that scarred me in my youth and after 25 years I’ve never seen a mention of it again, anywhere.

It was in the ‘80s, cable T.V. when you had the remote control tethered with the long cable, a row of a gazillion buttons, and a lever to switch button levels (and to jam the buttons so you could watched the scrambled Playboy channel in the hopes of seeing a wavy boob.)

My folks went out for the evening so it was wavy boob time. I flipped on the T.V. and it went directly to HBO, Showtime or Cinemax where I caught just the very tail end of a movie. But those few moments would scar me for the rest of my life. It was a typical ‘80s low-budget horror flick where the person at the end was like, “Oh it’s all over now” or, “It was all a dream” when, of course, you knew it wasn’t.

As soon as they said it, right behind them the floorboards erupted; fire and smoke belched from the hole and you could hear the screaming of souls in torment. From the hole rose a terrifying demon, which grabbed the person from behind and sank back into the abyss. As they disappeared back into the hole, the floorboards went back into place perfectly as if nothing had happened and then the credits rolled. At the least, I was impressed with the demon’s flooring skills.

Anyone ever see a low-budget ‘80s horror flick with this ending?


UNK SEZ: That sounds like the ending of WES CRAVEN‘s 1981 movie DEADLY BLESSING which is woefully not available on DVD. From what I’ve heard that particular bit was not directed by WES himself but added on by producers after he finished the film. I’m told that in the U.K. DEADLY BLESSING was released without that over-the-top supernatural close.

DEADLY BLESSING is one of my earliest theatrical horror experiences and I have to admit, that ending, directed by WES or not, got lil’ Unk good. It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the film but it sure flipped me out anyway. I tried to find a clip of that scene on YouTube but had no luck. I did scrounge up a few blurry screenshots, I hope they help!

Traumafessions :: Reader Brian Katcher on The Incredible Shrinking Woman

My students laugh at me about this, but this was the most terrified I’ve ever been of a movie theater. I was five. My parents thought this would be a good family movie, comedy, a little sci-fi, probably rated PG. LILY TOMLIN plays a housewife who, due to exposure to common chemicals, begins to shrink… and shrink.

And then there was the garbage disposal scene. She falls down the garbage disposal, and the housekeeper, who’s supposed to be watching her, doesn’t notice. The housekeeper has on a Walkman and can’t hear the screams. She goes to turn on the switch… and the doorbell rings. My mother relates how I ran screaming out of the theater about then.

It was years before I could even watch TOMLIN do her funny telephone operator shtick again.

Brian Katcher

Traumafessions :: Reader Jay R. on Dirty Harry

Hey guys,

I discovered your site about two months ago and now I’m on here every day. So much good stuff on here. Anyways…I’ve loved horror flicks my whole life and there have been plenty during early childhood that scared the living shit out of me. My dad had a pretty big collection of vhs tapes and movies taped off of T.V. CUJO did a real number on me… I was scared of dogs for awhile after that one… and LADY IN WHITE had me sleep with the lights on for a week or so. But one that had an unexpected effect on me was DIRTY HARRY… with Mr. ANDY ROBINSON as the Scorpio Killer (who was based off of the Zodiac Killer.) My dad had the CLINT EASTWOOD spaghetti western trilogy on at least once a month… so I had seen all three and was familiar with CLINT as an actor.

I can’t remember how old I was or what grade I was in, but there was this Friday where I had faked sick and stayed home from school for a three day weekend. It was great… nothing but cereal and T.V. all day. It wasn’t too long after watching THE PRICE IS RIGHT that I switched to a movie channel and DIRTY HARRY was on. I had missed probably 25% of the movie already… but I knew CLINT from the spaghetti westerns so I decided to watch. It wasn’t until I got to see ANDY ROBINSON as the Scorpio Killer that things started to get real scary.

Two scenes in particular did it for me… the first was at the Mount Davidson cross where Scorpio was wearing a ski mask and giving Harry a royal beating. The second was near the end where he has an entire school bus full of kids held hostage. LALO SCHIFRIN‘s music added to the creepiness of his character even more.

Needless to say… a great sick day turned into me home alone and scared shitless. I just watched DIRTY HARRY again recently and he is still one of the best villains I have ever seen in a movie. Goddamn..when he’s yelling, “I’ll kill all your mothers!” to the kids in the bus… that may have been the scariest part. I have nothing but love for the film now… and still think of that particular day as a point where rabid dogs and ghosts didn’t seem as terrifying as an extremely disturbed human being who enjoys killing people.

I managed to find the “bus scene” on YouTube. I never had to ride a bus to school… my grade school was in walking distance. Thankfully.

P.S. At some point in my early teens I had purchased a vhs copy of DIRTY HARRY.. which I watched constantly and showed to everyone I knew. I was such a fan of Scorpio at this point that I started lacing all my black shoes and boots with white laces. I was surprised to find the below video on YouTube when I was looking for Scorpio footage to submit.

Name That Trauma :: Reader Leia M.’s Mom on a Mirror Hag

Hey everybody,

I stumbled on this site pretty recently and have been chewing my 62-year-old mom’s ear off about it. Which, to my delight, prompted her to offer up her own trauma for identification.

She thinks she was about 11 (which would have made it 1958 or so) and living in New Jersey. She saw an episode of what might have been a weekly T.V. program depicting eerie stories. (I just combed the episode guides of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and viewed every title that seemed a possibility, even straying into the early sixties to be thorough.)

In the damaging episode, a beautiful young girl receives instructions to climb a spiral staircase to the top of a castle turret (?). She does so carrying some sort of light source (lantern? candle?) and reaches the top to find a room with a mirror.

Peering into the glass, she glimpses herself as a withered old woman (possibly just old, but also possibly torn up- or debauched-looking in some way.)

Y’know, it may have been my mom who actually saw this, but the act of describing it has planted such vivid imagery in my own mind that I’m as eager as she is to have the thing named!

Thanks, all.

Looker (1981)

There is many a genre picture released in the early eighties to universal shrugs that went on to become a recognized classic. Not so much LOOKER, MICHAEL CRICHTON’s unjustly forgotten 1981 prophetic skewering of both television advertising and the siren call of evasive physical perfection. The movie undeniably has its blond moments and some major structural issues but it also spills a handbag full of fascinating notions on the floor and if you bend with it a bit, it’s quirky fun and anything but superficial.

Dare I say that LOOKER is just the type of movie that should be remade? Its blemishes are so prominent they could be nip/tucked with ease and its concept is more relevant now than ever. Many of the technological advancements that it daydreams about are now commonplace. In 1981 the idea that actors could be completely replaced with computer generated images of themselves seemed far-fetched. Today, it’s not only possible but in some cases (I’m thinking MEL GIBSON), maybe something we should encourage. (LOOKER actually features the very first CGI human character ever depicted on screen.)

The major problem with LOOKER is that it forgets its opening premise mid-way through the film. An intriguing mystery is set up and only vaguely defused by its awkward climax. Ironically, folks who caught this one on commercial television were gifted a motive to the happenings thanks to an additional scene. If you caught it on cable or in the theater though, you were on your own. See Mr. CRICHTON, television ain’t so bad after all! In order to sell more products, they lengthened your movie to the point where it actually had time enough to explain itself. Damn, that really is irony, look it up!

ALBERT FINNEY is plastic surgeon LARRY ROBERTS who is perplexed by the fact that already beautiful young women are asking for surgery to improve themselves further. (Can you imagine such a thing?) When several of the “perfect” women that he has worked on start ending up dead (mostly from falling out of buildings) he becomes suspect numero uno because somebody stole his pen. Trying to save his own ass and protect the lone, not-murdered-yet “perfect” beauty Cindy Fairmont (Awwwww, SUSAN DEY), he discovers a nefarious corporate operation utilizing subliminal mind control and the coolest gun ever made. The coolest gun ever made is the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun, its name stands for Light, Ocular-Oriented, Kinetic, something, something and it is a true blast. It hypnotizes the target with light and allows the shooter to make hay while the sun shines and the victim is dazed and confused. Hmmm, wonder if I could find a use for such a thing.

The “lost time” experience that the gun provokes is an interesting phenomenon to behold. The first couple of times we witness its use we are given no explanation and the effect is wonderfully confounding. (Although it should be said that anyone who has ever been abducted by aliens, has a serious drinking problem, or even just access to the Internet should be able to relate.) Just as LOOKER’s interest in body dysmorphia and the power of false images is uncannily contemporary, so too is this playing with a character’s perspective through his understanding of time. Go ahead and call LOOKER a bimbo if you like, just make sure you realize that it is a creative, forward thinking psychic bimbo who can see into the future.

There’s one surprisingly poignant scene where DEY’s character returns home seeking comfort from her parents only to find herself competing with an I LOVE LUCY rerun but for the most part; LOOKER is breezy fun despite it’s sometimes slack pacing. The subject matter, serious as it may be can’t help but slide into goofy camp on occasion and the years have made that slide all the more steep. Amusingly, much of what CRICHTON rallies against in LOOKER now seems positively quaint. A climactic battle that cleverly takes place inside a slew of commercials as they are being televised (shades of WES CRAVEN’s SHOCKER) is beyond unlikely but clever and hilarious anyway. It’s dated for sure and frankly I look forward to it becoming even more dated as the years go on.

Ugh, I’m sick of writing and isn’t it boring to have to read things? Let’s look at some pretty pictures and I’ll share some more about why I think LOOKER is just plain adorable…

Because of my monster sized love of all things BLADE RUNNER the LADD COMPANY logo will forever fill my pretend heart with glee.

One thing is for sure and that is that LOOKER has the choicest theme song in the world thanks to one SUE SAAD. Once you hear it it will be stuck in your head for exactly one century. It’s too bad a soundtrack was never released as the entire score is synth-awesome.

Who doesn’t dig the DEY and what’s wrong with you?

You have to admit the gun is just too cool.

So are these shades!

Let’s hear it for zero chemistry!


Hey, it’s the evil shrink from FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD! (TERRY KISER.)

Oh look it’s the guy from MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH! (DERREL MAURY.)

Meanie Mustachio is ex-Philadelpha Eagle TIM ROSSOVICH! His lil bro is RICK ROSSOVICH who stared in the AUDRA LINDLEY smash SPELLBINDER! Can you believe that TIM used to be roommates with TOM SELLECK?

OMG, it’s Vicki’s dad from SMALL WONDER (DICK CHRISTIE)!

Holy moly… super bananas backwards slo-mo!