Sorry, I gotta make myself scarce for a bit! We have a guest coming to the Kindertrauma Kastle and that means I have to clean (remove bodies), do the wash (scrub out the blood stains) and hunt down my copy of THE ABC AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL: WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? Everybody who stays in this dwelling must watch this masterpiece as it is the unofficial training film for dealing with yours truly. If you can’t handle the friendship stylings of Michelle Mudd (DANA HILL), then I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. Oh, cool! It looks like WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? is available on the portal to hell known as YouTube! Yay. Read my old review HERE and watch the lamentable happenings below, otherwise you’re not a very good friend!
The other day while trying to hunt down a “Name That Trauma!” I came across several mentions of a local television show from the early seventies entitled CANDLE COVE. The show seemed to have left a hefty impression on the unfortunate young souls who made a habit of watching it. CANDLE COVE was about a little girl named Janice and her interactions with a group of pirates that were portrayed by cheap looking puppets. For a kid’s show, CANDLE COVE was dark and twisted in a way that only a seventies show could get away with. There was even a villain named “The Skin Taker” and his cape appeared to be sewn together pieces of-you guessed it… skin. How had I never heard of CANDLE COVE before and why did it sound slightly familiar anyway? Finally I found a conversational thread that seemed to verify the existence of this highly kindertraumatic creation. Please take a moment and read it HERE.
…Did you read it? Don’t lie to me. Okay, so it turns out that CANDLE COVE was never really a show at all but spawned from a work of short fiction written by one KRIS STRAUB. Something about KRIS’ creation stuck a cord with the Internet and now CANDLE COVE is beginning to crystallize into a modern urban legend of sorts right before our eyes. Some refuse to believe that it never existed and some believe that they have witnessed it themselves. You have to admit after reading that thread that it doesn’t sound too far off from the conversations we have here at Kindtrauma, with different people remembering different bits until finally something solid takes form. I think the last comment that closes KRIS’ piece is brilliant. It captures just how diabolical and intrusive these vague memories from childhood can sometimes feel. I’m happy to say that I was able to track down KRIS for a short interview for you guys so here it is!
UNK: I almost didn’t want to reveal CANDLE COVE as a work of fiction but then I realized that no matter how many times that fact is put out there, some people refuse to believe that it’s not real. What’s it like to know that something you created has taken on a life of its own and in such a relatively short amount of time?
KRIS STRAUB: At first I wasn’t aware that it had happened at all. I had a horror fiction site, ICHOR FALLS, where I posted CANDLE COVE initially, and it ended up shared without my knowledge at much more popular horror fiction sites, where it reached a much bigger audience. I know 4chan helped to spread it around. The first time I saw people re-enacting the story, post for post, to scare an unsuspecting forum, I was so gratified. I kind of wrote it just to get the idea out of my head.
One of the things that I think let it take on a life of its own is how vague it is, and how earnest the show seems to be before all the scary stuff is revealed. So many things that scare us as kids start from this innocuous desire to entertain children, but it’s produced carelessly, or some special effect comes out way more ponderous or ugly than the creators intended, and it lingers as we, as children, try to make it fit with our limited understanding of the world. I think we have all been disturbed by shows and movies that have failed us in that way.
UNK: CANDLE COVE has inspired fan videos, fan fiction, music and a Facebook page promising a future movie. What addition to the CANDLE COVE legend have you been most taken aback by?
KRIS STRAUB: I like that people are excited about the story, but I get nervous when I see someone trying to make a film or their own CANDLE COVE books and stories. One of the good and bad things about how quick the story became an urban legend is that people really do think it’s an urban legend with no origin and no author. Fan work is great, but I’m very torn about balancing the fact that it is copyrighted and I do own the story, with the idea that it is in the nature of the story to be spread, namelessly, in dark corners of the internet. I know that serves the mythos way more than me being a litigious dick about it.
As far as being taken aback, I never know how serious Rule 34 is. The rule of the internet that states that if it’s a thing, then there’s porn of it on the internet. So there’s some sexy CANDLE COVE stuff out there that I hope was made as a personal self-challenge, and not a real, living desire to see Horace Horrible get it on with the Skin-Taker.
UNK: Can you tell us a little bit about your website ICHOR FALLS and the inspirations behind CANDLE COVE?
KRIS STRAUB: ICHOR FALLS is a collection of stories revolving around a fictional West Virginia town of the same name. I started writing them out of a love of Lovecraftian horror — not horror where someone gets chopped up, but where someone is made to realize that they don’t really understand the forces that drive the world, but they’ve seen too much of the truth. I also came to love the short stories of STEVEN MILLHAUSER, who doesn’t write horror per se, but creates these little universes where one good idea is taken too far, and then he takes it even further. Most of them are really unsettling.
Believe it or not, CANDLE COVE was specifically inspired by an old article on THE ONION: “Area 36-Year-Old Still Has Occasional Lidsville Nightmare.” It’s so accurate. I don’t know what dark entities SID & MARTY KROFFT spent time in the thrall of, but everything they made to entertain kids is tinged with this unearthly, utterly alien sensibility. I looked up the call letters for a TV station in that area of West Virginia and the names of nearby towns, and it lent the story a little verisimilitude.
UNK: I feel like you could take this idea as far as you like. Do you have anything in store for the future as far as CANDLE COVE and its burgeoning mythos?
KRIS STRAUB: It’s tough! I started to get really excited in continuing the mythos, but I think CANDLE COVE works because it is brief and vague and interrupted. I think to put a name or face to whatever is behind the making of the show is to spoil the magic. I always appreciated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for never showing us the witch. A CGI monster can never be as scary as what we invent in our own minds as a placeholder.
I have an idea keeping with the forum-post format, that involves someone asking around an auction site like eBay for the original tapes. There have also been some fan attempts to debunk CANDLE COVE (which always happens quickly, especially if people see this interview), but I’d like to write a whole meta-novella where someone decides to publish their attempts to expose CANDLE COVE and finds more than they were expecting.
UNK: Last but not least, I’ve got to try and get a traumafession out of you. What was the first movie, TV show, etc. that you remember being truly terrified of as kid?
KRIS STRAUB: I think I have a good one. There was an ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL from the ’80s, “Cousin Kevin,” about this little bespectacled kid whose imagination was too real for the babysitter. There’s one sequence where Cousin Kevin is imagining that they’re in the Arctic, and they’re attacked by “30-foot-tall carnivorous killer penguins.” They were stop-motion-animated by the Chiodo Bros., I remember that. All the effects were.
So Kevin and his babysitter escape and hide in a tiny igloo, and the penguin breaks it open easily, and Kevin says “watch out for their acid saliva!” and this huge fake penguin beak oozes steaming slime on the babysitter as he struggles and screams and begs for Kevin to end the fantasy. The whole scene is so nightmarish and claustrophobic! It wrecked me for months. There are more moments like that I’m sure, but it’s the only one I can remember. I would give anything to find that episode again.
UNK: Thanks KRIS for the interview and for CANDLE COVE. I have to admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I’m still not convinced that it wasn’t real either. Kids, Make sure you step insde KRIS‘ permanent residence KRISSTRAUB.COM to see all the other cool stuff pouring out of his head!
There are After School Specials and then there are After School Specials. In my questionable opinion, the ABC After School Special WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? is primo, cream of the crop stuff! It’s strangely morose yet consistently compelling and it signs off on a surprisingly wise, bittersweet note. MELORA HARDIN (who would grow up to star as Jan on THE OFFICE) plays twelve-year-old Amy who has just moved into an apartment building with her divorcee mother. She quickly meets neighbor Michelle Mudd, an overall-wearin’, bull-in-a-china-shop Peppermint Patty type, portrayed by the late and very loud DANA HILL (SHOOT THE MOON). Although they have little in common, the two quickly bond as Michelle is reeling from her parents’ disintegrated marriage too. Aw, was there really a time when being a child of divorce made you different? How quaint!
Amy soon learns that Michelle Mudd is high maintenance and then some. She’s wildly unpopular amongst her peers, she lies like a rug, she steals like a magpie, she requires near constant affirmation and vows of loyalty and she dabbles in the black arts. It’s too bad that Amy finds Michelle such a handful because honestly I would have gotten along with her just fine. When Amy walks in on Michelle drowning a doll in the bathtub wearing goth make up in a bizarre, blood red voodoo ritual she is outraged and horrified by the display, whereas I truly believe my reaction would be, “How can I help?”
WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? feels like it may nosedive into FATAL ATTRACTION/ SINGLE WHITE FEMALE territory at any moment. Since it’s aimed at the pint-sized crowd though, it touches down in a place of understanding and acceptance rather than boiling bunnies and puppies pushed out of windows. Fine by me really, I hate to see anything happen to fluffy animals and dolls are always asking to get drowned anyway! They love it!
Amy basically learns that while she feels some compassion for Michelle that it’s not her responsibility to repair her. More importantly she realizes that some relationships have an expiration date and that sometimes one must cut their losses and move on. This revelation allows her to finally accept her parents’ divorce and forgive them both for parting ways. I think I learned something too. I learned it’s a bad idea to shoplift gifts for people other than myself and that you have to be really specific about who you want to have disappear from your life when performing a voodoo spell.
Who would think that a safety film would leave such a lasting effect on a person? While in grade school (circa late ’70s) we were forced to watch a bus safety film titled AND THEN IT HAPPENED which was intended to scare the crap out of us and keep grade schoolers in the bus seats instead of running around screaming. This safety film is grainy and has poor audio, but it did the trick for me.
For years I wanted to watch it again and see if it even remotely held the same dread and fear it had when I was a kid. Thanks to the Internet I found it and watched it, and am happy to say that although it’s lost some of its sparkle, it’s still a treasure for me. Unruly kids, knives, pets, bus crashes and children being tossed about like rag dolls. Perfection! Needless to say I never brought a knife onto the bus after that, and I tried to make sure my bus driver didn’t have a heart condition before I acted up.
Love the site and am a frequent browser. You provide a true service by bringing to light so many obscure films, particularly T.V. movies from the ’70s.
I have a ‘Name That Trauma’ from a friend that’s baffled me for a couple of years now. Though possibly best never revealed since it was truly traumatic to him, this is all that I have:
The film takes place in the grasslands, with an AMERICAN GOTHIC feel. A fetus in a jar is discovered in a barn and a young, pale, dark-haired boy believes that the bottled fetus is an angel that fell to Earth. Craziness. Any tips would be much-appreciated.
I wish I had a good trauma-fession that wasn’t already discussed on the site. This is the only unspoken one that I can contribute: I remember a scene from an After School Special, where a group of teenage kids walk into a movie theater. The camera zooms in on the poster for the movie they are about to go see and it’s the lower half of the classic poster for THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, with the skull-faced woman holding the head on the platter. Took awhile to shake that image from my adolescent nightmares.
AUNT JOHN SEZ: Anton, based on your pal’s recollection, I strongly suspect the fermented fetus in question comes from the 1972 UTA HAGEN-helmed flick THE OTHER. Having been wrong about Name That Traumas in the past, I would recommend your pal peep the trailer HERE. (NOTE: The baby in the bottle in curiously missing from said trailer, but perhaps your friend will recognize the UDVARNOKY twins or even the UTA.)
Say, does anyone remember which AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL the second one stems from? If so, please sound off in the comments.
That said, your Aunt John recommends that everyone visit Anton‘s site to see all of his stellar short films and animations, especially the kindertraumatic “Death by Dying”:
UPDATE: FIRST NAME THAT TRAUMA SOLVED! Yep, your Aunt John was wrong with THE OTHER. Special thanks to reader Mark J. Hansen for being the first to recognize the baby in the bottle in the barn from THE REFLECTING SKIN.
Our regularly scheduled program Kindertrauma Funhouse will not be shown so that we can bring you this special presentation. Kindertrauma Funhouse will return next week at its regularly scheduled time.
Hosting children’s parties can be exhausting any day of the year, but throwing ones for those born on All Hallows Eve can be down right draining with the extra burden of having to make costumes. Once the games have been played, the cake has been cut, and the gifts have been opened, it’s time to clear the room and send the little partygoers on their way. Should you not have an air horn handy or enough energy to call in a bomb threat to your own home, try the simple solution of slurred arithmetic as demonstrated in the 1976 After School Special FRANCESCA, BABY. In the time it takes you to count to five, your house will emptied and you can get back to doing what you really wanted to be doing, like drinking on your child’s birthday!