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...:::Traumafessions:::...

Traumafession:: G.G.G. on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

March 25th, 2020 · 2 Comments

Like a lot of city kids, I would get shipped out to my grandparents’ house in the suburbs for a week or two each summer, supposedly to give me an appreciation of grass, trees and fresh air. The candy was terrible, the plastic covers on the furniture annoyingly sticky in the heat, and the rules regarding “guest” towels and soap labyrinthine. The one glorious redeeming feature in all of this? The finished basement had a huge color TV, my grandfather’s state of the art VHS, and a pile of tapes that would do a Blockbuster proud.

Bored on a rainy day and rooting for something to watch, I pulled The Texas Chainsaw Massacre out of the pile, since it was obviously something scary, and even 8 year old me loved horror above all. I had a steady diet of midnight B movies, Twilight Zone reruns, and silly slashers like Chopping Mall. I could TOTALLY handle this.

All of 3 minutes later, I bolted upstairs and hung on to a very bewildered cocker spaniel mix for dear life as my whole concept of terrifying rearranged itself. I didn’t watch the rest of the film for several decades. It didn’t have quite the same power, but I had twenty plus years to learn more sophisticated ways of torturing myself.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Rob M. on a Classic PSA

March 17th, 2020 · 3 Comments

Probably my greatest trauma happened every day just before the ten o’clock news. I grew up in the late 70’s/80’s in the NYC suburbs. During this time, there was a lot of real life horror (Stranger Danger, Toxic Tylenol, Satanic Panic, Son of Sam, child abductions, AIDS, Drugs, Cold War etc). But I digress… imagine being in this environment and unexpectedly before every ten o’clock news intro… a still motion shot of a lone child riding a bike on a deserted side street illuminated by a street lamp. Then comes the voice over -> “It’s 10pm. Do you know where your children are?” The person who provided the voiceover was the great Lou Steele. He was known as “The Creep” btw. I’d have to run out of the room every time it came on. The reason it scared me was because of the images it conjured in my head. “Does this person know something?” “Geez, kids are getting snapped up left and right”. “Why do parents need to be reminded to check on their children?” And ultimately reminded me of the infamous “Have you checked the children?” from When a Stranger Calls. The spot, the voiceover and the current social climate all made this a fearful moment of my youth. They later added another spot at 7pm which asked the question “Have you hugged your child today?” That also felt kind of creepy too… just the idea that parents needed a reminder.

Thanks,
Rob

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Tags: Traumafessions

Name That Trauma:: Unk on a Pig-Faced Litterbug

March 4th, 2020 · 3 Comments

I wasn’t exactly a child when I saw this commercial but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’m hoping that maybe there’s someone out there who has seen it as well and needs confirmation that they didn’t imagine it. From what I recall this environmental PSA played frequently because that is exactly how it got permanently lodged in my head. I’m guessing it’s from around 1990 because for some reason my memories of the year the eighties ended are especially vivid.

In the commercial you see a man looking up at the camera and I think he’s sitting in some kind of black void to make things even more creepy and surreal. A woman’s accusing voice bellows at him, “You’re the one who throws trash out of your car window” (or something like that) and the guy’s face changes a little and becomes slightly more pig-like. Then the woman accuses him of something else regarding pollution (maybe dumping garbage into the ocean) and his face becomes a little more pig-like. This happens several more times until the man has a total pig face. It’s possible he turns into an actual pig at the very end.

In general, I find it absurd and ignorant when folks describe bad (and particularly human) behavior by comparing people to innocent animals. I’ve never met a pig but quit sure they are charming animals in real life. Having said that, the Dr. Moreau-style hybrid presented in this short ad was truly hideous and disturbing. I’ll never forget how the woman’s voice quivered with such exaggerated contempt as she barked at the guilty-looking monstrosity. After many years, I’ve never seen this spot pop up on YouTube and it may very well be an only East Coast-thing. Hopefully, someday I’ll meet another human who has experienced this. It was so very weird that I’m surprised that I can’t find a reference to it anywhere.

And that reminds me: When I was small and living in California my across the street neighbor had a poster hanging in his garage that said, “Hell yes, I male chauvinist Pig” and it was an image of a scary man on a motorcycle with an actual pig face so maybe my aversion to pig faces has a long history. I also remember being especially taken aback by the issue of Fangoria with MOTEL HELL on the cover.

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Tags: Name That Trauma! · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Richie C. on a Curse of Frankenstein Mask

March 2nd, 2020 · 5 Comments

Hi there, My big bro takes me to see Curse of Frankenstein with the immortal Christopher Lee in 57, maybe–I’m 6—and as a give-away they had masks of the monster with eye holes and an elastic band–I remember my brother wearing it after the movie and scaring the bajesus out of me, as up to that point it was the scariest image ever, followed shortly after by Mr Sardonicus, etc—anyway, my older brother doesn’t remember the mask and I’m sure I’m not misremembering –do you or any of your fans remember such a mask?–thanks, love your site—ghoulishly yours, Richie

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Tags: Name That Trauma! · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Dan C. on a Junkie Ballarina PSA

February 20th, 2020 · 7 Comments

As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated and often terrified by the PSA as a format. An early memory of mine involves me laying in bed, holding aloft my Cookie Monster stuffed animal and miming what it would look like if Cookie was the talking head in a PSA; not saying any words, just trying to approximate the subtle movements. I ended this with a mock freeze frame. I scared myself with this enough to throw the covers over my head and try and will myself not to think about Cookie Monster freeze-frame, lest I would never get to sleep from the terror of a freeze-frame in an imaginary PSA.

Yeah, it’s pretty weird. So time marches on and various PSAs come and go, and I’m scared of them in degrees from 0 to 99. The mid to late 80s anti-drug obsession starts to take hold and it instills a general sense of paranoia in us suburban preteen kids, but it all still seems like the “other.” In our little sheltered burg, we thought some stranger in a van (perhaps a clown) was going to come and offer us “druggggggggs” and maybe kidnap us. It was all a vague (but real, it sure as hell seemed!) threat. Welp, the vagueness showed it’s power when I was maybe a couple years too old for a genuine kinder trauma, but I can’t under estimate the terrifying grip that one fucking Partnership for a Drug Free America spot had/has on me. I was like fucking 11 or 12 and I don’t remember the first time I saw this thing.

The sound of an orchestra tuning. A low angle shot with cold, cold, diffuse light. A ballet studio. Slow-motion dancer is spinning, spinning out of control. Onlookers with crossed arms of disapproval in the background. Voiceover of little girl: “I wanna be a ballerina when I grow up.” Cue fake Psycho violin stabs, then adult male voiceover: “Nobody says they wanna be a junkie when they grow up. Don’t let drugs get in the way of your dreams.” This fades into the standard Partnership for a Drug Free America text and black screen. This spot started showing up in weird places immediately…Siskel and Ebert (yeah, i was a kid watching S&E on Sunday mornings), Wonder Years and Doogie Houser MD were prime spots. It showed up in an airing of the Rankin Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in 90 or 91. I think I closed my eyes for that one. See, cuz I took different tactics to get over this fear; I’d close my eyes and just listen, I’d pay strict attention to every detail, I’d count the times the dancer spun (it’s not even one full spin). Nothing worked. I even had a wake up paralyzed screaming nightmare about it once.

Me and my few loser friends in middle school would talk about this spot, and the few others in the series (none of which bothered me a quarter as much) and talk about how “freaky” they were. It was a good word to avoid seeming weak in that junior high shark pool. But I was obsessed with it as it left rotation and went into PSA retirement. So, as I got into collection weird VHS years later, of course that would be a thing I was on the hunt for. As I picked up home recordings of broadcast tv I’d be always hoping it would lead me to this terror. I found tons of fascinating, and at times terrifying PSAs but I never found the ballerina. I even found collections of Partnership for a Drug-Free America tapes and it seemed they were erasing that spot from there history for some reason. Even as youtube emerged as, I found almost everything I wanted to see from days past…couldn’t find the particular spot.

Eventually, it did show up on youtube, and get taken down immediately. Was this secretly a controversial ad? I did give in and watch it on youtube sadly right before I found it was on a tape I had of an ABC primetime broadcast I never bothered to look at cuz it was Young Indiana Jones or some garbage like that. Anyhow, I’m still fascinated by this, because I think I’ve been truly terrified by this thing entirely because of the power of film language. Whatever who these anonymous creatives were going for, they found it purely through scary creepiness. Frankly, I think the anonymity in these spots are partially what make them so elusively unnerving. Who made this? Who is the ballerina? Did they believe in what they were doing? Cuz the implementation of creepy style certainly indicates a certain dedication. Did they know they’d be haunting the minds of kids as they became functional adults? I still can’t quite put my finger on what this particular thing gives me such intense unease. But it’s still there.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Dr Future on The Andy Griffith Show Episode “Opie the Birdman”

January 19th, 2020 · 16 Comments

I’ll never forget, nor those of my generation, how Barney taught Opie how to use a weapon of violence, in the innocence of ‘target practice.” Opie took his new slingshot around outside, shooting at things, until he saw something move in the trees, as he quickly and instinctively aimed and shot, quickly seeing a bird fall from the tree.  Struck with the immediacy of his act, he ran up and in denial assured himself that the bird was merely “stunned”, and would fly away anyway. As he began to panic and tear up, he pleaded with the bird to “fly away”, even picking it up and launching it, which responded by falling lifeless to the ground.  He was completely distraught, as were the rest of us, to this simple display of senseless violence.  He ran home, and listless at dinner, overheard Andy and Aunt Bea talk about a dead songbird they wondered a cat might have gotten.  Overwhelmed by guilt, he ran to his bed, which triggered the intuitive assessment of Andy.  Going to his room Andy confiscated the weapon, and even worse, opened up the window to let Opie hear the plaintive cries of the mother’s baby birds, who not only would never see their mother but presumably starve to death in waiting.  Do I have your attention? The grieved Opie suddenly recognized his duty to adopt and raise these orphan bird babies, dutifully feeding and raising them until they were flying around in the cage (with the unsolicited advice of Barney, dispensing advice from “scientific studies” and “everybody knows”, like the 1950s living embodiment of the Internet), leading to the second “trauma” – that of heeding father Andy’s advice to let them go, and “leave the nest” and the bonds of attachment Opie had made with them.  

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Traumafession:: Rob S. on a Three Dog Night-mare

December 10th, 2019 · 4 Comments

Hi, guys! This is truly my favorite site. Keep it going forever, please! I have a Traumafession for you that I’d be surprised if no one else my age could relate to. When I was growing up in the 70’s, my parents had an extensive album collection that I would browse through from time to time and one of their favorite bands was Three Dog Night. There was an album of theirs called Hard Labor with a really bizarre and horrifying cover. It was a picture of a hospital operating room with some kind of weird mannequin/alien being with bird-like feet giving birth to a record album with a roomful of attending medical staff crowded around. At least that was the original album cover before the record company made them cover the lower third of the album with a huge plastic Band-Aid…..which made the image even more mysterious and frightening!

That cover with the Band-Aid was the source of many a nightmare when I was a kid….but, of course, I still had to look at it when I felt particularly daring. The image on the back of the album wasn’t much better, depicting the “mannequin/alien” thing on a carousel. Whoever thought that was a good image to slap on the band’s cover was on some pretty good drugs! That cover has always stayed with me, I included here the original cover, the back cover, and the Band-Aid cover that scarred my fragile psyche.

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Traumafession:: Dustin in Minnesota on Southern Gothic Country Music

December 3rd, 2019 · 13 Comments

Hey there Trauma fans! I have a traumafession from my youth involving country music. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, and my dad played in numerous local bands, both rock and country music. Because of this, my parents had a massive collection of vinyl. Some of it freaked me out, particularly three songs that I guess you could classify as southern gothic.The first was The Legend of Wooley Swamp, performed by the Charlie Daniels band, in which some local white trash (as described in the song) beat a swamp-dwelling old miser to death to collect his fortune, only for him to have his post-mortem revenge as they drowned in quicksand while making their escape. (Interestingly enough, I pictured the swamp looking the one where The Legion of Doom lived inside their Darth Vader’s head-shaped spacecraft)

The second was Kenny Rogers‘s song “The Hoodooin’ of Miss Fannie DeBerry,” in which the narrator recalls a woman from his youth who would walk down a road barefoot speaking in tongues and come home crying late at night. It is revealed she had gained immortality through a deal with the Devil, and that she might use it against the listener.

The third freaked me out to a lesser degree – “Somebody’s Knockin'” by Terri Gibbs, in which a woman sings that the Devil has come to her door to seduce her. It wasn’t the lyrics that freaked grade-school me out so much as her haunting voice and the thought of the Devil on one’s doorstep.
While these songs freaked me out, I was fascinated by them nonetheless, as they were a musical bridge between religious tracts I would sometimes come across and the nightmare-inducing horror comics I would buy at the drugstore. And yes, these songs sometimes had the same effect if I listened to them shortly before bedtime, conjuring images of swamps, revenge, voodoo, and the Prince of Darkness in my ten-year-old mind.


Dustin in Minnesota

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Traumafession:: bdwilcox on Flash Gordon

November 19th, 2019 · 6 Comments

It’s been decades since I first saw Flash Gordon in the movie theater as a kid and to this day I am loathe to reach my arm into someplace I haven’t thoroughly inspected.  I still go through this circus every day when I need to check my mailbox. Each time I reach my arm into that dark recess I thoroughly expect to feel a sting and pull my arm out dripping with green goo only to ask Timothy Dalton to run me through with a sword and spare me the madness.

But I think there is a bigger, more symbolic meaning here.  Remember as a kid when the mail was the coolest thing ever? I would race to the mailbox to get my catalogs from Sears, Toys R Us, Service Merchandise, Cabelas, Gander Mountain, etc. and pour over them for hours looking at all the cool things they offered and I couldn’t afford.  One day I’ll be able to order whatever I want, I thought, and my wife will be one of those girls in the Cabelas catalogs who sits around in her flannel pajamas and sips hot tea with honey from a giant Cabelas mug in front of the fire.

But as life wore on and many of the delights from childhood faded and soured, mail became its antithesis.  Now instead of joy, it delivered a merciless sting: an endless parade of bills, collection agents, tax notices, registration and license renewals, and the ugly faces of pandering politicians at election time.  Timothy Dalton said: “Death is certain, but only after tortured madness. (“How long?”) Hours. days, depending on your strength.”  If that isn’t an allegory for how life wears us down, I don’t know what is.


P.S. Please feel free to use the attached picture I made of my actual mailbox (No Prince Barin’s were harmed in the making of this picture.)

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Traumafession:: Jeff C. on The Spider God

November 11th, 2019 · 2 Comments

When I was in Elementary School on Vancouver Island, BC Canada, I borrowed this book from the school library. The book was published in 1974 and as I was born in 1969 I would have probably been 7 to 9 years old when I read it. The illustrations inside were scratchy and creepy as hell! And the stories were all written by Charles A. Piddock. All the stories disturbed me, but the one that had the longest impact on me, the one that I remember to this day (more than 40 years later!) was the story called The Spider God. As I remembered it, it went like this:

 It was a Vietnam horror story I read as a child about a soldier who, before burning down a village, butts his cigarette in the eye of a spider god statue. Then 10 years later at home he’s upstairs and his kids are downstairs he hears a weird noise,   he goes down to investigate and finds 2 skeletons– bones picked clean–  then he turns to see a swarm of spiders descend upon him.

Then I found a blog, which documents the blogger’s own experience with the book (HERE). He writes the synopses of all the stories contained in the book and his synopsis of The Monster Fly is remarkably similar to my own recollection…

THE SPIDER GOD

Captain Billy Joe Smith is with some South Vietnamese soldiers checking out a village. A building is still standing and they chase a VC into it. A fight ensures and Billy sees it is some temple. Filled with cages of spiders and an idol of a giant spider. Billy puts out his cigar in the eyes of the idol offending the Spider God. Years later in Denver him and his little daughter are attacked by hordes of spiders. Back in the village the idols eyes then start to glow signaling that the god has been avenged.

He also writes:

So this was a book that I checked out of the school library when I was in second grade. It is written for young kids and has illustrations on every other page to show what the story is trying to convey. The illustrations by Richard Maccabe are crude but effective in visualizing the story. I still vividly remember the drilling to Hell and meeting the Devil and the human zoo. The stories were quite effective on a young mind that I still remembered them after all these years and decided to search out this book. An enjoyable nostalgic trip back to my childhood.

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Tags: Traumafessions