My Kindertrauma:: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (’72) By Avayander

What happens when an impressionable child who has been fed a steady diet of divine wrath stumbles upon a simple 70s horror movie innocuous enough to be broadcast in its entirety on daytime television? Why Kindertrauma of course!!!

My Kindertrauma didn’t come from one of the brilliant horror movies of the 70s. There are a lot of elements to this story that make me cringe, but the fact that it only took a low budget shocker to fry my electronics is one of the biggest. It would make more sense if my meltdown came at the hands of The Exorcist. Instead I have to admit that I was wound up so tightly that it only took exposure to Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things to make me snap. I must have been a fun kid.

To understand how Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things kicked the box of bees in my brain I need to get into how the box got there in the first place. So if the subject of organized and disorganized religion makes you squeamish, best stop now. There’s no pro or con bullshit in here though, just an individual story of a kid muddling up cosmic concepts because his mind was better suited for Legos and breakfast cereal.

And muddle I did. By age eight I was already crammed with misunderstandings and contradictions that needed to be addressed, but Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things ensured I wouldn’t get to gradually sort through my metaphysical junk drawer at my own pace. That movie found me at just the right time to wreak the most havoc on my psyche and when it was done I was literally left standing in an empty field afraid of what was left of the universe. That last bit is going to require some explaining, so…Kindertrauma ahoy! -Avayander

UNK SEZ: Avayander sent us an awesome traumafession but it’s a bit long so we will continue it in the comment section! Come join us!

Traumafession:: M. Graves on The Brothers Lionheart (’77)

The Brothers Lionheart is a film I saw as a child that stuck with me because the two kid main characters die almost immediately and their afterlife is full of danger and struggle as well, and the film ends with them deciding to kill themselves again to get into yet another afterlife!

The film starts by introducing the main character, a terminally ill boy who lives with his older brother. He’s scared to die and his brother comforts him by telling him about the land you go to when you die, a magical valley full of adventure. An immediate gut-wrenching twist is that the older brother dies first, saving his brother from a burning building by jumping out a window and dying from the fall. Then the younger brother dies shortly afterward and the rest of the movie takes place in the afterlife. 

The afterlife seems all fun and medieval at first and the brothers are re-united, but soon you find out that there are two valleys in this land, and the other has been conquered by an evil army of black-cloaked and helmeted soldiers backed by a dragon and they have to fight to make sure their valley isn’t next. The rest of the movie is about the fight to overthrow the oppressive villains. At the end of the movie, they’ve defeated the bad guys and the dragon, but the older brother has been burned by dragon fire and is going to become paralyzed. He wants to die, and so the younger brother agrees to carry him to a cliff and jump to their deaths so they can get to the next magical afterlife, which will be peaceful. And after they do that, the movie just ends with a shot of their shared tombstone.

My Kindertrauma:: Seth S. on The Shining (’80)

One’s fear of something can sometimes be about repeated occurrences. Seeing something once that sends a shiver up your spine – that’s one thing. Seeing something more than once – worse yet, coming at you in concert: that’s something altogether horrifying. A singular greeting to horror, multiplied by two, one can likely think of nothing worse. It’s a promise to horror. And it’s two-fold.

Now, I’ll admit I saw Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining earlier than I should have in my young life. Luckily, my parents at least had the foresight that I wouldn’t see it until it aired on national TV, but no amount of censorship can really transform The Shining into a family-friendly film. One wouldn’t imagine that the cannibalistic Donner party could be made prime time appropriate either, but that doesn’t stop father Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) from momentarily talking about it with his son Danny (Danny Lloyd). And that’s alright too, because Danny had already learned about it on his own by watching about it on the television. And Jack assures his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), “It’s all right. He saw it on the TV.” 

Everything is alright on the TV. 

When it came to The Shining, network TV cut from the film much of the blood that came crashing through the elevator doors, washing over the Overlook Hotel’s lobby floor tile. It cut away when Mr. Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) served as a catcher’s mitt for an ax in the hands of an enraged Jack. It certainly blurred out the woman’s naked breasts in room 237, but the network couldn’t easily remove the Grady twins from the film, and they were more frightening to me than anything that had to be cut out. Seeing the film for the first time, I was as alarmed as anyone when little Danny rounded that hallway corner on his three-wheeler to discover the spectral Grady girls waiting for him, and for me – and likely for others – the two were a central source of dread. 

Yet unlike the other elements of the film that needed to be censored for prime time TV, all that made the Grady twins frightening was their portent. What made them terrifying was not an ounce of blood nor the insinuation of violence. It was what the Grady girls introduced to the film, what they beckoned to Danny and the viewer, seemingly echoing to him before the Torrance family moved to the Overlook. “Well, let’s just wait and see,” she says to him. “We’re all going to have a real good time.”

And we would have a good time, over the course of the film. 

We would also have an absolutely horrifying time.

From memory, I can’t write that my parents allowed me to watch the film for its full duration. But they didn’t have to let me watch more than the film’s first 30 minutes to traumatize me, in large part due to the Grady girls. They remain one of the most haunting ingredients of the production. There is something scary about the image of the girls’ dead bodies in that hallway. (Few filmmakers have captured the realistically unnerving collapse of bodies like Kubrick, outside of Coppola or Scorsese.) But more alarming than the image of the girls’ violent demise is the invitation that they first provided to me and the rest of the audience. That’s what remains so haunting about Kubrick’s production. It wasn’t about the more surreal images in the hotel that visit us (and few could discomfit us more than the man dressed in the dog outfit). It wasn’t about the circuitous garden maze that we – like Danny – ran through, trying to escape a murderous father who promised would never hurt us. It’s not even about the nature of the maze itself, an ordinarily juvenile house of seek and discovery, which was only made more terrifying because the playground was suddenly ruthlessly real, even if it was meant to be nothing more than some gravel, landscaping, and subterfuge. 

When I saw the film as a child, the fright of Kubrick’s movie had much more to do with that first glimpse of two girls – not one, but two – in that wallpapered hotel hallway early in the film. It had to do with the manner in which those girls gently usher the audience into the film’s mounting terror. While unexpected, their emergence – welcoming the viewer into another two hours of horror – should have seemed harmless, especially since I saw it like so many other people did on the television.

Even when Jack Torrance tragically promised us: it’s okay as long as we saw it on the TV.

My Kindertrauma:: Seth S. on The Twilight Zone

It’s been more than a week since the ball dropped, and I think I’ve finally heard the last of the muffled marching band that’s traipsed its way through my skull since Ryan Seacrest and a skin full of liquor ushered in the new year. In lieu of Tylenol and bottled water, I medicated myself with the annual cable TV marathon of The Twilight Zone, which didn’t allow me to get the rest that I needed because I was glued to those supernatural, suspenseful, and otherwise unsettling stories. And perhaps because of the new year, I’m reflecting on the first episode I’d ever seen of the classic television series: “Probe 7, Over and Out,” thinking about how it changed my understanding of Storytelling forever.

My first journey into the Twilight Zone was through the 1983 anthology film, but that particular venture – which I took too many times to count – was frequently in broad daylight. The movie frequently screened on cable in the middle of the day, when its frights couldn’t find me watching from the family room floor. But one Saturday night at the age of 10, I stayed up later than I should have, having been assured that I didn’t have to attend Sunday school the following morning. It was a rare treat. The Bible stories seemed both limited in quantity and endless in their telling, and a reprieve would be a relief. Without Sunday school to whisk me to bed early, that night would be special. The house was dark. Everyone had gone to bed for the night. As I flipped channels, the TV suddenly flickered with tones of black and white – that door performing somersaults in the cosmos, that house window inexplicably shattering, that slowly blinking staring eye. I’d been transported to a Twilight Zone the likes of which I’d never seen before, seduced by the show’s musical introduction and the inimitable voice of Rod Serling.

In comparison to many others, this episode isn’t the perfect representation of what the weekly TV could accomplish, but this particular installment tells the story of Adam Cook (Richard Basehart), an astronaut who crash lands on a lush alien planet. While he nurses his wounds, which include a broken arm and a bruised rib, radio transmissions alert him that his home planet will soon be destroyed by its two governing bodies, long entrenched in war. Without a home to return to and with a foreign land to call home, Cook discovers only one other living creature, a woman who calls herself Eve (Antoinette Bower). After some initial suspicion of one another, the two settle upon calling this otherworldly planet “Earth” and determine to build a life there together.

The religious subtext wasn’t lost on me, even if I didn’t come from a religious family. The irony that I was watching a creation story late on a Saturday night and that I would be absent from Sunday school the next morning, however, would take time for me to understand. And what made the program itself frightening was not its dramatic action. Aside from some moody atmosphere, the possibility of nuclear annihilation, and a brief physical confrontation, “Probe 7, Over and Out” possesses little of the terror synonymous with The Twilight Zone.

What made the episode so compelling to me as a child was how it seemed to address the human condition on such a unique stage of science fiction and suspense. “He’s a frightened breed,” Cook tells himself of humanity, after the terrified Eve has fled the comfort of his company. “He’s a very frightened breed.” At that age, I understood the evil of racism and the terror of growing old and even more from the full color anthology film of the same name, but perhaps the more ancient black and white presentation of this television show made its messaging more disarming to me. Perhaps it was the absence of color on the screen and the absence of light in the family room. And it may have had everything to do with the program’s bravery in taking a story so hallowed on Sunday mornings and turning it into a contemporary narrative infused with trepidation, distrust, and fear, all of which the world felt daily in some measure. I didn’t understand at that age that stories could do something like that: so irreverent, so manipulative, so revolutionary. What would be next, I asked myself: beloved fairy tales infused with moral compasses? Famous children’s story characters entertaining dark urges? Origin stories that humanized the great villains of literature? Those questions were as invigorating to me as they were frightening, because their answers lie somewhere in the unknown.

But as a young viewer, I was a little more than intrigued by the potential future of storytelling after that night, not only because I was such a lover of storytelling but also because I suddenly saw my contribution to storytelling rather unleashed, unbridled – like Adam on a distant planet: born anew to create a story that no one’s quite heard like that before. And for a 10-year-old just then learning to understand the natural rules of narrative, The Twilight Zone represented a passport by which to bypass a number of the layovers that I would have felt obligated to make before venturing into this new world of story on my own.

And, of course, I’d see more episodes of The Twilight Zone that would be more terrifying than this one, certainly more inspirational to the young creator lurking within me.

And some of them wouldn’t let me get the rest that I needed.

And none of them were meant to.

My Kindertrauma:: Seth S. on Dracula (’31)

He lived down the street from me, and we weren’t really friends. We were merely familiar faces on the bus ride to school and in the classroom, the two kids who periodically discovered each other at the local jungle gym. Perhaps he lived too close for comfort for me as I navigated the 5th grade – he was a bully at school who hadn’t yet targeted me, and I sensed it was always a matter of time – but Bryan (is what we’ll call him) announced to no one in particular as we played at the playground that Friday afternoon that Bela Lugosi’s Dracula would air on a local network at midnight that night. I didn’t know what Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was any more than I knew what TV looked like at midnight. As we took that cyclical ride on the merry-go-round, he asked me if I would be tuning in.

My vocabulary with horror was, then, very limited. I knew Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Wolf Man, and I felt sorry for him. Despite his appearance, Talbot was a victim of circumstance, hardly the monster that would inspire nightmares. But Dracula – even with no knowledge of the character, the novel, or the film – was intrinsically haunting. Had you never seen the 1931 film, you were at least familiar with the cloaked figure bidding you welcome into his castle, eerily celebrating the howling wolves in the distance. None of us have seen the Devil in person either, but we still fear him. I felt the same way about Dracula.

I told Bryan I would be watching, and as I headed for home, I heard him yell that I was probably too scared to see it. I also heard him yell to me that my parents probably wouldn’t let me stay up that late anyway. Mind you: we weren’t friends. And he was wrong on both counts. I wasn’t too scared to tune in; I was, however, incapable of staying awake in front of the TV. I’d fallen asleep before the movie aired that night; luckily, the same station would air the movie again at 11 a.m. on Saturday. I was relieved that I could return to school on Monday, ready to tell Bryan that I’d faced those fears, even if I’d done so in broad daylight. But a family event would keep me away from the television that day, so my dad’s solution was to commit the screening to a VHS tape – that way, I could watch it whenever, even with him. And, consequently, after the sun had gone down. And, as everyone knows, you’re only the potential victim of a vampire once the sun has gone down.

But again I went to bed that night without having seen the movie. I claimed to be too tired, despite my dad’s insistence that we stay up and watch it. Like a silver bullet, the screening was dodged once more. I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever. Bryan was certain to quiz me on Monday morning, so I couldn’t run from the film forever.

Instead, I watched Dracula a little after noon that Sunday. I didn’t procrastinate, wanting to see the picture as early as possible so that it was as far removed from my bedtime as it could be, so I didn’t wait for the company of my father. I was on a mortal mission for my soul, and I couldn’t have this film following me into my dreams. Unfortunately, I’d find that the matinee screening wouldn’t help. It turns out that Lugosi’s Dracula isn’t dependent upon trivialities such as darkness or ambient night sounds to inspire fear. As the Count, Dracula is far more menacing, staring back in silence than we sometimes recall, and director Tod Browning isn’t frightened of allowing the film to take shape in absolute quiet, whether for a few seconds or for entire minutes. Raised on the films of Lucas and Spielberg and Saturday morning cartoons, I knew the value of color: the bright lights and the darkest blacks, but Dracula seemed reared on a different palette altogether, robbing its black and white scenes of any color, of any possibility for hope. There was only dark and “darker.” Tonally, Dracula possesses two moods: “dangerous” and “deadly,” and if the “dangerous” doesn’t terrify you, the “deadly” is in close pursuit at all times. The film, economically paced at a little more than an hour, engorges the production with more atmosphere than one sees in most horror films today, and a day with Dracula was turning into a precarious venture at the very least. But it was Dracula’s unrelenting stare – coupled with that silence and those shadows from before – that I would need to shove into the catacombs of my mind before bedtime, no later than nine that night. His stare seemed to discover me, watching from the safety of my home, in those cinematic close-ups. His stares promised that Dracula knew where to find me at all times.

And yet I felt pretty good as I brushed my teeth that night, ready to share with Bryan how I’d stared into the face of the Prince of Darkness and returned to school on Monday anyway, no worse for the wear. I’d filled the rest of my day with Fleischer Superman cartoons and some G.I. Joe battles on my bedroom floor to erase Dracula from my memory, and I would have enjoyed a peaceful rest that night had it not been for my dad’s fateful reminder.

“Did you watch Dracula today?” he’d asked me. “What did you think of it?”

I can’t really recall the nature of my review before I went to bed – alone, in the dark – that night. All I could think about was Dracula’s ominous stare, its ability to find me in the family TV room, its assurance that it knew where to find me at any time from behind the television set glass.

And perhaps that was still a little too close for comfort for me.

Traumafession:: Unk on A.I. Artificial Intelligence

I was an adult when A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE was released in 2001 but I’m going to write a traumafession about it anyway. Let’s call this a post-childhood kindertrauma. Ya see, there’s this one scene in the movie that really curb-stomped my morbidly empathetic heart to such a degree that it stained the rest of the film with a pungent depressing aura that I could never quite scrape off my shoe. It’s not a scary scene at all; it just feels like an impenetrable wall of dejection. Like that swamp of sadness that claimed Artax the horse in THE NEVERENDING STORY (’84).

Henry and Monica Swinton (Sam Robards and Frances O’Conner) are mourning a child who was put into suspended animation until his disease can be cured. In the meantime, they adopt a mechanical boy named David (Haley Joel Osment) to ease their loneliness and program him to love them just as if they were his real parents. One day they get the great news that Martin, the son they birthed has miraculously recovered and can return home. Unfortunately, their “real” son is a real brat who is jealous of David and commits to tormenting him. While being teased at a family gathering, David becomes frightened and grabs Martin to protect him and they both fall into the pool. David’s desperate grip is so great that he nearly drowns Martin. Afterward, David is seen as a threat and it is decided that he must be returned to his manufacturer and destroyed (!). Momma Monica can’t go through with the hideous betrayal and instead leaves him in the middle of the woods (!) crying and pleading for a second chance. I find the abandonment of David, horrifically cruel and difficult to process. What the hell is wrong with these people? How can they live with themselves? With only a teddy bear for companionship, David treks on experiencing multiple perils but my mechanical brain glitches and cannot move forward. The rest of the movie will forever be a blur.

Why am I thinking of this now? This past summer I met a cat in my backyard and named her June. She stopped by a couple of times a day for food and I found her company soothing. As we bonded I became worried for her safety but could not bring her in due to the fact that she was clearly nursing kittens somewhere. By some miracle, we eventually found all of her kittens (6!) and were able to bring her inside where she could nurse them until they were old enough for adoption. Cue a montage of glorious days with bouncing kittens everywhere until inevitable reality barges into the room. Well, we were able to find homes for two of the kittens but the experience of choosing who would be separated from their siblings and sent to safe but scary new environments was some SOPHIE’S CHOICE-level torture for me. I couldn’t stand the fear in their eyes and it was like sawing off an invisible appendage. So that’s it, I can’t let another go. We are going to have a lot of cats (8!) now because I can’t stand the idea of them feeling like unwanted robots even for a moment. This is all Steven Spielberg’s fault.

My Kindertrauma:: Unk on Kolchak: The Night Stalker (’74)

When I was a youngin’ there wasn’t anything on television quite as scary to me as KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (except maybe NIGHT GALLERY’s opening credits). I don’t think I caught the original airings but I believe there was a summer when repeats aired on one of our local channels. Reporter Carl Kolchak (the late great Darren McGavin who visits yearly in A CHRISTMAS STORY (’83)) had somewhat the same demeanor as my dad and that added something extra to the stakes as he butted heads with the supernatural.

One episode, in particular, was particularly notorious in our household. It was entitled “The Spanish Moss Murders” but we knew it as “The Swamp Monster” episode. Every time I caught KOLCHAK’s eerie opening credits, I remember hoping I had stumbled upon that much-spoken-about (at least between me and my brothers) monster of the week outing. Yes, these were the days before VCRs and home media when you just had to settle for whichever episode graciously materialized. A recent re-watch of this particular jaunt (like many an infamous kindertrauma) proved to be not quite as frightening as I remembered, but certainly just as entertaining.

There’s a rash of unexplained murders popping up across Chicago with seemingly little connection except for the fact that each victim’s chest cavity has been crushed. Enter the “Swamp Monster” as played by hulking Richard Kiel (“Jaws” of the James Bond films, another childhood idol) a shambling mass of straggly green vines leaving behind a trail of slime. In a very interesting (and Kindertrauma-friendly) twist, it turns out the monster is the physical manifestation of the childhood fears of a patient undergoing extensive sleep therapy. Things come to a horrifying head when our hero Kolchak realizes the most likely spot for such a creature to hang up his moss-covered hat is the sewer below the city! His plan to bust the Cajun legend come to life is foiled further when (wouldn’t you know it) a truck parks on top of his manhole escape route! The monstrous mound of verdure still looks rather daunting today (especially as he rises from the rat-strewn sewer waters) making it pretty clear why this episode has stuck in the craw of my mind like spinach on a tooth all these long years.

My Kindertrauma:: Jaws (’75) By Unk-L

My earliest film-going experience was seeing JAWS in a drive-in as a child. I recall one of my parents telling me if the movie got too scary I could opt to look out the rear window of the station wagon at the screen in back us. That screen was showing THE REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER. I did not understand why a film claiming to be about the Pink Panther was not a cartoon.

Of course, I loved JAWS. What child could resist JAWS? Me and my brothers later went on to play JAWS in the pool, own a rubber shark toy and name our first gold fish JAWS who was later replaced by JAWS 2 before there was an actual movie sequel with that title. JAWS was a true cultural phenomenon in the seventies and whenever I watch the film now, it’s like I’m jumping through a time tunnel back to my youth.

Anyway, as much as every scene featuring the shark in the movie thrilled me to no end, there’s one moment in the movie that really stuck out and lingered in my mind. You likely know exactly the one I’m talking about. Late at night, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) come across what looks like the half-sunken abandoned boat of Ben Gardner (Craig Kingsbury) who had earlier gone in search of the shark hoping to kill it and collect a reward. Matt gets in his scuba gear to check out the bottom of the boat where he finds a chomp-y shark bite-sized hole and a large tooth. All is quiet and dark when suddenly Gardner’s bloated, blue, floating head appears complete with one bugged-out eye and another missing and a frozen expression of sheer terror. The head so startles Matt that he drops the tooth. It’s undoubtedly one of the most effective jump scares in cinema history.

Recently JAWS was re-released all digitally cleaned-up and sporting brand new 3-D effects so of course, I jumped at the chance to see it. It turned out to be an incredible experience to watch this film that I’ve seen countless times over the course of my life in a brand new way. It’s absolutely stunning. The funny thing is that even though I could not have been any more prepared for the appearance of Gardner’s floating head popping out, it still somehow made me jump once again. John William’s incredible score blasting on the speakers almost makes it impossible not to flinch. Countless things have changed over the course of my life but there are some things that will always stay the same. JAWS will always be a masterpiece and Ben Gardner’s head will always startle the living daylights out of me.

Traumafession:: James of LARPing Real Life on The Gauntlet (1977)

I have a confession to make before I even get to my Traumafession: I have never seen the Clint Eastwood movie The Gauntlet. My dad took me to see other Eastwood-Sondra Locke vehicles, namely the goofy but fun Any Which Way films, but never this 1977 crime flick.

So how does a picture I’ve never watched end up as something that traumatized me as a youngster? Look no further than the 30-second TV spot.

Put aside for the time being that someone in a position of power at Warner Bros. decided that the advertisement for a tense, edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting action film required a voiceover by radio’s American Top 40 host, Kasey Kasem. The really scary moment happens at around the 12-second mark in the ad.

It is then that the passenger-side door of a racing ambulance opens, and Sandra Locke spills out of it. She clings to the door for dear life while the freeway flashes by beneath her. She screams as she hangs scant inches above the tarmac. What makes matters worse is that she seems to be dressed in only a blue t-shirt and short-shorts. Talk about road rash!

Who is she? Who is chasing her? Why is she in an ambulance? Why is the ambulance driving so fast? Why isn’t she wearing her seatbelt? None of these questions mattered to my then 6-year-old brain. The only fact I gathered in that one-second-long clip was that car doors opened for no good goldang reason while you drove on the highway, so you better be ready at all times!

After seeing this ad for The Gauntlet, I was very wary of sitting next to the door while accompanying my parents to the grocery store, the mall, or to Grandma’s house. Remember: this was the 1970s. As a little kid, no one cared much about my safety. I didn’t have to ride in a special seat in the back of the car. Heck, my sister used to sit on the central fold-down armrest in the front seat of our Pontiac Grand Prix – sans seatbelt! The chances of being launched head first through the windshield or bouncing like a superball off the dashboard during a head-on collision were quite a few percentage points higher than the door inexplicably opening while being chased down Route 65 by evil cops who wanted to make sure I couldn’t rat them out.

Yet, as a little kid, I made darn sure that the door was shut firmly and locked tightly before we backed out of the driveway. I didn’t even like touching the door’s armrest or handle until the car was at a full stop. I assumed that when my dad took the car in for its yearly inspection, the first thing on the to-do list was “Make sure doors do not open on their own during high-speed chases.”

To this day, when I get into a vehicle, the image of Sondra Locke will flash through my mind, and I’ll keep as close a watch on the door as Woody Allen did on Christopher Walken’s hands on the steering wheel in Annie Hall.

-James Lewis of LARPing Real Life

My Kindertrauma:: Sesame Street Episode 847 (’76) By Unk

Once upon a time in 1976, Margaret Hamilton reprised her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from THE WIZARD OF OZ (’39) on Sesame Street. It didn’t go over so well; the episode freaked out many a child, there was a barrage of complaints from parents and the episode was pulled from future airings. Interestingly, the previous year, Hamilton appeared on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood where she explained to the delight of children everywhere that her role as the witch was only make-believe. For some unknown reason, the folks of Sesame Street decided to throw all that goodwill into Oscar’s trash can by suggesting that kindly Hamilton, sans green make–up, was in fact the evil witch in deceitful disguise; a witch who threatens to turn Big Bird into a feather duster! You can watch the unearthed Sesame Street episode HERE & the Mr. Rogers episode HERE and please don’t mind me if I utilize this occasion to tell you about the time when as a kid, I met a horrifying witch myself!

I’m guessing I was seven or eight when I was sent to sleep-away camp. It seemed exciting at first and I could not get my head around the fact that some of my fellow kids were crying and homesick. Were they crazy or just babies? I assumed both. I was pretty happy to be somewhere new and unfamiliar and I had recently learned a new sport that I was actually good at called “bumper surfing.” Ya see, cars drove real slow as they passed through the campgrounds so if you saw a truck go by, you just jumped on the back bumper and rode it for a spell. What could possibly go wrong?

One day I was talking to a camp counselor when the perfect truck with a fat bumper drove by. With the arrogance of an ignoramus, I cut the counselor off mid-sentence and basically advised them to “hold that thought” as I ran toward the vehicle, jumped on the back, and took it for a jaunty ride. I returned to the camp counselor to find a look of complete horror on their face about what they had witnessed. They asked if I knew the people in the truck and I shrugged and said no. Their eyes widened. I was told my actions were so severe that a demerit would not suffice; I had to go speak to the head of the camp!

I was taken to a large tent and instructed to wait outside. I watched the silhouette of a hunchback hag scramble about within and it was straight out of SUSPIRIA even though I hadn’t seen that movie yet. Eventually, I was summoned by the decrepit woman with glassy eyes and harangued for what seemed like terrifying hours. I remember none of her grizzled gobbledygook except her closing sledgehammer statement, “If I wanted to kill myself then I should go ahead because nobody would miss me when I was gone.” Hmmm, ok, that stung. I held it together until I made it back to my tent and then I lost it. I started crying just like those crazy babies I had previously looked down upon. The old witch was right! I could feel it in my bones. Nobody would care if I lived or died. The world would keep turning and it’s possible my parents would be nothing but relieved. The witch had cursed me with this terrible knowledge that was always there but I had been pathetically blind to before. I would never be happy again!

Yet somehow I eventually got over it and camp wasn’t so bad after all. Once during a hike, we saw nude sun-bathers on the beach! Incredible! I also painted an owl on a smooth, round rock and I can still see it in my mind’s eye today. That owl was wise and understood everything. That owl was a sage symbol of my inner fortitude and my recently obtained ability to drag myself out of psychological quicksand. That owl rock had divine power! I’m pretty sure my dad threw it away.

NOTE: Witches are like bats and opossums and are actually really great and don’t deserve negative stereotyping. This tale takes place very long ago so I hope all the kind witches reading this will forgive my youthful ignorance and not curse me.