Over the years I’ve brought up the 1975 made-for-TV movie SATAN’S TRIANGLE numerous times on these pages. For some reason though, I’ve never truly dived into my own personal experience with the film, which is bizarre when you consider it is my ground zero Kindertrauma and the main catalyst for this space even existing. SATAN’S TRIANGLE destroyed my fragile psyche for a good long while. It haunted my mind like no other and there was a time when I never thought I’d escape its grasp. Of course, like many a Kindertrauma, it’s likely a major factor in my becoming a horror fan too, as it hard wired me into forever searching for another film that I could be so deeply mortified by, gnaw upon, and eventually find some kind of gratifying truce with. I was eight years old, and I begged my mother to allow me to watch it. It was the seventies; nothing was more intriguing than the Bermuda Triangle or Satan. I thought it would be exciting and fun (it was for a bit). I didn’t know that the simple act of sleeping was going to become an impossible obstacle; I didn’t know my little brain could torture me so.
SATAN’S TRIANGLE concerns a boat discovered by the coast guard that is occupied by three dead bodies and a terrified female survivor. Doug McClure portrays Lt. J. Haig who is unable to safely remove Eva (Kim Novak) from the vessel thanks to helicopter issues and must then spend the night on the boat as she recounts the events that lead to the tragedy. She explains that the ship came across a strange priest drifting in the ocean and brought him on board only for supernatural happenings to occur resulting in the deaths of all aboard, most notably a man seemingly floating in the air in one of the cabins. Haig is easily able to explain the natural causes for all the events including the floating man who is actually pierced on a mounted swordfish. All is well and the gist of the tale seems to be about proving that every so-called supernatural happening has a perfectly logical explanation behind it. What a relief, except the next day when the two are picked up by the helicopter it is discovered that the corpse hanging from the mast was actually a woman and not the priest (Alejandro Rey) as previously believed (and seen). As this news is relayed aboard the helicopter, Eva begins to smile in a horrifically sinister way and suddenly transforms into the priest who throws Haig out of the helicopter and ominously demands for the soul of the terrified pilot who opts to crash into the water instead. Shortly after, Haig is seen floating in the ocean flagging down rescuers now sporting the most creepy, evil grin on his face! He’s not Haig, he’s the shape-shifting Devil!
It was over and I proudly survived. Sure the movie sorta sneakily lead me down one path only to slam me with a psychological lead pipe from behind when I was ill-prepared but I was still standing (for now). I took my victory lap up our carpeted Brady Bunch-style open staircase and then I came to my bedroom door. But it wasn’t my door anymore. It was a black, rectangular void leading into an infinite abyss. I could not go into that room. I cried and I begged and my mother, in her infinite apathy, delivered threats and eventually pushed me inside. What was I afraid of? There was nothing there. Only darkness….and the devil… the devil could find me anywhere.
All I’d have to do is think of him and he’d see me like a glowing lighthouse and find me. He’d possess me and take my soul and nobody would know I didn’t exist anymore. I’d be replaced and nobody would miss me. Hiding under the covers I devised a plan- all I’d have to do is NOT think of Satan and then I’d be safe! Ever tried not thinking of something? It’s hard. Try not to think of a blue elephant and guess what? He’s right there in the center of your mind; maybe he’s even tap-dancing or riding on a unicycle or…devouring your soul and taking over your body.
My mind was not my own and it would not shut up. I want to say this went on for months but maybe it was just weeks in kid-time. Every night, as I tried to sleep, I’d fear Satan would come and get me, alerted to my existence by my betraying loudmouth brain. I remembered the illustration of him in my Bible book and I knew he was real because that book only dealt in cold hard facts like the story of Noah’s Ark. My lone comfort was a red transistor radio that would distract me but sometimes the song “Someone’s Knocking on the Door” by Wings would come on and I’d become so terrified that the “someone” knocking on my door was Satan that I’d have turn it off. I was sure if I ever saw the movie again I’d lose my mind. I’d even check the TV Guide to make sure it wasn’t airing. The only thing that saved me was pure exhaustion. One night my brain tried to pull me toward the hell-zone but I was simply too tired to torture myself anymore. And that was it. I got older and it kindly became a fuzzy memory.
When I was an adult and the Internet came around, this TV movie was the first thing I searched for. I wasn’t even sure if it was real or just a dream at that point. I had even forgotten the title. But I found it! It was real! I ordered a bootleg VHS of it (which I’m sure I still have). Did I dare watch it? Would I go insane if I did? I watched it again as an adult and I loved every creepy minute of it. Certainly, other people had similar bugaboo films that caused havoc on their peace of mind as kids. I wanted to hear their stories and feel less alone. That’s pretty much how Kindertrauma came to be. I’m not a very social person but I found if I ever asked a person “What movie traumatized you as a child?” I was always fascinated and strangely comforted by the answer (and I always will be).
SATAN”S TRIANGLE ultimately became a big part of my life but what was once a negative experience transformed itself, thanks to some kind of alchemy, into a positive one. I’ve gotten over my childhood fear (and I now love that Wings song) but I have to admit that every now and then I’ll witness a certain type of insincere duplicitous smile and I can’t help feeling something churn deep down in the pit of my soul.