My Kindertrauma:: Shock Waves ('77) By Unk

It’s somehow already time for my yearly ritual of shoving my air-conditioner back into my window and settling in for six months of sunless movie watching hibernation. I’ve never been a fan of summer and recall as a child much preferring the giant box TV in my family’s air-conditioned upstairs rec room (complete with olive green shag carpeting, bicentennial wallpaper and a ping pong table that could be covered in sheets and used as a fort) to playing whatever impossible sport my brothers might be up to outside under the unforgiving, freckle-inducing sun. It makes little sense but somehow back in the days when you only had six or seven channels to choose from, there seemed to be so much more to watch on television. I was game for whatever horror film might be showing on my favorite local channels (17, 29, 48) and one bright summer afternoon I was thoroughly creeped out by Ken (EYES OF A STRANGER (’81), THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (’88)) Wiederhorn’s SHOCK WAVES. It may have been 100 degrees outside but where I sat watching this strange flick (which featured horror legends Peter Cushing & David Carradine) it was as cold and clammy as a tomb.

Having been completely mentally destroyed by the TV movie SATAN’S TRIANGLE (‘75) years earlier, I was no doubt an easy mark for the maritime madness SHOCK WAVES had to offer. The film begins with an unhinged survivor named Rose (the always great BROOKE ADAMS) being found alone in a small boat who recounts the horrible events that led her to such a state. It seems she and a group of tourists (including FLIPPER’s pal Luke Halpin) were sailing along minding their own business, when unexplainable solar flare business occurred (shades of WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE? (‘74) and their navigation system went on the fritz (like every freaky Bermuda Triangle tale that loitered in my brain throughout my youth). What’s more, late at night, their little S.S. Minnow-looking boat was sideswiped by an obviously haunted colossal Nazi cargo boat (that foreshadows DEATH SHIP (‘80)) and is left slowly sinking. The luckless group evacuate to a nearby island on a lifeboat and find shelter in a seemingly abandoned hotel, but wouldn’t you know it, they are followed by an undead Nazi death squad who walk flat on the ocean floor (!) while donning (admittedly fashionable) goggles. I shouldn’t have to say this but Nazis are never a good thing and soon they’re executing the ship’s sadsack “survivors” one by one!

I’m not sure why anyone would make a PG-rated Nazi zombie movie but here we are and frankly this outing proves without a shadow a doubt that you don’t need gore and violence when you’re sporting eerie heebie-jeebies up the wazoo. Remarkably, most of the deaths are by drowning and many occur off screen. Someone might be walking about when a Nazi corpse pops up behind them and the next thing you know, the poor victim is found crammed into an aquarium or floating in a pool. You’d think that slight of hand might curb the chaos but it only seems to add another level of futility to the character’s plight.

SHOCK WAVES runs on pure ambiance and atmosphere; the electronic score weaves its way into your psyche and the stark visuals are truly unsettling. These baddies are not your typical messy, uncouth evil dead, they’ve got some kind of epic stoicism about them so it’s almost like being stalked by a half dozen Michael Myers-type figures who can pop up anywhere and totally ignore the laws of the physical world. Whatever lapses in logic or potholes that may appear are quickly doused and muted by the overall inescapable fever dream energy. Half of my brain will always try to convince myself how silly SHOCK WAVES is (that zombie walking on the ocean floor is somehow both awkwardly cringey AND eerily stunning), but the other half will forever succumb to its forceful uncanny vibe.

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 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:: 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.

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.

My Kindertrauma:: Where Have All The People Gone ('74) By Unk

Directed by the great John Llewellyn Moxey (HORROR HOTEL '60) and co-written by Lewis John Carlino (A REFLECTION OF FEAR '72) and Sandor Stern (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR '79), the 1974 made-for-TV movie WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE has occupied a large space in my brain ever since I was a child. I remember my entire family being excited to watch it the night it aired because part of it was filmed at our local grocery store. Having recently moved to California, the concept of seeing a familiar place on our television was still quite mind-blowing.

And who could resist such a title and premise? WHATPG tells the tale of the Anders family who spend their free time in the woods collecting rocks and fossils. One day mother bows out early and returns home but father Steven (Peter Graves), daughter Deborah (Kathleen Quinlan), and son David (George O'Hanlon Jr.) decide to explore a cave. While inside the cave, some kind of never fully explained solar flair type incident occurs and the outcome is that just about every human (who was not safely hanging in a cave) is turned to literal dust. The surviving family members are left in an eerie unpopulated world where they search for answers, their certainly dead mom, and general supplies, (at my then local grocery store) all while battling mad dogs and a few other stray survivors. Honestly, not much of interest happens but boy is it creepy and vaguely depressing. I found the movie particularly engrossing because I knew exactly what the Anders were going through as even at my young age, I had already experienced the death and demise of every living person on Earth myself (or so I thought)...

I'm sorry, this is a Trojan horse of a post. I'm not here to discuss the adventures of the Anders family; I'm here to talk about the time when I was 4 years old and my parents abandoned me on a beach. It's sadly true and I seriously thought that every single person in the world had died for some reason (I guess I was a pretty morbid 4-year-old).

Ya see, my family was vacationing at a beach house and sharing the joint with a few Aunts and Uncles and their kids. At some point, I was playing in the sand with my cousins, and all of the sudden I looked up to find I was completely alone. Where once there was laughter and commotion, suddenly there was a deathly silence; everyone had vanished. I went back inside the house and nobody was there either. Seventeen loud, squawking, clamoring people (six parents, and 11 children) had suddenly evaporated into thin air. I was alone and obviously, I would remain alone for the rest of my life.

I guessed I'd have to learn to fend for myself. How would I eat? I could make toast. I knew how to make toast so I did. I'd need money. My father had pennies all over his dresser. I was sure he wouldn't mind me grabbing some cash on account of he was dead. In some ways this was the first day that I became aware of myself thinking inside of my head, feeling myself as an individual rather than some brainless tentacle attached to my parents. It was scary and surreal and I felt like I had graduated from passenger to driver in my own body. I'm pretty sure time stopped and every dust mote began to glow like a firefly. I was a deep-sea diver in God's aquarium and I had to be brave and simply move forward through the invisible lava.

There was a store down the road where earlier my cousins and I bought candy ( sour apple laffy taffy?). Maybe I could venture there and perhaps find other survivors (thus began a cross between HOME ALONE ('90) & THE ROAD (2009) but I'm four, at least my mother tells me I was four; she wouldn't be above smudging the truth to make hes self look less culpable. I could have easily been three). I went on my arduous journey. I don't think I passed a single soul on the way to the store so I was very relieved to see a fellow human working behind the counter. I attempted to buy some candy but was told I didn't have enough pennies and that's when I lost it and began to cry like the baby I practically was. The cashier lady was rightfully mortified and wanted to know where my mother was. I told her my sorry tale and she agreed to walk me home (I didn't know the address but I could show her). Midway back she asked what my mother looked like and I pointed to a woman approaching and said she looked like her. And it was my mom! Not only was she alive, but apparently, she was also OK with showing her neglectful face in public again (at least I assumed it was my rightful mother- there's still a possibility that my entire family was abducted and replaced by pod people)!

THEY HAD ALL GONE TO A CARNIVAL. They took three cars and the occupants of each car for some reason assumed I was in another. Seventeen people and not one of them thought to count heads. They didn't even notice I was missing until they arrived at the carnival. In fact, they all stayed and enjoyed the carnival as my mom (perhaps begrudgingly) was sent back to find me on the open beach where she left me (I didn't know how to swim so luckily I didn't drown; I was too busy walking down the middle of a road- did I mention I was (theoretically) four?) Where have all the people gone? I don't know the answer to that but I can certainly tell you where my family can go as far as I'm concerned (and it's not to THE CARNIVAL. I kid, I kid. For the most part).

Eventually this story became a laugh riot legend within my family and I'm very happy to guffaw along. If anyone cared to notice though, there is no laughter behind my eyes, only a dark void and every once in a while a tell- tale facial tick hints at unthinkably monstrous ideas ping-ponging within my skull.  Let's face it though, my family has never been known for noticing subtle details (like missing children).

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Everything turned out fine (if you don't count the lifelong psychological damage).  Anyway, WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE is prime seventies TV movie entertainment. Just be careful who you choose to watch it with. Some people can't be trusted.

My Kindertrauma:: The Wolf Man ('41) By Justin H. Q.

It had only been a matter of weeks since I'd first seen the music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller," that near 15-minute masterful marriage of monsters and music, of ferocity and fun. It was my gateway drug to horror, teaching me in its way that horror should inspire screams as frequently as it inspires smiles. It had only been a matter of weeks and I think my dad was already grifting around town for a new VHS copy, because the copy I'd watched at least two times a day for two weeks straight was on its last four legs. 

I would return from time to time to "Thriller" and its Rick Baker-produced VFX but not for a while. And not because Dad couldn't finagle a VHS copy from somewhere in town. If "Thriller," to most of us, represented the future of horror, Dad's next hat trick would take me back in time instead.

Dad handed me a weathered videocassette case with a white sticker stuck to its spine. The title read "The Wolf Man." And he shook it in front of me like fishing bait as I sat there on the couch, staring at the television, apparently having seen it all that early Saturday morning. And as he teased me with the case, the videocassette's plastic guts rattling around within its frame, he told me that he'd got it from a friend at a house party the night before. Perhaps I hadn't seen it all, I admit. But I was about to see what comes next.

The Wolf Man (1941) found me at the perfect time in my life. When I saw the film as a child, I was old enough to have graduated from picture books to the point that I was already losing interest in reading. The stories of fiction novels were too sprawling and drawn-out for my attention span. Somehow, I sensed the pretense and artificiality of fiction. There was no dread there. There was no terror there. There was no peril.

But after a few viewings of "Thriller," my dad told me about this affliction called lycanthropy, in which a real life man will imagine he turns into a real life wolf when the moon is full. I thought he was trying to scare me ... until my next visit to the public library. I asked the librarian if she had any books on legends, on lore, on werewolves, on lycanthropy. I left with five books that day – all nonfiction. And like that: I was a reader again.

But I wasn't reading the mystery novels of the Three Investigators with its calculated deduction that would certainly reach a pat solution for a crime. I wasn't reading Tolkein's The Hobbit with its assured happy ending. I was reading about the real world, I constantly reminded myself, and it was a world in which I lived.

And although I understood that The Wolf Man wasn't based in any universe of reality, what frightened me more than the possibility of a man turning into a wolf when the moon is full was the notion that he's doomed to kill the thing that he loves the most after his transformation was complete, according to the lore that I read, even according to the 1941 film, but suddenly: the dread was real. The terror was real. There was peril. As a child, to have that trusted paradigm of the world fractured into a new one – terrifying. Mournful. Like the death of your first dog.

I became fascinated and horrified all at once – with my overactive imagination – with the possibility that I too could transform into a werewolf. But what frightened me from sleeping was the idea that I would hurt someone close to me – my parents, my siblings, my friends. Why couldn't the legend tell that werewolves were fated to kill their elementary school teachers instead? What a joy it would be to stalk into my first grade classroom between popcorn reading and recess and eviscerate my homeroom teacher. "Diagram that sentence, Mrs. Thompson."

So today, I remain most fascinated with – of all the monsters – werewolves. What I immediately understood of them as a child – especially after The Wolf Man – was that they were sometimes superhumanly strong, could be ferociously violent, and looked the most menacing of all the monsters, whether walking upright or down on all fours. But what ultimately makes the werewolf more frightening than most of the other monsters that I would discover in my youth is the nature of their kills, the target of their monstrous behavior. 

As a child, I didn't understand then that the real world was filled with all manner of flesh and blood monsters that could do more damage than any fictitious monster on the silver screen. For some of them, only the television set was closer to me in proximity. The real monsters could be living right next door. But when I saw it as a child, The Wolf Man taught me true terror, and it had nothing to do with the origin story that had birthed it or the physical appearance of the creature or even the orchestrated score in the background that signaled danger was lurking nearby, that you'd better cover your eyes ...

... Because the loss of those closest to me was the greatest terror. Whether at the hands of a supernatural werewolf or the hands of fate, here was a horror that would haunt my dreams, long after the credits rolled on Universal Pictures' The Wolf Man.

It's a terror that we never really outgrow, do we, even as the sun comes up and makes idle promises to chase the monsters away?