As a fairly long-time devotee of Kindertrauma, I have tried to contribute my few submissions to the Kindertrauma “family” (which is much like the “Manson Family”) in the fields of “oddball” topics that have child-traumatizing elements, such as “Sesame Street” film segments or apocalyptic nuclear war themes. To continue that direction, I would like to address a field that, for people like me raised in evangelical Christian homes in the mid to late 1900s, caused potential traumas that are far greater than the scary movies and stories of monsters and ghosts – the threat of demons grabbing one and dragging them off to Hell, and the prophesied imminent End of the World.
As an older adult who still espouses Christian beliefs, and has even contributed to the field by writing on serious research topics in the field of prophecy in the Bible which still holds my respect, I have to clarify that my work has been of an intended non-exploitational nature (if that is possible) and targeted for a mature Christian adult audience. However, even in the pre-Internet and cable television days of the early 70s, it was very possible for a new generation of “Christian scare” literature and films, bolstered by a revival of Last Days apocalypticism and phenomena such as the Thief in the Night “last days” films (which everyone should watch on Youtube if not having been seen them in their churches previously), to randomly fall into the hands of easily-scared or otherwise fascinated children, such as yours truly.
On my “watch” as an impressionable child of the early 70s, the “grand daddy” (and reigning champion) of all “Godsploitation”, “Christian scare” literature was the “Chick tracts” produced by the enigmatic and reclusive Jack Chick. His small rectangular tracts were ubiquitous in the 1970s public realm – Chick Publications reportedly claims to have sold 750 million tracts since 1960, and having been translated into over 100 languages – what other type of propaganda literature (good or bad) can make such a claim in terms of its impact on society and its worldview, even if communicated in the shadows, and its message preserved in unspoken form in the back recesses of the readers’ minds?
In 2003 Los Angeles Magazine did an extended expose on Chick and his impact (HERE). It notes that, “In the pocket-sized tracts, people are stabbed, burned alive, and eaten by snakes. There is cannibalism and human sacrifice. The apocalyptic works are equal parts hate literature and fire-and-brimstone sermonizing, with a tough-guy Christ – ‘Jesus is not a weak fairy’, he writes – as protagonist”. They note that “Chick is the world’s most published living author”, with his works “handed out on subways and campuses or left behind in diners and bus stations”, and his tracts having been displayed at the Smithsonian. The screenplay writer of the film Ghost World was noted as saying of Chick’s work, “I had never been so terrified by a comic book”. They note that his work, targeting the Satanic work of Catholics, gays and a long list of culprits (including those who use any Bible but the King James), was banned by many Christian bookstores, denounced by Christianity Today, and led Chick to quit the Christian Booksellers Association, thereby cementing his reputation as the king of “Christian outsider literature” (my term). His few favorable subjects include Israel and Tony Alamo, a Los Angeles-based cult leader.
I must have come across my first Chick tract as a six or seven year old at a restaurant or public bathroom – where most Chick tracts are discovered. Inside I found the most grotesque and stupifyingly horrifying images that have seared into my mind and nightmares, as they have with millions of others for decades. Like many such younger readers, I am sure, my mother told me to discard it because it was “not good” – which of course led me to crave the perusal of its contents as taboo, “forbidden fruit” of dangerous knowledge and ideas. They permanently form the enduring, defining images of demons and Hell in all of us who have been touched at a tender age by them.
While they may seem a little more quaint in today’s “Saw”, “Hostel” era of “no limit” depravity, they still pack a mighty wallop – magnified a hundred fold for sheltered youth. While the Chick Publications website features their scores of famous tracts, with online illustrations of their pages, I would like to mention four Chick tracts that I have not forgotten, almost forty five years later – indelible images not privy then to the notes-sharing and discourse now possible with the Internet, and rather kept in the isolated thoughts of those damned to find such a tract on their own in the mysterious pre-Internet world of discovery.
The first, The Beast, (HERE), clearly warns the reader of its contents with a cover picture of a father, mother and child – marked on their foreheads with the dreaded “666”, and thus damned for eternity. The contents reveal widespread death from the Flood, gay encounters in “today’s world” (with one perpetrator’s phrase of “You know you’re the only man for me” remembered by a senior friend of mine fifty years later), Lucifer worship, the Antichrist embraced at the Vatican, guillotining, black eyed and fanged demons, werewolves, a Goat of Mendes, and the Lake of Fire – all in one tract!
The next, the cleverly quaint Somebody Goofed (HERE), reveals an adult mentor of a child sneering at others who appeal to the child to follow Christ (and avoid “overdosing on speed”) or be “eternally lost”, leading to the eventual car wreck and descent to Hell, where the “mentor” reveals himself to be in fact a ugly, masked demon who intended to drag the child to hell.
The tract The Last Generation (HERE) has a cover with a costumed super-villain offering a syringe of drugs to youth, features death camps for Christians, a Damien-like child informant of his parents because they are “straight” and who sacrifices cats and dogs on Halloween, reincarnation and the Mother Goddess, all taught to children in public schools, concluding by noting that “Little Bobby died in his sins, because he never prayed a prayer”.
The legendary This Was Your Life (HERE) shows a man who dies, and is forced to watch all the creepy and lecherous thoughts he ever had, until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire.
The purpose of my post is not to mock or belittle the message (and warnings) of Christianity, but rather to spotlight an iconic, social impacting role of a “king traumatizer” and controversial but undeniably influential individual from the magical days of the youth of my generation and evangelical circles, and the amazingly “traumatic” influences of religious extremist expression (even when communicating spiritual truth) in the “good old days”, which really weren’t so “innocent” in comparison to the “Dungeons and Dragons” and demon-filled video game culture of today.
If you like exploring such topics, please trot over and check out the hundreds of free archived radio shows I hosted over on my website FUTURE QUAKE.