Growing up I watched a lot of horror movies; guess you could say I grew up with them. My cousins are not the bravest of folk and when they rented horror movies I was “forced” to watch them as well. This started when I was about 4 years old. I’ve watched everything from ‘80s slashers, to old classics, to horrid B-movies even MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 wouldn’t touch. I was not afraid, the only thing that remotely frightened me was CHILD’S PLAY, but that wasn’t even bad. I was quite confident I could watch anything or see anything and not be scared.
I was wrong.
My horrors came not from movies… but from a book. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. I believe this has already been covered, but only a particular picture was discussed and it wasn’t the one that made me sleepless for months.
I was about 10 when I discovered this book in my school library; the cover was rather eerie so I was drawn to it. Without looking inside, confident I would be entertained judging by the cover alone, I checked out the book and was on my way back to class.
It wasn’t until I got home that I started to read the book. The stories were rather cruddy but the pictures were what struck me. They were so otherworldly in the way they were drawn it sent shivers down my spine in a good way. That all ended when I saw ‘the picture.’
The story I believe was called “The Haunted House” or something close and the image that accompanied it was that of a woman’s face; if it could be called a face. Decay had taken most of her visage away leaving a wraith like being with scraggly hair and empty sockets with piercing pinpoints of light visible in the back of the skull. Her mouth was agape, lips nearly rotting off her and her teeth were few and far between. I was literally frozen with fear, staring at this being in the pages of a book.
Once I regained my composure, I slammed the book shut and threw it from me, never to finish it. My mother had apparently heard me yelp, I didn’t recall making any noise, and came in to see what had happened. I explained what I saw and she had to see for herself and was shocked to see such a graphic image in a kids’ book. She promptly did the mother thing and told me it was just a picture and couldn’t hurt me, but what kid really believes that? I was convinced this thing would come and kill me in my sleep.
The face haunted my dreams for the next few days, that simple image and my explosive imagination had done what no horror movie had ever done to me. I was afraid to sleep in the dark; I couldn’t sleep without waking up from a nightmare in a cold sweat. After a month or two the initial scare wore off and only trauma remained. To this day I cannot look at that image without shuddering, so imagine my despair when they released a new edition of the same book with that face adorning the cover.