As an adult, I find a lot of reassurance in the dark; it’s comfortable, it feels like home, and it’s often funny as hell. That wasn’t always true though – a lot of the things I love now once paralysed me with fear as a kid.
Here’s 10 of the biggest things that used to scare the crap out of me as a child.
1. Venger from Dungeons & Dragons
Venger was just nasty. And persistent. However hard the heroes fought, however right they were, whatever new skills they mastered, he would always use his terrible magic to get away, and you just KNEW that you couldn’t let your guard down because he’d be back at any minute.
Nowadays, he just comes across as annoying and stroppy and slightly boss-eyed.
Lord of the Rings has a lot to answer for. I was petrified that a volcano would erupt in the middle of my town and the whole place would be engulfed by lava and I would have to run and hide and try and save my family.
3. Ozzy Osbourne
I shared a room with my sister. We had bunk beds, and I – of course – claimed the top bunk. On the wall opposite the foot of my bed, my Mum put up an Ozzy Osbourne poster. I haven’t been able to find the exact poster, but I have found the same face in other pictures. Every night when I went to sleep, and every morning when I woke up, THIS was the visage that greeted me.
When I was a child, I was terrified of crossing this precise bridge near the Carlsberg brewery in Northampton, because I was absolutely convinced that one of the paving slabs would drop out from under my feet, dumping me in the water, where I would then be eaten by sharks.
…in the River Nene…in Northampton…England.
5. Michael Jackson in Thriller makeup
The funny thing is that he became proportionately more scary in reality as the years went past.
6. Words & Pictures
This was a kids TV show from the 70’s that filtered through into the 80’s, and it had a horribly dark and dystopian feel to it.
Critters – and in fact every horror movie that had nasty icky puppets hell bent on being thoroughly unpleasant; Gremlins and Ghoulies are two other notable sources of terror. I always used to weigh up exactly how badly I needed the toilet whenever I saw the lid was down.
8. Shogun Assassin
Another questionable choice of poster for a small child’s bedroom. I couldn’t find the exact one we had up, but I am not in the least bit surprised to find this movie cover in a Google search, stating the film was actually banned in the early 80’s.
I was also quite frightened by the scene in David Carradine’s Kung Fu where he grips the hot copper pot with his forearms and melts the imprints of the dragons into his skin… Martial arts were not a favourite of mine in my early years.
9. Zelda from Terrorhawks
Terrorhawks was a brilliant show, classic Good Guys v Bad Guys puppet series, following the same essential theme as Thunderbirds. It was set in the year 2020, largely in space, and the bad guys were all aliens and robots/androids. Zelda was the leader of the aliens with powers of teleportation and she was just upsetting and…ICKY. The way she spoke, the way she moved just wasn’t RIGHT.
Incidentally, Terrorhawks is actually really really funny and cleverly done when you re-watch it as an adult.
10. War of the Worlds
Both the 1953 film and Jeff Wayne’s musical version left me almost immobile with fear.
One night, my Mum’s friend Joy was babysitting me while Mum was (I think) at work. She put the War of the Worlds records on for me to listen to while she had a bath. I sat – at night, in her living room, alone, with the curtains open, and the blackness of the night outside staring in at me – with this music soaking into my skin and my awareness. I loved it, but was utterly terrified at the same time. I had to walk back down the street when Mum got home and I slid the whole way with my back pressed against the wall.
The things that terrified me as a child I now either really like or find really funny in their own right. I am no psychologist, but I am in no way surprised by this.