When I was about six or seven years old, my family went to a local fair. You probably all know the kind. Flashing lights, fried food, wafting odor of shit everywhere.
It’s the kind of place that every backwoods kid loves to go to. The parents will tell you not to get too close to the carnies but will gladly strap you into a rusted sled ride/death trap that was put together with an Allen wrench.
We had a blast, but towards the end of the night, my dad had this great idea of walking us through a funhouse. If I remember right, it even had a giant clown in the process of climbing over the roof. From outside, the sound of previously recorded screams and running chainsaws could be heard as people made their way through the darkened maze. This was in 1989 or so, I was in shorts and a t-shirt, because I remember it getting cold as the fair season comes around at the start of fall.
“…it’s probably also a story on the testicular fortitude of my then five-year-old brother. I swear, that kid always had to walk bowlegged ever since he was born”
Now, I have two brothers (at the time, more came later), with one older and one younger, and while this is a little story on my history with horror, it’s probably also a story on the testicular fortitude of my then five year old brother. I swear, that kid always had to walk bowlegged ever since he was born. I was told that I pushed his stroller down a flight of stairs when he was an infant, just because I could. Most likely I knocked something a little loose in him. To be honest, that kind of fearlessness helped him greatly later in life, but that’s another story.
The four of us approached the funhouse, my mother staying behind watching us while my father escorting. My older brother was first, then me, then my younger brother and father. I remember at the very first turn, not ten feet into the front door, behind a glass case, a skeleton head popped up from a velvet-covered box with a bright red light shining down on it and a screaming, mad Satanic laughter ringing loud from hidden speakers. I nearly pissed myself. I probably screamed louder than the speakers and while my brothers and fathers laughed at the scare, I turned and ran hightail out of the funhouse with tears and snot running down my face.
I stood in the frozen mud with my mother, bawling my eyes out while she tried to comfort me, listening to my brothers and father go through the rest of the tour, the building practically shaking with the noises and rattles from the traps being set off.
So why the hell would I be drawn to horror writing later in life? I can’t wrap my head around it. Even as a teenager, I wasn’t attracted to movies and books like this. Of course, since I grew up in the 90’s, so I’ve seen my fair share of Friday the 13th movies and the like, but there was no chance that I was going to pursue things like that. I’d let peer-pressure force my hand instead. To this day, I haven’t been in another funhouse. I’m now in my mid-thirties with kids of my own.
I think a lot of this has to come down to what tools we are using to cope with difficult circumstances in life. I’ve had my fair share of traumatic events: death of a (step) sibling, parental divorce, a near-drowning. But seriously, a LOT of people have shit that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t talk about. I’m not special and neither are you. But maybe watching horror movies, reading horror novels, writing horror stories is a way for us to understand some of the bad shit that’s happened. It helps reduce the real trauma in our lives in comparison, so we can adapt to them. Yeah, there were some bad times but seriously, there is a guy in a hockey mask and he just cut this fucking girl’s head off!
I’ve tried to come to terms with this, especially lately when the pull to the horror genre has been so much stronger than normal. Frankly, I think this is the best concept that I can think of. So bring on the machetes and hauntings, cut some heads off and give me some nightmares, because I know that there is a reason behind it all and as long as we have trauma in our lives, people should keep creating this type of art.