Not Scared Of The Dark - 11.06.00

This piece is probably about a week late, but I think it was the actual day of Halloween that got me thinking about it all more. I'm not quite sure when I realized that I had an interest in the darker side of things, but it was probably around the time that I started into reading loads of Stephen King books as a youth. Around about 8th grade in school, I was digging through some books of my mothers in a closet box and found one in particular that grabbed my attention. The cover of the book was sort of a dark blue and it had a picture of a hand on it wrapped in gauze. There were places on the hand where the gauze was slipping down and the cover had been cut out to show eyes peering through from the other side. Of course, I'd heard the name Stephen King before, but I pulled the book out of the pile and took it to my mom to ask her if I could read it.

When I showed it to her and expressed my interest, she seemed sort of hesitant at first, but reluctantly handed it back over to me and told me to talk to her if I had questions about anything that I'd read. It was the collection of short stories Night Shift, and I absolutely devoured it. I plowed through the stories and thought that some of them were kind of silly and pointless, while others I could completely visualize in my mind because they were so vividly written. In the case of one short store ("Jerusalems Lot"), I still think it's one of the scariests stories that I've read to date.

It was with that one book that my fascination with what I would consider the darker side started. From there, I started reading every single Stephen King book that I could get my hands on, as well as random other books that I had recommended to me in the genre (Robert McCammon, Peter Straub). It was also at this point when I discovered a huge series of books in our school library that I began a nearly year-long obsession with. They were a new acquisition and it was a 10 book series or so on unexplained phenomenon. They were big, black hardback books with lots of pictures and several glossy question marks on the covers. I checked them out one at a time and read through every single page, reading up on ESP, UFOs, ghosts, yeti, spring heel jack, the jersey devil, and all kinds of other crazy things. In other words, if I would have been offered a position working on the fictional X-Files, I would have jumped at the chance.

I'd give myself bad dreams from reading the books, but it didn't stop me. I'd stare at the pictures on the pages and read the words about hauntings or whatever and even though goosebumps would crawl over my whole body and I'd hear strange noises in the house, I couldn't put them down. At some point or another, though, my interest faded just a bit and I found myself spending much more time worrying about more important things like computers (old school) and admiring girls from a distance.

Sure, I still loved a good ghost story or reading about the paranormal, but I'd since quit reading Stephen King in favor of other things and all the scary movies my friends made me watch just made me laugh (The Friday The 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street series. Although I did end up seeing one movie that I thought was pretty darn scary (Poltergeist), not much else would phase me. I'd already concocted far too many other scary things in my head from reading those books with the question marks to be frightened by some guy with a hockey mask.

In college, I sort of re-discovered my interest in that dark side (again, I'm not meaning to sound overdramatic or cheesy, it's just how I'm choosing to describe it) of me when I actually saw some movies that truly frightened me. While I was dating a girl who was very very into the whole goth scene (and yes, it did rub off on me a bit, although I think that it was always in me somewhere), we watched The Shining and The Exorcist and I realized that the best scary movies where the ones that didn't show people getting chopped up into bits by someone.

There were times in college (around this same time) where we'd simply stay up telling stories that we'd heard and I again found myself interested in the same things that freaked me out back in 8th grade. As it had always been, my mind was actually the most important factor in scaring myself. When we were telling stories, it was the power of suggestion and the mind itself thinking the worst that truly frightened me.

Even now, although I tend to favor Carl Sagan or Isaac Asimov books, I still find myself surfing through a phenomenon site on the web, just to see how easily I think the photographs were faked or how someone thinks that a lens flare is a "floating orb of energy." In some cases, I still feel a little touch of goosebumps go through me when I see a photo that looks like it just might be real, but most of the time I find myself chuckling just a bit at how much I must have been into things as a kid to believe what I did. I still like to see films that scare me (although it's a rarity), and tell ghost stories with friends, but my mind just doesn't tend to take off in the same ways that it used to when I was a kid. Now, I just tend to favor a good thunderstorm at night for the more visceral thrill of it.