Archive for the ‘I've Got the Willies Wednesday’ Category

Well, this is a very special “Willies Wednesday” because the topic that I am talking about today is something that doesn’t actually give me the willies, but rather gives one of my brothers the willies, and I definitely used this knowledge to my advantage growing up.  You see, my brother Jeremy is claustrophobic.  He hates small places including RVs, and tents.  We went camping A LOT when we were young as it’s one of my dad’s favorite activities, and whereas I didn’t much care for it because of all the bugs, and dirt, and boring food, one of Jeremy’s main qualms with this activity was having to sleep in a small tent at night.  This led to many nights where I was jarringly awoken by Jeremy’s frantic screams, as he clawed at the tent looking for a way out.

I chuckle about this every now and then when I think about it.  Yes, I am a bad, bad person.  This is not what I want to talk about today though, but rather another cruel thing that I did to play on Jeremy’s fear.  I’m talking about the dreaded blanket over the head.  Now it seems innocent enough, but apparently when you have claustrophobia, this is not so fun, and I found this out pretty early on.  As I thought it was hilarious to scare my brother, I would sneak up on him with a blanket, throw it over his head, and then hold it there while he screamed and pleaded with me to take it off.

I would leave it on for a little while to get the maximum effect, and then finally I would release him, and promptly scamper off, as he would chase me once recovered, which was remarkably quickly.  Here’s how it would go:  I put the blanket on his head, he screamed, I let him go, he ran after me, I would hide somewhere.  If he caught up with me he would usually punch me, and if he was able to do this, he would then run and lock himself up somewhere.  This could go on for quite a while.  We were cruel, cruel children.  Don’t go thinking that I was the only bad guy here though- he also knew my fears and would take advantage of them, such as the time he threw a spider at me (yes, I do have arachnophobia).

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Stop-motion animation  and claymation give me the willies.  You know the Rudolph the Reindeer special that everyone loves to watch around Christmas time?  Well, instead of giving me a feeling of joy and happiness, it instead makes me want to cover my eyes with my hands, and run out of the room screaming in terror.  I of course hold this in, as I do not want the others around me to know how much this animation petrifies me.  I have endured this for far too long, and it is time to come clean- so here it is- stop-motion animation is freakin’ scary!!!!  I don’t find it cute, or endearing, instead it scares me more than most horror movies.  Why you ask?  Did I have some kind of traumatic experience in childhood that led to this irrational fear?  Not that I know of.  But maybe it stems from my early childhood viewings of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, especially the animated Santa Clause who I found to be more cruel than jolly.

I seem to have a weird emotional connection to cartoon animals (so in this case stop-motion animals), and in this case I even had an emotional connection to the poor elf, who just wants to be a dentist.  Santa Clause seems like such a miserly old curmudgeon, and is also quite prejudiced against red-nosed reindeers.  He is just extremely unpleasant, and he only accepts Rudolph when he sees that he can get something out of Rudolph’s deformity.  So I’m thinking my fear may stem from this cruel stop-motion Santa Clause, and it just branched out from there, growing into a full out stop-motion-phobia.  Now this fear seems to be confined to claymation and stop-motion animation such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerSanta Clause is Coming to Town, James and the Giant Peach and the like, and has not branched into  traditional animation.  It seems to be a more specialized fear.  So there you have it- stop-motion animation gives me the willies!!

I have a feeling this is going to come back to haunt me next Christmas where my brothers will decide to lock me in a room with a non-stop stop-motion-athon that they have set up to play on the television from which I will be unable to escape….

Heights give me the willies.  I have a long-standing battle that has been raging between me and high places for quite some time.  It seems that when I am in a high place, looking down to the ground far below me, I begin to feel dizzy, and have an irrational fear that I will climb up on whatever barrier is keeping me from falling, and somehow not be able to stop myself from leaping towards the far away ground.  I have no idea what would possess me to do this, but I can’t help thinking about this when the fear hits.  I have tried to remedy this, but my last attempt, about 13 years ago now, when I was in eighth grade, led to a humiliation, which was probably only something that I concocted in my head, but it seemed entirely real.  Here’s what happened.  In eighth grade our social studies curriculum focused on immigration to the United States, and the immigrants experiences at Ellis Island.  Being close to New York City, we took a class trip to visit Ellis Island, and Liberty Island.  The event occurred on Liberty Island.

I decided that part of facing my fear meant climbing up as far as possible in the Statue of Liberty as was humanly possibly.  I was in a small group that included a couple of friends, and my mom who came along as a chaperone on the trip.  Well, we began climbing up the winding stairs that lead up inside the statue, and I pretty immediately felt my fears begin to surface.  I started feeling woozy and wobbly on my feet.  Well, we made it to the first landing, and then I had to call it quits.  I just couldn’t go on.  I couldn’t even look over the barrier of the first landing without feeling that I would suddenly jump up on to it, and fall over the side.  Thus the humiliation- I was the reason my group of friends could not claim victory over the Statue of Liberty.  Since then, I’ve pretty much avoided heights at all costs.  I feel like James Stewart in Vertigo, where even if I wanted to climb up some stairs to save a damsel (or dame) in distress, my fear would not allow me to go above a certain height, and I would not become a heroine, but would instead descend into a state of shock that would lead to my admittance into a mental hospital…..

Whoa, I’m getting off track there…but you get the picture- I am afraid of heights- a full out acrophobia.  I do not have any hope of conquering this fear for good, so for now I confine myself to the ground, and places of low to moderate height.  I can, luckily, access the second floor of my apartment without getting stuck halfway up and having to cry out for help, which would be quite a problem if I was the only one home at the time- I doubt that my animals would be able to provide much assistance.

Helium balloons give me the willies.  Yes, I know, they are just inanimate objects that would not hurt a living soul….and regular balloons do not scare me, but with the addition of the helium, which allows them to float, and move freely unless otherwise secured…this is what gives me the willies.  I believe this fear began after I had watched Steven King’s It for the first time.  That mini-series had a bunch of creepy balloons in it, that “It” used to put fear into the hearts of children, and the grownups who had gone back to Derry to try and get rid of “It” for good.  The image of the floating balloons, combined with his creepy uttering of “we all float down here”, combined to put a fear of these innocent floating objects in my young mind.

Compounding the scariness of the mini-series (especially to a 7 or 8 year old me), was the fact that the night after I had seen It, I woke up in the middle of the night, and there was a balloon floating next to my bed.  I know my parents would not have put the balloon there, and I’m pretty sure my brothers did not do it….at the time one of them would have been 5 or 6 and I don’t even know if he had watched It with me, and my other brother would only have been 1 or 2.  No, I think these were cosmic forces working against me to put a life-long fear of floating balloons in me.  Not that I run in terror when I see a floating balloon, but I can never quite get the image of Tim Curry as “It” out of my head whenever I see one of these creepy balloons…..and the ones that have legs and arms…..don’t even get me started on those!

Basements give me the willies.  I’ve never had a fiery furnace awaiting me in the basement of anywhere I’ve lived, a la Home Alone, but even without a threatening furnace, basements are dark and damp, and incredibly creepy places.

The first house that I lived in that I can actually remember the basement from, was a three family house in which the basement was separated into several sections.  There was a main section that had the washer and drier, and a Ping-Pong table, and some other fun stuff, but then there were two other sections that were split between the people who lived there.  These sections were hallway type sections that you would enter through a separate door, and then seemed really narrow, and had stuff piled on either side of you.  These were really the sections of the basement that creeped me out.  They were incredibly dark, and cramped, and if someone or something cornered you in there, it would be tough to get out.  Maybe it was the feeling of being trapped that really got to me.  Adding to my fear, the older brother of one of the other families that lived there, told me that there was a ghost that lived in his family’s section, and dared me to go in and check it out.  I thought about it for a second, but I must have learned my lesson from A Christmas Story, and Back to the Future Part 2/3, and I politely declined.

In the next house that my family moved to, in which my parents still live, the basement was separated into two sections.  A finished section lined with fake wood panels, that had a bar area and everything, and an unfinished area containing the washer and drier, and other random things.  This basement was great for a little while.  We brought a rug down there, and had a black and white TV, and it was a neat hangout spot.  But then our backyard flooded that next spring, and our sump pump did not work, and the basement was flooded, the rug ruined, and the hangout spot effectively destroyed for a while.  Junk gathered down there, and in the bar area, a collection of randomness assembled.

….It looked somewhat like Kevin McCallister’s basement.

One day, when I was home alone, I went down to the basement to do laundry or something, and when I went down the stairs, I happened to look toward the bar area.  In that area I thought I saw a man, perhaps my father, but no one was supposed to be home.  Plus he was just standing there in the dark, completely still, and it was so creepy that I rushed back up the stairs.

From there I called out into the house, and downstairs to see if someone would answer, especially whoever had been in the basement, but I got no answer, which creeped me out even more.  Eventually, after an extended period of silence, I went back down to the basement, armed with a weapon (I’m not sure what I brought down, but I hope it was something smart, like a chefs knife).  I went down slowly, trying my darnedest to be absolutely quiet.  I peeked around the corner, and looked toward the bar…..and what did I see?  The figure of a man, in exactly the same position he had been in.  So this time I was smart, and turned on the light, and over where the man was supposed to be, I saw a coat rack, a kite, and a hat…no man was there.   These three ordinary, everyday objects, had been thrown together haphazardly, and formed the shape of a man (at least in the dark).  I felt very silly!!!  But that same day, my brother went down to the basement, and saw the same thing I did, and he was utterly creeped out as well.  So it wasn’t just my overactive imagination.

To this day though, dark basements give me the willies.

As a young’un I was obsessed with horror books.  I started relatively early (somewhere around the ripe old age of 7) in my facination with reading all things horror, and I scared myself silly in the process.  One of my favorite scary books was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), as well as it’s two sequels, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991).  These books explored urban legends and folklore, and were collected and retold by Alvin Schwartz.  The books were also filled with extremely creepy drawings illustrated by Stephen Gammell.  I would say that the drawings were even scarier than the stories, for the most part.  These were black and white drawings that were creepily surreal, and nightmarish, filled with strange creatures, animal and human, and eerie settings. Two items in particular scared the living daylights out of me.

The first was a story called “The Red Spot”, which was in the third book in the series.  It is about a girl who notices a strange red spot on her face one day (the day after a spider crawls across her face while she is sleeping).  Her parents tell her not to worry about it, but the red spot turns into a boil, and keeps  growing.  Her mother decides that she should see a doctor as it could be an infection, and makes an appointment for her daughter.  The night before the appointment, the daughter is taking a nice relaxing, hot bath, when all of a sudden the boil on her face bursts, and out scurry thousands of baby spiders.   Now, I was already afraid of spiders, so the thought that a spider could climb onto your face, and lay eggs in your skin, was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard.

The second item that scared the living daylights out of me, and still does for that matter, was one specific drawing.  It was of a dead girl, mostly skeleton, but with some remaining flesh.  It shows her face, and the upper part of her torso, with her empty eye sockets, stringy hair, rotting lips and protruding teeth.  It is on the cover of one of these books now (or was a short while ago), and whenever I see it in a store I cannot help but avert my eyes.  I believe that picture accompanies a story called “The Haunted House” which appears in the first collection.

Do you want to see the illustration???  I know you do.  For those brave enough, click here!

When I was an impressionable youth, one of my favorite pastimes was to watch reality shows such as “Rescue 911” and “Unsolved Mysteries” (this was before the days of “Survivor” and “American Idol’).  These reality shows dealt with situations that happened to real people and then were dramatized to show us what happened during these incidents.  “Rescue 911” did have its share of frightening moments.  One episode that stands out in my mind was one in which a young girl is trying to help out her mother by bathing her baby brother.  She has asked her mother if she can do this, but the mother is washing dishes, and she tells the girl to wait until she is done.  The girl doesn’t listen.  Unfortunately the little girl only filled the tub up with scalding hot water (she checks the water when its filling up and it’s too hot, but she turns the knob the wrong way and it only gets hotter), and puts the baby in without checking the temperature of the water, thereby burning the child!!!  Watch the episode here!  As far as “Rescue 911” goes though, these were unfortunate accidents that are in most cases preventable.

“Unsolved Mysteries” on the other hand, involved cases of the unexplained and unsolved sort (thus the title of the show), and every week on the show mysteries such as kidnappings, and murders, and conspiracy theories would be explored.  But my favorite episodes of all were when they explored the supernatural.  Of course, these were also the ones that gave me the willies.  The episode that stands out the most in my mind, and left me sleepless many a night, concerned UFOs.  It was about a UFO sighting in Texas that left 2 women with radiation burns, and cancer, and it terrified me to think that this could actually have happened.  I was already afraid of getting cancer (too many St. Jude specials I guess), so this episode just compounded my fear.  For the longest time I was petrified that I would see a UFO, and I would regularly scan the skies apprehensively.

This long running series was hosted by Robert Stack from 1987 until 2003 (his death), and then ran again briefly on Spike TV, hosted by Dennis Farina.  The spooky content, the x-filesish theme music, and the narration of the real witnesses of these events make “Unsolved Mysteries” one of the scariest television series I have ever seen!