My friend Berthold Gimbrel mentioned in his review of Human Sacrifices that it has elements of horror, and it does. but I have always avoided horror movies and fiction. With me it's cognitive dissonance.
When I was growing up my brother loved to watch shows on TV like Hitchcock and Suspense Theater. Most of the time they didn't bother me, but I remember to this day an episode named Room 13. I was about eight years old at the time.
The 30 minute story involved an archeologist checking into a hotel in Italy. He was in room 14 and noticed there wasn't a room 13, the manager explained they didn't use the number 13 as it was bad luck.
The manger knowing the guest's reputation asked him to look and a metal box he unearthed. In the box was a metal conical helmet and a skull. The archeologist told him this was a form of execution for treason in ancient Rome. The victim had the helmet placed on his head while it was red hot and after he died was decapitated. His body was burned and they buried his head in the metal box so he couldn't travel to the underworld. The manager leaves and the guest goes to bed. In the middle of the night there is this unworldly screaming going on waking everyone up. It was a musical scream of "I want my head back." Outside on a wall there's a shadow of a figure wavering back and forth. The archeologist goes into the hallway where other guests are wondering what's going and when he looks the room where the noise if coming from is Room number 13.
The show broke for a commercial and I freaked. My brother wanted to see the rest of the show and I left the room, but the sound of that scream when the show came back on made me freak again and my mother took me next door to an elderly couple that was always nice to us and I stayed with them until the show was over. I don't know how the story ended and don't want to. It scared the hell out of me and at that age wasn't a good thing. What scared me was the sound, not anything visual.
Not many other tv shows or movies imprinted on my mind like acid as that one show did. I mostly avoided watching them.
The only other time I was disturbed by a movie was when my then wife and I went to see Bambi. Stop laughing. Imagine you're in small town Texas at the only theater for twenty miles and it is filled with children. The lights darken and the previews of coming movies start to roll. A man walks up to a chainsaw and starts it up. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It showed a man popping out bushes and slicing into a man, then it jumps to a woman being picked up and camera does a close up of a meat hook. I wonder how many parents were awake that night with screaming kids because they took them to see Bambi?
I didn't have kids at that time, What I had to do that night was go to work. I was a security guard at the Jimmy Dean Meat Packing company in Plainview, Tx. From 11 at night to 7 in the morning. The clean-up crew left at midnight and I was all by my lonesome until around 6am. Every hour I made a trip with a time clock walking through the area of meat grinders, meat hooks, weird noises going off at all time from the various refrigeration machines, out the back to a storage shed to check on a water gauge, then past the hog pens with ghastly noises of the soon to be sausage and back to my guard shack. Each round took about ten minutes leaving me 50 minutes to study. Perfect job for a college student, until that night. A week later I switched to the 3 to 11 shift.
What bothered me the most about that movie, was the title. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was living in Texas.
I've never had nightmares over something I've read. I'm not interested in most horror stories. I started reading Edgar Allen Poe in 7th grade. When I was teaching 7th grade English I was disturbed that I had to translate every other word to my students, and they found him boring. I've never been a fan of Stephen King. I watch Carrie when it first came out and thought it was silly even having to resort to the gotcha false scare of a hand coming out of the grave. Until reading Berthold's blog I never even heard of H.P. Lovecraft.
When I was going through my divorce, a wonderful lady named Gwen Shultz opened up a book store across the park where I walked my dog named Trespasser's William. She sold children's books and Sci-fi. I'd been reading 1000 or more pages of theology a week and was suddenly no longer a student. She turned me on to Harlan Ellison. The first book I read was called Death Bird Stories. It comes with warning that the subject matter is too intense to read in one setting. It's a short story collection and the first story The whimper of Whipped Dogs. Stops you cold. Mal, the trees in my novel Human Sacrifices was inspired from this story. The amazing thing about these stories are that they're not horror so much as they are depressive. Amazingly being in a very deep depression as the life as I knew just exploded. These story's were cathartic. By the time I finished the book I felt better. One story' title says it all: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Ellison got a Hugo award for that one. I became an avid reader of just about everything he's written. I can't recommend to anyone who reads this blog how much it would benefit you to read his works. Many of them are out of print and are collector's items. Not many are e-books and they're not cheap.
Well enough rambling about what went bump in the night for me.