The first time I can remember being attracted to a horror story was my mother reading me the Dr. Seuss book The Pale Green Pants. Yeah, that's right, Dr. Seuss. I was probably all of three years-old. The story freaked me out because here was this pair of pants with nobody inside them just running around the woods at night. See for yourself:
You're walking through the woods at night and come across this.
Wouldn't you be scared?
As with all Dr. Seuss stories, this one had a positive lesson to teach so it ended up not being so scary in the end. That made little difference to me as I asked my mother to read that story to me over and over. By the twentieth time she was probably reciting it from memory. I loved that story and still do. I'm pretty sure it got me started on the path to becoming a fan of all things horror.
The next major horror event occured when I watched the television movie Duel in 1971. I know, I know, in my very first blog I said it wasn't exactly a horror movie. Screw that! It scared me and fascinated me and I still watch it whenever it's on TV. It might have been around the same time I became obsessed with those pale green pants. According to imdb.com it aired as ABC's movie of the week on November 13, 1971, which would have been about five weeks before my fourth birthday. I have only a vague memory of watching it then but my parents have told me I sat cross-legged in front of the TV and didn't move or speak the whole time it was on. It stayed with me for my whole life. When I saw it on DVD I scooped it up immediately. I'll pop it into the BluRay player every now and then and sit back and enjoy poor Dennis Weaver's struggle against a big ass truck and it's never-seen-clearly driver.
Bad, bad truck!
What is this asshole's problem?
I was too young at the time to understand the not-overly-subtle theme of man vs. machine. Weaver's character is named David Mann. And as I mentioned above, we never get a good shot of the truckdriver; the most we ever see of him is his arm out the cab's window as he waves Dennis Weaver ahead of him. So for all intents and purposes the truck is driverless and this point is hammered home by its single-minded pursuit of an innocent motorist across miles and miles of desert.
This movie, maybe more than any other movie or novel, is most likely the reason I became a true horror fan. But there is one more story to talk about and I think this is the one that cemented me in the horror genre.
There was a horror anthology series called Circle of Fear. Again, according to imdb.com, the episode in question first aired on January 12, 1973, a few weeks after my fifth birthday. (Seriously, what were my parents thinking letting me watch this shit???) The title of the episode is "Dark Vengeance" and it stars Martin Sheen and Kim Darby. It's about a cursed toy horse that terrorizes the young couple who find it. The synopsis I read online doesn't say much and I can't remember many details. Mostly what I remember is Kim Darby (really, I don't even remember her being in it; mostly I just remember her character as a generic young-wife type) watching her husband pull out of the driveway with the horse safely locked in the trunk. And she turns around and the goddamned thing is in the room with her and it starts to advance slowly across the floor toward her. This terrified me. Take a look:
Personally, I'm more frightened by that nightie.
Hey lady, got a light?
I don't remember the toy horse being that big but since I last saw this forty years ago I think I can be forgiven for a false memory or two. What I do remember, quite clearly, was being scared out of my wits by this episode. I have no idea if I saw more of the series or if this was a one-off for me. Either way, it made quite an impression.
There was no Goosebumps series or anything of the kind back then so my horror intake was limited to shows like Creature Feature and Chillers and things of that nature. I watched Dracula and Frankenstein and The Mummy and movies like that. I bought and read comic books like Werewolf By Night and Ghost Rider . Basically anything with a supernatural element to it was fine with me. When I discovered Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Agatha Christie it was like my own personal mardi gras. I couldn't read their novels fast enough. I still can't.
My two published novels and the third (on its way!) are all squarely in the horror genre. There's an obvious reason for that. It's the genre I enjoy most when reading/watching and it's one with which I identify quite easily. I hope I can excite someone with my writing the way I was excited by reading my first Christie novel or watching Duel. At the momemt I have no intention of leaving the genre and trying to "stretch my muscles" in another direction. Horror is what excites me and interests me.
Blame Dr. Seuss.