When I go to bed, I close the closet door to keep whatever lurks in the closet when the lights are snuffed from getting out. It took me years to stop covering my head, but my feet are always under the covers because, as Stephen King says, “covers are boogeyman kryptonite.” Yep.
My forays into writing horror fiction comes from growing up among folks who were both deeply religious and deeply superstitious. My great aunts and other elders believed in ghosts, prophetic dreams, witches, voodoo, signs and omens. It made for a rather nervous childhood.
I was afraid of a room in Aunt Nora’s house. Her house had been built in a style customary in the old days on the bayou, designed to hold two families so the kitchen was one large room, and opening off of it was another set of rooms on the righthand side of the house. Aunt Nora inhabited the left side, and the right side had been for family who had passed away before I was born.
On the right side was a shadowy parlor, and an equally dim front room that opened onto the enclosed porch. (In the old days parlors and/or front rooms often had a bed pushed into a corner. ) These musty chambers in Aunt Nora’s house were furnished with needlepoint furniture from bygone days, porcelain tchotkes, and to my imagination, ghosts of relatives I never knew. I avoided that side of the house. The front room at least had a screen door that opened onto the porch and sweet daylight, but that inner parlor gave me the creeps.
I was afraid of the cemetery next to the Baptist church, afraid to be alone in an empty house, afraid of hearing and seeing things that weren’t there, and developed a fascination with death and dark things. One of my all-time favorite horror films is Carnival of Souls (1962). I’m fascinated by the idea of someone dying but not believing they’re dead and attempting to go on with the life they’d had. I’ve always felt great sympathy for the movie’s tragic heroine, Mary Henry, played by Candace Hilligoss.
I like horror films because the fears and anxieties raised by them vanish with the words “The End” or the modern film fade-out. Real life is filled with much greater darknesses, terrors and horrors that do not go away, but abide with us day in and day out. This is why I do not listen to the news. Escaping into a good horror film is a relief.