● By Wendy Sipple
Illustration by John Stricker
So, what is it with our love of being scared? I mean, seriously.
Here it is, October. Halloween is coming. The other 11 months of the year we avoid fear like the Plague (which itself is definitely scary). But for this one month, we embrace fright like a hippie hugging a tree. Is it the relief we feel when the credits of the latest slasher film roll and we realize that our arms, legs and head will remain intact and won’t be going anywhere but home to bed. Or is it the air of superiority that comes over us when the guy onscreen goes to investigate some noise behind a cellar door and we tell ourselves smugly that we’d never be that stupid? Hopefully it’s not because in some primitive way we relate to any of the various monsters, ghouls or hockey-mask-wearing psychos that storm through our nightmares wielding all manners of stainless-steel cutlery with ill intent (although with Raider fans, all bets are off).
Personally, I have always had a love/hate thing with being scared. On the one hand, I’ve never managed to watch most classic horror flicks like The Exorcist, or Nightmare on Elm Street all the way through. And that’s probably a direct result of what happened the one time I did: I made it to the end of the first Friday the 13th and was good until that final scene when a water-logged Jason burst through the surface of that peaceful pond to say hello to the dude in the rowboat. I was so not expecting that, and pretty much gave birth to a sizable litter of kittens right there in my theater seat.
On the other hand, in high school my friends and I would regularly steal away late at night to the older, creepier graveyards in our town with the sole purpose of scaring the “bejesus” out of each other. We would try to get girls to go too, but unlike in the movies, they were too smart for that. Instead, we took to recruiting buddies who hadn’t been before. One particularly nasty night – a storm was moving in, the moon was full, etc. – we talked a football player, Jim, into coming with us. As he crept between the tombstones, he was noticeably apprehensive. It all played perfectly into our hands because a couple of guys had arrived ahead of time and were waiting for him behind a large monument. As Jim approached, Dave suddenly jumped from behind the monument with a loud “SCREAM!” A nanosecond later, Dave hit the grass with a thud, because Jim had just decked him with something football players call a “forearm shiver.” Michael Myers is lucky he never went after Jim.
So what is it? I don’t know. Maybe, like those dumb kids at Camp Lopoffahead, we simply can’t help ourselves. Maybe there’s just something about this time of year that compels us to push back the cobwebs yet again and tip-toe a few steps down that dank and musty stairwell, where we pause to peer into the hollow blackness of the basement below...our necks extended out juuust far enough that if someone happened to be hiding in the rafters above us with, say, a rusty machete...well...
Agh. I think I scared myself a little. Um, anybody want a kitten?
Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1.