Television scared the piss out of me as a kid.
Let me back up.
When I was really little all we had was a 19 inch black and white TV with the rabbit ears. Often we were forced to rape the poor antenna with tons of tin foil in order to get a signal. But I grew up with television and it was good.
The first thing I can remember scaring me as a child was a specific episode of Scooby Doo. In this episode the gang (Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma) were investigating a haunted recording studio. There was a Clown Demon Ghost Monster of some sort haunting the building.
I don’t know why, maybe this was where the Ringling Brothers killed PT Barnum?
Anyway I was like 4 and watching this thing while my mom made food, probably Cream of Wheat, in the kitchen. Then all of the sudden this fucking clown bastard jumps out from behind a door, scares Shaggy and Scooby, and sends fat little Josh screaming from the room and into his hiding place in the bedroom closet.
What kind of mother fucking sadist makes this kind of thing for kids?!?!
I absolutely know this is why I am terrified of clowns to this very day. I a admit I am a 37 year old man who wants to beat every clown he sees into the ground then urinate on their demon carcasses!
So yeah … fuck Scooby Doo.
The next thing I remember scaring me on the boob tube was Night Gallery. Yeah I know what you are thinking, with all of the awesome terror in the Twilight Zone why the hell do I pick Night Gallery as the scarier show? Well on the whole I don’t. For the most part Twilight Zone is the superior and scarier show, except for one episode. In the episode “Last Rites for a Dead Druid” Bill Bixby played a guy who is being stalked by a statue that looks just like him but contains the soul of an ancient druid. It was kind like the Weeping Angles in Dr. Who in that the fucking statue only moved when Bill wasn’t looking. In the end the statue got him and switched places.
It terrified me.
Sad part is when Night Gallery became available for streaming I immediately watched that episode. Kids, never watch something you have not seen in 30 years and have fond memories of. Man that shit did not hold up, it was so bad it made me laugh. Still little chubby Josh had the shit scared out of him by that dreck once upon a time.
But still I know this wasn’t made for children, and fuck I knew it when I watched it, but who the hell lets kids watch this? I ask this being the guy who has let his kids watch every horror movie with me since they were born. They don’t seem any the worse for the wear.
Anyone remember when the networks showed cartoons all morning every Saturday?
Anyone remember that ABC used to show their weekend specials after the regular cartoons?
Sometimes it was a cartoon, sometimes it was a live action, sometimes it was comedy, sometimes it was drama, and sometimes when we were very lucky it was horror. Those were the best to me it didn’t matter if it was animated or if it were live action as long as there was a little bit of the fright in it. But then there was one special that stood head and shoulders above all of the others. There was one special that to this day still has the power to make me breathe and little harder and wonder if there is somebody walking down my hall when I am trying to go to sleep at night.
There was “The Red Room Riddle”.
Based off a short novella of the same name, I actually read it after seeing the special and it’s just as fucking scary, it was first shown in 1983. I started watching it not knowing it was one of the scary ones and by the time it was done I was terrified to look outside for fear of seeing the ancient house keeper walking down the street.
Watch or read it and you will know what the hell I’m talking about.
And this time I’m serious, who the fuck makes this specifically for children?
The first example was the overreaction by a four year old. Most children would have just yelped and maybe laughed after the clown scared Shaggy and Scooby. But Josh was traumatized. Okay I will write that one off to me being a wuss when I was little.
The second was clearly my fault. I knew Night Gallery was not for children and gleefully watched it anyway. To paraphrase the great Sam Jackson, “And I would do it again!” So I will take the hit for the terror.
But the Red Room … I seriously who is that bastard that green lighted that? Not to belabor the point but that damn bit of 80’s TV still scares me and I am nearly 40 years old, I wish I could write something as scary as that! Whoever that was needs a hug, a high five, and a kick in the balls.
As I grew older TV scared me less. I still enjoyed horror television but it was to the movies that I turned when I wanted a fright. Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, Twilight Zone Series 2, Friday the 13th the Series, and Freddy’s Nightmares were some of the shows I loved but was not exactly terrified of as a kid. That was until 1990 and the return of one of Horrors greatest iconic characters. That was when the Crypt Keeper made his television debut.
The Keeper was funny as fuck. I won’t even try to tell you otherwise, much like Freddy Krueger the Keeper never scared me. He was almost a buddy who walked you through the tale of the week. I knew on the premiere night when a psychotic Larry Drake dressed as Santa Claus and attempted to kill a murderous woman in her snow locked house that I was hooked. The show made me laugh, it made me shriek, and it always entertained me.
I was a definitive show in my life.
These days I still love scary TV with The Walking Dead being the scariest show on the tube in my opinion. But being scared as an adult is very different than being scared as a child. No episode of Walking Dead will ever scare me like The Secret of the Red Room or Bill Bixby being stalked by a crazy weeping angel ancestor.
Next in the fourth and final installment of this subseries I will discuss the other things that scared the shit out of me as a kid. From animals, to weather, to people I will be giving you the final roundup.