The other night, I had a visitor over my house and she’d asked me how I got to writing horror. I told her how it started with Dark Shadows and the Hammer films. Stephen King, among other authors, only fanned the flames, I said, ignoring the fact that my dance with horror began 51 years ago, during a trip to Atlantic City with my mother. Had Mylar balloons existed, Atlantic City would have never happened because the balloons would have shielded my eyes from the sight. But, Mylar balloons didn’t exist, so I was left to face the monster on my own. And I never mentioned anything about Atlantic City to my friend.
After all, this story isn’t the kind of thing I’d tell to the uninitiated. I usually reserve this one for Halloween.
When I was a child, my mother and I used to go to the Italian Village at Atlantic City’s Million Dollar Pier. The Village knew how to make some mean hoagies, and gluten never entered the picture. At the time, there were amusements and goodies such as those booths where you could take four selfies for a buck. One day, they had a pavilion closed with a curtain, seated on a dais. The billboard read, “See live 1000-year-old woman.” That sounded awesome, so I got in line.
The people ahead of me formed a C-shaped ring around an ornate bathtub. Later on, I learned that bathtub was actually a sarcophagus. Further ahead, I made out jet black hair and a shriveled face. The woman had on an ornate vest, but nothing else. I stepped up to get a closer look. Not a woman after all, but a mummified skeleton. I stood there frozen, and the people just kept looking and chatting among themselves, as if they were gathering at a party. Seconds later, she turned her head and raised her arms, extending her hand. At that, I bolted from the pavilion, screaming.
As I got older, I realized that most likely the folks who engineered this constructed machinery and invisible ropes to make the body move. But when you see a dead body look your way, you don’t consider possibilities. You run. For most of my life, thereafter, I’ve had this fear of skeletons—I’d discussed this in previous blogs. I think I worked my way through it; noticed that I have skeletal images for illustrations. I’ve got a real beauty of a skeleton photo in NTD 29. All the same, I rarely buy Halloween balloons. I go with floral shapes and Mylar butterflies.
I’d say this sighting in Atlantic City ignited my fascination with horror. Then I moved on to Dark Shadows and the Hammer films which fueled the flames, followed by Stephen King. Thankfully, my Mylar balloons serve as a moderating influence.
I’m offering two giveaways: A signed copy of Steel Rose and a copy of Night to Dawn 28, to be given to a random commenter during this blog hop. And if you can guess how many Mylar balloons I have, the person with the closest guess will get an eBook copy of Close Liaisons and City of Brotherly Death.
The line I love most in this is: “But when you see a dead body look your way, you don’t consider possibilities. You run.” So many in horror films don’t. LOL. My thinking is even though I don’t believe the dead can walk, something must be up, even if it’s someone playing a trick on me I don’t know what their intentions are. I can’t really recall why I got into horror. I think I probably spotted a book in the house and just picked it up as I read anything I could get my hands on. I do know I was a big James Herbert fan as a teen. I had a lot to deal with (more than most teens) and to me it was escapism.
Sharon, that’s so true about not knowing the intentions of someone playing a trick. I think if I were to see that mummy now, my head might tell me it’s fake, but my heart would sing a different tune. I’d also wonder if the people playing the trick didn’t have a streak of meanness. I, too, used to read a lot as a teenager. Barbara of the Balloons 🙂
Very interesting blog, Barbara. I remember that Italian village and also something scary in there; but I don’t remember what it was. Maybe it was that mummy you saw. I probably repressed it because it was so frightening. Most of all, I remember the high diving horse, walking the boards, getting peanuts, and jumping the waves. My dad and mom took us every week. That’s why I still love the shore.
I enjoyed reading about your adventures and why you got into horror writing. I’ve never tried writing horror. I’d probably scare myself silly. What scares me and one of my daughters are clowns!
I can see why a clown would scare you, Catherine. They can look kinda grotesque. And Stephen King’s IT uses a clown for the monster. I don’t think the mummy would be allowed to be on display now – all kinda rules about what’s harmful for children – great rules at that – but back in the 60s anything went. Barbara of the Balloons 🙂