Why Horror?

My family is a little different. I guess everyone thinks that about their family. Tell you what, I’ll try to explain why my family is different and you can make up your own mind about it. 

I was born in the mid 70’s, and did most of my growing up in a townhouse in Brampton, Ontario. The youngest of four kids, I tormented my three older sisters at every opportunity. My oldest sister, Kim, is black. After my grandfather died, my grandmother had a relationship with a black man. She got pregnant. Then she died. So, my mom adopted her. She is my aunt and my sister. To me, she’s just my sister. She practically raised me and in my humble opinion, did one fine job of it. My other two sisters, Alana and Tammy, are only ten months apart. Yup, ten months. Alana was first and in my parents wedding photos, you can see her as a bulge in my mother’s belly. 

My parents immigrated from Newfoundland to Ontario because there was no work in their home province. There are a lot of Newfoundlanders in Ontario today for the same reason. Yes, I know, Newfoundland is part of Canada. How can you immigrate to Canada from Canada? My Dad was born before Newfoundland became a part of Canada. In his own mind he’s a Newfie first, a Canadian second. 

The Newfies I grew up around spoke using half words, ended most sentences in ‘by’, and exclaimed surprise or disgust with the phrase, ‘Lord Tunderin’ Jesus by’!” This was normal for me. I understood my parents and their friends and it wasn’t until my friends told me my parents talked funny that I stopped to actually listen. It wasn’t funny or different to me.

The townhouse I grew up in was small and what made it even smaller was my mother invited her family members to stay with us until they found work or an apartment or both. So, in my home there was me, my three sisters, my two parents, my two aunts, one uncle, two cousins and a nanny my mother met in subsidized housing. My mom decided to invite her to move in with us. Just some random lady. Who does that? My sisters tell me Kay, the random lady, was sometimes mean to me. I don’t remember if she was. I do know I missed her when she died. 

Maybe we weren’t all in the same house at the same time, but it felt like it. I remember my aunt Cindy came to stay with her boyfriend. They slept in the furnace room on a hammock. A hammock! It was a busy house and I liked it. Always someone to talk to, sneaking treats or sips of beer from those stubby necked bottles that always seemed to be around. A lot of music, a lot of laughter. I was the youngest and as my sisters would tell anyone who listened, I was the spoiled one. They were right. My sisters, who complained about it, spoiled me the most. Pretty normal family, right?

I was six, maybe seven, when I saw my first horror movie. It was Halloween. It played on TV on Halloween night. I lasted until Michael Myers escaped from the asylum. The scene when he crawls over the car like a spider while the nurse is frozen inside still plays in my head. I ran from the room and spent the next few weeks sleeping at the foot of my parents bed. I was hooked. Such a strange feeling, to be excited and terrified at the same time. I lay awake some nights, too afraid to go to the washroom, thinking as soon as I put my foot on the cold floor, a hand would grab my ankle. After I couldn’t hold it for much longer, I’d launch myself off the end of the bed and into the hallway, looking over my shoulder, convinced a white masked man would be watching me, sliding out from under the bed to pursue me. Why would I watch the movies if they affected me this much? Seems stupid right? I can’t really tell you why. I don’t really know myself. All I know is that I was afraid to watch and also afraid to not watch them. 

I became a fixture at the movie store. Every time I found a new movie, it was Christmas Day for me. There was no real concern for what I rented. As long as it wasn’t pornographic, the vendors never cared what movie I walked out of the store with. I miss the video rental places. Blockbuster, Video 99, Jumbo Video. They’re all gone. 

Nothing else has ever affected me the same way that horror does. Comedy never kept me up at night. Action movies are great, but once the credits rolled, the movie was over. Some sci-fi movies, like Altered States, had my brain burning long after it was over, but there wasn’t the excitement, the fear that would have me checking closets and under beds. 

Then I was introduced to Stephen King and Richard Matheson. Woo-hoo, watch out! I read everything I could get my hands on and I read all the time. Even during French class in high school. Writing was what I wanted, no, needed to do. I wrote off and on in high school. Then life intruded, pushed aside those plans and it wasn’t until twenty years later I started writing again. 

I feel young again. This is my fountain of youth. I can be whoever I want. When I am writing, I feel like I’m on all the rides at Canada’s Wonderland at the same time. My heart pumps, I smile, I laugh and I just don’t want it to end. Writing horror does this to me. I’m a little kid again, afraid of what’s in the closet, excited, my body humming like an electric wire. It’s joy and all I have to do is sit down and take a trip inside my head. Create heroes from normalcy, villains from the everyday. As my oldest child would say, “Wicked sick!”

In the comments, let me know what got you hooked on horror. I’m curious, so please, enlighten me.

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