Do you want to laugh at me being a wuss? Of course you do. I’m a massive scaredy cat. For example, this morning I came downstairs to find a hooded demon staring at me from across the road –
It’s pretending to be a picnic umbrella, but I am not fooled. Given this, imagine my chicken tendencies transplanted into the body of a 5 year old with terrible hair, and you have an idea of me in the 80s. I was scared of everything as a kid. I was forever hiding behind settees, teddies and my Dad. Yet somehow the things that scared me also kept drawing me to them, like I had some morbid desire to be plunged into a world of evil and then to have nightmares. I was obsessed with the things that disturbed me, and I guess I still am. Some of them, I’ve come to realise, were standard nightmare fuel, but to be honest some of them were just plain odd.
This list will probably be in multiple parts, because if I listed everything I was scared of in one post I might break the internet.
Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin scaring the shit out of you. And by you, I mean me.
1. Max Headroom
My number one biggest irrational fear as a child. Despite what I said in this post, I’ve warmed towards Max Headroom (or ‘Snap Snap’) as I used to call him for some reason) recently. I particularly like his mini backstory movie, 20 minutes into the future.
25 years ago, it was an entirely different story. I would cower pathetically behind the settee whenever his glitchy, stuttering face appeared on TV. As it was the 80s, this was all the fucking time. To make matters worse, comedy impersonator and all round 80s staple Bobby Davro did a Max Headroom spoof. This was tragic because I actually loved the rest of Bobby Davro’s show. Another thing Max Headroom robbed from me, with his stupid isocahedron face.
2. The TV being interrupted
This still gets me now. A few months ago I was working a night shift, and BBC News 24 got interrupted in the early hours. It was bizarre - for minutes there was just a long shot of the newsreader, not saying anything at all, then it would cut to a live shot of a deserted road in London for ages, then back again, and so on for about ten minutes. Then they just resumed the news like nothing had happened, the giant bastards. By the end of the ten minutes I was convinced that terrorists had taken over BBC headquarters, and were planning to film themselves bombing London. I guess that wasn’t the case, but they never did explain why it happened.
Any time a programme gets interrupted you immediately think something terrible has happened. This is especially true at night, because everything is automatically worse at night. Even when it’s just a ‘technical fault’, I still tend to assume the technical fault is caused by a nuclear explosion, or an alien invasion or something.
If I had my way I’d find some other way to deliver breaking news without interrupting the programme. My nerves just can’t take it. Maybe I’d have a little cartoon cow dancing across the screen, holding a balloon that says “Hey guys, why not have a peek at the news? There’s something rather exciting going on!” Mind you, then I’d just learn to dread the arrival of the cartoon cow. Maybe Spongebob would work better, I don’t know.
I wasn’t some kind of toddler anarchist wanting to throw my used nappy at the state; I had my own reasons for being terrified of nipple headed law enforcers. When I was three, my dad got me arrested. Well, it was sort of an arrest. I was being a bit noisy in the back of the car one day, so my dad called over a passing policeman and got him to ‘have a word’ with me. The policeman leaned into my window and told me, in a very stern voice, that if I didn’t behave he’d put me in prison. I was so petrified I was actually trying to crawl under the driver’s seat to hide. These kinds of things can affect the way a girl thinks. Even my dad now agrees it was a bit extreme as toddler taming goes. But you know, this was the 80s in North Wales – policemen back then were about as scary as pasta.
4. The ghost train at Bridlington
I never actually rode this, which probably made it all the more scary. It stood just back from the prom, so impressionable children at the kiddies’ fair across the road could view the exterior and imagine what went on inside. While I was waiting to ride the carousel or the Mini Apple roller coaster, I’d gaze over at it, waiting for the one visible part of the ride to make itself known. It was part ghost train and part roller coaster; the roller coaster part involved riding the track along the exterior of the building and down a dip before going back in for some more mortal peril. The dip itself was actually pretty tiny, but to my inexperienced eyes it looked like Kingda Ka.
As I looked, all I’d ever see was a train full of frightened people emerging into daylight for a few seconds before going back in to meet their doom. I was a bit obsessed with what happened inside the building; several times I had dreams about it at night, and in my dreams it was everything from an empty warehouse with a roller coaster in it (which was more frightening somehow) to the fiery pits of hell. Sadly I never did get to ride it for myself since it’s now been removed, but I did manage to find this on ride video –
5. Sonic The Hedgehog
Let me say now that I did love these games and I still do. But back then it was a love tinged with stomach churning, sweaty palmed fear. I’m not exactly sure what disturbed me so much when I played Sonic, but every time I jumped into that weird, floating dystopian world it unsettled me. Maybe it was the feeling that if Sonic died, he really died, which gave me a crippling sense of responsibility. This hasn’t been helped in recent years by the creepypasta about Sonic springing up all over the place. Maybe it was the music – even the supposedly happy music of Green Hill Zone gave me a slight feeling of unease. It still does, and I can never quite put my finger on why.
But out of all of this, by far the most gut-mangling aspect of the game was the infamous drowning music, particularly during Labyrinth Zone in Sonic 1, and Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2. Sega knew the effect this music had on children right from the start, which is why they’ve included variants of it in most of the Sonic games.
Obviously I was never very good at Sonic as a kid. Which is why I always ended up drowning, and always ended up hearing that bloody music. Maybe it was never anything more than the feeling that once that music started playing, I’d have to start the whole level over. Again.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ll write a part two on this subject soon, when I’ve stopped shaking and having to lie in a dark room drinking neat brandy.