|Image by Ken McMillan Licensed under CC-BY|
It’s something a lot of us experience every day in one form or another. Fear is something we have for a reason. It protects us from harm, helps us to think forward, and ultimately (in a healthy situation) pushes us forwards through difficult times. True, many see fear in a negative light, if only because it’s so closely related to stress. But, I want to take a little dip into the good kind of fear, and why I’m so fascinated with it. It has a lot to do with my creative work, doesn’t it?
With plenty of exceptions, fear is something we become accustomed to as a child. When many of us were younger, we feared something that’s now considered irrational. The monster hiding in the closet. The cellar creep. That thing that hides in the dark corners of Grampy’s barn. Fear is a vivid experience at a young age, or at least, it was for me. I can’t be sure, but I think the first frightening story I ever heard was the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk“ fairy tale. I was so young, I couldn’t tell you much about it, except the giant terrified me. The part in which jack narrowly escapes the giant as he rushes down the beanstalk held me so tight in suspense, and I loved it! At that age though, the fear aspect of it never stuck with me. By the end of the whole story, little me could go to bed safely with the knowledge that Jack and his family lived happily ever after. My attitude changed though.
When I was only a couple years into gradeschool, we moved house. In turn, I was thrown into a fresh environment, where everything seemed big and new. Around Halloween time, our teacher pulled out a book that would soon become the start of my inspiration: “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.“ I remember she read us the story “Clinkity-Clink,“ and although I wasn’t too happy about the sudden jump-scare, I found myself pulled in. I wanted more. That very night my parents took me to the library, where I checked out all three books (and plenty of others, like John Bellairs, Goosebumps, pretty much the whole folklore section.)
Unlike Jack and the Beanstalk though, my experience with these books weren’t so positive. I remember and waking up in the middle of the night crying, unable to get Stephen Gammell’s haunting illustrations out of my mind’s eye, the stories constantly running through my head. But, I got over it. Well, maybe. The sad truth is, that those books still frighten me to this day. Whenever I get an itch to look them over again, they take me back to when I was a child. Had I read them for the first time now, I probably wouldn’t have had the same reaction. It’s like the fear stayed with me, though. The intense feelings burned themselves into my mind, and they reappear when the memories return.