Childhood Terror: Afraid of the Dark, Afraid of the Light

Welcome back, dear readers.

Consider this a continuation in the series of spooky, scary stories I’ve written in the last few months. Tonight, we focus on the one nearly universal fear: darkness.

As a child I, like many other children, was afraid of the dark. I blame my overactive imagination coupled with an early exposure to horror movies. The mind can play tricks in the mind of a child, and shadows are warped into ghoulish beasts or horror movie killers.

The night light was security. The blackness of the room seemed much more welcoming with the gentle yellow light from the wall socket bathing whatever was close.

Until Halloween, that is.

The 1990s saw a time before the Internet’s widespread presence and ease of access. As such, my early school years were full of videos produced before I started walking. None of these videos is as prevalent still as the Halloween safety video I watched in second grade.

We’re going to ignore the fact that the cutting edge of safety information came from a VHS that was, at this point, nearly 15 years old. The safety tips in the video are still taught today, but there’s something oddly hilarious about the amateur voice work and mix of animated and live-action segments. But I digress.

The real point of this video comes at the 13:40 mark. The ghost pops up, chides the talking pumpkin for his disbelief in ghosts, then extinguishes the fire inside the pumpkin, effectively killing it.

Seven year-old me was TERRIFIED. It haunted me and stuck with me for a year, until we saw the same video in third grade. This time I knew it was coming and averted my eyes when it came on screen.

Upon returning home and being ready for bed, I flicked on the night light and crawled under the covers. For some reason, I happened to glance up to the ceiling and for the first time saw the light projected onto the ceiling.

To me, the light looked alarmingly like the ghost from the video. I felt stuck, forced to choose between a dark room and knowing the ghost would watch me in my sleep.

This would mark the first moment I made an adult decision between two bad options. I got up, turned the light off and tried to go to bed. The morning came and I awoke to find myself still in bed, alive and well.

I thought of this story this evening, and I’m not sure why. I think the message is one about making tough choices between seemingly difficult options. Or maybe it’s about how we’re sometimes motivated by unlikely events or persons (or apparitions).

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s about the importance of updating Halloween safety videos every decade.

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About jnmortka

23 years old, writing about whatever catches my interest.
This entry was posted in Horror, Short Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Childhood Terror: Afraid of the Dark, Afraid of the Light

  1. Dan Hagen says:

    Enjoyed your essay, Jackson. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to do the feature writing class together.

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