MORE SCARIEST MOMENTS

by Gary Meyer

We got so many terrific responses to our inquires about scariest experiences both with art and real life that we decided to break them onto two pieces so readers will not be overwhelmed in one sitting.

Meet the daughters of horror masters Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and William Castle and Lon Chaney Jr.’s grandson. The Czar of Noir  Eddie Muller (Noir City), directors Roger Corman and John Waters, author Daniel Handler, drag queen and haunted attractions impresario Peaches Christ, and Creature Features producer Tom Wyrsch offer surprises. And that is just for starters. So dive into world of the unexpected with us.

We asked them two questions:

1.  The scariest created work(s) you have experienced? It can be a movie, TV, audio, live performance, work of art, etc.
 
2. The most frightening thing(s) to ever happen to you?

And the answers are only found on EatDrinkFilms.

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1.  The Wizard of Oz

              2.  Raising children
Sara Karloff, filmmaker, entrepreneur and Boris Karloff estate administrator
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One of the most frightening films I ever saw, because it was so plausible, was George Sluizer’s original version of THE VANISHING.

Being buried alive is a particularly potent kind of horror for me, and the bleak and horribly logical ending of that film left me frightened to go to sleep, lest I wake up buried.

As a kid I liked exploring old deserted places and near where I lived in Grantown of Spey, there was a very run down, deserted cottage, hidden behind some wooden barricades. One afternoon, on lunch break, I decided to take a look round this place. I went through a gap in the fence at the back and in through the back door – which was half broken and not locked. This brought me into a kitchen area, very damp and rotten smelling. I didn’t even look in the sink in case I saw some dead rat or something. I moved on to the living room – dimly lit-by shards of light from outside.
 
It was a damp, crumbling and clearly unsafe building (the stairway to the second floor was half collapsed) but it was perfect for a kid with a vivid imagination. What might I find? A ghost, treasure? all very exciting and fun.

Then I noticed lots of newspapers on the floor and it occurred to me that someone might be crashing there at night. This was a slightly disturbing thought – what if this person was to come back and find me there.

It was at that point that I heard the back door give a slow creak as it opened, then slam shut again. I froze. They had come back! It seemed like they weren’t in a hurry to come into the room where I was so I very cautiously inched across the room to a partition where I could conceal myself – ready to run like the wind the moment they appeared.

But then I heard another sound – a sound I definitely didn’t like – a large dog, panting. A homeless person was one thing, a huge crazed dog was quite another. I stood their, quite petrified, listening to the panting of the dog as it’s person rustled things around in the other room. I remembered there had been a lot of mail on the kitchen table. I wasn’t in a comfortable position and I tried to shift my foot, but it knocked against a bit of glass. It wasn’t a big sound – so I thought – but the panting and movements in the other room suddenly stopped. I could imagine whoever it was looking up – curious at the sound.

I kept expecting the dog to smell me and run in – but it seemed more interested in whatever it’s person had. Then the sounds resumed and I breathed a very quiet sigh of relief. But while they hadn’t found me yet I realised sooner or later, they’d come through and I’d have pass them to get out. Now I really wished I wasn’t there.

I stood for almost twenty minutes, in hopes they would go out again, but that panting dog and it’s master wouldn’t budge.

Finally I decided that even if I was terrified I had to make a move so I decided to try to get a look at them, if possible without them seeing me. I inched towards the kitchen, convinced they could hear my heart beat. Now I was at the point where I could see part of the kitchen, but not much else – I couldn’t see them – yet, so I leaned very slowly round the doorway. The panting stopped! I thought the dog had heard me. Frozen again!

The sounds resumed. What the heck was this?

But even in my fear, I couldn’t help thinking something wasn’t quite right about this – the repetition seemed really odd. And then I spotted it. I was looking at a small side window in the kitchenette-from my semi hiding place. The window was partially open, and a torn paper blind was moving in time with the panting. I looked at this for about 15 seconds trying to decide whether it was that which was making the sound. Then the breeze died down and the blind stopped blowing. No panting.

If there was no dog perhaps there was no person.

I moved round to a better vantage point and saw – nothing!

The shredded newspapers on the table rustled everytime the breeze blew the blind, and I could see the back door was also swinging open and shut with the wind motion.

At that moment I felt relieved and incredibly stupid.

I got out of there fast, and I never shared the story in any detail till now. I don’t go in deserted houses any more.

Thomas Hamilton, writer/director (BORIS KARLOFF:THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER,LESLIE HOWARD: THE MAN WHO GAVE A DAMN)      

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My oldest brother, who was going to SF State at the time, took me to see William Castle’s 13 GHOSTS while I was staying with my Aunt & Uncle in SF. I was 7. My Aunt was mad as heck with him as I had nightmares for 3 nights. I will admit, it really scared me!  

Tom Wyrsch, filmmaker (WATCH HORROR FILMS-KEEP AMERICA STRONG, UNCLE FORRY’S ACKERMANSIONS, PLAYLAND AT THE BEACH, HOUDINI: MAGIC AMONG THE SPIRITS), producer of CREATURE FEATURES TV

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Joan Crawford, Terry Castle, Georgie Castle

The EXORCIST scared me to death. I saw it with my Dad in Westwood. He was so scared that the blood drained from his face, when I saw that I was really shook. I went to the bathroom after it was over and was convinced the toilet was possessed.

The scariest moment is somewhat personal. I was supposed to be in STRAIGHT-JACKET and as a five-year-old watch my mother chop off the head of my father and his lover. Okay, that didn’t really scare me. I mean I’m William Castle’s daughter— but Joan Crawford sat me on her lap and I literally started crying. I ran out of the set and never attempted acting again! (John Waters reenacted the Premiere of STRAIGHT-JACKET and Terry reacts.)

Terry Castle, producer, writer, director

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The first time I ever saw Dad do something that was scary was in Peter Pan. I was very young and he played Captain Hook.  That scared me so much that my parents really prevented me from seeing anything scary after that.  I, of course, knew he made scary movies because I watched him spoof himself in things like The Brady Bunch and Batman.  I never saw the scary movies until I was much older.  I always found it hard to believe that this person that was so full of life, joy, and fun, could scare anyone. Everyone always says, “was your dad as scary in person as he was in his movies?”  My answer “Are you kidding?”

I think Dad felt it lost something when it became more graphic.  He often would like to say that romance was much more romantic in the movies during the period when the code dictated what was being shown.  You had to imagine what happened after they kissed and cut away.  The same was true with horror when you think about it.  When you see the blood sputtering out of someone’s neck you kind of know what happens and it is more just gross whereas imagining what happens, as Alfred Hitchcock proved in Psycho (1960), is way scarier.

I love suspense, but I am not the person you want to sit next to in a movie theater when I see something suspenseful because you will have bruises on your arm; I am so easily scared.

My dad always felt that horror movies provided a catharsis. You could go into the dark and you could face your fears, and you could come out emboldened by them. However, we are in a very different world right now … To be excluded, to be bullied, to feel Other … and I have felt, despite my privilege, that I never fit in.

I’ve learned from horror fans what it is to have a tribe. And that the antidote to Other thinking is “both and” thinking. We could go down our own rabbit hole of fear, and it is a very scary time. But I really feel that all of life comes down to two choices, love or fear. And one of the ways we can manifest love, is to keep making art that speaks against fear.

And there is a way that laughing at fear, breaks its mesmerism. It’s hard right now to see that, but I do promise that laughter is an important part of our healing.”

The News is about as scary as it gets. II suggest that you turn it off and read my essay “The Price of Fear.”

Victoria Price, inspirational speaker, author, life coach, designer, artist, keeper of her father’s legacy on VincentPrice.com

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The two films that scared me to “death” were:

“Samson and Delilah” when I was a little girl. Victor mature pulling down the pillars

“Woman in the Dunes” as an adult – the trials of the woman.

Julie Corman, film producer

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The journalist Digby Diehl asked me to explain my thoughts about scarring audiences and I told him that to me, the horror film is essentially the recreation of childhood fear. The small child, alone in the world: he’s worried, he’s frightened, he depends upon the love and protection of his parents. But for some reason sometimes they are not with him. And at such times he can become very frightened. Now, as he grows older, these events are forgotten by his conscious mind or he learns to cope with them, but he will usually carry some residual fears about some aspects of the world as an adult. I think it’s the function of the horror film, and it’s a useful function, to expose those fears and show they are baseless. The unconscious minds of most people have common underpinnings. I try to reach what I consider the uniform elements of the unconscious by building up a sense of suspense and then cracking through it quickly, moment by moment, and it reacts. Very often, if it’s done correctly, you’ll get a scream from the audience, for you’ve affected their unconscious, followed by a little ripple of laughter, which is when the conscious mind takes over again and says to the unconscious, “Okay, you didn’t need to scream.”

In THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM Vincent Price is awakened in the castle by what seems to be the voice of his dead wife. Before this happened, we’ve set up several elements—that his wife may have been buried alive, that her ghost may still walk the castle, etc.—so that we’ve, as it were, sowed the ground. He wakes up and instantly he’s frightened. And the audience begins to sense a little fear with him. He walks down the hill, trying to find the source of the voice; in other words, trying to investigate. At the same time, the audience is saying with him: “Find out what the secret is,” but they’re also warning “Don’t go any farther down the hall.” There are other elements working as well. I think the actual movement down the hall is another kind of fear-attraction combination. Vincent Price is proceeding further and further. Soon, the audience begins to be caught up with him. We have point-of-view dolly shots moving backwards on his face. Once we get into it, I try to keep all the shots moving, so the audience is with him at all times. He goes down the stairway, into the underground crypt, it appears that the voice has been calling to him from his wife’s tomb. He breaks through the bricks and pulls the coffin open and his wife sits up quickly and looks him straight in the face. I’ve seen the film a number of times and at that point, the audience has never failed to scream—and really scream! And then they laugh a little bit and it’s all right because they know you did something to them. And the laughter is always appreciative laughter because that’s what they came for. When they bought their ticket, that’s what they paid for—they didn’t know what that moment would be, or exactly what was going to happen, but they came for the moment when they were going to scream, and, whether they knew it or not, they came for the moment when some part of a childhood fear was going to be exposed after which they were going to be told “It’s okay.”

What was scary was when we were in training for the invasion of Japan. BUPERS (Navy Bureau of Personnel)estimated 11,000,000 casualties, Japanese and Americans. When the Atom Bomb was dropped we celebrated for two days because it meant we were not going to invade Japan. Our lives were saved.

Roger Corman, director, producer

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When I was in my 20s I went to see THE EXORCIST at the cinema on my own.  What on earth was I thinking?!  It was an Autumn evening and on my skittish walk home I heard all kinds of weird noises all around me.  I was feeling super spooked.  When I got to the door of my building, right in front of the door there were some dry leaves on the step.  Some kind of strange wind trap had been created and the leaves were spinning around and around, as if there were a whirlpool.  I took a huge step over them, not wanting to touch the middle of the leafy fairy circle with my foot, and slammed the door firmly shut behind me.  I did not sleep well that night!

Jenny Hammerton, author, host of Silver Screen Suppers,  and the newly published “Supper with the Stars with your host Vincent Price”

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I saw the West Coast premiere of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD the Surf Theater in San Francisco. Let’s just say I was too young, as it scared the bejeezus out of me. I was 10 years old, and a neighborhood friend, a guy in his twenties took me. I am sure I was the youngest person in there. Some people in the audience laughed and shouted “Finger-lickin’ good!” at the cannibalism, which somehow only made the whole thing scarier. 

It was on a double bill with the 1965 Japanese horror anthology KWAIDAN, probably the only time that ever happened! What a contrast. KWAIDAN is so sumptuous, such a visual color spectacle — but for visceral impact it didn’t hold a candle to the grimy B&W terror of Romero’s film.

 

My other scariest movie is DON’T LOOK NOW, which I saw a few years later at the Balboa. Terrifying in a more cerebral way than NOTLD, it might still be my favorite final scene in any movie, the way Nicholas Roeg executes the backtracking montage to reveal all the misassumptions the protagonist has made on his fateful and futile pursuit. It was horrifying in the best way—poetic and metaphysical and completely cinematic. 

(WARNING- THIS CLIP HAS SPOILERS– DO NOT WATCH UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN DON’T LOOK NOW. IT WON’T MAKE SENSE WITHOUT WHAT COMES BEFORE.)

I was sleeping in my bed and someone snuck into the room and started pouring cement into my mouth through a funnel. A nightmare, fortunately, but I remember the terror of it to this moment. 

Eddie Muller,  wordslinger, impresario, noirchaelogist, “The Czar of Noir
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Louise Bourgeois SpidersArtists on Film: Louise Bourgeois - The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine: Image 0

Paul Draper, mentalist, anthropologist, speaker

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When I was a child, my mother took me to see Phil Kaufman’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS , the 1978 version, which means I was 8.  Pauline Kael had praised it highly, is the reason she has since given repeatedly.  Previously, the scariest thing I had seen was episodes of Scooby Doo.  The premise of the movie, if anyone has forgotten, is that they get you when you sleep.  I did not sleep for a very long time.

Daniel Handler, novelist, playright ,musician, and, as Lemony Snicket author of children’s books.

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For me, the all-time scariest thing I ever experienced was called “Morbid Manor” and it was in Ocean City, Maryland where I spent all my summers growing up. This was a giant walk-through haunted house that sat on a pier at the end of a giant boardwalk. The ghouls that worked in the haunt would terrorize tourists on the boardwalk and the house itself looked like a bigger version of the Psycho house. As a child, I became obsessed with this place and would sit and watch people go in and come out of it for hours. For years I was too afraid to go inside and so I would imagine all of the things that happened to people in there. It fascinated and terrified me. When I finally did get to go through it, I almost didn’t make it! Of course my imagination was what made it scary and it for sure influenced my desire to later make horror movies and produce haunted attractions.

My brother getting cancer twice may be at the top of the list. He’s fine now, but that was awful and scary.

Joshua Grannell, filmmaker, actor, co-producer of Terror Vault haunted adventures;aka Peaches Christ, underground drag performer, producer of Midnight Mass stage productions and podcasts (current show features Elvira)

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THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER presented me with Robert Mitchum as a mad preacher after the money held by two children.  His character scared me for years.  The “love/hate” speech he gives stayed with me always.  Spooky. 

Also, I went to the original Broadway production of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.  Not only the brilliant performances, but the sets and lighting kept me in nightmares for years. The movie took it over the top, but the Broadway play was true horror.

In Edinburgh Scotland I went on a fascinating underground tour.  They took us into a home occupied by a family who all had yellow fever or typhoid or something horrible.  There was a room where a little girl died.  The tour leader left about six of us alone in that room.  I thought I saw this little girl..I screamed.  The other time was in Buenos Aires in Evita’s City Hall.  A large group of soldiers were suddenly upon us, I don’t know how they surprised us.  They seem to have taken my husband away….turns out he was just carried away by their sheer force…he soon returned…but for that moment I was terrified.  Same thing in Istanbul when I was carried off my feet by a crowd in the Spice Market.  Scared me until I was put down.  I love to travel..but these experiences scared me. 

Jan Wahl, broadcaster, writer, film historian, lecturer

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When I first got involved in a theater in Half Moon Bay called Patio Theater with a partner ( later changed to Von’s Cinema after I bought him out)  one Halloween, we booked a triple bill of horror films…….the place was packed on a Friday night, 450 seats, and I stole an idea from a Drive In Theater in San Jose and advertised that  we were going to give away a “DEAD BODY.”

RARE ORIG SPOOK Show "Win Dead Body" Window Card - Pat Patterson (Dr.  Gore)+Coa! - £363.73 | PicClick UK

I went and found a cheap wooden casket, lined it with some reddish material, and left it in the lobby with the lid closed  as people filed in…..everyone was curious about it, as they bought snacks or went into the auditorium.

So, everyone buying a ticket got a special ticket, and when it came time to see what was in the coffin, I had two of my staff lift ( pretty light) the  wooden coffin, and slowly walk down the aisle of the theater……all the heads were turned to the coffin as it made its way very slowly down the aisle towards the stage.

The gimmick was that someone was going to have their number called, and that person had to go up to the coffin and open it to touch the dead body.

Finally the slow (and hopefully suspenseful) procession has reached front and the coffin is on the stage….I told my projectionist that as soon as he saw whoever it was going to start to open the casket, I wanted him to shut off all the auditorium lights……..the person picked was a 15-year-old girl, and now the whole audience is chanting for her to go up and open the coffin….she sheepishly did so, and just as we slowly raised the lid, the lights went out, and you can imagine what it was like hearing 450 screaming mostly teenage voices…..

She did touch what turned out to be a frozen chicken ( a dead body) and when the audience found out, it took several minutes for the laughter to subside.

Walt Von Hauffe, film publicist (produced the Miss American Vampire Contest won by Sacheen Littlefeather)

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still the best!

Which trailer scares you more? The 1974 original….

or the 2014 HD restoration?

The most frightening thing(s) to ever happen to you? AIDS epidemic killing so many friends-worse than any horror movie.

John Waters, filmmaker, author, lecturer, actor, artist

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As an adolescent, reading Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, with ten people killed off one by one, so who is the awful, pitiless murderer? The ultimate in paranoia!

And Then There Were None Classic Edition - Harper Book Club

And “Hounds of the Baskervilles”, certain that the hounds were supernatural creatures! Then ultimate in the paranormal! 

Oxford Children's Classics: The Hound of the BaskervillesBad Book Covers – The Hound of the Baskervilles | BizarreVictoria

Two recurring dreams in childhood, which filled me with horror each time for several dreadful weeks. Both caused my movies. Seeing THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR  and dreaming again and again that MY hair had turned green. My identity lost!

Seeing IN OLD CHICAGO in which Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern and turned the city into an inferno. Me dreaming again and again that I and my parents were burning to death! 

Gerald Peary, Film critic, documentarian, and actor in the indie “cult” movie, COMPUTER CHESS

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Scariest work of art would probably be Algernon Blackwood’s classic scary tale “The Willows”, about two guys on a canoe trip in the Danube Delta near the Black Sea who learn the hard way that the little sand islands are not good camping sites, as they are eaten away by the river current — and worse — disappear in the night. I was at the time stuck for several weeks in a 7-unit plywood motel in the middle of Iowa, alone, no town, just a 24/7 truck stop at the junction of I-80 and Iowa State Highway 22 that runs from Belle Plains to What Cheer (a question best not asked), waiting for a truck’s engine replacement to arrive (again, don’t ask), and I made the unfortunate choice at about 1 or 2 AM one bitter black night to read that story. It is considered one of the greatest and certainly most frightening stories in the field of supernatural horror fiction, but unfortunately I didn’t know that. So sitting in a room that was little more than a plywood cell, pitch black outside, the freezing cold wind blowing from the polar regions and across the Great Lakes unimpeded, one scraggly leafless tree outside my window silhouette scratching at the sky, and only my reading light on, I read that. The dark got darker, the room ever more claustrophobic, and I ever more hypnotised by the dark magic of that tale. When I finished I was so completely unnerved that I dashed to the truck stop restaurant and stayed there until the sun came up. There was no WAY I was going to be alone there in the dark that night. I can strongly recommend reading the story; but just be careful where and when you read it.

As for scariest thing that happened to me, that would be some time after midnight on a Friday night in the early-mid 1960s, living in Oakland just near the border with Berkeley. There was a program of live folk music on KPFA on Friday nights called “The Midnight Special” and I, having chemically abused myself in some fashion or other, got it into my head to go sing on the radio.

I was in no state to be out and about in the first place, but particularly not near 44th and Shattuck in Oakland, but I set off, ready for the long walk. A few blocks up Shattuck, two fellows sauntered out from a cul-de-sac on the right, and headed slowly up Shattuck. Since they were walking so slowly, and I had a long walk to reach the KPFA studios, I simply walked past them. And knew. Something is terribly wrong. I don’t know if you’ve ever done any scuba diving, but there is a point when you dive down to an area known as the thermocline, where the water suddenly becomes ice cold. Not gradually, it is as if water warm sits on sub-zero oil, the demarcation as defined as a razor slice. And as I stepped past those two guys it was as if I had passed the thermocline. Everything went icy cold, my body tingled, my breath seized, and I just knew this was really really bad. A car coming, I jumped out in the street, tried to flag it down, it didn’t stop, and one of the guys jumped in front of me and stuck a gun in my face whose barrel I swear I could have stuck my finger in.

“Make a move and you’re dead,” said the guy with the gun. And I freaked, I jumped, I screamed, shouted, I don’t know what. I went manic frantic berserk. Then a thud on my head, I saw red, and fell to the pavement, where I felt feet kicking me. But I wasn’t dead. A car pulled up, the guys jumped in, the car sped off, I tried to stand, found blood gushing from my head, down my neck, under my shirt. I remember fading in and out and thinking “this is pathetic. This is NOT where I want to die.”

I knocked on doors, no answer. One door with double rows of glass panes, a party going on, I knocked, they peered out but wouldn’t open, as if it were I who was the danger. “LOOK!” I cried, smearing the glass with blood, “I’ve been HURT.” A samaritan showed up with newspapers, made me sit down, put my head down between my legs, pressed the papers onto my wound. I passed out. I kept coming to, finding somebody asking me questions, a policeman, an ambulance person, and passing out again. Eventually I was taken to Highland Emergency Hospital, where I was well tended.

As the doctor swabbed around in my wound I asked him: “Nobody will tell me. Have I been hit or have I been shot?” “Looks more like you’ve been hit,” he said. A nurse entered with sutures and equipment, saying “What’ve we got here?” “Oh, gunshot wound.”

Postscript: a day or two later I got a phone call from the police. “We’ve got three reports of an incident that you were involved in, and they’re all different, so we were wondering what you can tell us.”

“You spoke with three people? I couldn’t even get anyone to open a door. Who did you speak to?”

“Oh, well, they’re all three from you.”

Oh – in case the guys wanted to rob me? All I had on me, in fact probably at the time to my name, was a bus token, which I used to get home from the hospital the next morning. That’s probably not scary in the big picture, but that gun barrel will do for me for this lifetime, thank you VERY much

Charlie Cockey, film festival scout/programmer, musician, owned the late Fantasy, Etc. science fiction bookstore (San Francisco)

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Aside from those flying monkeys in THE WIZARD OF OZ (I must leave the room when they show up), there are two experiences that I clearly remember are the aftermath of seeing THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM when I was in middle school. For a long time after that, at least in my memory, I couldn’t be home alone. We had a sliding glass door going out to the back yard, and even though reason told me there was no one buried alive out there in the dark, I could not be persuaded to open the curtain, much less slide that door open once the sun went down.

And then there was the experience of reading Thomas Harris’s RED DRAGON. Reading about Hannibal Lecter was way scarier than watching THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Maybe it’s because I was pregnant? 

Based on the horror films I had seen starring Christopher Lee I was a bit scared as to how it would be working with him promoting THE WICKER MAN, especially when a snowstorm grounded all flights out of Alaska for several days and he was not going to make it to San Francisco. Lee had paid his own way to America to travel around and promote this film because he loved it. He would do whatever it took to get people to see it.  But we had a fabulous phone relationship. I can’t even imagine how we could have been communicating, because there were no cell phones, so it must have been over shortwave radio or something. He kept saying he was coming to town. But he was willing to do whatever it took and he did his interviews from there, charming everyone.

I need to mention sliding for miles backward in an old van with bald tires in the snow, trying to navigate a winding road in the Pyrenees mountains. Ah to be young and foolish again? But then I think about my friend’s father telling horrifying stories about being a youth fleeing the Nazis in those same Pyrenees mountains.

Cathy Meyer, retired non-profit Major Gifts Office, Publicist

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As a kid my friends and I created haunted environments for trick-or-treaters but we lived in the country and few came. It didn’t stop us from trying to better each year and the word did get out. As an adult the fun continued the numbers in our neighbor went fork well over 200 to under ten. Now we go to someone else’s house and help them scare the neighbors.

One year a live ghost show came to the local movie theater when I was about ten. Forrest Ackerman’s “Famous Monsters of Filmland’ had appeared at the local magazine shop and I was taken with it. Read my history of traveling “spooky shows” and how I joined in at  “Ghosts on the Loose.”  

As a teen I created a theater in the hayloft of our barn and showed NOSFERATU at midnight. One could not have planned it better but at the first appearance of the vampire, a real bat started flying around, crisscrossing through the projector beam. People were scared.

 

I tend to like films that create a eerie atmosphere rather than heaping on blood and gore. NOSFERATU qualifies despite some moments that provoke unintended laughter.

My favorites include THE INNOCENTS (directed by Jack Clayton), THE HAUNTING (the original directed by Robert Wise) and the omnibus of four short stories, DEAD OF NIGHT.

There are great Japanese masterpieces of the supernatural, KWAIDAN, ONIBABA, KURONEKO mixing atmosphere and samurai violence—and there are frightening moments in Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD (adapted from MACBETH) and WOMAN IN THE DUNES.

And France has produced a few favorites as well with George Franju’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE and Henri-Georges Clouzot’s DIABOLIQUE, neither what you might expect but both sure to put on edge.

 

Films like POLTEGEIST and CARRIE started a trend of surprise shocks at the end of the movie but the two I remember making jump out of my seat with sudden appearances — I was young— were not horror films but mystery thrillers. I was eleven when I saw the San Francisco set PORTRAIT IN BLACK with Lana Turner and Anthony Quinn. There is a scene in her apartment after she and lover Quinn have murdered her ailing husband. She is alone but the sound of his mechanical recliner chair in the other room is heard. What was it? The whole theater jumped and then laughed at what we had just experienced. Ironically the trailer for William Castle’s THE TINGLER played before the feature—a movie that literally made the audience jump because mild electric buzzers were installed in some seats. My parents had taken me to see the stage production of WAIT UNTIL DARK a few years later. In those days theaters were not required to have exit lights so when it was supposed to be dark,,,it really was, making a certain scene even more effective with its surprise. The film version with Audrey Hepburn did a very good job and people refer to it often.

More frightening that any movie or television show was a haunting old radio show. There were many of them. Probably the most famous was Arch Obler’s LIGHT’S OUT! And for good reason.

Turn out the lights and listen to “ Chicken Heart” or “The Dark” and you may be hooked as your imagination soars.

Want more?  Hundreds are streaming online. Here are a few more samples from INNER SANCTUM, ESCAPE, WEIRD CIRCLE, SUSPENSE and THE WHISTLER.

And then there is reading a truly unsettling story.  I was disappointed more books weren’t cited but I will offer an all-time favorite about a mythological creature or evil spirit, the Wendigo, which originates from the folklore of First Nations. “The Wendigo” a novella by Algernon Blackwood will surely haunted you long after to close the book. A perfect pairing with “The Willows” offered elsewhere in this collection. Both are in the public domain and can be found online to read free and audio editions are around. 

I was nine when we moved to an old house in the country. Rumor had it that the original owner had drowned himself in a bathtub full of gin in the 1930s. Could his ghost still be there? We certainly heard a lot of noises in the walls and attic,  consoling ourselves that they must be mice…the noisier ones maybe rats. And there were bats in the eaves of the porch. We’d get used to it.

A year later an anthology series of supernatural and horror stories called ONE STEP BEYOND premiered on TV in 1959; a year before THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I never missed it. One night the episode named “Premonition” was about an 11-year-old girl (my age) who was haunted by a vision of dying under a large falling chandelier.

The show was over and my mother asked me to carry something out to her car. As I always did when I walked through the entry hall, I reached up and innocently tapped the lowest piece of cut crystal on our chandelier—and seconds later it came crashing down. I was safe but scared for sure.  And have never forgotten it. When I visit my sister there now I never walk under the chandelier.

You can watch the show below.

Gary Meyer, editor/publisher of EatDrinkFilms, film programmer, consultant

Headless Scary Gary and best friend Mummy Dave (and a friendly spider above), age eleven waiting for visitors to scare.

Gary Meyer started his first theater in the family barn when he was twelve-years-old. He directed a monster movie there and wanted to show it on the set. It became The Above-the-Ground Theatre screening dozens of silent films with music arranged from his parents’ record collection. Over 250 films were screened including more homemade 8mm “epics,” foreign and independent works, and all-night movie marathons.

For a midnight classic horror films series each film was preceded by a live presentation including séances, spooky magic and Lights Out! radio shows like “Chicken Heart,” “The Dream” with Boris Karloff and one of the scariest,”The Dark,” all in total darkness. The barn had a house bat that only came out during the horror films, flying through the projector beam, its silhouette appearing across the screen at appropriate moments.

Meyer and his friends created elaborate DYI Halloween haunted environments long before there were Halloween stores. As an adult he continued the fun until his own children were no longer interested in staying home and hiding in garbage cans dressed as weird creatures to scare roving trick-or-treaters. It got lonely doing it by himself and the family dog looked worried.

In addition to co-founding the art house cinema chain Landmark Theaters and serving as co-Director of the Telluride Film Festival, he brought together teams to develop various theater projects and film festivals, While working with many independent filmmakers, cinemas and film festivals, he saved the 1926 Balboa Theatre in San Francisco where staged William Castle gimmick shows were recreated and a 22-film Boris Karloff Tribute hosted by the actor’s daughter Sara who was raised in San Francisco.She presented home movies and a collection of rarely seen shorts and TV shows.

Meyer started EatDrinkFilms to give a voice to writers wanting to explore food, beverage and the movies from unique perspectives. Meyer, as Editor/Publisher, also contributes articles.

In October, 1971 Meyer visited Romania following the footsteps of Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Nobody he asked knew of the famous vampire or his inspiration, Vlad Tepes. A year later “In Search of Dracula” was published in the U.S. and a vampire tourism industry was born n Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains. Here Gary is near Bistrita at the foot of Birgaului Pass (Bistritz and Borgo Pass in “Dracula”). He is holding his 1930 edition of the classic. These locations are not actually in Transylvania but leading to Moldavia, also in Romania.

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