Things That Make Chuck Pee A Little

Killer Clowns from Outer Space

Before I get into the nitty and the gritty of writing horror, it seems appropriate to talk about the things that freak my shit out. Not all of it is related to fiction — some of it, actually, is stuff in real life that gives me the shivering nipples and make me want to go hidey under my blankey.

Ready? Here goes.


Let’s just get this out of the way early: clowns can go fuck themselves. First word that comes to mind whenever I see a clown: “Molester.” Yup. Any grown man wants to slap on greasepaint and lipstick and clown shoes must secretly want to touch children in their uh-uh places. That’s just a fact. Popular Science proved that shit in the late-80s. See, that’s the thing. It’s not about the clown. It’s about the dude beneath the clown. The dude who decides that this is his career (or at least his outfit for the day). Plus, the red noses? The bright lips? The crazy hair? The pale facepant? They all look like diseased drunkards, fumbling to hike down your pants with their chubby fingers. I’m not afraid that clowns are going to kill me. I’m afraid that clowns are going to kill me, and then rape my body. Or rape me, then kill me. Or chop me up and bake me into a cake and then rape the cake. Fuck you, clowns. All that honking. All that crowding into small spaces, as if they’re bending physical will to their demands. No, thank you. No. No! Get off. And anybody who tries to make me watch Stephen King’s It or Killer Clowns From Outer Space gets a face full of my forehead. I’ll take you down to Headbutt City, Population: You.

The Ocean

You know what the ocean is? The ocean is a big hungry mouth. With waves as its tongue, with coral as its teeth. The ocean is dark, cold, and devoid of anything good. By my estimation, mankind has an unspoken contract with the ocean. We are landmonkeys from the Kingdom of Dirt. We are not to cross the threshold. We’re not supposed to fuck with the Old Treaties and go splashing around in the Empire of Brine. That’s just how it is, but what do we do? We go swimming and boating and snorkeling and scubaing and snubaing and all that shit. Then sharks eat us. Or pressure crushes us. Or salt water fills our lungs. Or mermaids leave traps for us and draw us closer and closer until we are stung by paralyzing jellyfish and left as a present for motherfucking kraken. And the kraken are the giant spiders of the sea, don’t you think differently. Steven Spielberg nailed something when he did Jaws. The less is more approach really drove home what is scariest about the ocean: it is wholly unknown. It’s not about the shark. The shark would be less scary if he was running around on four legs out in the bright sunlight. I mean, yeah, you’d still not want him eating your body, but I’m not particularly afraid of, say, tigers. But if tigers were in the water? Fuck that. Screw you, sea tigers.


This sounds like I’m germ-phobic. I’m not. I’m actually not at all squicked by germs. I don’t use antibacterial soap. I don’t fuck with Purell. I’m good with germs. Hell, I want germs. They’re invited into my body so that my cells can tackle them to the ground and waterboard them until the germs give up all their secrets. I will lick a urinal if it makes me Strong Like Bull. And yet, I’m a total hypochondriac. Most days, I’m convinced I’m dying of something. These days, it’s usually cancer, since cancer has eaten its way through much of my family, and even tried to claim a couple friends. The thing about cancer and disease is, as it is with the ocean, a grave fear of the unknown. Any time you see a movie about alien invaders or zombie hordes, it might secretly be about disease invading our bodies (or, it might be about a fear of all things foreign, like terrorists, or Ikea). But diseases are fucked up. I have this body. It’s a physical thing, and I can’t see inside it. All kinds of shit is going on inside my body. Mysterious practices performed by uncertain organs. Lots of burbling and gurgling, lots of fluid transfers, lots of unseen electrical sparks. It’s like having a factory that you hope will just keep going without error, but you know that eventually a squirrel is going to chew a wire or some sloppy factory worker is going to throw a used condom into the works, and suddenly everything’s jammed up, but you still can’t see it. So you have to go to the Modern Priest Class, the doctor, to commune with the gods of your factory to — shit, I think I’m getting wacky with the metaphors, but point is, cancer and disease will dick you up and you won’t know it before it’s too late. For this reason, parasites freak me out, too, because it’s like cancer, except now it’s a worm that lives in my bowels. Or something.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations

I do not have nightmares very often. Like John Newman said, even my weirdest and scariest of dreams are kind of cool. (It’s funny, my wife has what I consider “normal people” dreams. “I’m late for a test, I’m naked at the grocery store, my mother is mad at me.” I do not have normal people dreams. I have elevators going into the bowels of asteroids, I have farms that don’t exist, I have weird hunting expeditions, it’s nuts.) So, no nightmares for me. What I did have once upon a time was goddamn hypnagogic hallucinations, which are so fucking bonkers you just want to burn your bed and overdose on No-Doze. I used to suffer from two primary types: Spiders on the wall, and The Hag (“Old Hag,” or “Night-Hag”). I cannot possibly imagine what is happening during these episodes. Dreams are theorized to be the brain’s way of “taking out the garbage.” Fine. What the crap are these hallucinations, then? The brain’s way of reminding you that it has control and you best not fuck with it? The brain’s way of just making sure your bowels still work? This one time, I saw the hag in my closet. Then, later that night I had another hallucination, and she was right in front of my face, nose-to-nose. My seed is curdling just thinking about it. Cripes. What really grabs my gourd is how most people have shared hallucinations. The Hag is a phenomenon, it’s not unique to me. That speaks to something way weirder than I can grok. Though, I will add: one of my strangest night-time hallucinations (coupled with the standard sleep paralysis) was a little LEGO man driving across my ceiling in a little car. He paused the car above my head, and his yellow LEGO head twisted around — ala The Exorcist — to stare at me before tottering off again.

Ouija Boards

Ouija boards, or “witchboards,” scare the pants offa me. Oh, I know. You’re saying they’re just a gimmick. A stunt. A clever ruse by callous board game companies. Eff that ess, hombre. I had one. One of the cheapy varieties. And if any of my friends are around, they’ll attest that I lived in a haunted-ass house, and that the Ouija board revealed to me True Things that were not otherwise known. It proved to me that ghosts are real, and while ghosts don’t necessarily freak me out, the Ouija board does. I’m not even sure that when you use one of these things you’re talking to ghosts. You might be talking to demons. Or space aliens. Or goddamn goblins. I dunno. My old Ouija board, man, you even touched that thing by the end, and the lights would dim. No joke. Weirder still, the haunting of my house didn’t really come into full-bore effect until I went and mucked around with the Undead Email Board. My Cousin Julie and I messed with it, got a “spirit,” broke contact, and what happened? Boom. Haunting. For years. You come near me with one of these things, and I will Taser your ass and throw you into an open manhole. Don’t test me, Internets.

People Who Are Batshit

My wife gets riled up sometimes. A lack of politeness in the world gets under her skin, as it does mine. Someone doesn’t say “thank you” when you hold the door, she’ll say something to them. Someone won’t get out of her way when we’re talking down the aisle at Target, she’ll give ‘em a hard elbow. My wife, she doesn’t mess around. She’s bad-ass. But here’s the thing. The world is full of crazy motherfuckers. I’d say 1% of our population basically comprises Batman villains. One day, she’s going to chastise someone for not holding the door, and they’re going to freak out and decapitate her. Or, more likely, he’ll decapitate me — the innocent bystander. See, that’s the thing. You see them out there. You see them walking around. Big beard, blaze orange pants, a wild-eyed stare. That dude is nuts. Maybe he’s on meth and he’s broken the pleasure centers of his brain. Or maybe he’s just always been a barking moonbat. You don’t know, so don’t mess with it. This is why slasher films are scary in theory — it’s the senselessness of it all, the simple fact that sometimes People Are Fucking Wacko, and sometimes those people will Kill Your Ass. The Rob Zombie Halloween films attempt to give Michael Myers some kind of backstory, a “reason” for doing what he’s doing. But that reduces the fear factor. Michael Myers is more terrifying when he’s an unknown commodity, a deranged man without reason. Like Sarah Palin or Gary Busey!

Holy Shit, Contest

I just decided to do this right now. That’s just how I roll. I suffer a whim, and now that whim is made real. Like rainbows and candy floss belched out of my broken head. Here’s the contest: tell me in the comments what scares you. Make it good. I don’t care if it’s a lie. Who am I, your mother? (Answer: I am when I put on this dress. Now lie back and let Mommy brush your hair.)

What’s the prize? See up there, how I have Holy Shit, Free Thing? Yeah, we could use some fresh content in there. So, I’ll give that section to you for a month or so. Write whatever you want, no more than 2000 words, and I’ll slap it up there with full credit to you. Fiction? Sure. Game material? Whatever. Soapbox on which you’ll stand and proclaim your allegiance to the Reptilian Aliens? Done and done. I know. It’s not that exciting, but fuck it. What do you people want from me? Contest ends… uhh. I dunno. Next Wednesday.


  • The dark. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m afraid of the dark. Or, more specifically, the things in it. I have a super-vivid imagination. You know that exercise, where you imagine holding a teacup, engage all your senses, until it becomes nearly real? Yeah, that was pretty easy for me. So is imagining that something in the shadows is waiting to kill me. It’s very quiet, but I can hear it shuffle every so often. There is a scent, like decaying leaves, that tickles my nose. A shadow moves in the other corner, cast when the creature lifts its hand. I can just *sense* the claws coming closer to my shoulder. And, one of these days, it is going to touch me. I know it. And people will be saying what a shame it is that such a young man died of a heart attack.

    A few months back, I went through a string of nights where I was convinced there was a corpse lying in my bed when I went in my room. I had to keep turning on the light to double-check.

    As a note, I don’t watch horror movies. I saw part of The Shining once when I was around 8, and it messed me up. Blair Witch, on the other hand, wasn’t bad. Because that’s exactly how I felt every single time I went camping. It was just familiar.

  • The bottoms of ships. Don’t fucking ask me, they freak me out. Titanic was a goddamn horror film to me… when the ass of it popped out of the water, I think I experienced what most people did the first time they saw Jaws. Sunken wrecks… same thing. Basically, if it is any part of a ship and it is underwater, it scares the happy thoughts out of me. I am not the kind of person that reacts to fear or surprise by freezing up, but that shit makes me do it.

    Just thinking about the Titanic right now is fucking with me, so I am going to end this post now :P

  • I am afraid that if I put my face under the shower water and the shower is too hot, I’ll hard-boil my eyes.

    I am also afraid that, if I sleep on my left side, that I’ll crush my heart during the night.

    File these under “body horror,” I guess.

  • Spiders. If the kraken is the giant spider of the sea, the spiders are the ACTUAL spiders of the LAND. Yeah, think about THAT for a minute.

    Recently, I was at my girlfriend’s place and saw her cat fucking with a spider (figuratively, not in the gross abomination-unto-god way). I decided to man up and squish that shit with a very manly kleenex. Which I did… then it exploded.

    Yes, it exploded into dozens of teensy, tiny (presumably) baby spiders that swarmed around the edges of my Kleenex of Protection (+2 vs spiders, but apparently -1000 vs baby spiders) and made a B-line for my fingers like I was their new mommy. Not. Cool.

    So I screamed, ran to the other side of the room, and politely requested (in a very many falsetto) that my girlfriend finish murdering all the little babies. Which she did.

    Mutherfuckin’ spiders.

    • So, new fears include:

      Darkness, spiders and their babies, heart-squeezin’s, hard-boiled eyeballs, ship bottoms, and Justin Achilli.

      They’ll go into the hopper.

      On the “eyes in the shower” tip, I’ll also note: I’m hydrophobic enough where, if water gets in my eyes during a shower, I suffer a very small panic attack until I free my eyes of, er, “aqua debris.”

      — c.

  • If you’re afraid of the dark, which I am, then the movie “Darkness” staring Anna Paquin will scare the bejesus out of you.  It’s a great movie but I’m not sure that I could watch it again.  Certain scenes have an almost claustrophobic feel that left me creeped out for days after.  And since this movie rocks the less is more method there’s plenty of room for my brain to spin its own imagined horrors.

    • That’s the thing about Darkness — it ends on such a note of existential awfulness, it kind of leaves the rest of your night in a dark, sucking hole.

      Which is why you need ice cream after really good horror.

      — c.

  • When I was in my early 20s I drove from NJ to Chesapeake, VA to visit my cousin and her tiny kids. She put me in the guest room above the garage. The first night I was there a sound woke me up and I opened my eyes to see the 4 year old standing in the doorway. I told her if she wanted to hop in with me she could, and she trotted across the room, jumped into the bed, and disappeared. At this point I figured I was dreaming and woke myself up and turned on the light. The room stayed gray around the edges, and as I looked the closet door swung open slowly and this small, dark thing shambled out and started shuffling across the floor toward me. I turned on the light again, and nothing happened, it was still coming. So I launched myself forward into a sitting position and hit the light again and this time the room lit and the thing was gone.

    Closets. I cannot sleep with a closet door open even a crack.

    I know that fucking thing was the boogeyman, and I know that I actually was awake.

    One day a few summers ago my husband and I were both in the bathroom while he showered and I asked him what the peachy colored dust all over the trash can lid was. He got out and brushed some aside and we couldn’t figure out what it was. Then we looked up at the wall and noticed little peachy dots all over the tile. They were on the ceiling too. And then we realized the peach dust was moving. After we essentially napalmed the room we discovered they had been tick hatchlings.

    Tick. Hatchlings. Millions.

    Ticks squick my brain. Any blood sucking parasites that spread disease squick my brain.

  • October 21, 2009 at 4:58 PM // Reply

    Goddamn you and that opening picture. Yes, clowns torque me something horrid. I also have hypnogogic episodes – in fact, at my sleep study a few months ago, I freaked out the technician who was watching me overnight, apparently.

    The latter thing I’m willing to take responsibility for. I’m willing to concede that chances are good that if you practice witchcraft, you’re gonna have hags sitting on your chest sometimes. Comes with the territory.

    But clowns? No way.

    I, also, am afraid of Justin Achilli.

    • You people have some heart-breaking and potent fears.

      Hypnagogy continues to earn scare points. As does Justin Achilli.

      And the fact that Mister Carriker over there gives some actual credence to the Hag Syndrome is making me not want to go to bed tonight.

      — c.

  • I hate clowns, but I’m not particularly afraid of them. I love the open ocean even after getting the shivers from watching Jaws. Disease is scary, yes.

    Hypnagogic Hallucinations … I didn’t even know what that was until now. I don’t have normal people dreams either. Nightmares are fun. Except that one once when I was in high school… it was like what you described with the hag, except mine was Death (robe, skeletal hands, utterly terrifying). I still get the shivers just thinking about it. Hypnagogic Hallucination… yep. I hope to never again have one. Ever.

    Funny enough, Ouija boards are banned in my house as well for the same reasons. Glad to know we’re not the only ones.

    I’m kinda numb on the batshit insane. My husband a correctional officer, he often works with the batshit insane. The stories he tells me creeps me out, but they are not terrifying anymore.

    That tick story. Yeah, I think I’ll be having nightmares about that now, thanks.

    My fears? Two of them. The first is pretty easy: having to bury another one of my children. I live with that fear every day of my life, every time I look at my two wonderful children, behind their eyes I see my first. It’s not the ass-hole pucker fear, but the sharp stab of a knife in the heart fear that still wakes me up at nights.

    The second – tornadoes. Tornadoes get my heart racing, blood pounding, adrenaline flowing like nothing else. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to not let this fear rule me – but they still scare the hell out of me.

  • True fact, Gary Busey will pull out your endocrine system with his bare hands, then drink a gallon of Kodiak bear piss, just because he can.

    Spiders. I think all big spiders (little ones you can smash with your thumb don’t count. Unless you’re counting how many you can smash with your thumb) should be napalmed. Unfortunately, I have giant bird eating (NO, REALLY.) that build webs across my front door every summer looking to eat my face meat and/or offspring.

    Things that move fast that look like they shouldn’t, or things that move in a herky jerky way freak me the hell out. See: Zelda from Pet Semetary (not a scary movie, but she was) or Samara from The Ring/Ju’on. The director’s cut of The Exorcist with Reagan climbing on the ceiling, her head tweaked around. GEH.

    • AHHH. Amanda Plummer in Pet Semetery. Blergh. No.

      And that spider is yooooge.

      Looks like a garden spider, though. Apparently harmless.

      I mean, not that I want one on my face or nuffin’.

      — c.

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