When I was younger, I thought that Jason Voorhees was living in my toilet, waiting to stab me in my asshole.
Maybe I should back up a bit here.
The first time I remember being scared of something on TV was during an HBO showing of Howard the Duck. Because of this, my parents thought I was scared of Howard himself, which wasn’t true, but I was okay with them believing that if they just kept the movie away from me.
The only part of the movie I had actually seen was when the Dark Overlord of the Universe reveals he has taken over Dr. Jenning’s body and destroys a diner. That was enough for me. (Prior to looking up this clip on YouTube, I thought it was Satanic possession. To this day, I can’t get through the whole movie, but now it’s because I’m scared that I’ll never get back the time I’m wasting watching Howard the Duck).
This was probably around 1987 or 88. I don’t know the exact date, but I remember standing in front of our console television and literally flicking through the channels with the dial on our set top box (I loved turning that thing because it made me feel like I was a giant spinning the Price is Right Showcase Showdown wheel), which means my face was just inches from the TV as this horror unfolded. I was frozen and there was no escape. I spent quite a few nights thinking that the Dark Overlord of the Universe was coming for me next (thinking back on it now, that probably would have been pretty badass).
Jumping forward a year or two, my parents got divorced. I can’t be sure whether or not this had anything to do with my refusal to watch Howard the Duck, but the smart money says yes. This is also around the time that I stopped flushing the toilet.
I could sometimes muster the courage to hit the lever and jump back before anything happened. Or sometimes I’d leave the lid down and flush. The problem with this approach is that even as a young child, I took massive shits; the kind that require you to check your work. So even if I did muster up the courage to flush the toilet, sometimes the next person got a starter log anyway.
If I had to estimate, I would say there was a 3 month period where toilet flushing was a problem for me. The cause of this was two fold. As a child, I struggled with the idea that alligators lived in the sewers and could come up through the drain. I don’t know where I heard this, but combined with my limited plumbing knowledge, it became something to look out for. Not necessarily something I was scared of, because most of the drains in my house were covered, but I was definitely ready for action if a tiny alligator showed up.
This was also around the last wave of the ’80s slasher films. Though I had already started to show an interest in horror, I was still limited to the Universal horror films of the ’30s. I’d started asking a lot of questions about the trailers I’d seen on tv—particularly for the Friday the 13th films because I liked that there was a movie about someone named Jason—but I couldn’t work up the courage to see them myself. I suppose my parents would have raised some objections as well, but I was a pretty persuasive 6 year old. Are you going to tell a child with a lung disease that he can’t watch what he wants, you monster?
I felt like I should be brave enough to watch them, so my solution to this problem was to ease myself in with the recently released Friday the 13th Nintendo game. In one of the few times I didn’t allow corporate branding to sucker me into suckering a family member into wasting a ridiculous amount of money, I asked my father to rent the game for me rather than buy it. You’re welcome, Dad.
By now, the cultural cachet of this game is such that I don’t have to tell you this experience was unsettling for all the wrong reasons. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to walk into a cabin and get all six camp counselors punched out by Jason which, unfortunately, is not the object of the game. Back then, there was no internet to tell me that the game was the problem, not me, so after this defeat, I retreated to my reading room (do I need to explain this was the bathroom?) to read through the manual. I was pretty young at this point and read like an asshole, so this was never going to help much anyway, but I appreciate the fact that I made an effort.
After I finished, I came back to the game again, having learned a grand total of nothing and instead passed my time by staring at the badass picture of Jason on the cartridge. I can proudly say that I wasn’t scared of it.
Of course, that’s because I was staring at the cartridge in the afternoon. Things changed when night came. Jason hiding in my room and waiting to punch me in the face in the daytime was just stupid. At night, it became a very real threat.
Or was it? How would he get in there? Would he just use the front door? Kick out a window? Or would he get me when I least expected it, jumping through the trap door that opened when I sent my poops underground to live with the alligators?
Yep, that’s it. That’s the one.
Fast forward a few years later—I want to say it was 1992, but it might have been ’93, making me either 9 or 10. A friend was staying over for the weekend and suggested that since Halloween was coming up, we should find something scary to watch. Not wanting to relive my toilet terror, but also not wanting to back down from this challenge, I agreed to watch the television cut of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives on WPIX-11. It was a turning point for me. I loved it and went to rent the actual cut the next day. It took me a couple of days to build up the gall to move onto the rest of the series, but I eventually watched—and loved—them all.
It’s not that I was no longer scared of them—I was fucking terrified of them, just not right away. I was fine while I was watching them, laughing directly in death’s face; but the second the lights went out, it was a different story. That feeling would start to creep up, the feeling one gets when you are young and the world is quiet and dark and you don’t know what might happen. I slept with my head under the covers for weeks. I miss that feeling.
So, as we approach Halloween, I’d like to celebrate that feeling. We will be interrupting your regularly scheduled CF-fuckery for pieces about the joy of horror. I always think I’m not a man who enjoys holidays, but when I go to the store and see the commercialized behemoth that is Christmas taking shelf space away from my beloved commercialized behemoth Halloween, it breaks my heart a little. You can talk all you want about the magic of Christmas; I still think there’s no feeling quite like the feeling you get when you’re a little kid and you’re sure that a masked lunatic is going to jump out of your toilet and slice you in half. So let’s crack open a box of Boo Berry, eat some candy apples and talk about all the times we scared ourselves shitless. I may have too many bills to be truly scared of monsters anymore, but that won’t stop me from trying.