The boogeyman, the devil's eye...what will I be scared of in this installment of my fear series? Could it be the fear of making a speech, of holding your first girlfriend's hand, of having to take that hand in a spotlight dance or even dance at all, the fear of getting beat up by the school bully, or maybe a more adult fear like missing a mortgage payment, the kids getting hurt, of gaining back all the weight you lost, or the fear that I won't be able to come up with anything worth reading in this post - now that's a fear you should take to heart kind reader. Be very afraid.
I'll start with frogs. I'm not scared of them. Maybe if I was somewhere near the Amazon and I came across some day-glo hued hippity hopper clinging to a tree my heart might skip a beat, but I don't forsee that happening anytime soon. But there was a night long ago when I lived in a two story farm home on Manson Pike when the frogs came for in the night. I was upstairs in my bedroom getting ready to go to sleep. I kept the light on all night, but not because I was scared of the dark. It was because I typically fell asleep reading a book.
This night was like any other one. I had the covers pulled up, a book in my hand, and my transistor radio tuned to WLAC-AM listening to the Top 40 of the day. Then I heard a sound. I turned the radio off to be sure it didn't come from it. I heard the sound again. It was a low, gutteral, groaning type of sound. It was a bit unnerving to me so I got out of bed to see if I could locate it. I peered out of my window and saw nothing but shadows of the night and then the noise came again. This time it was louder and it seemed to come from my toy box which was beneath the very window I was peering out of.
I didn't waste any more time. I ran downstairs where my father was watching television, probably a sitcom I wasn't allowed to view like Soap, and I told him that something was in my room. He came upstairs and by the time he got to my room where he could hear the groaning sound he began to chuckle. "There's nothing in your toy box," he said. But I didn't believe him. I made him thow the lid open expecting to see some loathsome creature from hell charge out at us, grab our ankles, pull us back into the toy box, and then the lid would shut with a satisfying clunk and that would be the end of us both.
There were only toys in the box. So what was making the sound? "Frogs," answered my father. The abstract fear of the unknown was made concrete and I felt like a 5th grade chump. I was scared of freaking frogs. Maybe that explains my future poor performance at the game of Frogger. Maybe that incident is what led me to take such glee in dissecting frogs in the 7th grade, and then spread fear on the school bus ride home when I put the dissected amphibian in some girl’s hair. There’s nothing abstract about that.
Let’s forget about frogs and talk Bigfoot. Like many young kids of the Seventies I was first exposed to Bigfoot via The Six Million Dollar Man show. I saw the episode and enjoyed it as usual. The trouble started when I went to sleep that night. I dreamed about Bigfoot. He was hanging out on the front stoop of our little house at 405 Lynn Street in the ‘boro. He started scratching at the door wanting in and I freaked out. I woke up, ran into my parents’ bedroom and I wouldn’t return to my room that night. I was a 9 year old scaredy cat.
The Bigfoot appearance on The Six Million Dollar Man was well received that he even got a cameo on Bill Cosby’s variety show. I tried to watch it to get over my fear, but as soon as he strode across the stage I panicked and fled from the living room. It was silly. I knew that Bigfoot was just Andre The Giant in make up, but something irrational had been touched in my soul. So I set about conquering my fears.
I became a Bigfoot nut. I checked out every book I could find on Sasquatch. If a National Enquirer headline boldly proclaimed that Bigfoot has been spotted I bought it. I started watching anything on television that had to do with the monster. I might have been terrified by the Patterson film of the purported Bigfoot striding around in Washington, but I sucked it up and soon my fear was gone. So, like with the frogs I then spread the Bigfoot fear to another one a few years later.
My family had moved out into the country again when I was a sophomore in high school. My mother’s best friend came to visit us with her son who was 4 years younger than me. He was really into horror and science fiction films. So I told him we had a family of Bigfoot, or would that be Bigfeet, on the property. I told him they would roar at night and climb the trees. You could even see them shaking the treetops. I barely noticed how nervous my talk had made him. Years later he told me he had not been able to sleep that night. That was funny enough, but then he asked me, “You were just putting me on, right?” Oh, to be gullible and young again...now that would truly be scary.