Sometimes There Really Are Monsters Under The Bed
In memory of my dear Uncle Pete who passed away in the wee hours of this morning.
My father instilled a great love of monster movies in me. Most Saturdays and Sundays of my childhood were filled with marathons of the Creature Feature or The Monster Matinee. My Dad, my brother, my uncles and my cousins would settle down for the long haul of it most weekends. And we were the true couch potatoes; absolutely glued to the television set, living for commercial breaks to run to use the toilet so we wouldn't miss anything, and filling our bellies with wonderful junk to enjoy our movie experience-except for when I would hide behind my dad's big easy chair when it got a bit too scary for me.
You see, I am one heck of a big old chicken and it started years ago with my own imagination. But being a chicken-and knowing it-gave me plenty of ways of learning to cope with a bad case of "The Fraidy Cat Syndrome". Me, and my wild mind can make absolutely anything scary if I think about it long enough. So someone like me, after all of these years, wonders how they survived their life at all when in the blink of an eye a pencil can suddenly become possessed and shoot across the room and stab me in the eye. I'm still here so I must have survived.
I realize in thinking back on all my heebie jeebie fears that I found the oddest ways to cope with them. Now notice I wrote the word "cope" and not the phrase "get over" or "get past" because I have done neither. I am not even ashamed to admit I continue to be afraid of the same things I have always been afraid of, with new to add to the lot every day. The chicken lives on but it does not take me over because I said, "I cope." you see.
I learned to love monster movies by doing something strange. I made friends of the monsters so I would not be so fearful of them. I learned to feel sorry for them and their awful plights.
I can remember seeing Frankenstein and being absolutely filled with pity for the stupid monster. I mean think about it a moment; he was so lonely and he was so misunderstood and it didn't matter that he wanted to kill me in my sleep, he just needed a friend and he would be better.
And the Mummy? Well he had to wear all those bandages and he must have really hurt and that would make anyone a little cranky and want to kill people.
Poor, poor Count Dracula with the hypnotic eyes. He just needed a good woman to save him. He was lonely too. He didn't really want to tear out all those people's throats and drink their succulent blood. The poor guy just needed a wife and couldn't convince any of the women to marry him. And his only friend was obsessed with eating bugs so what the heck kind of life is that for a guy?
The monster who earned my deepest sympathy was The Werewolf. Oh it still breaks my heart when I think of how he was so alone in it all when he would wake up and realize he had hurt someone. I can remember how when I was a little girl, I would raptly watch the moon rising outside and say prayers for all the werewolves in the world, begging God to not let them change because it would be so hard for them the next day. Didn't anyone understand that a werewolf was a victim? It didn't matter that while I watched that movie I had to hide behind the chair when he went on his rampage (Do you remember that Dad?) and the hair would grow right out of his skin and the fangs sprouted from his horrible mouth and sent shivers up and down my spine. Every time the gun was loaded with silver bullets-I hoped that someone had made a mistake and had used gold instead so he did not have to die. It wasn't the poor werewolf's fault, really.
Those were some of the most fun times of my life, to be scared to death with my family all around me. And it lasted for years especially when VCR's came into play. Uncle Pete was the first to get one. Guess what the first movie he rented for us was? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre! Oh what joy to be able to rewind and find out that what terrified me minutes before could still terrify me minutes later! And of course there was the added excitement of Uncle Pete's narrative, "Now you know kids, this really happened…and they were never caught…" and his eyebrow rose in a knowing way. And then I spent nights wondering if those cannibals knew where I lived and if their junky truck could make it all the way from Texas to the Midwest.
In my adulthood, there came the Freddy Krueger's, Jason's and Michael Meyers' of the world that if I tried hard enough, I could find a bit of sympathy for them and they became less scary. It's much harder to find the humanness in those kinds of monsters but if I talk myself into it-I can.
Zombies are my current fascination and I am driving my family crazy with that one. I have to cover my eyes when they are chowing down but I adore them anyway. You have to have some sort of feeling for how stupid the poor creatures are. They just want our brains because they don't have any of their own to think with.
I have spent years of sleepless nights worrying about imaginary things that can never get me-or can they? I take great comfort in that thought. There is so much to be afraid of in the real world that I prefer my imaginary fears. I would much rather worry about what is hiding under my bed and pull my covers up to my chin to keep the vampires out than worry my neighbor is a terrorist planning to blow me up. I want to be scared of the darkness in my basement and an alien abduction instead of not being able to pay the bills. I want to worry about zombies eating my brains rather than if I will lose mine to some dreaded disease or a drive by shooting.
Monsters seem so much kinder sometimes than real life people. At least many of them are portrayed to feel awful about being terrible. Maybe all of the monsters of the world are really afraid of us and worry that we humans are going to get them. Maybe we are what they threaten their children with to get them to go to bed, "Hey, if you don't brush your snaggletooth, I'll send the human that lives under your bed after you and you know what that means?"
Hmm…I wonder what that really does mean.
Monika M. Basile
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