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The Best Advice I Never Got: We Need Ghouls and Mo...

The Best Advice I Never Got: We Need Ghouls and Monsters to Cope with Real Fear

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageMany moons ago when I was quite little and before I could read, bedtime frequently included mom or dad reading a story or poem from one of my favorite books. It wasn’t until very recently I realized that it wasn’t Edgar Allen Poe that first piqued my fascination with the macabre, it was one very particular poem in the children’s book I liked.

The poem had a dark edge, something I had never been exposed to, and I distinctly remember being frightened. But in the fear there was also a fascination because I didn’t believe this could really happen….it was out of the scope of my 3 or 4 year old reality and experiences. I was so fascinated by this poem that it was my number one request until my mom decided not to read it to me anymore. The poem is “Babes in the Woods.”

My dears do you know how a long time ago

Two little children, whose names I don’t know,

Were stolen away on a fine summers day,

And left in the woods, I’ve heard people say.


And when it was night, so sad was their plight.

The sun, it went down, and the moon gave no light.

They sobbed and they sighed, and they bitterly cried,

And the poor little things laid down and died.


And when they were dead, the robin, so red,

Brought strawberry leaves, and over them spread.

All the day long He sang them this song:

Poor babes in the woods!

Poor babes in the woods!

file1061286392784Since my first exposure to the macabre “Babes in the Wood” nursery rhyme, I gravitated to most things scary. Poe for his fantastical man-against-man, man-against-nature and eerily dark man-against-self themes. I love anything Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney for their interpretations of vampires, werewolves and mummies. And then there are the zombie and ghost tales. The one thread all these horrors have running through them is that not only do the themes scare us as we watch or read, but they tap into our deeper fears.file1541253679431

Vampires who come alive in the dark and can control others exhibit our own primitive fear of what goes bump in the night, as well as the fear of another controlling us and/or making us do things we don’t want to do.

Zombies raise fear at the thought that some outside force (virus, bacteria, nuclear war, etc.) can greatly affect our lives, but worse yet, they represent the total loss of any personal control of our actions. For people who like to be in control, this is horrifying.

Mummies reflect our fear of being buried alive. Their curse of eternal life while walking the earth forever perhaps taps into a fear of being separated from God for eternity.

file0001740141496It is safe to be scared of something make believe. Monsters are far less frightening than delving into our real, worldly fears of sickness, nuclear war, the state of our society, the economy, political relations, divorce, death. Our make believe monsters allow us to feel fear and pass through it. Even though the monsters aren’t real, we are given the ability to experience real fear, for a controlled amount of time, and then recover from that fear.

Throughout my many years of watching/reading many things scary, I’ve noticed a trend. When our world is full of uncertainty, and real threats loom on the horizon, there is an increase in horror genre movies and books.  Chris Tagatac, in his article “Hollywood Horrors Seem to Coincide with Difficult Times” backs me up. Tagatac writes:

“Post-World War II saw 20 and 30 percent jumps in the numbers of horror-film releases. We saw similar increases during the 1950s, when there was a lot of paranoia about the bomb, atomic warfare, and everyone going up in a mushroom cloud.”

He also states:

“Today we are at war in the world and horror films are once again helping us project our fears away from ourselves and onto the big screen.”

In the article, Tagatac refers to George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and attributes a statement to Romero:

“We are a country on edge about our future. Horror films give us an opportunity to privately try on our fears for two hours in the dark, in the safety of our comfy chair.”

file000388983772Monsters and ghouls allow us to feel fear we may not otherwise express, in a safe and manageable way. In the past few years, however, there is a genre within horror movies referred to as “torture porn” (Saw, Hostel, etc.) that focuses on the suffering of the victim and primarily features violence and gore. These films, glorified gore fests, illustrate the absolute worst in mankind – the sadistic, sociopathic man-against-man theme. And although they are attracting huge audiences (myself EXCLUDED), I take issue with glorifying a thinking human being who takes pleasure from another’s terror, pain, and suffering. It is that kind of thinking responsible for acts of genocide.

Monsters and horror stories will continue to fascinate and attract us. Halloween allows us to stand on the fringe of scary, and while dipping a toe in, decide how much we want to feel fear conjured up by make believe monsters and ghouls.

IMGP2544This is one of my favorite times of year. I can record as much scary as the networks care to air. It is a time specifically carved out to celebrate being scared, to welcome ghouls and ghost to our front doors, to feel fear that taps into the very nature of our being.

It’s good to finally know there really is a place in life for make believe monsters and that it’s OK to like horror movies. The advice I never got: we need ghouls and monsters to help cope with our real fears.

SO…what are the REAL and make-believe monsters YOU fear? Looking forward to hearing from you….



  1. Carol Cassara

    31 October

    I’d never thought about it this way. It makes sense…but I never did like monster tales. Still don’t like scary movies.
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    • Lee Aldrich

      31 October

      Carol – I used to tell people that when the world was nuts there were more horror stories. Of course they thought I was nuts. Lots of people hate ’em – scares them to death. Me…well…I started at a young age learning to appreciate the macabre. (Maybe those people are right!) Thank you for reading and for your comments.

  2. Sue Shoemaker

    31 October

    What a coincidence, Lee! The house you selected for this post is located about three miles from where I live.

    Regarding scary movies…I LOVED watching Shock Theater as a child. The old mummy, Frankenstein and Dracula movies were “manageable” for me. As far as the mummy and Frankenstein were concerned…they walked SO SLOW, I just knew I could out-run them if I had to. The “victims” always tripped over tree roots, and that’s the only reason the monsters caught them.

    However, once movies became more “realistic,” where the characters were no longer based on “make-belive monsters,” I stopped watching them. Once the plots were based on scenarios that could really happen because the killer was a crazed sociopath or psychopath, I could no longer permit that kind of scary information to be stored in my brain. I have such a good imagination, that if I allowed myself to “re-run” scenes of scary movies when faced with an unsettling situation, I’m thinking my fear would get the better of me.

    Facing our real fears is huge. I love the book by Susan Jeffers…FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY. The title pretty much sums it up. We all have fears…but we must not permit our fears to “get in the way” of becoming our best selves. When we know what we are afraid to do…that’s the very thing we must do.

    I was in my forties the first time I spent my first night “home alone.” I know that probably seems a little strange to people who are comfortable being alone, but I had never had that experience…there was always someone else “at home” …parents, siblings, roommates, husband or children. Once I got through that first time alone, being alone no longer filled me with fear. Fear can absolutely paralyze us and keep us from doing the things we realy would love to do in life.

    Today, as a Tour Director, I travel by myself quite often and when I do something I have never done before by myself (like drive in Boston or across the Mackinac Bridge alone)…it helps me gain more confidence. And…since I don’t have “those scary movies” running through my brain at the most inopportune times…I have “nothing to fear” but my own self-generated F.E.A.R.s themselves.
    (F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real)

    • Lee Aldrich

      31 October

      Sue – that is too wild that that house is near you! I hear you regarding the shock theatre. And of course for those of us raised in the Detroit area, there was Sir Graves Ghastly (channel 7, Saturdays, 1pm), the the Ghoul (channel 56 – late at night, totally campy) both of whom showed all kinds of monster movies.

      Fear is quite a funny thing. It can either stop us in our tracks or push us to be better. I’ll have to check on Jeffers book – I’ve not heard of it.

      Glad you got to spend some alone at night time. And who cares at what age it happened. Love you F.E.A.R definition – quite true!

      Thank you for reading and as always a pleasure to read your responses. Have a spooky day!

      • Sue Shoemaker

        1 November

        The Ghoul attended Bowling Green State University starting in ’66…I was there from the fall of ’69 – spring of ’71. Unfortunately (?) I never met him.

        • Lee Aldrich

          1 November

          NO WAY! He was a Detroit staple – all campy and broadcasting from his garage. I loved him!

  3. Bouncin Barb

    1 November

    As far back as I can remember (and that’s about 1963, my older brothers used to wait for my parents to go to sleep on Friday night, then come in and wake me up to go watch Creature Features and Chiller Theater with them. I loved it and was never scared, just in awe. You had to use your imagination back then and it was great entertainment. Those movies let me to enjoying mystery and suspense books which to this day is my way of relieving my stresses. I never really gave it a thought until now. What an eye opener!!
    Bouncin Barb recently posted…No SignsMy Profile

    • Lee Aldrich

      1 November

      Oh my Gosh! I forgot about Creature Features! Godzilla, Mothra, The Hand….I really do love all things scary. Perhaps a wee bit of an adrenaline junkie.. Well, there could be worse things!

  4. Teresa

    3 November

    When I was a kid the scariest shows I ever watched were Twilight Zone and a series of chiller features hosted by Elvira. I don’t remember ever being afraid to watch those shows at the time. Today is a different story.

    There’s no way I would be able to sleep after watching one of the scary movies playing in theaters now. The special effects are just TOO well done for my taste.

    What you said about the number of scary movies and books increasing in proportion to the threats we see in the world makes sense. That’s a connection I would not have made. I’m of the mindset that You Get Out What You Put In so I can’t imagine “wanting” to see another scary movie. I don’t know if I could deal with my over-the-top frightened self if I did 🙂
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    • Lee Aldrich

      4 November

      Teresa – I love/loved the Twilight Zone and who could forget the “Mistress of the Dark” and all her cleavage?! It really is amazing that our world works the way it does. I guess it’s better to obsess about and be scared to death about make believe monsters as opposed to the ones we face every day. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the post. PS – Your last line made me giggle!

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