This will be the first of no doubt several posts I make on what scared the poop out of me as a child. Of course we all grow out of our childhood fears but its always interesting to revisit them and try to remember what it was like to truly be terrified by something we saw on TV or elsewhere. Its certainly not a feeling I’ve been able to experience since. As we grow up reason and clear heads usually prevail and beat our silly child hood fears into submission. So lets revisit our Childhood Nightmares…
The 80’s were a weird time when I think back on it. Urban legends were pretty rampant since there was no Snopes.com to tell us different. There was no internet, no 24 hour cable channels or reality TV so we didn’t get bombarded with a lot of information as kids. We had basic cable and the big 3 networks were what you watched every night. It was mostly sitcoms in those days with a peppering of news and magazine shows and of course the terrifying series called Unsolved Mysteries. Hosted by Robert Stack usually donning a Trench coat, Unsolved Mysteries was a series that did stories on true crime, hauntings, UFO’s, Bigfoot, monsters, and missing persons. Each week the show would feature several stories that would likely make any child under the age of 8 fill his pants. For me it was like a car crash, I was scared to look but I dare not look away!
Even the opening theme song was terrifying!
Watching the show now it will feel like a mediocre series with bad reenactments and synthesizer music but back in the late 80’s the show was the source of most of my nightmares. Just the opening music of the show would make me avoid any dark rooms like the plague for the rest of the week! The true crime segments were scary but once in awhile they would have a segment where the only image they had of a suspect was a police sketch. For whatever reason the police sketch literally would make me hide my head under the blankets. If I looked at it too long it would burn into my brain and be there every time I closed my eyes that night. I’d wonder if that man in the sketch was waiting outside my house to get in after we all fell asleep.
I didn’t fare any better with the ghost stories or UFO’s either. Those seemed to get me just as bad. The one that sticks out most is the story of the haunted bunk bed call Tallmans ghost. Which you can watch below. Its another example of how badly the show has aged. The special effects are laughable, the acting horrible, and the allegedly “real” eyewitness accounts are complete bullshit but to an 8 year old its more nightmare fuel. No ghost is ever shown in the segment, when the little boy says he saw a burning witch behind his bedroom door the show doesn’t really dwell on it long and they don’t show it. But in my mind I imagined terrifying laughing witch on fire and watching that little boy in his room. I’m pretty certain that I spent the whole night under the covers just because of that image.
Unsolved Mysteries featured a plethora of devil worshiping cults it seemed. The 80’s had satanic panic going on big time. I can name at least 3 locations in my home town that were allegedly the meeting places of satanic worshipers. I’m sure every town had the stories and mine was no different. There were allegedly cults everywhere that had well to do business people and pillars of the community as members. On occasion there would be a segment on Unsolved Mysteries where a cult would be thrown out there as a suspect adding more fuel to the satanic panic fire. It was a weird time.
Unsolved Mysteries didn’t meet a nutjob they didn’t like. They managed to make even the most ridiculous stories at least plausible to my child mind. UFO’s and Alien abductions were no different. I think all kids go through a phase where they openly believe conspiracy theories hook, line and sinker and I was the same. UFO’s, alien sightings, gov’t conspiracies were all important subjects for me and thankfully unsolved Mysteries was there to provide me with lots of “true” stories. Whether it was Roswell, Country wide sightings in Belgium or a woman that claimed she spoke to lights in the sky, Unsolved Mysteries would bring it to you and do it in a terrifying way. The scariest one for me is the story of the Allagash Abductions.
Its been pretty much proven at this point that the group made up the whole thing in order to win a contest but back when I watched the story in the 80’s it literally scared me to the point that I was deathly afraid i was going to be abducted if I shone a flashlight in the sky. I can remember nights laying awake in bed and being worried about aliens coming into the window to get me while I slept!
My sister and I always had chores we had to do each night such as feeding the dogs outside and later the horse that my sister had. So we often would put this off till after dark especially in the winter months. I can remember on at least a few occasions when we put it off til after watching Unsolved Mysteries and being almost too scared to go outside. We usually had to have one of our parents at least stand outside by the back door so we could get our chores done without collapsing and curling up in the fetal position because we heard a noise or saw a light.
Thanks Unsolved Mysteries for Contributing to my Childhood Nightmares.