Monday, October 31, 2016


    What was he doing there?  Why would he attend a meeting about how to decorate the Freshman hallway for Homecoming?
    Two reasons.  First, teachers were always threatening detention to those who didn't attend such gatherings.  Second, he had an idea to suggest.
    He was sitting in the high school gymnasium, surrounded by his class, yet separated from them.  He had a row on the bleachers to himself, and was safely two or three rows removed in front and behind from his peers.  There would be no poking, pinching, hitting, throwing objects and nasty whispered remarks from the side or behind him, at least for the moment.
    The two teachers present, and the class president, explained what the meeting was about and then opened the floor to suggestions.  A majority of the boys wanted to do a Batman theme.  A majority of the girls wanted an Indiana Jones theme.  He could've raised his hand and made his suggestion at that moment, but he was scared.  He didn't want to be the only one to go against the two majorities.  A few moments passed before a brave and clever girl suggested decorating the hallway with toilets and urinals, with the Homecoming slogan of Flush 'em!
    It was the absolute brilliance and originality of the brave and clever girl's suggestion that gave him the courage to raise his hand, stand up, and start speaking.  He suggested, in his own awkward way, how the hallway could be decorated with man-eating plants, like from Little Shop of Horrors, and the slogan would be Crunch 'em!  As he was making his suggestion, he saw the class president moving her hand as if mimicking speech.  He didn't know if the class president was either explaining to someone in the front row what he was suggesting or if her hand gesture was simply saying, Blah, blah, blah.  Despite the visual ambiguity in his sight, he finished his suggestion and sat back down to absolute silence.
    After a bit, the class president broke the silence by asking if there were any other suggestions.  Nobody else had anything to offer, so she, with her presidential authority, listed the options that were suggested.  She mentioned BatmanIndiana Jones and Flush 'em.  That is where the voting list ended and that is when his world became muted in sound and slowed in motion.
    There were voices, voting...he raised his hand for Flush 'em even though he knew it didn't matter.  Nothing mattered in what were probably just minutes, but felt like hours in his mind.  Within those hours, thoughts quickly appeared and faded like after-images when rapidly closing his eyes.
    He knew he should stand up for himself, remind them of his suggestion, not that they had actually forgotten, but he knew he wouldn't dare.  The years had taught him to suffer in silence because his feelings were irrelevant.
    He wondered if someone, student or teacher, had noticed and considered speaking up for him, but deep down he didn't believe it, and really didn't want anyone to say anything.  Such a gesture would have been too much for him, and he didn't want to cry in front of them again.
    He imagined a teacher taking him aside after the meeting and telling him that it was a really shitty thing that happened, but he knew there wasn't a chance in hell for such an experience.  The years had taught him to count on no one within the school system.
    He thought about the seconds ... minutes ... hours ... days ... weeks ... months ... years he still had remaining in that suffocating building, surrounded daily by people who either tormented or ignored him.  Any friends he had in elementary and early middle school had either emotionally or physically moved away.
    He felt alone, and he suddenly saw what would happen if he didn't leave the school's poisonous atmosphere as soon as possible.
    He knew that suicide would be his future if he stayed any longer than the age of 16.  He didn't know by what method, he just knew that he would end himself, therefore ending his pain and loneliness.
    His world became loud and regular motion resumed as the meeting was unceremoniously adjourned with Indiana Jones winning.  He didn't give a damn, he just knew he had to get out of that gymnasium before he broke down.  
    His remaining Freshman and early Sophomore year rapidly deteriorated.  Thoughts of suicide haunted him every day, but not long after his 16th birthday he went to the principal's office and quit.
    With absolutely no surprise in his mind, the principal didn't argue or even attempt to convince him to stay.  The same indifference radiated from each teacher as he went from classroom to classroom acquiring signatures to show he had returned books and other school materials.  Each stop was like an echo of that day in the gymnasium, solidifying his belief that he was making the right decision.  A decision of survival.
    He felt they would be relieved to no longer see his face in the hallways and classrooms.  He imagined they would sleep easy believing there was nothing they could've done for the freak ... the outcast ... the nothing, as he slipped through the cracks and drifted away.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Click BOO for a Halloween trick or treat! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

booking freakboy: 'SALEM'S LOT

Originally published in 1975

"We keep coming back to my mental health," Matt said.

John was sitting in a hospital waiting room in Lincoln, Nebraska.  His father was having a battery of tests done, which, in the long run, would show he was in perfect health.  To keep himself distracted and entertained, John brought along a book that he had been reading.  'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King, as John would realize, was definitely a distraction.

The waiting room was taking on the soft glow of evening, which caused John to glance up from the seriously disturbing tale of vampires in a small Maine village.  He looked out of the large window and took note of the sun's position above a distant row of trees.  Sundown was steadily approaching and there was nothing to be done about it.

This fact filled John with a palpable uneasiness.  Yes, the literary vampires before him were the main cause of this growing tension, but being inside a hospital, surrounded by the sick and terminally ill, accelerated the dreadful sensation within him.  An irrational fear gripped his heart.  John felt, no, he knew that he had to finish reading SALEM'S LOT before sundown or something unspeakable would occur.

The race was on!  John started reading Stephen King's words as if his life depended on it.  Page after page was turned as the suspense mounted in the book and in the waiting room.  Every so often, John would steal a glance out of the window, keeping track as the sun continued its unstoppable descent.  

As the room grew dimmer and dimmer, John continued reading faster and faster.  His heart was  pounding with every word until at last he closed the book and looked around.  The waiting room was in a hazy dream state of fading light and growing shadows.  Out of the window, John could see the sun barely filtering behind the distant row of trees, daring to sink completely out of view.

John had won the race between nature and literature, so nothing unspeakable would happen that night.  He left the waiting room with a sense of relief and checked on his father, who had more tests scheduled for the next morning.  John soon found his way to a Super 8 Motel on the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska, where the vivid terror of SALEM'S LOT would haunt his thoughts until a happy, rainy music video caught his attention later that night.

Though, many years later, John would still shudder at the horror of that vampire-infested Maine village, and tell anyone who asked, that SALEM'S LOT was one of the scariest books he had ever read. 

(Please click 1995 to read about that happy, rainy music video.)

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Click BOO for a Halloween trick or treat!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mundane Clown Person

I am a recovering coulrophobic.  While I would probably not deal very well with a face-to-face meeting with a clown, I can now look at a photo or video of a clown and not feel utterly terrified.  What mitigated my allegedly irrational fear of clowns?  American Horror Story: Freak Show played a huge role in this because this TV series dared me to feel sympathy for a disturbing killer clown.  I saw what I feared as an emotionally complex, misunderstood human being.

Another factor in the lessening of my coulrophobia may have come from my friend Bill.  For many years he has gleefully tormented me with clown-related talk and materials.  I know, how thoughtful of him.  Yet, maybe through Bill's emotional torture, he started me down the road to overcoming my fear by immersing my psyche in all things clown.

This brings me to this week's post.  Way back in the very late 20th Century, Bill gave me a clown-related comic book.  In response, I wrote and illustrated a comic book for his birthday.  So, here is that one-shot issue from July 1999. 

(Please remember, I'm NOT an artist in the drawing sense.)

I would like to take a moment and thank Bill's husband Gary for scanning the pages of Mundane Clown Person and sending them to me.  I have a b&w copy, but I desired to showcase the original color version for this post.

Freak Out,

P.S.  Click BOO for a Halloween trick or treat! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

freakboy on film: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON ("I know what scares me..." Edition)

Written & Directed by
John Landis

“A naked American man stole my balloons.”
-Little Boy in the park

I could go on and on about how brilliantly clever An American Werewolf in London is.  The screenplay by John Landis gives the classic horror conventions a modern flip with humor, gore and sex, but with emotional emphasis on the characters.  The director, also John Landis, keeps the story visually moving with some crafty special effects and POV werewolf shots, plus he gets some terrific performances from the actors.

I could fill up this post about the great cast.  David Naughton brings an endearing charm as David Kessler, the somewhat naïve American with lycanthropic tendencies.  Jenny Agutter manages to make Alex Price, an overly trusting nurse, believable with some no-nonsense sweetness.  Griffin Dunne is the perfect comic relief as Jack Goodman, the decomposing undead friend popping up to give such heartwarming advice as encouraging David to commit suicide.  

Instead, for October's blog theme, I want to focus on one particular scene in An American Werewolf in London.  A scene that traumatized me as a child and took me years to watch in full.  A scene that still causes me to emotionally curl into a ball, hold my breath and have flashbacks of being so scared as a child that I would run out of the room when that scene started.

The calm before the knock at the door.

The scene starts with The Muppet Show, where Miss Piggy and Kermit are, ironically, discussing the violence in a Punch and Judy puppet show.  It is quickly revealed that David's younger brother and sister are watching this on TV, while his dad reads the newspaper and his mom is preparing supper.  David is sitting at the table doing homework when there is a knock at the door.  His dad opens the door to what is surely one of the most violently disturbing scenes in a horror film up to this point in time.

An army of assorted ghouls are at the door with machine guns.  These creatures immediately mow down David's dad.  One of the ghouls holds a knife to David's throat while he watches his mom get killed in the kitchen.  Then, with one last glimpse of The Muppet Show, a particularly demonic ghoul aims his machine gun and blows away David's younger brother and sister.  As if this wasn't enough, the ghouls start setting the house on fire, and ultimately slit David's throat.

As a 9 or 10 year-old boy, this dream/nightmare sequence seriously freaked me out.  I remember being absolutely terrified of watching The Muppet Show for quite some time afterwards because I knew a gang of ghouls would burst in and kill me.  The first time I watched an episode again, I kept turning around and staring at the front door, waiting for a knock to begin a bloodbath.

It took me nearly two decades to watch this scene in full.  I had been told by my sister that the ghoul slit David's throat, but I never watched that far into the scene.  After seeing David's family being killed, I covered my ears and closed my eyes the first time I saw the film, and would, upon later viewings, leave the room the second the nightmare started.   I think, when I was younger, I felt that seeing David's dream death would be one horror too many for me.  So, it was either out of bravery or masochism that I finally sat down to experience it all.

Well, it was a two-minute endurance test.  The scene still disturbed me, but seeing the final moment wasn't as horrific as I imagined.  For years I had pictured a waterfall of blood spewing from David's throat, but the cinematic dream reality was less gory.  Then David woke up in the hospital and everything was fine, until Nurse Alex walked in and pulled open a curtain!  I never knew that David's ghoul nightmare was a double whammy and I fell for it.  My fear, and my sister, managed to keep this secondary scare a secret from me, which still amazes me these many years later.

In hindsight, I should have never been allowed to watch An American Werewolf in London at such a young age.  Though, it wasn't my parents who allowed it, but my sister, who loves this film.  It also amuses me that the werewolf violence never overly bothered me, but that one short scene caused years of fear.

So pop some popcorn, sit back and watch one of my favorite funny, scary, traumatic horror films, but remember...

"Stay on the road.  Keep clear of the moors." - Dart Player

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Click BOO for a Halloween trick or treat! 

Monday, October 3, 2016

To Grab a Spider on Devil's Hill 

It was one of those summer days that was perfect for a leisurely drive with the windows down, feeling the soothing warm breeze circulating through the car.  A sister and brother decided to take advantage of the perfect day and hopped into a Chevy Impala.  Their drive through empty residential streets slowly took them to a short dirt road the locals called Devil's Hill.

How did this old dusty road become known under such a hellishly possessive name?  One answer is that the road is essentially an inverted hill.  Yet, the sister and brother had heard of a disturbingly gory crime that had been committed long ago in the adjacent wooded area.  As the story goes, two young boys, no more than 10 or 12, wanted to see what it was like to slaughter a person like they had seen their farmer fathers slaughter pigs.  The two boys lured a younger child into the woods and proceeded to find out, leaving the locals to call that shadowy area Devil's Forest, for evil must lurk there if two otherwise good boys could commit such an unspeakable act.

The sister, who was driving, could have turned left and avoided Devil's Hill.  The brother could have asked her to do just that, but he didn't.  They had heard the tales of how a child could be heard screaming in agony on still autumn nights, but it was summer and, more importantly, daylight.  So they slowly proceeded down onto the waiting dirt road, taking their time, as one does on a perfect summer day.

The brother was looking out his window, watching Devil's Forest easily drift by.  He was thinking about the old tale and turned to say something about its gruesomeness to his sister.  This was when the movement caught his eye.  Slow, steady and seemingly deliberate, a Daddy Long Leg was crawling up his sister's shirt.  He stared in silence as his torturous arachnophobia, with its paralyzing, sweat-inducing terror, gripped his being.  Flashes of his recurring childhood nightmare pulsed in his mind...opening the front door...thousands of spiders swarming inside...hiding in dark corners...waiting just for him.

What terrified him more was the knowledge of his sister sharing this illogically intense fear.  If the spider reached her neck, nothing good would happen.  His mind raced with the possible options.  Jumping out of the car seemed a viable solution, but was dangerous for both of them.  He could ask her to stop, get out of the car, and then tell her, but the spider could fall off in the car as she got out.  This would be unacceptable.  Finally, as he glanced from the Daddy Long Leg, halfway up his sister's shirt, to her open window, he knew there was only one thing he could do.

Calmly reassuring his sister not to panic, the terrified, but suddenly rational, brother reached over and grabbed the spider.  Even though he knew the safest choice would be to hold the spider long enough to throw it out of his open window, he also knew he might crack under the strain.  As quickly as he had grabbed the Daddy Long Leg, he leaned across and tossed it out of her window.

The sister nervously asked the brother what was on her shirt.  He told her the distressing truth and the siblings shuddered, but agreed that it was for the best that the spider had been a Daddy Long Leg.  For some reason they found them less visually disturbing than other species of spiders, but only slightly less.

As they drove up the other side of Devil's Hill and safely away from its emotional pull, neither could believe that the brother overcame his arachnophobia to do what needed to be done.  Yet, the siblings knew the grim truth of the situation.  If he had not grabbed the spider, their perfect summer day could have ended with a violent, fear-induced car crash, leaving them to become another bloody legend to be whispered of among the watchful trees of Devil's Forest, where a child screamed long ago.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Click BOO for a Halloween trick or treat!