By Logan Metcalf
Stemming from my childhood, there have been two constant phobias that have always plagued me. Unsurprisingly, they both originate from the Master of Horror himself, Stephen King.
The first phobia is bathtubs/showers. Okay, that might sound a little weird. Let me explain: I’m not afraid of bathtubs themselves (that’s just stupid). Rather, I am afraid at what could be lingering in them, behind a shower curtain. The bathtub scene from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining had left a prominent scar on my psyche. The scene was so effective that to this day, I still rip open shower curtains in bathrooms before doing my business, purely out of habit.
The second phobia I have is clowns… sort of. That phobia stems from the videotape pictured above. Yes, the tape in question is of the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s IT, starring Tim Curry. This specific tape has a very interesting history regarding the development of my fears and how I finally grew out of them… sort of.
It all actually started before I was even born. In 1986, the actual novel It was released. And one of Mr. King’s valued customers was my very own mother. She had bought the book, and whenever she wasn’t dealing with my two older sisters, she would read it. A favored place and time for her reading were in the living room, while my father watched the news. According to him, he would look over once in a while and see my mother visibly shudder—she was frightened by the book that much. She would have to put it down for a moment, to compose herself before continuing. Regardless, my mother enjoyed the book quite a bit.
Jumping ahead to 1998, I was finally in the picture, at the ripe young age of six. It was my mother’s birthday and she was receiving gifts left and right. I distinctly remember her sitting in the dining room, when my oldest sister walked in with a rectangular package. She handed the gift to my mother, who then proceeded to open it up. As she ripped the packaging away, she glanced at her gift and exclaimed “Oh my God!” There in her hands, was the videotape. A white elephant sort of gift for my mother. I glanced at the cover of the tape, Tim Curry’s Pennywise leering out at me with a wicked grin. His claws ripping into our reality, poised to strike at whomever was unlucky enough to be staring at him. And to be perfectly frank with you, I was scared shitless, immediately.
Now, here’s what’s interesting about this phobia. I was not afraid of clowns. Clowns were funny. Plus, I had always had an interest in the circus (although I had never gone to one and still have not). But, no, I was not afraid of clowns. I was only afraid of this particular clown: Pennywise, as played by Tim Curry. The guy frightened me terribly. In the years after this gifting, I would have nightmares that the evil clown would come to get me. That he would be hiding underneath my bed or in my closet, smiling that horrible grin. Waiting for me to fall asleep before he kidnapped me and killed me. Every time I would pass a sewer drain, I would try to stay as far away as possible, cautiously peeking into it. I prepared myself to see the terrible clown whenever I did this. That white face, with its shock of red hair and piercing evil eyes. I would always imagine my heart stopping if I ever saw him in one of these sewer drains, beckoning me to come closer… close enough to reach. In every dark corner of the world, where there was no light; he would be there. Waiting for me and me alone. I let my imagination run wild regarding where he was lurking and what he would do if he ever caught me.
And so I begged and pleaded my mother to get rid of the tape. I wanted her to put it into the deepest and darkest hole she could find. I made her promise to do this for me. And she did. By the next morning, it had seemingly disappeared off of the face of the Earth. I would ask my mother where it would be, but she honestly couldn’t ever remember. That was how good of a hiding spot it was. It was gone… forever.
Until, a couple of days ago, that is. Having been doing some house cleaning, my mother stumbled upon the tape, tucked into the farthest corner of a cabinet. When she found it, she called me in and had me look at it. Holding this tape in my hands, I did not shrink in fear or terror. Rather, I looked at the tape in amusement of my childish fears. It was perfectly intact. Never opened. Looked exactly as it did 16 years ago. It was astonishing to think I was so frightened of… this.
And that’s when I realized how important this tape actually was to me. I had grown up in constant fear of this movie. With the advent of DVD, my brother-in-law actually had a copy of it and I would plead the same case I did to my mother all those years ago. But, as I grew older, I realized that this constant fear was ridiculous. And yet, it was beneficial to me. Before I read the book, I would imagine these horrible things that the clown would do to me. My imagination growing up was in overdrive regarding this movie. A movie I hadn’t even seen! Plus, the interest I’ve had in it helped pave the way to my love of horror. As I grew older, I read the actual novel and I loved it. In fact, it is definitely one of my top favorite novels of all time. This would have been mind-blowing to me at six years old. After all these years, I finally found this dreaded tape and can look back on how it has inspired me so.
The tagline for the movie ostentatiously claims to “unleash everything you were ever afraid of.” And yet, this tape was everything I was ever afraid of. And everything that has made me the horror fanatic that I am today.
Now, it’s time to face that bathtub-and-shower phobia of mine…
Watch the horrifying original trailer of Stephen King’s IT here: