The Night and the Unquiet Coffin, or I Was a Teenage Horror Fan

 

My name is Jenny, and I am a horror junkie. (“Hi, Jenny!”)

I have loved horror movies, shows and books for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest school memories was my teacher expressing concern to my mom because I was reading Comes the Blind Fury by John Saul on the playground instead of, you know, playing on the playground. I was in either third or fourth grade at the time, and mortified about getting “in trouble.” My mom, however, blew off the teacher’s concerns, reminding her that I had been reading since I was three, and, as a result, was bored by children’s books. I’m sure the teacher was less than impressed, but my mom was astonished that I would be discouraged from reading by a teacher. My guess is that my teacher was less concerned with me reading than she was with me reading a book with a creepy ghost girl/doll on the cover, but either way, my mom had my back.

I was raised on horror, and attended the Church of Stephen King on the regular. I remember desperately waiting for my mom to finish reading his latest novel (or Dean Koontz’s, or John Saul’s, etc) so that I could read it. We pillaged the horror section of the video store every weekend, bringing home the good, the bad, and the ugly. I grew up knowing Alfred Hitchcock’s face better than I knew the faces of some of my relatives.

Not only was I an avid consumer of horror, I also wrote horror. I’d give anything to get any of my childhood horror stories back now, but they are long gone. I’m guessing nowadays, the stories I wrote when I was young would have led to some pretty somber sessions with a child psychologist, but luckily I was raised in the 80s, an age when seatbelts were a mere suggestion.

Here’s the thing about being a horror fan-sometimes it makes people a bit nervous. Here’s another thing-when you’re a teenager, you often feel like you should tuck some bits of your personality away. I didn’t hide my love of horror really-I just became wary of who I shared it with. I loved other genres beyond horror, genres my friends were less likely to be skittish about. So I watched comedy (which is, in all honesty, tied for my favorite movie genre), and romance, and shoved the horror stuff in the back of the closet for the most part.

But, if you or a loved one is a horror junkie, you know it’s not the easiest love to tuck away. I was still reading horror and true crime books, and watching all things spooky, and writing some pretty dark stories, but I thought I was keeping it on the DL. Teenagers, however, are not known for their subtlety or finesse. So, while I wasn’t dressing as Freddy Krueger for Halloween, I was rocking combat boots and a Pantera shirt, and dyeing my hair black. I was about as incognito as a Mack truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.

In the many, many years that have passed since high school, I’ve come to embrace my dark side. I’ve allowed myself to fangirl about many things, including my beloved horror genre. I write horror, and am hoping to eventually make a living off of it. I also co-host a horror podcast, which has been such an amazing ride thus far.

Here’s the thing-who we are is who we are. The things that set your soul on fire are a part of you. Maybe they’re not the kind of thing you talk about at dinner parties (unless you dine with the right people), but they are what they are. So why hide them? Why even indulge the phrase “guilty pleasures?”

We are given this one life for sure-whatever, if anything, lies beyond isn’t certain. So why not embrace the dark, silly, and downright weird things that make you you? Find your tribe, and find your vibe.

We live in a society that often seems to be doing its damnedest to wear people down, to sand off all that makes us shine. Don’t. Let. It. Don’t let your teachers, your parents, your friends, your coworkers talk you out of who you are because they’re too scared to be (or don’t even know) who they are.

I was a teenage horror fan, and now I’m a middle-aged (gulp!) horror fan, and I refuse to feel bad about it. Life gives us enough to feel bad about without us adding ammo to the firefight. Be a horror fan, be a geek, be a tomboy, be a Harlequin Romance fan. Why not? It’s your life, so fricken live it.

The world is dark, and weird, and funny, and beautiful-so are you.

“I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin, that’s all. If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.” -Stephen King

 

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