Story of the Month: Nightmare on Elm Street and the Cure to Horror


I grew up as an air force kid, moving where my father was stationed.  In 1987, he was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, outside of Las Vegas and every few weeks took the windowless plane to Groom Lake (yep Area 51) to participate in classified activities.  What this meant for me was that I lived in the little base housing community at the end of the Nellis flight line.  We were there until he retired that winter, and it was here that I had a formative Halloween experience.

I rarely rained while we were in Vegas, but when it did it was torrential, often resulting in low flash floods.  My sister and I (My sister was nine and I was six at the time) were always fans of Halloween and being scared (my mom once chased us around the house in a weird theatrical art mask) and we adored Ghostbusters so we were eager for Halloween.  I think this was the year of our glow-in-the-dark skeleton costumes and masks…though I may be wrong.

Unfortunately for us there would be no trick-or-treating in the small base housing neighborhood.  That Halloween night we had one of the worst rain storms we experienced while in Nevada and it curtailed all door-to-door candy hunting.  My mom, also a Halloween nut decided we wouldn’t go quietly into the Halloween night, however, and we took a trip to our local video rental store to get some good horror movies and treats since to prevent the weather from dampening our Halloween spirit.

My mom rented A Nightmare on Elm Street 1-3.  We went home settled in and started the movies.

I honestly can’t say I remember much about that first viewing.  Other than abject terror.  My mom fell in love with Freddy, I thought, “Now I’m not even safe in my dreams!”  At that age I was kind of scared of everything.  It didn’t help having an older sibling who liked to frighten you, but Freddy was a whole new level.  I distinctly remember the creepy way Freddy’s arms extended in the alley while chasing Tina.  He brutal death.  How eerie her appearance in the body bag was.  I remember Kristen in 3 running down the hallway with a child’s skeleton that yelled at her “Put me down you’re hurting me!” a phrase my sister and I tortured each other with for years.  And I remember being more scared than I ever was before.  My six-year-old brain couldn’t handle all it was seeing.

The fear actually lasted for days.  My mom actually got annoyed and told me I couldn’t even watch Ghostbusters again until I got over it.  At one point I carried my Ray Stantz action figure proton pack down the halls with me for protection.  And even though she was annoyed, my mom tormented us a bit with the line, “Freddy’s gonna get you if you don’t watch out!”

My intrinsic fear of all things and everything lasted for a long time.  Even after moving from Las Vegas to Nashville I can remember being afraid walking down the long dark hallway of my parents’ house to my room.  Not wanting to look from my room to the living room into the shadows.  Keeping Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, dinosaur toys, and stuffed animals around my room as active guards while I slept…  It seemed I’d be one of those people who was afraid of anything even kind of scary.

Then one day…I just got over it.  The fear of the dark and of fictional monsters started to fade and horror movies lost their effect.  I loved slasher movies and can remember sometime between the ages of 10-12 watching a Friday 13th movie marathon with my sister at my grandparents’ house on some Thanksgiving or Christmas.

These days I have a hard time being afraid of anything “scary.”  Yeah movies can creep me the eff out (The Grudge and Paranormal Activity 3 both achieved this) but nothing has made me afraid to that level again.  I started thinking of it as an adult and I told my mom I think she gave me a horror movie inoculation.  I received the most terrifying dose of something as a kid and later in life I might get some mild cases but nothing too devastating.  Even to the point where I volunteer to walk with ghosts and jump at the chance to see if the latest “most scary movie evvarr!” is actually scary at all (usually those are just dumb).

I had the chance to see Robert Englund in Nashville a few years ago and considered telling him that he and Wes Craven scared me so much as a kid that I was scared of everything for 3 years afterward but then never scared again.  I know Robert must hear “you scared me so much” a lot, playing one of the world’s iconic horror personality.  But I wonder if he’s ever been told his brand of horror actually cured people of fear?  If not I’ll be the first to tell the world: A Nightmare on Elm Street scared the fear right out of me.  My hope for the genre is that maybe someday someone will make a movie that can actually put the fear of horror back into me…but until then at least my last real Hollywood scare was by one of the best.

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