Stay Out of the Attic!

Erik's oldest daughter turned 16 today, so we are republishing a column from 2001, when she was just 4 years old.

Ever since I was a small boy, and watched them on TV or in the theatre, I've always had strong feelings when it comes to horror and scary movies.

They scare the bejeezus out of me.

Whenever I make the stupid mistake of seeing a scary movie, I have nightmares, I jump at strange xsounds, and I'm convinced that all the monsters in every scary movie I've ever seen, including Jaws, are under my bed, on my side. They stay away from my wife's side, because they know she owns a shotgun and I do not.

It's weird, because I'm not afraid of psychological thrillers like Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct, or Copycat. In fact, I enjoy them, and have seen them several times, and not because Sharon Stone gets naked.

It doesn't matter whether I'm at home (the monsters are in my closet), at a friend's house (the monsters are in his closet), or at the movie theater (the monsters are hiding in the popcorn), I'll be scared witless.

But no one takes my fears seriously. Just a few weeks ago, my wife, my sister-in-law, and her husband absolutely demanded that I go see The Others, the Nicole Kidman-Tom Cruise pre-divorce production, and they promised me "it wasn't so bad."

The Others is a "supernatural suspense thriller" about a young mother (Nicole Kidman) and her children (two pasty-faced English kids) who live in a house on the Channel Islands. The kids believe there are ghosts in the house, and Kidman gradually realizes her kids may just be right.

One reviewer called it "the scariest thriller of the year."

"The scariest thriller of the year!" I informed my wife a week later. "You made me see the scariest thriller of the year."

The last time I watched a scary movie was August 1989, 24 hours before I was supposed to start graduate school. I hadn't seen a horror movie for several years, and thought I could watch The Shining with no problem. I told myself, "I'm 21 years old and a college graduate, so I should be able to handle The Shining."

When it was over, I went to my dad's house, where I was staying that summer, sleeping in my sister's old room. As you would expect, I had nightmares, and woke up in a sweat. I slowly pulled the covers back with my feet, since the movement would be hidden by the covers (monsters can only see you if you move), and did the unthinkable: I opened my eyes.

That's when I saw something hovering several feet above me — a small white blob. Of course, my eyesight is so bad without my glasses, it could have been the Queen. However, since it was 4:00 a.m., I knew there shouldn't be anything hovering several feet above me, including the Queen.

I didn't know what I was seeing, but I couldn't look away. I wanted to stare death in the face when it came. I lay there, listening to my thudding heart, sweating profusely. And if I didn't get to the bathroom fast, I was going to have a bigger problem than just having my life force sucked out by the Queen.

As time passed, I began to remember the setting of the room, the various items my sister had left there from years past, and it suddenly hit me: I wasn't looking at a ghostly white blob or the Queen at all! It was just a stupid Winnie the Pooh mobile she'd had when she was a baby. I guess she had been nostalgic for her days as an infant and hung the stupid thing over her bed. I had been lying there for 30 minutes, trying not to wet myself, waiting to be pounced on by Winnie the Pooh and his friends!

I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but was so disgusted at my own wussiness, I stormed out of the bed, stomping on several monster hands, and went to the bathroom. Afterward, I was still too scared to go back to sleep, so I watched infomercials until I had to get up anyway.

Until I was dragged kicking and screaming to The Others, it was the last time I ever watched a horror movie.

And I'm not going to see anymore until I get a shotgun of my own.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My latest book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.


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