When I was a child I had a recurring dream. I was whooshing down this metal, twisting slide, miles up in an evening sky. As I reached out my hands to feel the wind gushing past, the veins in my wrist caught on a protruding piece of metal, as they do, and along with all the arteries, were tugged up and out, ripping from my body as I kept sliding down at speed, leaving them behind, dangling from the metal like red, wet, wool. All except for one final knot, which held in my skin, attaching me to the slide. So I hung there. Dangling from my veins. Mortified.
I actually knew where this came from. In NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3: DREAM WARRIORS, Freddy uses a teen's veins as marionette strings. Great film. Even greater when you're about 7 years old. My nana and granda had just leased, not bought, a video player and along with my mother and older brother, two aunts, two cousins and little me, all somehow magically squashed into one sofa and two armchairs and watched the first two videos we ever rented – THE COLOUR OF MONEY and the first NIGHTMARE. Minds utterly blown and happily terrified by the latter experience, it was dramatically revealed my aunt Chrissie across the road had rented PART 3. Well, it was nearly midnight on a school night so OF COURSE we ran and got a lend of it and all sat up. Shellshock heaven. I happily wobbled to bed on traumatised legs, delighted with this nasty new world opening up before me. It was all dandy until I decided to describe the films as part of my 'daily news' in school the next day. Interrupting the 'tongue phone' and 'vein puppet' babblings, the shocked teacher asked 'What kind of sicko would let you watch that stuff?' 'Em, my mam', I replied.
I know I might have been a rare exception amongst kids, the extremity of the stuff I watched as if they were cartoons. My cousin from Canada brought over a pirate copy of The Evil Dead, which was banned at the time, that was watched practically on a loop without batting an eye. I looked down with pity on those poor fool classmates watching silly immature programmes while I lorded it up like a lottery winner with my high brow video nasties. 'What babies!', thought the kid who still couldn't figure out this 'left and right' thing.
I wondered recently how much of my childhood fears and nightmares were created by films I saw rather than originating from actual experiences? That lead me to thinking, what did unwarped children have nightmares about? What were they afraid of? Were we more innocent back then without the influence of the internet and its terrifying accessibility to unspeakable doings? Jesus, I would have gone to TOWN if I'd had the web back then. I realised I'd never know the answer by speculating or reading articles, the only true way would be to actually sit down and interview lots of children about their nightmares. Hear it from the foal's mouth.
So I did.
I interviewed different kids and asked them some questions about what frightened them and tried very hard not to come across as a creepy freak that might actually go on to become one of those very things. Did I succeed in that bit? I guess we'll find out in another few years.
We'll kick off this series of interviews with Callie, aged 6. I've transcribed relevant parts of the interview, as there was a tendency to wander. Mainly on my part. I've also posted some of the recorded parts of the interview which come across as a kind of demonic version of 'Give Up Your Oul Sins.'
Anyway. Callie, aged 6 -
So are you excited about the interview?
Are you ready for your first question?
Did you ever have a nightmare?
Well, I had one about a spider once. I was just having a pet spider, I was minding it for a while but it got out of the tank and it became big and it nearly bited off my head. It took down a few people that annoyed me, it took down Cal, George, Lee and mostly Jessie.
Are they the ones that annoy you the most?
Mmm. It left Jessie's head and a leg but not the rest of her.
What did it do to the other three?
Well there wasn't any more, then I just woke up
And were you scared in the dream?
Well sometimes I am but then I just realise in my dream to try and pinch somebody.
Only one more one I had, it started out a bit funny and then got a bit fun and then got a bit bad. I was in the school, it was about to be hometime and I was out getting me coat, nobody was there but me down at this big table with a statue of Jesus and a zombie started walking up to me.
What did the zombie look like?
Well the zombie had blue skin it had red hair it had about only one finger it had about only one arm and it had only one leg.
Oh God. How was it moving?
It was kinda just creeping up on the floor.
That is creepy. What else happened?
Then I got a fright and ran to try and tell me class but then when everyone turned around they were zombies.
They were after me and then I just woke up. Ever since then I was afraid of the school when I was little.
Goodness. Your next question, whats the scariest thing that ever happened to you in real life? Not in a dream.
In real life I was little I was only about 3 or 4 years old, I climbed up the biggest slide at Pirate Cove and I slided down it and nearly got a, I had a heart attack.
Cos it was so tall?
Yeah, I nearly tumbled down it.
Did you ever read a scary book?
Well probably no actually so I think we can skip that question.
I see. Do you know any ghost stories that really happened?
Well no but I do know one story that was scary.
What is it?
And did anyone escape?
Only the oldest brother but then they caught him.
And what did they do with him?
What do you think is the most frightening thing in the whole world?
And is there any way to escape?
Now, I'm going to show you a poster for a film and you have to guess what it's about.
I think it's gonna be about a baby and everything is going to be murdering and zombies and death and blood. There's a little baby in a cradle on a hill, it might fall down and the baby might die.
And I think that's the boy when they're older.
Any more little facts about it before we go on?
I think this is about some kids go to a house and ghosts and sounds and everything keep popping up until they get to the last room and meet this guy. I'm thinking he's an evil ghost vampire half bat and these are all devil cats or dogs around him and it's called Freechock Ninjit.
Finally we talked about Halloween costumes. Callie will be dressing up as Anna from FROZEN, but when I asked her if there was anything that girls could dress up as but boys couldn't, she came out with this absolute humdinger.
Boys are ugh,like teenage ones, ugh, just like so annoying sometimes.
But I'm not complaining about you as a a teenager.
Oh thanks, thanks very much.
Thanks for an incredible interview.