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The Heebie-Jeebies Maria Sylvester There has to be at least several reasons why so many people, including myself, decide to watch a scary movie or a TV show one dark night and subsequently become terrified and paranoid for weeks afterward. Those who choose to watch scary shows could easily make a wise choice and go to bed with nothing to look forward to but soft slumber and peaceful dreams. However I, and so many others, continuously decide against reason to press play and thereby spend a very stressful evening trying unsuccessfully to sleep with one eye open. Movies and TV shows affect audiences emotionally. A sad movie makes us feel down in the dumps and a comedy can make us laugh. Romantic movies thrill the heart and mysteries intrigue us with suspense, but scary movies have a singular effect on us all. They thrill audiences with terror, not unlike a roller coaster ride, lingering in the subconscious and supplying each dark night with dread and foreboding. A recent incident highlights this behavior. A month ago I decided to rent The Walking Dead and watched four back-to-back episodes right before bedtime. That night I had to sleep with a light on. I also lay awake for hours, flinching at every unexpected sound and when I finally fell to sleep I had really bad nightmares. Repeat- edly, I would wake in a cold sweat and look around my bedroom for zombies. "Go back to sleep, dummy." Part of my brain said, "Zombies don't exist outside of movies. Even if they weren't fictional, they wouldn't be in the house. They don't know how to open doors." But no amount of reasoning could help me sleep. Zombies haunted my nights, and I had to sleep with a nightlight for a week like a little kid. Each sunrise I felt like a fool and I made the resolution to not watch scary shows before bedtime. And each sunset, the "tiny-tot" nightlight was plugged in again. Several weeks later my fear dissipated and forgetting my previous mistake, I decided to finish The Walking Dead season, at night, again. And I was terrified, again. Despite my illogical and visceral fear responses, I have continued to watch scary mov- ies and then subsequently hate myself afterwards as I lie awake in the dark with night terrors. Even as a little kid I followed this odd pattern. As a child I wasn't that brave. In fact, looking back, I can assuredly classify myself as a wimp. For me, closets were sinister things at bedtime. The basement was always too dark and mysterious to brook further ex- ploration. Creepy pictures and illustrations of skeletons, bugs or sea creatures disturbed me enough to fling magazines across the living room or gingerly flip the pages by the edges in order to not touch the images. I was four-years old when I saw my first scary scene in a movie. My dad had told me to go to bed and not watch True Grit with him because I wasn't "old enough" to see it. I was somewhat insulted. I was definitely big enough to watch my Dad's show. Besides, what was so secret about this one, anyway? I decided to sneak out of my room and find out what was so forbidden. Upon crawling into the TV room and hiding behind a table, I saw some grown-ups talking, horseback riding and shooting. "Well this is boring," I thought to myself. I started to leave, but then an entirely different scene began. It was the scene in which the heroine falls down a pit, breaks her arm, gets stuck and after a prolonged period of horrifying suspense, is bitten by a rattlesnake. It was terrifying to watch. For an extended period of time, I had the distinct impression that a certain slithery, poisonous reptile was lying in wait in the house to bring about my untimely demise. No place was safe, despite the fact that it was the middle of winter and the typical rattlesnake most likely had better things to do than wake up from hibernation, crawl into town, then into one's house, wait under one's bed, or behind one's toilet, and bite one's little four-year-old ankles. Nothing hap- pened after a week or two and I gradually calmed down. My days were no longer spent listening for the telltale sound of a snake rattle and my acquired phobia of snakes gradually diminished into a healthy respect. 49
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