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In Which I Reveal For The First Time My Greatest Irrational Childhood Fear

Everyone’s frightened by different things. Some people are freaked out by horror movies, some by troll dolls, some by asparagus. (You know who you are) A lot of that is formed by childhood experience. Here’s mine.

This — and sorry for the poor video quality — is what used to freak me out when I was but a toddler:

Yes, I would run screaming from “My Favorite Martian.” Not the show itself, but the opening, the little animated saucer and the spaceman. The beeping alone would trigger some instinctive fear, and I’d go and find a pillow and bury my head in it until that little freak would just go away and leave me alone.  I cannot describe the panic I would experience the moment that opening sequence started.

And then I’d come right back and watch the show. To this day, I have no clue why I couldn’t handle the cartoon credits, but would come back and watch Mr. Hand and Bruce Banner with no ill effects.  There was nothing particularly terrifying about the show, or, of course, the credits, but until I was about ten years old, it was as if Leatherface had burst into the room wielding a DeWalt in full roar.  I could not handle it.

More abject fear after the jump:

This also caused me much distress:

I did not like “My Three Sons“; That much is true. Uncle Charley, in particular, disturbed me, his odd haircut and strange relationship with the kids being beyond my toddler understanding other than the instinct that something was seriously askew in the Douglas household. But those grotesque tapping feet! That “Chopsticks”-based music! “CHANGE THE CHANNEL!,” I would yell, my sister preferring not to do so for the sheer entertainment value of watching me panic.

But I know I am not alone. You had YOUR irrational fear when you were little. Perhaps you still do. I’m not talking about the reflex that has you changing the channel the moment “Jersey Shore” comes on, but something that others see as benign or even cute that you see as the onset of the apocalypse. A lot of people were scarred for life by this:

See, that didn’t bother me at all. But there are websites devoted to the Screen Gems “S From Hell,” so if it gave you nightmares, you are not alone.

Share your phobia in the comments. Admitting that you cried for mommy every time “The Smurfs” came on is the first step in conquering that fear.

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  1. Richelle says:

    I know I am a bit late to the conversation, but here is one of my first irrational fears.

    If I was alone in the dark and saw it I would run upstairs crying. My parents couldn’t figure it out.

  2. Mallory says:

    @Brian: i had a friend growing up who was terrified of ET. i always thought he was benign, but yeah i can see how his “pasty” scene would terrify a young child. my friend just didn’t like the fact that his neck grew.

    i am also scared of clowns (because of that gd poltergeist clown, watched that movie at 4ish, but i love it) but none more than the gymboree clown. to this day i still avoid walking near or close to any gymboree store. even when my mom would go in for my younger siblings. nope, i’ll be waiting somewhere else, thanks.

    i love this topic btw, and seeing the responses! (@Trude yes i remember Goosebumps, reading every book, and the “young adult” r.l. stine books, and the goosebumps shows, although i mostly watched them on vhs)

  3. Sara Sings says:

    I still cringe when I hear the opening music to “M.A.S.H.”. I think it reminded me of being in pain, and I remember being confused as to why the blond woman was so old, and whey she was there at all. There is a flute/recorder choir playing in my version of Hell, so perhaps that lamenting flute melody is the root.
    My brother’s collection of Garbage Patch Kids also horrified me.

  4. SG says:

    I would run out of the room from Large Marge. Could. Not. Handle.
    I rewatched the scene some 13 years later and thought about how silly it actually was compared to my childhood memory.

  5. Scott says:

    For whatever reason, when I was very young I was terrified of sirens.
    Any kind of siren or loud factory whistle would send me into paroxysms of primal terror. Now it’s heights. I can’t even watch someone else stand near the edge of a balcony. Weird.

    My Favorite Martian was my favorite show.

  6. Xenagogue says:

    The Bunyip video from Dot and the Kangaroo. Scariest thing ever to a young Mr. X.
    As well as The Hand (1984). Brilliantly hilarious B-Horror now, but then, I could imagine my own hand coming off in the night for no apparent reason and attacking me. Ridiculous, yes. Scary, absolutely.

    I am really sorry if this posts more than once. It doesn’t seem to be posting… Hmm.

  7. I used to be afraid of the Washington-on-the-dollar-bill face I’d see when I closed my eyes. And of that scene in Beetlejuice where Otho summons the Maitlands and they start rapidly aging. And I’m still afraid of getting crushed to death by a large display of Orangina bottles (mainly because it’d be hard to keep a straight face at that funeral). So at least your fears weren’t so random as mine 🙂

  8. Trude says:

    Goosebumps creeped me out when I was a kid – anybody remember the crap series they made out of the books? Yeah, not nearly as cool as you. 🙂

  9. Andrea says:

    Anything with a vampire! I blame it on the fact that my Mom used to watch Dark Shadows. It came on right before Batman did, so I’d sometimes accidentally catch the end of it, if I showed up early for Batman…

  10. Chelsea says:

    When I was a kid my mom rented the VHS tape of the Disney cartoon version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Ever since then I have had a srs and irrational fear of the Headless Horseman. Even 5 years ago at 18, my parents and I went to Disney World during their Halloween celebration, and I refused to watch the parade because the Headless Horseman started it off.

    I am also terrified of clowns. Always have been, always will be. My husband once put a Krusty the Clown mask on a traffic cone and set it on the trunk of my car in the middle of the night. I was so pissed I didn’t talk to him for two days. But I find it kinda funny now, over a year later.

  11. its106miles says:

    The Man From Another Place in the dream sequences on Twin Peaks always scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares about that guy with his creepy dancing and crazy talking!

  12. Dion Bluster says:

    The opening of You Can’t Do That On Television used to reduce me to the foetal position.

  13. Chase C says:

    There was nothing more terrifying to a three year old Chase as The Count from Sesame Street. How anyone thought it appropriate that children learn numbers from a f*cking vampire is beyond me.

  14. Andrew Cardona says:

    When I was like 2 years old my mom and aunt went to a drive in and saw Childs Play. That is my first memory btw. And I was scared of Chucky well into my teens until I realized I can punt him like a football. and like magic…. fear gone. Now I laugh at it and think, that my mom and aunt purposely scarred me for 13-ish years.

  15. Nick says:

    The opening music to unsolved mysteries always scared me when I was a kid. My friend delighted in that fact, he’s also the one who loved horror movies and we watched Pet Cemetery together, that didn’t help. The reanimated baby cutting the guys achilles tendon and edges of his mouth still freaks me out.

  16. Amrehlu says:

    I agree with the first two, CtCD was pretty demented, but was still an okay show.

    I wish I had these types of irrational fears, would make for good stories now… I was afraid of stuff when I was a kid like; Riding my bike too fast and having one of the bolts/nuts go flying off and nailing my friend in the face causing him to ride straight into an oncoming car while I fell going at like 20 mph down a huge ass hill and just sorta get skidded into a pile of little kid shavings.

    Or when cars passed me I would sometimes shield my face because I thought they would run over a rock, and it is be half under half out from under the wheel as it went over and then it would flick out and take my eye out.

    Now I’m just afraid of every shady/crappy looking car that passes me, I assume I am about to be gunned down for no reason. I am also still terrified of people shooting or pointing nerf guns at me, I like my eyes too much.

  17. Rev says:

    Mine was Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman! It traumatized me as a tyke for some reason.

  18. Brian's Clown says:

    This is your clown. I thought you were nice to me because you loved me. Now I know better. See you soon, Brian.

  19. Brian says:

    This is bizarre and hilarious. Those show openings are so benign.
    I feel like all my fears were pretty rational (well, for a kid). I watched The Shining when I was 5. And in a hotel. That was supposedly haunted. I shit you not. It had just dropped on Laserdisc. When I was young I also watched Alien, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc (thanks older sister and hippie parents).
    Possibly irrational: I was afraid of ET. Not the movie, just the creature. I had the top bunk and I always thought his telescoping head would slowly rise over the side and stare at me (I blame that see where a grey, dying ET is lying in a culvert).
    I also thought my little stuffed clown was going to go the Poltergeist route and try and kill me. Holy shit was I nice to that clown. Little did he know how deathly afraid I was of him. Could he see past my false smile? My phony affections?

  20. Vonderosa says:

    My one year old has some strange TV fears. Two in particular are from Yo Gabba Gabba. One is a song about sandwiches. The other is Rhys Darby pretending to be a robot. I’m not sure what it is, but both of those things set him off crying like nothing else. And just turning off the television isn’t enough. He won’t stop crying until you turn it back on and show him that segment is done. Glad to know that this isn’t strange for young children.

  21. Gwif says:

    I was never bothered by the cartoon, but Ray Walston’s telescoping head antenna were creepy as hell! Also, Leonard Nimoy’s fake ears. One of the most disturbing things I ever saw was a parody of “In Search Of” (I think it was an SNL skit) where Nimoy grew Spock ears.

  22. Wesley Marshall says:

    Wasn’t copying Maddeh I was looking for a clip, and you posted before me. But yeah, Courage creeped me the fuck out. Especially the one with the cat in the motel.

  23. Wesley Marshall says:

    As a kid there was this show I watched and I loved it but it was still so fucking creepy. That show was Courage the Cowardly Dog. I mean, I was 7 and some of the shit they showed on that show surprises me now.Invader Zim got away with stuff, but it didn’t creep me out like this show did. The themes as well, it was just creepy. Here is an example.

  24. Maddeh says:

    This was all far before my time… not to say that I wasn’t scared of all the reruns of these older shows anyways. My phobia, and probably a good portion of my generation’s phobias include Courage the Cowardly Dog. Even though I sometimes still watch it (and it’s admittedly kind of funny) I can remember having the worst nightmares over that show. It was purposefully scary, heh