The First Cut Is The Deepest [by Joe Meyers, Co-host of The Podcast Macabre]

During my second grade year I discovered an album in the play area of the classroom called “Scary Spooky Stories.” I’d spend any free time we had in class at the record player, giant headphones on and eyes closed in a bean bag chair, listening to the six, (as advertised) scary, spooky stories. This was my first exposure to commercially produced, audio-only driven horror…and it ignited a love of ghost stories and other horrific, campfire tales in me.

Scary Spooky Stories

“Scary Spooky Stories” is a 1973 children’s story album adapted by Cherney Berg for the Troll Associates label. The six stories contained sound effects by Barbara Wood and Hamilton O’Hara, with music provided by Jim Timmens. Ralph Bell (you may know him as the Commissioner in WOLFEN), Robert Dryden, and Dan Ocko took turns narrating. While the tales are beyond tame by current standards, I truly loved listening to the album over and over as a kid.

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A Side

A1: “The Dare” (Narrator – Ralph Bell)

In this tale a kid gets more than he bargained for when he accepts a dare to sit on a specific grave at midnight. When the kid doesn’t show up at school the next day, his friends go to the cemetery to investigate.

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A2: “Dark, Dark, Dark” (Narrator – Robert Dryden)

This track is a kind of silly exploration of how your mind can play tricks on you in the dark…or does it?

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A3: “Big ‘Fraid, Little ‘Fraid” (Narrator – Dan Ocko)

A father’s attempt to “scare his unruly kid straight” backfires on him.

 

B Side

B1: “Wait ‘Til Martin Comes” (Narrator – Ralph Bell)

A traveler wrecks his car on a stormy night, and seeks assistance at an old, rundown house.

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B2: “The Skinny Toe” (Narrator – Robert Dryden)

In a tale that will be familiar to many, especially if you love “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”, a woman finds a skinny toe in her garden, and regrets taking it when the toe’s owner returns for the severed digit.

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B3: “The Thing At The Foot Of The Bed” (Narrator – Dan Ocko)

In a nice bookend to the album, a skeptic reexamines his beliefs when he accepts a bet to sleep in a supposedly haunted house.

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I know I’m not the only one who remembers this collection of stories, as the album can be found on eBay for sale between $80.00 and $100.00. If anyone would like to listen to them, for the first time or again for the nostalgia fix, the entire album can be heard here:

“The Dare” and “The Thing at the Foot of the Bed” were always my favorites of the bunch. Growing up my friends and I enjoyed telling scary stories, and I’d recount both of those tales. At first it was word for word off the album, and over time I’d change them here and there, slowly making them my own. This helped me hone my own story telling skills, which came in handy when I saw my own unexplained, scary, spooky things years later…

but those are tales for another time.

First Cut Is The Deepest: Chris Duck (Co-host of The Podcast Macabre)

(This is the first installment of what we plan to make an ongoing blog series here, featuring horror fans of all walks of life sharing what sank its claws into them early in life and made them into lifelong devotees of the genre. Enjoy!)

Movies have been a passion for me for as far back as I can remember. And some of the ones I am the most passionate about are horror films. Nothing can quite replace the thrill and adrenaline rush you get from having the crap scared out of you while sitting in the relative safety of your living room, your local cinema, or even your car at the drive-in. The impression these movies have left on me are frequently fond ones and some of my oldest memories. (My wife says they just warped me, but that’s for another blog.)

My earliest and clearest cinematic memory is of the family piling into an old Plymouth station wagon in the summer of 1975 to head out to the drive-in near our home. Mind you, I was barely passed the age of two, but I do remember my siblings and me being told to just lay down in the back and get some sleep while Mom and Dad watched the grown-up movie. Rebel that I was even then, I peeked out from under the blanket and saw a woman running down a beach and dive into the ocean while some guy just sat on the beach watching her.

Yep. My first movie-going memory is from the opening scenes of Jaws.

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Time would pass, as it tends to do. Star Wars would consume my youth and become another lifelong obsession that I now share with my own daughter (who’s also quite the gorehound now). But during that time, I still loved a good scare. My dear aunt, Charlene, was a fan of the frights, too, and she would introduce me to many of the classic films from the 50’s, 60’s, and earlier. I always loved the story she told me of watching Psycho for the first time and screaming three times before the private eye hit the bottom of the stairs after Mrs. Bates stabs him.

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At the tender age of seven, there was a night that my mother and I shared together that is still one of my fondest childhood memories. We rented a video disc (not to be confused with a laser disc) from Webster’s Furniture to watch together. I even remember what I got to eat as a treat that night: Swanson’s Fried Chicken dinner with the mashed potatoes, corn, and the brownie dessert. The movie we watched? Well, let’s just say mom and I both screamed and jumped off the couch a little when Jason lunged from the water and tipped Kristy’s canoe.

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But then we both laughed at each other. That roller coaster of  building and releasing tension, when done right, was one of the hooks that horror films had sank into my psyche before I even realized it.

My first honest-to-goodness-horror-movie-in-a-cinema experience, though? I was a very blessed little eight-year-old. My mother, my aunt Charlene, my sister, and I all went. Mom and Charlene joked that we only needed three seats since my sister was probably going to be in someone’s lap the whole time.

— Now let me state here that my sister is 2 years older than me and enjoys a good horror movie, too. But she did tend to be a duck-and-cover kind of viewer for the scary bits and had the occasional bad dream from the movies back then. Myself? Even then I was discovering Fangoria magazine and was fascinated by the make-up effects. I even wanted to attend the Tom Savini School of Special Make-Up Effects when I got older. And to this day, I have no memory of a nightmare directly related to a horror movie I watched. Back to the story. —

I said I was blessed for how I lost my big screen horror movie cherry, right? For an 8 year-old boy that loved make-up effects, what better film was there in the fall of 1981 than the John Landis classic An American Werewolf In London?

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As a parent now, I briefly glance back now and say to myself with a grin , “Holy shit! My parents let me see this stuff when I was that old?!?!” That reaction is understandable but again, brief. Would I have let my daughter watch any of those at that same age? No way. But that is because she was a totally different kid than I was. At that age, I could barely get her to walk by the skeleton decorations in a Halloween aisle. Now, at the age of 17, she’s currently working on her own Ashley Williams cosplay for Crypticon Seattle in May. I do my best not to judge other parents on what age they let their own offspring watch different horror movies or other entertainment. They know their kids better than I ever will. And my mom knew what I could and couldn’t handle. Do I feel like these movies had a lasting effect on me? Hell yeah. But not a bad one. (Shush, dear.)

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Family Halloween photo 2017 — Hipster (me), Charlie from Trick ‘r Treat (Lisa, my wife), and zombie girl (our daughter, Rachel)