Night Terrors

There were two things from my childhood of TV reruns and Saturday Night Creature Features that were so striking in their visual wrongness that the feeling of icky dread haunts me to this day — and neither thing was intended to be scary.

The first thing was a recurring image from the original Thunderbirds TV series – probably still playing in reruns on one of the upper, upper cable channels — a show in which puppets stand in for the actors. Think Team America: World Police. It was as dumb as it sounds, even for a kid, but there was this one thing they would do that… well, just thinking about it gives me the creeps.

A character would reach its puppet hand toward a knob on some control board and then they would cut to a closeup of an actual human hand turning the knob. I know that doesn’t sound like it should be as psychologically scarring as Megatron’s death but it was.

Very off putting.

The other thing was a similar image from Night Gallery. It was a short piece they used for filler when the main stories didn’t run long enough. A couple in bed, a baby crying, the father gets up and goes down the hall to the baby’s room and turns on the light. In the bed is a full sized Frankenstein’s monster (Karloff style) making the crying baby sound. That’s it. Again, not bad enough to cause permanent damage but it did.

Probably because the root of horror is revulsion which comes from the violation of expectation. Mixing those two things by setting the viewer up to expect one thing and giving them something grossly different may not affect many people the way it did me, but I’m special. My mom had me tested and everything.


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