Ginger Nuts of Horror
To celebrate the launch of his new collection of short stories author C.M. Saunders makes two stops at Ginger Nuts of Horror, here with his excellent article on Childhood fears and with a fascinating entry in our Five Minutes With Series of Interviews
We all have our little ticks and quirks. It’s one of the things that makes us humans such weird and unique life forms. Over and above the usual ‘failure’ and ‘death’ fears which are part of the human condition and we all have to deal with in our own way, there are a few other things I am, and always have been, a bit wary of. Some of these ‘fears’ are rational, some less-so.
There is a theory which suggests that the inherent fears we harbour result from bad experiences we had in past lives. In other words, it’s baggage. I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation as such, but I do believe in the existence of some kind of universal consciousness, some vast well to where our ‘life force’ returns when our physical body dies. This same ‘life force’ is then recycled. Sometimes, remnants manifest themselves as fully-formed memories or, more likely, primitive instincts, irrational fears, or weird aversions. There are numerous theories pertaining to this, Carl Jung was a well-known advocate, and the archaeologist Fredrick Bligh Bond claimed to have tapped into an eternal font of knowledge he rather poetically dubbed, ‘the great memoria.’ In the 1950’s, a scientist called Dr James McConell carried out a series of controversial experiments on flat worms. He trained one batch to navigate a maze, then ground them up and fed them to another batch. These ‘new’ flatworms then also knew how to navigate the maze, ostensibly proving the existence of ‘transferred memory.’
Anyway, enough speculation. What am I scared of? Lots of stuff. First up, deep water. This, I can trace back to falling in a river as a kid and having to be dragged out by a neighbour. It wasn’t a pleasurable experience, so I’ve pretty much avoided deep water ever since. People aren’t supposed to be in the water, that’s why we don’t have gills or fins. I never learned to swim, and have no plans to.
I’m not a huge fan of heights, either. Because if I’m on something high, I might fall off and hurt myself. That, to me, isn’t irrational. It’s common fucking sense. I am constantly amazed by mountaineers, rock climbers, base jumpers and the like. I don’t admire their courage as much as I admire their blatant disregard for their own personal safety. It’s all fun and games, until it isn’t. I have the same attitude to all extreme sports. If you get buzzed from doing these things, great. I wish you the very best of luck. But don’t complain if something goes wrong and you end up dead, disabled or disfigured. You brought that shit on yourself.
Perhaps predictably, probably my biggest childhood fear was ghosts. Though none of us can claim to have ever seen anything with our own two eyes, I grew up in a house where lots of strange shit happened. For starters, my mother collected porcelain figures, and kept them in wall-mounted glass-fronted cabinets. Like most collectors, she was fastidious. Each one was positioned just so. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, she would regularly accuse me of moving them around. Like I would be interested in playing with little porcelain figures. Pfft. I was well into my toy soldier phase by then. Eventually, she fitted locks on the cabinets, and you know what? The damn things still moved around when nobody was looking.
In those days, we had an old Rediffusion telly. The kind you had to open the panel on the front and use knobs to tune into the channels. Almost every day we would have to re-tune it because the knobs would move out of position every night. Perhaps this thing’s most impressive feat was taking apart the plug on the kettle, re-wiring it, then putting it back together again. I shit you not.
All the activity, if that’s what it was, stopped suddenly when I was still very young. Soon after, our next door neighbour came over for a chat and casually mentioned some of her ornaments being moved around. She had a son a few years younger than me, lending credence to the theory that poltergeist activity is often attached to children of a certain age.
I keep meaning to write all this up as a story. Maybe one day. Anyway, these experiences soon they morphed into a deep-seated interest in the paranormal. The very first thing I ever had published was a feature about the Devil’s Footprints in a short-lived magazine called Enigma back in 1997. I’ve been seeking out mysteries to write about ever since.
Perhaps my most bizarre ‘fear’ are things with lots of legs and/or pincers. My absolute worst nightmare would be a man-sized (or bigger) earwig. Fuck that. You’d have to be mad not to be afraid of a man-sized (or bigger) earwig. With the little ones, though, which thankfully are far more common, I wouldn’t call it fear exactly. It’s more of a repulsion. This extends to most bugs and creepy crawlies. The bigger they are, the more they freak me out. I lived in China for a few years, and there, it’s not unusual to come across bugs the size of your hand. I’ll never forget the morning I woke up to find a three-inch cockroach crawling through my chest hair.
I don’t believe in ‘conquering’ your fears. Like when you hear about arachnophobes holding giant tarantulas in their hands and claiming some sort of victory. Sorry, weirdos, but you haven’t conquered anything. You’ve just managed to endure extreme discomfort for an incredibly short period of time. But you know what? Nothing’s changed. You’ll still be arachnophobic, only now you know exactly what it feels like to have a massive spider crawling over your flesh. That’s something that is sure to haunt your nightmares.
“Remember that time you held a giant tarantula and let it crawl all over you?”
“Yeah. It was fucking gross.”
In many ways, fear is just our body’s self-preservation system in effect. Rather than presenting something that needs to be overcome, our fears should be respected. They keep us safe. Or at least, safer. Just be thankful you aren’t a flatworm who finally succeeded in getting out of a maze only to find your reward was being ground up and fed to your friends.