So I mentioned in my last post that I’m a huge horror movie fan. I thought for my first Saturday Evening Post (pun police notified) I would talk about why. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Geez jibblogger, you aren’t going to launch into how your dad made you watch horror movies growing up and that’s why you’re slightly twisted today, are you?”
Well, not really, but to be fair – he did pay some obscene amount of money in 1977 for one of the the very first mass-produced VHS home VCRs- a clunky button JVC top-loader, and don’t you know the first thing we watched on it was a horror movie. A movie called “Burnt Offerings,” which coincidentally also describes my opinion of this cinematic wipeout, but I digress.
I LOVE horror movies – and sure, we watched tons of them on that JVC top-loader, but I think it was a lot more than just being spoon-fed horror movies by one of the first electronic babysitters. The fact that practically right in our backyard was “the blockplant” – a broken down block and redi mix factory that was abandoned in 1974 and looked to be right out of a Stephen King novel (more on this in a future post – maybe) probably had a lot to do with it too. My mom being a huge Stephen King fan – possible contributing factor. The fact that we all thought our house was haunted – MAJOR contributing factor (yet another future post). So yeah, I think all in all, I was pretty much just pre-destined to be a horror movie buff, and I don’t mean to imply that that’s a bad thing, either, because it isn’t. I LOVE horror movies – but I think I already said that. Heh.
And yet, I do think that maybe I took it a wee bit too far, at times, as kids are bound to do. Like that phase when I was 9 or so when I had an invisible friend, only I thought she was a ghost. Or the time I almost became a Teenage Werewolf.
Ever since I saw The Howling on that JVC top-loader, closely followed by An American Werewolf in London (best werewolf movie of all time) I have been fascinated by the Hollywood werewolf. And keep in mind that at the time the following incident occurred, I was well on my way to becoming a horror movie junkie.
In 1957, a teenage Michael Landon (yes, pa on Little House On the Prairie) starred in “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” It was black and white and campy as they get. I actually picked up a DVD of this film just last weekend at a midnight movie riffing event (I’m a sick man, I know) called The Trash Film Orgy (Google it if you think I’m making this up – heh) for the obscene amount of 10 bucks, which I gladly paid. You see, I actually first heard about this film over 35 years ago, as it was mentioned in an odd little book my brother happened onto. Last weekend was the first time I ever found a copy of it in a format I could watch. 10 bucks? Here.
The book I’m referring to was something that my brother paid 5 cents for at a school book-buying event. No, not the Weekly Reader Book Club (of which I was also a member) but just a bunch of donated old books for the youngins to squabble over for a penny or two. The book was a paperback, and was simply titled, “How to Become a Werewolf.” Now you can’t tell me that if you saw a book like this you wouldn’t at least be curious. My brother didn’t even want it, so I traded him some GI Joe accessories, and voi la – it was mine. Most of it was tongue in cheek, talking about old werewolf movies, how they thought the whole werewolf myth first got started, yada yada yada. It had a picture of a cartoon bloody – mouthed werewolf on the cover.
No, I don’t know where the Teacher Advisory Board for Should We Let Junior High School Kids Read This was, but hey – the 70’s had just gotten over, and censorship hadn’t really yet come to our little town yet, at least not the You Can’ Read That Let’s Burn Some Books kind of censorship you unfortunately see more of today, anyway, but once again, I digress.
But there – in the next to the last chapter of this thin little book – there it was “How to Become a Werewolf.” I was 12 at the time I first read this thing, and I mean – this was detail I hadn’t expected – it gave detailed instructions for conjuring up some sort of spirit and becoming a werewolf. Holy crap – how often does a kid get a chance like that? I was sure it was BS – I mean, it had to be, right? Like the lead character of some bad movie, I sweated about this for nights on end – what’s the worst that could happen? Scratch that. What’s the most likely thing to happen? Ah, that’s better. After much soul-searching and giving this book a lot more power over me than it deserved, I finally decided I had to try it – the instructions were just way too specific and detailed to not at least try it as an experiment.
12 is an odd age – you’re still a kid with a child-like mind that can still believe in the absurd, but at the same time your body is growing up. If I was going to go through with this, I’d have to do it right.
Full moon at midnight in a secluded outdoor location – we had access to acres of woodland behind the blockplant – check.
An iron pot. – So what if it was what we always cooked the Thanksgiving turkey in – check.
A campfire – check.
Water to boil and some sage. – I didn’t know what sage was, really but my mom’s spice cabinet delivered the goods – check.
A book on How to Become a Werewolf and a gullible pre-teen – check.
While waiting for the next full moon, I decided I better let someone in on what I planned to do – you, know, in case the worse happened.
So I told my friend John about the book and told him my plans. Naturally, he wanted in. So the next full moon, John came over to spend the night on a warm late August evening and we told my mom we were going to camp overnight by the river. “Be careful kids – and don’t make any fires!” Okie dokie. So we backpacked down past the blockplant with several large jugs of water and my mom’s turkey pan stuffed into one of our packs. Mom must have known we were up to something, even without her knowing that her turkey pan was missing.
The instructions called for us to make a fire (oops) and boil the water and the sage on the fire, and then read the incantation in the book, which basically called upon spirits to give us a wolfen belt or some other talisman that would then turn us into a werewolf. What actually happened was that with the weight of the iron pot the wood in the campfire shifted, and the whole mess spilled everywhere right while we were reading the incantation, putting the fire completely out.
We were terrified, and swore to each other never to tell another soul what had happened. Which was that we had acted like idiots and spilled a bunch of water, but we didn’t see it that way. The next day, we managed to get all of the accoutrements put back in their proper place. It was over, and we hadn’t become werewolves.
The next weekend, I spent the night at John’s house, and his parents decided to let us sleep in their fifth wheel camper trailer. As we entered the trailer, everything was pitch dark. We set our lanterns, broke out the playing cards and coca cola, and started playing poker. Soon the conversation turned to the previous weekend’s “experiment.” We decided that maybe the reason nothing had happened was that the water spilled before we could finish the incantation. But what, we reasoned, if we had started – something?
Definitely canine, coming from the closed door leading to the bedroom at back of the trailer.
You never saw two kids do the Back to the House Boogie so fast in your entire life. We burst into the living room while John’s parents were watching Johnny Carson – “It’s the werewolf!!!!!!!” we cried non nonsensically. “It’s the werewolf!!!!!!!!!!!!! We called it and now it’s here – there’s a werewolf in the trailer!!!!!!!”
What had actually happened was that John’s dad had thought the family dog – a Doberman with a super-sweet disposition – might want to keep us kids company in the trailer, so had stuck the dog in the back bedroom of the trailer (because there was food elsewhere in the trailer the dog might have gotten into) and then simply forgotten to mention this to us. As luck would have it, the dog had gotten ahold of a mouse right as our conversation had turned to werewolves, hence the scratching and growling.
The next day, I gave the book back to my brother, and told him it was stupid.
Werewolves, I told him, were only real in the movies.