This one, jeez. Sometimes you write stuff, and don’t really remember what prompts it. With this one, I’d written a story set in Whispering Pines (the haunted woods in my fictional universe, in central Massachusetts) already for the Reddit board No Sleep. I’d written one about aliens which had done well, and this one later, which barely anyone read.
To begin with, it’s an old black guy. I wanted to write as an old black guy. So I did. That’s probably the King influence again. I’ve always had an affinity for stories about old guys recounting sketchy things from their younger days.
Recently, I reread Ligotti’s “The Frolic,” and while the only similarity is a child killer, I feel that “Jumpin’ Jack” shares a similar tone, and feel, though it’s less cosmic horror, and more folk horror.
There is an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, “The Tale of Watcher’s Woods.” Had an impact on me as a child, and helped get the mythology of Whispering Pines going. Probably some Blair Witch in there, too.
Back before all the hardcore violence and disturbing content, there was a wee ginger boy, who lived in the woods of central Massachusetts, and watched Nickelodeon a lot. One of the shows on this network for children, shown every Saturday night during what was brilliantly referred to as Snick (get it!) was Are You Afraid of The Dark.
Of course having rewatched them they mainly seem silly now, but are still a real hoot if you’ve had a few. One thing I never noticed as a child, is that the show was done entirely in Canada. I did find it odd when I went back to rewatch them all, that everyone pronounced sorry a certain way.
Still, when I was a tiny one, there was an episode of AYAOTD, The Tale of Laughing in the Dark, that scared the shit out of me. In the story, a kid steals the red nose from a clown inside a scary amusement park attraction, on a dare from his friend, who calls him the word that is the epitome of insult for all 90’s children and Marty McFly alike, chicken. The kid is riding high, until the fucking clown comes to his house and starts to stalk him! This was the part that bothered me. Thanks Laughing in the Dark, its not like I was creeped out as hell being in my house alone before, now you have to make me worry that a damn undead clown is going to come get me. I was able to calm myself as a child, by reminding my child brain that I didn’t steal Zebo’s nose, so he wouldn’t come after me.
Something about this show, perhaps the nostalgia factor, or maybe just how formulaic it is, or simply how funny it is, makes it impossible for me not to smile when I throw one on. They just released them on dvd, which you can check out on Amazon by clicking the Are You Afraid of The Dark screen grab on the right of the page. I had a hankering about five years ago, and had to get them all off of Ebay, and even then the dvd’s were so cheap that the laminant or whatever on the top started to flake off, and I couldn’t watch them anymore. So, I’d recommend getting the official dvd’s, or if you’re broke like me, just youtube it, you can find a ton on there.
So, in the spirit of things which creeped me the fuck out as a child, and to help you get in the spirit for Halloween this Sunday, here is The Tale of Laughing in the Dark. Enjoy.
And yes, I realize it isn’t all that scary now, but I still love it!