Five things that terrified me as a kid (that aren’t horror)

I love horror. Supernatural, psychological, action, sci-fi, gothic—give me something creepy or scary with escalating tension and (and least the potential for) solid payoff and I’m sold. As a kid, though…

I was easily frightened. To say the least. These are some of the things that absolutely terrified me when they probably shouldn’t have.

You’d think a kid growing up in the ’90s would’ve been freaked out by the likes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps. Not so much (but screw you, episode of AYAOTD with faceless people).

These things, though? Yeah, they got me.


What could make stories about a group of kids who gain the ability to transform into animals anything less than awesome? Tiny, slug-like aliens that crawl into your brain and control you. That’s what.

Yes, they’re meant to be creepy. But my overactive brain took it to a whole new level. And freaking Tobias got stuck as a hawk in the first book of the series. That’s nightmare fuel, right there.

Chuck E. Cheese (and friends)

One of my earliest memories is also one of my most traumatizing memories. I was at Chuck E. Cheese’s with my family, most likely for my birthday (some of the details are a blur thanks to the very clear tragedy). Things were going great. I was playing games, eating pizza, chilling and having an all-around awesome time. Even the stage filled with creepy animatronic animals with musical instruments couldn’t bring me down.

Then they brought the real Chuck E. Cheese and friends out. Don’t worry, I know now that they weren’t in fact six foot tall animals. Back then…

Let’s just say that outing ended shortly after my parents had to pull a screaming, crying, shaking toddler out from under the table. I eventually made it back to Chuck E. Cheese’s, but the scars remained. Even at 30, they’re still there.

Preferable. (Five Nights at Freddy’s, Scott Cawthon)


E.T. just wanted to get home. I was cool with everything, even as death was

Everything was cool until the government showed up and took ‘control’ of the situation. That’s when things took a turn toward terrifying for me. Lesson: fear the government, trust the aliens. Or something like that.

Ghost levels in anything Super Mario

Super Mario World is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s a masterpiece. Tight controls, gorgeous art, and excellent level and enemy variety abound. And oh yeah, ghost houses with massive ghosts that follow you as creepy music plays. Young Topher didn’t handle that too well.

smw gh
Nope. Super Mario World, Nintendo.

And what’s up with Super Mario Kart having not one, but THREE ghost levels?

We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story

What kind of monster takes happy, friendly dinosaurs and turns them into savage beasts specifically to scare people? Screweyes is diabolical.

We’re Back! poster, Universal Pictures

The poster makes it look like a happy movie, right?




There’s more. So much more. But reliving the trauma is just too much. What terrified you as a kid? What still does? Let me know in the comments.

This is a safe space. No judgment here (except maybe by those evil animals who obviously want to do more than sell pizza and play music).



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