I was looking at an article the other day talking about different towns that were great suburbs around Philadelphia. I grew up around Doylestown, and one of the charming features of the town they mentioned was the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle. It reminded me of a field trip we took there when I was in elementary school. Besides being in awe of the spectacle of how much Henry Mercer collected, I remember one specific item that is the metaphorical anchor to the memory of visiting the place itself: the Vampire Killing Kit. Although artificial, it was one of the first instances where I found something mildly scary and influential in my storytelling.
Around the same time, or perhaps something created by seeing the vampire killing kits, my neighbor had managed to convince me that there was a vampire in my closet. Edward Cullen hadn’t come into popular culture back then, so what I was picturing was some Nosferatuesque fresh-from-the-crypt terrifying creature of the night. She also convinced me they were real, pointing to the books in the nonfiction section of the library that were about vampires. Although it was more of a cruel joke on her part, I have to thank her for it. If I had not believed steadfast in vampires from her assurances, I would’ve never found the beginning of my interest in the supernatural. I would’ve never found my main genre influences.
For years, I was unable to watch anything that I deemed “scary,” however, the only exception was reading things that contained paranormal factors to them. Most of those things were manga or tv shows with low-key elements, but a lot were nonfiction books. I own probably way too many ghost books for my own good. Ghosts were the second topic that I wound up fixating on. I tried to convince my teachers for my sixth-grade assessment. I argued because there was scientific data involved and nonfiction books in the library on the subject that I should be allowed to research and present on that topic. They humored the idea briefly before shooting me down. I then switched to Velociraptors.
I remember specifically caving to my Mom’s persuasion into watching Jurassic Park when I was 12. It lit the fuse of the explosion of terrifying movies I would binge-watch for the next few years. I had a collection of older horror movie classics my mom got me, and I started out right. A Nightmare on Elmstreet, Friday the 13th, Night of the Living Dead… All the good trusty, terrifying movies from before I had ever been born. I was able to expand my monster list and the types of unique figures that people created, to the point I was able to create better, original monsters of my own.
And I have to thank my pugnacious, mildly tormenting neighbor. If it hadn’t been for her insistence, I’m not sure I would’ve come to my genre so early on. Reading some of the stories I started and stopped when I was younger, I never intended to write horror stories. They became scary stories by their own spirit. Their own will.