With autumn's chilly wind blowing outside of my window, forcing the nearly-bare trees to scrape against the house like skeleton fingers across a chalkboard and only the glow of my computer monitor to light the room, it seems to be the perfect night to share a frightening tale of how my sister and a murderous maniac in a hockey mask scarred me for life. Okay, okay, I don't really blame my sister for the traumatic event that unfolded the summer of my eleventh year, but she was at least the enabler for the murderous maniac.
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, not really, but that would have been so perfect...
It was actually a hot summer day during the sweltering month of June, 1980. I had just finished sixth grade, and I was looking forward to spending my extended vacation avoiding the sun by watching "All My Children," "One Life to Live," and "General Hospital" every afternoon and chasing after the pesticide spray truck every evening. This year was a little different, though. My mom was sending me off to a sleep-away camp for the first time. I was never an adventurous kid, but my best friend would be in my cabin, so I hoped to keep my homesickness at bay with a familiar face.
The week before my departure for camp, my older sister stopped by for a visit, and, sensing my utter and complete boredom, she asked if I would like to go to a matinee showing of a new movie that was was recently released. Are you kidding me? Is Susan Lucci actually a vampire who sucks the blood of young, ambitious ingenues to keep herself beautiful forever? You betcha! Yes, I was ready to go before she even got the words out of her mouth. However, there was one small detail in the plan that gave me pause: the movie she was taking me to was none other than the original "Friday the 13th," the movie about a killer who was slashing his way through - wait for it - a summer sleep away camp. I swallowed hard and went anyway.
I had never seen a slasher movie before. The closest I had ever come to terror on the screen was watching a hail storm ruin Pa Ingalls crop on "Little House on the Prairie". The only blood-curdling screams I ever heard came from Laverne and Shirley when Lenny and Squiggy would bust open the door and say, "Hello!"
It couldn't be that bad, right? They don't actually show people being hacked to death, do they? Although I try to block the images from my head, I can still see the first victim. She was against a tree, and the killer slit her throat wide open. I was stunned. To my eleven-year-old brain, this sh!t was REAL. Over and over, the beautiful counselors met their doom. The scene that is seared into my brain forever was between two young lovers. They are getting down to business on a cot in one of the cabins (because that's what teenagers do when their friends are being brutally murdered) while unbeknownst to them, the killer was hiding beneath the bed. When the guy leaves the room and his date is completely vulnerable, the murderer plunges a knife up into the mattress and completely through the girl's throat. (I'm pausing here to regain my composure.)
A few days after seeing the movie, my mom dropped me off at camp. I nervously walked through the woods to my cabin, anxiously checking behind every tree for an axe murderer. When I walked through the door, I screamed, "Get back! The top bunk is mine!" I carefully avoided consuming any liquids after 6pm for fear that nature would call and I would answer for the last time, meeting my fate in a mosquito-filled latrine. It was Hell Week for me because each time I rode in a canoe, I was sure the monster would jump up from out of the murky water and drag me my death.
I have never gotten over that movie. For years - literally - I would pile stuffed animals around me in bed at night with the hope that goodness and love would protect me from the cold fingers of a machete-wielding lunatic. To this day, I am still afraid of the dark. Ask anyone who knows me. I sleep with the television blasting away all night. There are night lights, sometimes more than one, in every room of my home. When the powers goes out, I am a complete basket case.
So, thank you, Jason Voorhees, for reducing me to a cowering, scared little camper. I must admit, though...I did take away one valuable lesson from that movie. If you hear strange noises and suspect that there may be an evil-doer nearby, never, ever, ever have sex with that hot co-ed you've been dating. You are surely sealing your fate if you do.