There was a werewolf used in some promotion when I was kid in the mid-eighties. I don’t know what he was for, only that there was a towering and rather terrifying cardboard stand-up at the grocery we visited. He loomed over my younger brother and I, hawking fear and maybe Dr. Pepper. I was both fascinated and repulsed, my whimsy and my good sense warring for control of my response to this menacing figure.
My parents didn’t help.
They told my brother and I we had to behave or the werewolf would visit us on Halloween night. I’m sure now that they were joking in the same way that my husband and I chuckle over things with our girls before we remember that sarcasm isn’t something they’ve quite figured out yet. Our oldest daughter has taken to repeating something I tell her when her dad says something particularly terrible:
“You’re not telling the truth.”
But for my brother and I, my parents were providing us with intelligence on how to avoid a potential encounter with that cardboard monster’s real-life counterpart. And I remember being scared, but also deadly curious.
In the same way that I would later be enchanted with High Spirits, with the skeletal transformation of The Grateful Dead, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and with tearing my way through every Goosebumps book I could get my hands on, this werewolf was irresistible. I loved the feeling of being scared, and even as a six-year-old there was something weirdly attractive about scary things. I remember admiring my reflection in the rear window of my dad’s Z28, my brother and I laying in the back in our Halloween costumes after trick or treating at a local mall. I was painted up as a witch, my green face looking back at me with the moon beyond it like something out of a fiction.
I know I’m supposed to be scared, and of the truly monstrous, I am. But those aren’t usually the sorts of ghouls that haunt the stories I like. I’ll always cower a little before those creatures that sometimes surprise me with a hidden intelligence or human-like flaws, who do so without giving up any of their weirdness – but I won’t be able to walk away.