It's Halloween! That could only mean one thing: another list. No, I'm not going to do a "scariest movie" list. This time of year those are dime-a -dozen.Yes, each entry is equated to a movie, but these are not in any way a representation of what I think the best horror movies are. One of them isn't even horror. This list is a lot more introspective. Here are...
The 10 Scariest Moments of My Life
10. The Incredible HulkI was 11 or 12 at the time and a certain show starring Lou Ferrigno was extremely popular. One afternoon, I walked down to the corner bodega for Mom to get God-knows-what. Standing at the counter there's this white guy with long, scraggly hair, his clothes torn pretty bad, blood all over, and scratches on his face. I only mention his race because he was a bit out of place in my neighborhood. I guess the clerk asked what happened to him because he launches into a routine. I swear on everything I love he says: "I don't know what happened. These guys were beatin' on me pretty bad. All of a sudden, I just started shakin'....and then...then I turned green!" He kept going but I don't remember the rest. Yes, I was a little nervous being in the same room with this guy so I got out of there ASAP. I didn't actually believe his story but I believed he was crazy. I was pretty sure he was about to try and kill us all.
9. LeprechaunEighth-grade year, I suddenly started having severe asthma attacks. So severe, I spent roughly a quarter of the school year in the hospital. Most of the time I missed was in the first half of the semester. Each admittance into the hospital started with some sadistic doctor jamming a needle into my wrist to draw blood straight from the arteries for some reason. That's the single most painful thing I've ever experienced. Of course, they also had to draw blood the traditional way and get me on an IV. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure these guys take vacation in Slovakia and pay big money to torture Americans (see Hostel). By the way, I've since outgrown my asthma and I don't think I've had an attack since that year, at least not one requiring a trip to the ER. After all the hospital stays were done, I managed to catch up in all my classes except one - Computers. Remember this is 1984, so computers are still fairly new and I just wasn't grasping what my minuscule teacher was spouting. Yes, I said minuscule. I don't stand all that much over five feet and I literally had to look down at this woman. Here was the real terror: at least once a week this barely four-foot tall, stocky chick would order me out into the hallway and verbally berate me just to drill it into my pubescent brain that I would fail in life if I didn't pass her class.
8. PsychoSo I have this cousin who was on the run from the law in New York about 10 or 12 years ago. He's a few years older than me, in his late thirties at the time, but had a 17 year old girlfriend. He fled to Canada for a few months. For some reason he decides to come to North Carolina (where I live). He and his girl stay with some other cousins for a few weeks. He had an insane jealous streak. If she so much as held an amicable conversation with another guy he'd go upside her head. Literally. One night, while in the other cousin's apartment he really beat the crap out of her. Blood everywhere. Well, the other cousin kicked him out. He comes and knocks on my door, begging to stay with me and my family. Knowing that he was more than a little unstable I had to turn him away. You could never be sure what he was going to do which made these few moments extremely tense. He left my house peacefully and, somehow, convinces his girl to go back to New York with him. A few weeks later she's found chopped up in a trash bag and he shows up on "America's Most Wanted" for her murder. Obviously my run in with him became even scarier in hindsight. He's since been caught. You don't know how bad I wish that I had made this up. Knowing about the murder might make this seem low on the list to you but at the time I was talking to him I figured at worse I'd have to have a fistfight with him.
7. MamaFor awhile, Mom went to college at night. On class nights, it was my duty as the oldest to keep the house in order. I made sure everyone did their homework, got dinner, and cleaned the kitchen. Normally, she'd be home around the time my younger siblings had gone to bed. That was usually around 9 or 9:30. Knowing this, things got done but not always as quickly as possible. One particular night after dinner, we end up playing full-court basketball in the dining room before doing any of the chores (there wasn't any furniture in the room aside from an organ in one corner that no one played). What we didn't know is that Mom got out of class early. Like a good slasher, she stood at the window and watched us without our knowledge for oh, I don't know, 20 or 30 minutes she says. We knew nothing until we heard her key in the door. In that instant my life flashed before my eyes. The jaws of Earth seemed to open, threaten to swallow me, and digest me in its fiery bowels. In .0001 seconds we were all in the kitchen scrubbing something. Too late, the jig was up. Mom lined the four of us up, youngest to oldest (my brother disputes this, swears it was the other way around). She grabbed THE BELT and proceeded to give each of us a stern "talking to" one at a time as the others watched. As each of them got theirs the tension just kept mounting. By the time it was my turn, well...I did good not to pass out.
(Please save your opinions on corporal punishment and just laugh)
6. CujoThere were three of us: my brother, his best friend, and me. We wanted to play football. Like always we went out to the street in front of the house. They were going to play one-on-one with me as quarterback for both sides. No problem. The girls are on the sidewalk jumping double-dutch, people are walking up and down the block - typical New York summer day. Too typical. Anyway, my brother's buddy beats my brother deep and I drop a perfect pass into his arms. He catches it and streaks towards the part of the street designated to be the end-zone with my brother chasing. Suddenly, they both turn around and start running back towards me. They have good reason. There's a huge german shepherd hot on their heels. As the two younger kids pass me I decide to play hero and nail the dog in the ribs with a swift kick as he was passing me. He yelps and flies sideways about 3 feet. When he turns towards me there's a really really...really long second where we lock eyes and he gives me that "you better run" look. I do. Well I try to but he catches my pants leg like he practices with frisbees in his spare time. I hit the ground and he starts trying to devour my leg. After what seems like an hour, but was probably less than 10 seconds, I get the idea to grab his ears. When I do, he lets go and I straddle him like a stripper in the VIP giving a lap dance like her life depended on it, keeping a firm grip on those ears. Look around. Look around. Where did everybody go? Not a soul is outside. Sudden ghost-town. I'm pretty sure I saw tumbleweeds. After a couple of minutes that felt like another hour, a guy who lives up the street is coming down the block and sees what's going on. He gets to me, grabs a trashcan, stands about six feet from me and says "Let him go." Let him go? Is this man insane? So I'm like "you wanna stand a li'l closer?" He moves up about half-a-step and says "OK." I let the dog go and he somehow gets from between my legs and do a 180 back towards me in an instant. Neighbor guy starts beating the dog with the trashcan and it disappears back around the corner. Oh, where were all the kids? Most of them ran into my house. Even better, one of them was a girl who had a crush on me. She said "If I was out there, I would've beat that dog silly!" Gee, thanks babe. Never mind that I saw you out here bumping your gums a few minutes ago. I couldn't hold too much of a grudge against her, though. The dude who saved me was her dad.
5. Night of the Living DeadNews spreads quick. This night the news was that there was going to be a fight at the park at 9:00 PM. I guess I was 16 or 17 at the time. My girlfriend and I get to the park to find out two girls I didn't know were supposed to fight. Actually, I only knew a couple of the twenty-plus people that gathered. Pretty big crowd gathered but they both punked out (or settled their differences otherwise, I've no clue). When there's a crowd antsy to see a fight and you're the somewhat unknown guy, look out. Some guy starts jawing at me and calling me out pretty much just because. He's got about 7 friends that join in. I see where this is going so I start to leave the park. Main guy runs up and shoves the back of my head. When I turn around, we square up, he throws a wild left that I slip and go over the top of with a beautiful straight right hand. WHAM! I connect flush. He drops, staggers up and looks like someone took a 2x4 to his eye. Here come the zombies. Apparently, they infested the rest of the crowd because it sure looked like they doubled in ranks, at least. Needless to say, it was on. I told my girl to get the hell out of there while they were focused on me. She did.Since they were starting to surround me, I had to take off running in any direction I could find an opening, zig-zagging and criss-crossing the park. There were a few sticks swung at me, some of which grazed me. I heard later that someone had a knife though I never saw one. Thankfully, this was before carrying a gun was pre-requisite to being an angry mob of teens. Due to better than average speed, quite a few Barry Sanders like moves, and an unseen citizen calling the cops who arrived before I ran out of gas, I escaped with only a few minor scrapes and bruises.
4. Rosemary's Baby"Dell, I'm pregnant." I was 17. She was 16 and as I've come to realize, the embodiment of evil. Maybe not that bad but close. The Devil, or God depending on your perspective, had come to punish me. Another one of those moments when your life flashes before your eyes. I was suddenly about to take a major detour. Somehow, the decision was made to not keep the baby. I'm glad I'm not tied to this particular woman in that way, but admittedly, the decision is my cross to bear.
3. PoltergeistWe converted the attic into a bedroom and guess who got the spot? None other than yours truly. I felt like a king on top of the world. Well, for awhile. Little known Dell family secret, we all thought this particular house was haunted. We learned to live with it since our "experiences" always seemed to be on the ground floor. Well, here I was lying in bed in a pitch-black attic after a long day of teenagering. From the other end of the room I hear footsteps walking towards me. I jump up, turn on the light, see nothing and hear nothing. Maybe it was the house settling. I turn off the light and the footsteps start again. They are coming towards me! I turn the light on again, the steps stop. At this point, I'm waiting for the breeze coming in from the window to whisper "Get out." Thankfully, it doesn't. I convince myself it's nothing and cut the light off. As soon as my head hits the pillow the footsteps start again, get to the foot of my bed take a hard left and I feel a presence sit down in the corner where by my dresser meets the wall. And stare at me. I was entirely too petrified to move. I laid there all night and didn't sleep a wink until it was light enough for me to see that was no one actually watching. Or at least convince myself of this. Yes, I believe in ghosts and I don't care what you say.
2. It's Alive!Nine years following the Rosemary's Baby episode, I'm married to another woman and we're expecting our first child. He kept my wife in labor for twenty-seven long hours. She might still be in labor had we not finally decided to do a c-section. Then in a scene right out of some gore-fest they pull the baby from my wife's stomach show him to us go put him in the incubator on their side of the curtain and invite me around to have a closer look. When I walk around, there's the wife, gut split wide open. That was a little better than I wanted to know her. The bloody mess provided a jolt but the really scary part is that 'new-dad' anxiety that occurs at the precise moment you lay eyes on your first child. For guys, sure we knew for nine months that this day was coming but it isn't quite real until that very second. That feeling of journeying into the unknown without the ability to turn back is more than a bit disconcerting.
1. Open WaterSo I'm nine or ten years old, hanging out at the beach with my best friend, his dad, and his dad's girlfriend at Riis (pronounced Reese) Beach. For non-New Yorkers, this happened to be a clothing optional beach (I haven't been in at least 30 years so someone from New York let me know if this is still the case). We all kept our clothes on but it afforded me my first opportunity to see a naked woman that I wasn't immediately related to. I can't say I was either scarred or enlightened but that's for another therapy session. Let's get back to the scary stuff. I don't know why, maybe we were looking for seashells or something, but my buddy and I go wandering off by ourselves and in different directions. So I'm all alone playing along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. A wave comes in, knocks me over, and drags me out at least far enough that I can't feel any sand beneath me. I'm kicking, flailing, and generally thinking "this is it." To this day, I don't know if I actually swam out of trouble or another wave came and spit me back up on the shore which is more likely. Ever since, I don't do too good in bodies of water bigger than a bathtub.