What Were You Afraid Of When You Were A Child?

Childhood fears in appalachia
With Halloween just around the corner, this is the time of the year folks start thinking about ghosts, witches, and black cats. A recent eerie incident got me to thinking about how scared I used to get as a child.

Since I was the only girl-I got a room by myself while Paul and Steve had to share. Most of the time I was glad-but at night I often wished I shared my room too.

Sometimes I’d get so paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t move-I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I’d pull the covers up tight over my head and peek out every once in a while to see what was coming to get me. I’d beg Pap and Granny to leave the hallway light on so I wouldn’t be so terrified.

What was I scared of? Even now, I’m not sure. I don’t think I was scared of ghosts or boogers. I guess I was scared of someone breaking in and getting us all.

Summer nights were the worst. With no air conditioning all the windows were open to catch the cooler air. On those nights my imagination really ran away with me-open windows with only a screen to stop whatever I was afraid of from getting in.

I never did myself any favors either-every scary movie that came on-I wanted to watch. When The Exorcist came on tv-Pap tried to tell me I’d be sorry if I watched it. Of course I didn’t listen. I was so brave during that movie I didn’t get scared one bit-until it was over.

No one would sleep with me-they said it was my fault for watching it-which of course it was. I pitched a fit and said I was going to sleep in the hallway. I got my pillow and a blanket and settled down outside Granny and Pap’s bedroom. Realizing he wasn’t going to get any sleep with me crying in the hallway-Pap finally gave in and slept with me.

chitter and chatter Snaggle_tooth

Chitter and Chatter are totally different when it comes to being scared. The only thing I can remember Chitter being scared of-was when she was about 8 or 9 years old she became terrified of being buried alive-it was like she was obsessed with it. You wouldn’t think the subject of being buried alive would come up much in daily life-but during that time it seemed it was all around us. Chitter finally came to grips with her fear and got over it.

Chatter is more like me. When she was about 3 years old she’d tell me “Momma I’m scared of my house I’m scared of my house.” She didn’t want to go to the bathroom by herself, in one of the back bedrooms by herself, or especially down in the basement by herself at night.

My Papaw Wade was a big coon hunter. It seemed there was always a joke going around about one of the boys getting scared. You know, somebody that was scared to go back to the truck for something they needed or scared to help round up the dogs.

I remember one time some such incident had happened on their latest coon hunt-and Papaw was teasing one of the local boys about being scared of the dark.

The boy said “I’m not scared of the dark.” Papaw said “Well you must be you won’t get 2 foot from the fire.” The boy said “No I’m not scared of the dark. I’m scared of what’s in it.” Papaw always got the last word. He told the boy “Why whatevers in the dark is in the daylight too and you ain’t afraid of the daylight are you?”

Chatter saying “I’m scared of my house” is funny-but actually I think she had mine and her childhood fear figured out at 3 years old.

During the day a house is full of noise and life-but at night it seems subdued and empty. That’s probably where her and my childhood fears came from-simply the change atmosphere.

So what were you afraid of when you were a child?


Portions of this post were originially published here on the Blind Pig in October of 2010.

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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    November 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    In my childhood bedroom ceiling was a drop-down door to the attic. So many times after going to bed, we heard things that sounded like someone clomping back and forth up there with boots on when there couldn’t have been anyone there, and so many times, that darn door would open, inch by inch by inch at a time. Our Dad blamed the noise on squirrels which was absurd, so one day when he said that, I said, “Well, then those squirrels are wearing boots!”
    From the time I was about 12-years old when we moved there until just a few years ago (and I’m 66-years old now) when our sister moved from the house, I was terrified to sleep in that room, always feeling like someone I couldn’t see was watching me – laying there with the lights on and with one eye open until I could no longer stay awake.
    I think one of our sister’s children must’ve been afraid of it too, because the last time I stayed there, I noticed someone had put two slide locks on the door to keep it locked shut. I wonder why no one thought of doing that before since we lived there for, I don’t know, maybe 40-50 years.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Ken-Fiddler of the Mountains is a book Eva Nell wrote recently. It is for sale in the Folk Schools Gift shop : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 11, 2013 at 12:37 am

    After reading the comments on this post, I wondered how in the world I could forget about Mad Dogs…There was one near our home in the fifties…the news out to stay away from strange dogs. Back then every dog ran loose. They started a tough rabies vaccination program and the scare went by the wayside. Then a few years later, my brother had to have rabies shots after a stray dog followed him home from a paper route. It stayed around a month or so, we couldn’t find the owner. One day the dog got nicked by a car. My brother trying to help him out got nipped by the dog. We had to keep the dog up for 21 days and he had to get the first series of shots..My parents were worried to death.
    In 1973 around here we had reports of rabid bats in the area. I went through the scare again…Since our animals are vaccinated every year, I haven’t thought about it and much. A few years ago a woman died on the plateau of rabies from a rabid bat bite….ewwwwww! Now I will be thinking about rabies for days!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    October 10, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I really enjoyed reading your story, it made me smile and chuckle several times as it reminded me of days past. As a young boy, maybe 8 or so, I was afraid of the monster under the bed. No part of my body could slip out from under the covers for extreme fear of being attacked and eaten by the monster. Makes me smile now, but it was no smiling matter back then.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    October 10, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I think being scared of things, whether it being a child or adult, is about the unknown/uncertainty.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    October 10, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Boogers and tornadoes. Grew up in Oklahoma. Back in May, I was visiting my daughter and family for my oldest grandson’s graduation. Yep, May 20th, and I am in the storm shelter in Moore, Oklahoma!!! I’m 62 years old and still skeered of Boogers and tornadoes, but I live in Colorado now!

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    . When I was younger – all spiders, but as I’ve learned about them, that’s changed. Now it’s just wolf spiders and black widows. My cousin used to chase me with daddy long legs when we were little.
    Mom and Daddy never used monsters to scare us into doing things( like the boogie man).
    Now, it’s high places and strong winds ( that come with the bad storms)

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo aka Granny Sal
    October 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    My nickname was “Boogie” as in the Boogie Man..

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    October 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    My mother was born in 1918. She lived in the country. Packs of dogs would come through. The neighbors would warn each other saying that mad dogs are coming.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Mad dogs!! Mama told a story about passing by a fierce chained up dog that later turned up “mad”. Also told about a man who was bitten & went”mad”–everywhere he went they were mopping the floor, etc. & he couldn’t stay. (hydrophobia).
    Kruschev & atom bombs. I used to have a nightmare that a little fat man was continually chasing me.
    Vampires–had to keep my throat covered for protection.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I had an abundance of fears as a child. I’m still very cautious and a worrier – – not to the point that I can’t do anything, but to the point of “overpreparing” for everything!
    However, the most scared I ever was occurred one night when I awakened to the sense of being watched. As I finally worked up the courage to slit my eye open and peak out from under my arm I saw a large muscular shadow in the doorway backlit from the hall nightlight. I screamed. Probably louder than I’ve ever screamed in my life~! My husband suddenly “levitated” off the bed. The children in their bedrooms began screaming. – And the shadow in the doorway lunged at me yelling – Mom! what’s wrong?!!
    I still don’t know why he was standing there – I must have scared the reason right out of him! but – my oldest had grown into a man’s body without my even knowing it!!

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Like you I was always afraid in the summer time when there was only a screen on the windows. I felt like someone could just get right in and my bed under the window would be the first place they would step. As a wee child, I remember thinking of the boogey man. Now when all is quiet, and the house as quiet as could be, one can hear a creak or settling of the wood in a house that could be quite creepy, that is, depending upon your state of mind. To this day, I do not watch scary movies or TV programs. I know better!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Before we ever had television, my
    Grandma Delia Passmore visited with
    us often. After supper she’d pack
    that lower lip full of Bruton and
    could tell some of the scariest
    stories. We thought there really
    was a “Raw Head and Bloody Bones!”
    No wonder we had trouble sleepin’.

  • Reply
    Jackie McClung
    October 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I only remember being afraid of snakes and bullies at school.
    Our daughter wanted to watch ‘Psycho’ because all her friends were going to and they would talk about it the next day at school. We tried to discourage her to no avail. She took showers with the curtain and the bathroom door open for at least a month afterwards. She had to mop the bathroom and hall after every shower.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    October 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    What is “Fiddler of the Mountains” at the Folk School?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

    What’s under the bed? I dunna know but I would imagine something sometimes when I was a kid, pull the covers up and finally go to sleep. That didn’t last long. Going to the movies and living where I did, the old news reels in the forties and fifties would scare a person to death let alone a child, plus the roar of planes flying over and bombs dropping. Bomb drills, escape walks from school, knowing you would be separated from your parents! Scary!
    The BEAR problem!
    Why won’t those stupid people just leave those bears alone.
    Why stop, get out, take a marshmellow and try to feed them! Stupid, Stupid, and then it happened a Mamma and her cubs came by our old Packard. Whack! She took a swipe at my side of the car and back tire. I, inside the car, screamed “blooooody murrrrder”! It scared me to death! We were caught in the traffic and couldn’t leave! My folks just laughed, wasn’t funny to me! Dad said, “The only critters that are really dangerous are two-legged, not four-legged”! Oh sure, I thought, ducks and chickens…LOL
    Never was scared of creepy crawlies like snakes, lizards, bugs and spiders. I did a lot of prayin’ when I was a kid…and most things went by the wayside as I grew up!
    As an old grown-up, I do think of home invasions, war, auto accidents (never bothered me when I was a reckless care-free youngster), but nowadays scary! When I think of it, I’m not too afraid of anything much! (I’m probably lying to myownself! Since I found out that the Brown Recluse Spider is so common in and near the woods and homes as well. I have developed a fear of all brown spiders…Lordy, and those wolf spiders do all they can to get in the house this time of year! My cat hates spiders too and helps keep the number down somewhat!
    Ghosts, Haints, Witches and the paranormal fasinate me more than scare me! I still do a lot of prayin’.
    So, if one of my Grandchildren come up behind me and says, “BOO”!! I jump like I’m on a “bungee” cord! Soooo, I guess I’m scared of “BOO”!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS..Those pictures of all the girls are wonderful.
    Heard the Jay birds and Crows calling and fussing this cool October morning. A true sign of a “haunting” in the works!

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I was never too afraid of something if I could see it. Still, with Halloween and all the scary stories and especially with your comments about those hot summer nights sleeping with the windows up with only a screen for protection I just remembered this scary story. Hope it’s not too long.
    Years ago one of my little friend’s Momma told this story to me. Her husband worked nights and she was alone every night just her and the kids. She was always afraid.
    One night after all the chores were done she put the kids to bed. The front door was open with only a screen door that had been latched. You could do that back then. The windows were up with only screens keeping all the boogers out. Her bedroom was down at the end of a hall. There was a small table midway down that hall with a dim light she kept in case one of the kids should awake for some reason. It gave a dim light in the house.
    During the night as she was lying face down with her head turned away from her bedroom door she slowly began to sense something while in a semi-sleep Although she didn’t have the courage to turn her to look, she sensed someone was standing silently in her bedroom door watching her. It seemed her fears had finally come to pass. Someone must have quietly opened the front screen door and crept silently past the kids’ rooms and was now standing in her bedroom door.. She was totally alone now. As she was lying facedown frozen with fear she sensed whoever or whatever was now standing beside her bed. She was so scared now she could hardly breathe.
    Then ever so quietly someone placed their hand on her back between her shoulder blades. She screamed and screamed until she awoke; it had been a nightmare.
    She told me that if she hadn’t woke up when that hand touched her back she believed her heart would have stopped. Well so much for my “Stephen King moment.” Can you imagine how scary that must have been?

  • Reply
    Patricia Page
    October 9, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I was afraid of the atomic/hydrogen bomb. The testing of the bomb in the New Mexican desert was shown on TV in the ’50’s and the devastation it could cause at different radius (of miles). I was so frightened that we would be involved in another war and the bomb would be used. It was a reasonable fear. If it had been irrational, someone would have been able to explain it away. As it was, I had to learn to deal with it.

  • Reply
    Pamela Moore
    October 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I used to watch Dark Shadows after school. Big mistake! I used to wrap a thick blanket around my neck at night so the vampire fangs couldn’t reach me.

  • Reply
    Jackie Jentzsch
    October 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I’m scared to death of trap doors and crawl spaces. Started when I was tiny. there was a trap door above my bed and my dad told me that if I got out of bed, spiders would come down and get me. I’m not afraid of spiders, just the places they live. LOL.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

    My parents loved to tell scary stories knowing we had to “go outdoors” before bedtime. Most of the time I slept with both my sisters. We were all scaredy cats, but can’t remember what we were scared of. Sleeping with the covers over our head kept Mom worried we would smother to death. When we got older, we walked to our aunt’s house and watched Chiller with her kids every Saturday night. I never spent much time watching the show as my mind was on having to run home past that haunted spring when the show went off at midnight.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    October 9, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I was scared of boogers and haints. We heard so many stories about them that I was scared to walk anywhere by myself at night. We played outside after dark and it never crossed my mind That pic of those sweet girls is so good. They’ve grown into beautiful young ladies.

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    October 9, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Mostly, I was (and, sadly, still am) afraid of clowns! My cousing chased me around my “mummo’s” house with one of those awful jack-in-the-box toys. Still hate to hear that durned tune.
    I’m, also, still afraid of garage doors. Why? Remember this?

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Like you the summer nights with the windows open in an old creaky house was always a bit unsettling to me. I don’t think I was afraid of any one thing but the possibility of things. With the windows open I guess I felt unprotected but from what I don’t know. I do not care for horror movies but I took a girl out on a first date to the Swan Drive- In in Blue Ridge because she wanted to see the Exorcist. We drove home in silence and I did not sleep for several nights. Oh the things we do for a pretty girl!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    October 9, 2013 at 8:06 am

    TIPPER: As a child during the day I was afraid of MAD DOGS! Every time we were out walking one of my older sisters would scream “MAD DOG” and they would all start running so fast. I was the youngest and ‘chubby’ so that they all ran off and left me. But at night we ALWAYS had other sisters sleeping in our room. So the only thing I was afraid of was our house catching on fire! Daddy always reminded us as we carried the lantern upstairs. NO ELECTRICITY IN THOSE DAYS!
    Best regards,
    Eva Nell
    p.s. Have you taken a peek at “Fiddler of the Mountains” @ the Folk School? Pass the word!!

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    October 9, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I was blessed never to be afraid of much of anything. I had a few nightmares as a child,but that never translated into a fear of sleeping or dreaming and my closet had no monsters. One of my cousins was much like you. I felt sorry for her. I could tell that her terrors, how ever unfounded, were quite real to her. She also outgrew her fears. Amazing how different and how alike your girls are.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 9, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I was pretty much afraid of every booger and haint imaginable as a child. I couldn’t sleep with a light on because it would use up all the kerosene and burn up the wick. I slept with Daddy until I was five. When I was snuggled up to him, I wudden skeered of nothing.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    October 9, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I am one afraid of the dark;
    Its unknown tentacles affright,
    So ominous, so thick, so stark
    Close about me in the night.
    Say “Boo!” and I’m long gone,
    Mass shock converging in my tears!
    My trembling heart, still and prone,
    Won’t let me release my pent-up fears.
    What antidotes for fears so strong
    They tend to swallow, drown me?
    “Be brave! No ‘fraidy-cat’ can linger long.”
    “Grow up! Few dangers hide in what you cannot see!”
    But oh! The dark is ever cold,
    And even though this side of fear
    I stand more courageous and bold
    The echoes of Dark’s voices still fall upon my ear!
    -Ethelene Dyer Jones (after reading Tipper’s Blind Pig Post about Childhood Fears. 10/09/2013)

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 9, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Thunder storms, I was terrified of thunder storms. I think it was just the loud noise. That fear stayed with me till the Deer Hunter was born. One day I realized that if I didn’t get over it he would likely grow up with the same fear, so I got over it. I’m not sure how but I really didn’t want my son to grow up with that fear so, for him, I got over it.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 9, 2013 at 7:18 am

    I don’t remember being particularly afraid of a particular thing when I was a kid, but I was always a bit cautious.
    Of course, living in Transylvania County, NC, we are getting ready for the big day. Although Transylvania (which means “Through the forest”) County was named before Bram Stoker and Dracula came along, we still have a big celebration here to celebrate Halloween.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 9, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Oh everything, the dark, someone hiding in the closet to get me. I used to see people in the clothes hanging in the closet. It is amazing the terror we go through as children and still remain sane.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 6:51 am

    During my childhood there were so many ghost tales, and boogers was such a common term I thought they existed. I would dream of them at night, and they would chase me unmercifully. I learned to fly in my dreams, and when one chased I would simply lift off like an eagle. Being the oldest child, I learned to cope with many obstacles early. Never had enough fear of any human, but that fear of something behind me in the dark is still there. I don’t notice it since there are street lights. Maybe it goes back to when drive-in movies always had a double feature with the last one a horror movie.

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