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What Really Scared You As a Child?

I’ve always known that I have a terrible fear of spiders, but can you remember that one thing in life that truly terrified you?

I’m not talking about some irrational fear, but something that was deep-seated from your childhood, something that occasionally rears its ugly head in random nightmares…

Being back in Chicago, my childhood fear popped back into my subconscious the other night, prompting me to ask you all this very question.

As young as I can remember I was mortified of ventriloquist dummies. I’m not anymore, but I still have a reoccurring nightmare I’ve been having since I was 8 years old.

The earliest recollection of the fear I have is of the below 1984 McDonald’s commercial featuring Willie Tyler and his ventriloquist dummy, Lester. Any time that commercial would pop on I would be in my parents’ bed that night – and I want to go as far as to say my parents were so annoyed they mailed letters of complaint to McDonald’s (like that does any good).

While Tyler is my earliest memory, the one that haunted me the most was spawned by Paul Winchell, who has his own variety show called “The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show.” Jerry Mahoney, pictured above left, was the scariest looking doll I had ever seen – so scary to a child that he would haunt my nightmares for 30 years. I’m not exactly sure how I saw this 1950’s show in the 80’s, but clearly, it had a profound impact on me.

Ever since I can remember I’ve been having these lucid dreams where I walk out of my room, look to my left, and see Jerry Mahoney starring at me in the blackest of the corner with beaming red eyes. I begin to run and end up being chased through London-esque streets with layered brick as roads. It’s always the same nightmare, and I always wake up with my heart racing. As an adult, I think it’s hilarious and awesome, but holy crap did it scare the shit out of my when I was younger.

What scared you? I mean, what realllllly scared you? Tyler and Lester wanna hear from you below.


Image sources: Wiki and Democast News.



  • Kori Batchelor

    I’m with you on the ventriloquist dummies. I saw the movie “Magic” with Anthony Hopkins at a very young age and that kinda ruined me on those creepy little things. Still love that movie…still freaks me out, too.

  • REC03


  • I-cut-you-good

    That scene in conan when he’s about to get down and dirty with that woman in the mud hut and then she turns into that cat lady thing. Watched it when I was 4 with my child minder and it scared the living crap out of me

  • Brett Strohl

    The Punky Brewster Halloween special

  • SemajTheSellout

    Rats. Anything with rats or mice. However, since I moved to the south at 11… Rats, mice, raccoons, and possums. lol

  • ThunderDragoon

    For some reason, that scene in Dumbo with the pink elephants freaked me out as a kid lol. But something that still freaks me out would be dummies. Slappy from Goosebumps is the sole reason for that fear.

  • Killyoself Asap

    Medusa from the original ‘clash of the titans’. She’s still creepy as hell.

  • conrad warszawski

    Marionettes really scared me when I was a kid. I couldn’t watch Thunderbirds or old episodes of Rupert the bear.

  • EmPleH

    Sweetums from The Muppets scared the crap out of me as a kid. Thought that thing was gonna eat me.

  • Bear

    The “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds”, holy shit that scared me when I was like 3. It is actually one of my earliest memories. Sitting on the couch, not daring to dangle my feet off in case I was grabbed. Fuck that shit man.

  • Booth

    If you wanna know for real what used to scare me as a child. I would have to say any kind of Dummy. Whether it was stupid, or completely terrifying, they would never fail to scare me. So, in short, I share your fear of dummies. Well, at least I did at one time. I’m not really too scared of them anymore honestly. I also hated clowns. Clowns are the freakin’ worst of the worst. I also had an irrational fear of dramatic music. What the hell kind of kid can’t listen to dramatic music in commercials without having some sort of trauma? Haha. Remembering it now, it just sounds so damn ridiculous. I used to have nightmares about Slappy from Goosebumps when I was 4 or 5 years old. I remember being afraid of my Woody doll until I was 12 years old. Dolls, puppets, clowns, and dramatic music. In short, if you made a horror film with a doll killing a puppet and a clown killing that doll with dramatic and unsettling music playing, I may die from a heart attack. Dang, looking back on it, I had a lot of fears growing up….

  • Lana Del Gay

    One time when I was around 5 or 6, I turned on my mom’s TV and saw a scene from Chucky, which made me so scared I still haven’t even seen the full movie. Which is ironic because I’m obviously not scared anymore. I just don’t have the time.

  • ATL12

    Piranha’s. I recall when the people were in the lake & they came nibbling on them.

  • Patrick Cooper

    Ventriloquist dummies went from terrifying me to fascinating me. I went from shitting my dockers over them to collecting and studying them. The only lingering fear from my childhood is the ocean. Fuck the ocean.

  • SickAxe

    HANDS DOWN that creepy ass show Spitting Image!! Holy hell!! I could not remember the name of that show and I was searching for the name now and still today it scares the crap out of me!

    Just see for your self!!

  • minya

    The Halloween episode of Little House on the Prairie (The Monster of Walnut Grove).

  • Guest

    Zeki Müren. He is a Turkish singer. Biggest TSM star.

  • KSE1977

    Without a doubt, for me, it was the original Poltergeist. Take your pic regarding what scared me, be it the tree monster, creepy little Carol-Anne, the clown puppet or the Indian bodies popping up. I saw that movie when I was way too young to watch it and it stayed with me for a long time.

  • Waveboy

    Freddy’s grand entrance in the original A nightmare on elm street during the sleep over/tina’s 2nd dream sequence where he’s walking down that alley with those long stretched out arms. Combined with the rotten, flesh dangling crackling smile MESSED me up.

  • Daniel Bryan

    For me, it would be the Halloween movies. Every time I saw Michael Myers on the screen, I would hide under the cover and just couldn’t see him do what he does.

  • I tried to think of all the things that creeped me out, like Monchichi, Care Bears, Dracula’s Daughters, etc. But those just creeped me out. The only thing that has ever truly scared me is disembodied footsteps. Hearing a sound that can (usually) only be attributed to a person, yet seeing nothing, or knowing they can’t be there… that’s what does it for me.

  • Devin McKay

    The Neverending Story. I had to watch that movie 3 times at school before 2nd grade. Gmork was scary as f***, but the concept of The Nothing still scares me to this day. And don’t get me started on Watership Down.

  • Chandler Of-Adelaide

    Horror movies in general. I loved reading the Goosebumps books and I was introduced to Dracula when I was like 7 but the second that stuff was put to film I lost it. A single glimpse of something scary in a horror movie and I’d have nightmares for weeks. Nowadays I can’t get enough of horror. Funny how things change. 😛

  • markemark

    My dad would constantly scare all the kids, especially after watching horror movies with us,

    I remember being young and avoiding the Evil Dead VHS at the video store, something about the eyes in the skull fucked with me.

    I think most traumatizing thing, the thing that truly messed with my head and stuck with me was the old lady scene from Pet Sematary. I just couldn’t handle it. I’ve talked about it in therapy and its evident it totally effected me. I was well into my teens until I watched the movie with the intent of watching the scene. I wold watch the flick and go get a snack, or pee break or anything to avoid it. To a way lesser extent the lady in the tub from The Shining but yeah, Pet Sematary for sure.

  • Tim Gosnell

    Thanks for the article pic!! I was PETRIFIED of Howdy Doody as a child!

  • Adrian Sewell

    Chucky scared me when i was little

  • a very British hamster

    Ventriloquist dummies and porcelain dolls, mannequins, etc, scared THE HELL out of me!
    I was HUGE into Goosebumps which is probably where love of horror and fear of these things stemmed from! xD

  • Kirkio

    Dolls. They still scare me now, I can’t stand them. I used to sleep with my feet facing the hallway and have regular dreams of the doll in my mum’s room coming into my room, or murdering my family. I remember this one dream I had where I was exploring a house and had to walk past a table with a doll and a bottle on it, it was intense. Pretty much the second I got up to it it smashed the bottle and lunged at me, I woke up having a panic attack and never really got over the whole doll thing since.

    Bit pathetic really… but if people stopped making these things SO DAMN CREEPY poor guys like me wouldn’t be so petrified of them!

  • Blessed are the sick

    Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Pennywise were the cause of several sleepless nights when I was a young kid!

  • RedPyramidHead

    Dolls, thanks to Chucky and Poltergiest. My mom used to collect porcelain dolls. She had a upstairs room full of them and some more in my sister’s room. Let’s just say that I’d never go into these rooms alone.

    Cemeteries, thanks to Return Of The Living Dead I & II. Every time we’d drive past one I used to duck my head down so I couldn’t see out the windows, or I made sure to look the other way. It didn’t help any, when my older brothers or parents would jokily mimic the zombies by saying “Brains!” as we’d drive by. 🙁

  • I was always afraid someone would break in to the house and kill my family.
    To this day I still have nightmares about intruders.

  • Brian Fenton

    Tales From The Crypt and Dolls of any sort. Fuck that Cryptkeeper (as much as I love the show now) and any doll

  • Mikael Leigh

    I draw the line at possessed faces. Namely that ugly bitch from the ring who crawls out of Tv’s. Then, For some reason alot of schizophrenic patients claim to hallucinate her and I am standing there thinking.. Oh. Hell. No. It’s hard to give this boy a scare, but even the boxart of that movie makes me paranoid for days.

  • SaltSlasher

    E.T. You know laying in the river all blue and nasty. It was spooky with lurking people. I know in pre-school I refused to watch it cause I didn’t like him. But it was at nap time, so I don’t think I complained long.

  • Werewolf

    I used to have a recurring dream that big black shadows full of sharp jagged teeth would come out of the darkness and bite into me, tearing chunks out of my flesh, and in the dream I could feel the pain. Needless to say, I used to hate to go to sleep when I was a child.

  • Matt Kimmel

    I had an unfortunate episode with an elephant at the zoo when in was 4 and ended up with my arm up its trunk. Needless to say I’ve been terrified of them ever since

  • joesey

    Devil worshipers–but only b/c Geraldo did that fucken creepy ass special on them after that everyone and their mother was a suspected devil worshiper,

  • Tim West

    Having been born in ’77, for me, it was the Paramount logo (Closet Killer music, as it was called) at the end of shows like Laverne & Shirley & Happy Days. If I didn’t leave the room, or close my eyes and cover my ears, I was in trouble that night. The Viacom V of Doom was the same thing…

  • Antonio Di Siero

    In the early 80’s there was a constant speak on media of that age about possible nuclear war USA/USSR, that scared me alot.

  • Outof TheWoodwork

    The only true fear I can remember having as a child was the things in the darkness. I wasn’t scared of the dark, I was scared of what was in the dark. I grew up in the country in the early 80s when a lot of the psycho killers started showing up in the new. Of course living in the country I knew what wild animals were around and that combined with the news channels caused me to have massive panic attack anytime I was outside at night and heard a stick break or leaves rustle. I always imagined some deranged hillbilly was going to come screaming out of the woods wearing some weird animal skin and attack me. It never happened of course but I still jump at time when I hear something move in the dark.

  • Jonathan Larsson

    When I was a kid, I was scared beyond belief of Gmork in The Neverending Story.

    • Joeyjoejoe Shabadoo

      That’s funny. I was scared shitless of Falcore the Luck Dragon; my mom thought I loved the movie because every time she’d put it on I wouldn’t leave the couch – in reality, i wouldn’t leave the couch because i was scared stiff of that flying dog-dragon.

      • Jonathan Larsson

        Falcor wasn’t really that scary to me, compared to other things in the movie. Besides the fact that I was spellbound out of fear for Gmork, creeped out by Morlas twisted ET-esque appearance, shocked by the deep-fried knight, and felt genuinely terrified of the eerie southern oracle statues that was falling apart, I also had a dog that was quite similar to Falcor. He just seemed like a kindly dog-like character to me.
        I still love the never-ending story, and Gmork has actually grown to become one of my favorite characters, mainly because he’s more than just a vicious monster; he’s an intelligent and cunning creature who desires the utter despair of mankind, to the unidentified power behind the Nothing… which could be a number of things in the human world.

  • twisted

    Every time this trailer came on I was traumatized.

    • minya

      Wow, forgot about that, my little brother would become so horrified by that commercial, he would literally puke when it was on, lol, poor guy.

  • J’Mel R. Davidson

    I have two that stick out:

    One,of course, was the trailer for Magic in 1978.
    I was 3. I’m sure it ruined lots of people.
    Though, not that I’m older,mi can appreciate a trailer that’s genuinely scary. That never happens anymore.

    The second was the Brooks/Aykroyd prologue from Twilight Zone, the Movie.
    Honestly, it’s STILL hard for me to watch…

    • Rob …

      You nailed it with that Magic trailer and the TZ the Movie moment. I grew up in NJ and was fortunate enough to have a small b&w tv in my room at an early age 7 or 8 years old. This also meant I was frequently victimized by late night commercials or trailers that would air during SNL or WOR-TV’s Fright Night.

      I have a few to mention – the trailer for the Shining screwed with my head… The look on Nicholson’s face and that boy running through the maze in 2 feet of snow with that music playing.

      The PSA’s of the early 80’s… take your pick. They were all pretty frightening.

      And finally… This little gem

      The announcer’s name is Lou Steele (nicknamed “the creep”) between the ages of 7 and 10 years old, I had to either leave the room or change the channel the moment it came on. Something about his spooky voice asking parents if they knew where there kids where. It conjured a “when a stranger calls” image to me. Is he asking because he has them? shudder

  • JB

    I was scared that if my feet weren’t covered by a blanket or sheet while I was sleeping someone would come in and cut them off or do something else to them.

    Also was kind of scared of the dark, especially after I saw C.H.U.D.
    I always imagined I’d see those glowing green eyes appear in the living room as I slept in my bed. Dunno why I never thought to just close my bedroom door.

  • marioncrane

    Nothing scared me more than the T-1000 in Terminator 2…. especially when he got his face shot open and it put itself back together…oh God just thinking about it… still one of my favorite movies though!

  • Kai Opitz

    The Slappy Episode of goosebumps. Terrifying as hell in the german version as a 7 year old.

  • Michelle Simmons

    Dolls and clowns, thanks to Chucky and It.

  • elbastardo1b

    Hee-Haw …

  • Steven McDade

    I’m embarrassed by my fear now because I grew to love The Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch made me run and turn on all the lights in the house.

  • Annie

    Saw “Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)” on TV way too young and couldn’t sleep for weeks…

  • Moe Long

    That disembodied heads scene from Return to Oz.

  • Wai Kuong Lau

    Remember the old fake as shit alien autopsy? well back then it haunted me for a long time… now i feel kinda of ashamed cause it looks terrible now

  • Larry

    Back in the 70’s there was an extremely cheesy horror flick called Burnt Offerings. But no matter how cheesy the movie was, one chilling presence was the character of “the chauffeur”. He never spoke a single word. He was a grinning ghostly presence that still pops up in my dreams even today.

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