When I became a “grown up” horror fan

I turned 11 in 1980, the year the movie The Shining came out. I begged my mom to see it and while I’d watched a lot of “horror movies” she was a big reluctant to take me to see a movie that was rated R.

So we entered a compromise.

Read the book, see the movie.

At 11, I read The Shining. Years later, during a re-read, I realized quite a bit went over my head. However, when I finished the book, I remember mom kind of exhaling and promising to take me to the movie. Instead, I asked for another Stephen King book.

That’s when ‘Salem’s Lot entered my life. It was one of the books a few years later in my under the mattress incident with my dad. And it became my favorite Stephen King novel, and one of my favorite books ever.

The “Salem’s Lot Scares

As an 11-year-old kid, death basically consisted of a grandparent and the dog in Where the Red Fern Grows. I mean, the bad monsters didn’t even die in the Godzilla movies – they usually just went away.

But Danny Glick’s death and return as a vampire was like slamming me in the face with a cast iron skillet.  I’m not sure I’d read anything where a kid about my age was the victim. It didn’t take long to figure out this wasn’t Encyclopedia Brown or the Hardy Boys. There was a real fight going on here and people were dying. Sort of.

A bit later, when Father Callahan faltered and had to leave town, this little Christian boy was gobsmacked.

There was an atmosphere of dread that held up throughout the book, but Ben and Mark and the others, even when some of them fell, kept hope alive throughout.

Eye opening

The book was eye opening for one simple reason. It showed me what a story can be. It demonstrated the power of the written word as a story telling medium.

It caused an emotional reaction.

I’d read quite a bit and enjoyed books in the past, but this was the first time a book evoked a reaction in me. Terror. Dread. Hope. Elation.


I have managed to reread the book a couple of times over the years and not long ago, I listened to it on audio.

As I listened, driving down the road, that sense of dread settled in the pit of my stomach. I found myself worried about the characters and concerned about how Barlow seemed to steamroll everyone in his path.

Yep, it still resonated.

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