Sorry, but I have to start this article off with a shameless plug of self-promotion.  I write for a living.  While I freelance on a variety of topics, my fiction work is all horror.  My first horror novel came out last September.  HorrorGeekLife‘s own Melissa wrote a review on it, and you can pick up a copy of your own here.

So what does this blatant plug have to do with this article?

Well, as I mentioned, I write for a living, so I’m always on the lookout for article and/or story ideas.  My sister just sent me a text that said, “Hey, you should write a story about Super Bowl.”

My response was “Why?  What the f__k is so scary about the Super Bowl?!?”

My sister didn’t respond, and she didn’t have to.  Because moments later the answer came to me like a flash flood.

Super Bowl Sunday is the anniversary of the most horrifying day of my life.  It marks an event that truly changed the course of my existence, and while some of you may find this a tad overdramatic after reading this whole post, I can assure you that what you’re about to read is no exaggeration.

Ready?

Then dim the lights, pour a circle of salt on the floor around you and let’s begin.

Even diehard horror fans get scared.  Ask us what are favorite horror movie is and we can talk for hours, but favorite horror film doesn’t always translate into film that scared you the most.  Take me for example.  My favorite horror Film is Friday the 13th Part 3But the film that scared me the most?

*breathing heavy even as I type the title…

Pet Sematary.

super bowl

It was 1989.  Super Bowl Sunday, 1989 to be exact.  I was 7 years old.  My parents were actually on a business trip together for that entire weekend so I was left in the care of my grandparents.  They had made plans to attend a Super Bowl party, so I was left in the care of a babysitter, whom to this day I credit with shaping my life as a horror fan, not to mention someone who probably needs a smidge of psychiatric therapy.

As usual, my babysitter arrived with an armful of horror movies in tow, something that I was completely used to.  I had kickass parents who let me watch pretty much whatever I wanted as a child, even one as young as 7.  Besides, I’d developed a pretty high tolerance for horror by then, so as far as everyone was concerned it was business as usual.

The grandparents left, the popcorn was made and we settled down and popped in the first VHS cassette – Pet Sematary. 

I did fine through the first half hour or so, I guess.  Even Pascow and his disgusting, brain oozing head wound didn’t get to me that much.  But then she appeared on the screen.  The character that would literally haunt my dreams for years to come.  Someone that would fuel my phobia of sickness for the rest of my life (so far…).

Zelda.

I have cold sweats just writing her name.  (and I’ll be damned if I’m Googling an image of her to include in this post, so you’re on your own, dear reader…)

Zelda (shiver) is the sister of one of the main characters.  She suffered from spinal meningitis, and her appearance in the film is one of a sickly, bed-ridden, twisted, frail, emaciated, pale, vomiting, pissing, thin-haired, grey-toothed, come-back-from-the-deading and altogether horrifying apparition who has scarred me for life.

I managed to watch the film all the way to the end, but the damage had been done.  I couldn’t eat dinner, and I sure as hell couldn’t go to bed.  My grandparents returned home after their party and I was still up.  My grandma put me to bed that night, concerned with the late hour since I had school the next day.  She turned off the lights, and my terror began.

Let me be clear.  I did not have nightmares, at least not on the first night.  I had hallucinations.

I saw Zelda crab-scuttling her way into my bedroom from the dark hallway, ready to snap my spine so that I looked just like her.  Eventually I realized that the only way I could even give myself a chance at sleep was to turn away from the bedroom door and face the wall; a habit that plagues me to this very day.  Eventually, I must have dozed off but I couldn’t have gotten more than a few hours of sleep.

The next morning I was exhausted, and I fell asleep in class.  I had one of those “barely asleep mini dreams” and pulled a Nancy Thompson ala Nightmare on Elm Street, kicked the kid in front of me and screamed like a girl.  Embarrassed, I asked to be excused and went out in the hall and into the restroom.  As I was taking care of business I got a horrible chill and turned to look over my shoulder.

Zelda was there, staring at me and grinning with her horrible, stained teeth on full display.  It was one of the few times I can remember truly “seeing” something that (God, I hope) wasn’t really there.  At any rate, I turned back around, zipped up my pants and vomited.

I was literally so frightened that I threw up.  The school called my grandma to come and pick me up.

I had similar episodes for years to come.  I would have nightmares where my own little sister (the inspiration for this article) would become possessed and turn into Zelda.  When I became old enough to mow the lawn, I can remember cruising around on my grandparent’s old Snapper with headphones in, enjoying the outdoor work on a sunny day.  Then I’d look across the yard and Zelda would be standing under a tree.  I’d break out in cold sweats, no matter how hot it was, and then she’d scuttle towards me across the yard.  I’d close my eyes just before she could get her hands around my throat, and when I worked up enough nerve to open them again she’d be gone.

My mother tried to help with my paranoia by telling me that the actress that played Zelda was probably very beautiful in real life, and looked nothing like her onscreen character.  Years later I found out that Zelda was actually played by a male actor, which made “her” exponentially more frightening to me for some reason.

At any rate, I haven’t seen Pet Sematary in 28 years.  It’s in my Netflix queue, but I can’t bring myself to press play.  It’s my unicorn – the only film to have ever “beaten” me.  I have the soundtrack on vinyl, and listen to it a lot when I write.  I’ve read the book, and while it’s a terrifying example of Stephen King’s work, it doesn’t have the same effect on me as the film did.  Oh, and another thing, since Horror Geek Life is celebrating February as “women in horror” month I should point out that Pet Sematary was directed by Mary Lambert–a woman.

So there you have it, an explanation as to why Super Bowl Sunday holds a very dark and terrifying place in my heart.  So I hope you all enjoy the game and the food.  Don’t mind me, I’ll be here trying to think about anything besides her, and when I go to sleep tonight, I’ll turn my head away from the doorway and towards the wall, because I know that even though it’s been almost 30 years, Zelda is still there, staring…grinning….

…and waiting.

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I am a fan of horror—both literature and film. I am also a published author, and while I have yet to receive a literary award, I did get a gold star on a middle school English paper once. I'm also an Army veteran and served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. My work has been published in Sanitarium Magazine, as well as the World War I horror anthology “Kneeling in the Silver Light,” and my first novel, "Greetings from Barker Marsh," was released in September, 2016. I live in Florida with his beautiful wife and daughter. Follow me at www.tysonhanks.com.

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