The 13th Floor

Editorial: MONSTER SQUAD’s Ryan Lambert On Conquering His Fears Of Horror!

What is scarier than Richard Nixon’s face? A rubber mask of Richard Nixon’s face. Or Jimmy Carter, The Devil, a clown, Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy.

I avoided all of the above as a kid. Halloween was a giant panic attack. I was terrified. I think I just thought it was so bizarre and wrong. If someone was wearing makeup say, as a hobo or even a vampire it was no big deal. Put that disgusting smelling rubber over your face I’d turn tail, go into convulsions and cower.

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It wasn’t really a huge problem most of the year but dammit, I wanted those sweats come October.

My mother’s solution? Psychiatrist.

There weren’t a ton of filters in my household in the 70’s and 80’s. My brother and I pretty much watched what we wanted. I remember seeing ads in the LA Times for films like IT’S ALIVE. That devil hand creeping out of the crib? Yikes. I’d run after my brother holding that ad up scream, “The Davis Baby is coming after you!”

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The real kicker was, I was taken to see THE SHINNING at nine years old. Besides the usual images and scenes that you’re conjuring up in your head right now, the one constant haunt of my life has and always will be The Grady Sisters. My brother and I would torture each other by continually bringing up the idea that those girls were in the closet, down the hall, following us everywhere. I’d put him in the closet and hold the door closed and listen to him scream bloody murder (redrum) while I shouted, “ The Two Girls are right next to you!”

My mother’s solution? Psychiatrist.

The first thing we tried to tackle was The Grady’s. His big brainy idea was to put a photo of them in a brown paper bag and each week he’d rip open a slot in the bag and I’d have to stare down at it and speak my mind, my feelings on why I was terrified out of my skin. Once the entire photo was revealed I was magically cured. Um, hell no. Didn’t take.  I would creep down corridors like a psycho. My brother over came his fear by painting them over and over and hanging pictures in his room like a psycho. Good for him. Lucky. I’m doomed.

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The next thing this quack tackled was the rubber masks.  His genius solution was to put a devil mask my mother purchased in a brown paper bag and reveal pieces each week through holes he’d cut out. Was this his method for everything?

Once the bag was completely destroyed and the mask was fully exposed the idea was to have my mother stand across the street holding the mask, slowly putting it on and walking towards me till I felt comfortable. Imagine my 4’11, little Jewish mother wearing a mask of the Devil and slowly creeping towards you. This guy was brilliant.

But you know what, it worked. It really worked. I even put this damn thing on myself. I’m not entirely sure, but I might have even slept with it on. That’s a different article.

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Suddenly Halloween opened up and it was an entirely different world for me.

A while back, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art held a Stanley Kubrick exhibit. As I wandered from room to room meticulously going over every aspect of his life and work I knew what was lurking around the corner.  I was starting to get weary.  I felt a turn in my stomach and vertigo set in. I stopped dead. There they were, The Grady’s. Well, their actual wardrobe from the film, hung on the wall. My heart flipped. I was frozen.  They beckoned me to come play with them. Everything went blank. Panic ensued. Did I faint? Did they finally catch up to me after all these years and drag me to Haunted Land? I decided if there ever was a time to get over this ridiculous fear looming over my head for the past 30 plus years this has got to be it.

I walked slowly towards them. Every step was a hurdle. I got as close as I could without the museum guards reprimanding me. Those tiny blue and white dresses. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I have been afraid of these small creatures for most of my life. I could see bloodstains! Blood Stains!! I felt my knees wobbling but I held my ground. Here I was face to face with the ghosts. I felt a slight calming wash over me as this nice little lady asked if I wanted her to take a picture of me with “them.”

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I knew I had somehow crossed a threshold. I now see images of them everywhere thanks to the Internet and I am actually Twitter friends with the actresses.

I’ve conquered the demons. I’ve packed up those haunts for good. I’ve tested it in hotel corridors. I’m good.

I have new fears now, true Earthly horrors. I’m leaving the ghosts and ghouls on the screen both big and small.  I admire those who devote their lives to horror and all its ghastly fun (lookin and you, SHOCK WAVES).  But every once in a full moon, when I least expect it I catch a looming figure out of the corner of my eye only to have disappeared when I turn in its direction. I know they’re still there, lurking. I shiver but I’m ready for’um now.

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