Shanannigan’s First Fright: “In a Dark, Dark Wood…”

As part of a fantastic Christmas gift, Michael tracked down some contributors to my “My First Fright Series,” a series on my blog which I happen to love.  In this series, for which I started by writing about two of my earliest childhood fears, I ask other people to write about their earliest memories of feeling afraid.  The results tend to be an interesting, surprising, eclectic group of terrors.  I decided to save this one for the month of Halloween, since it has a really creepy vibe!  So, before delving into my Christmas Gift “My First Fright,” I’d like to extend a tremendous thank-you to my boyfriend, Michael, at My Comic Relief and today’s contributor, Shanannigan’s,for a fantastic re-telling of a first fright.

“In a Dark, Dark Wood…”

Do you know why the best scary movies always take place in some remote place (*Insert cabin, cottage, tent, summer camp etc…) deep in the woods? Hmm, let me count the ways… It’s isolated, eerie, foreign, far removed from civilization, and usually lacking basic comforts like indoor plumbing and a reliable phone.

Which brings me to my earliest scary experience(s).


Deep in the wilds of Muskoka, my grandparents had a stunning cottage on the lake with floor to ceiling windows boasting beautiful lake views, and a wraparound deck. Sounds amazing doesn’t it?

For many years, my childhood summers were spent at this slice of rugged heaven and it’s safe to say, these visits had a profound effect on me.

In addition to the beautiful scenery, it also had a very private and unmarked road up to the house, with not a single light to guide the way. Truly, it was always a race with the sun getting to that place, otherwise you would be navigating this narrow road with only your headlights to see the tree branches whipping the sides of your car. Very scary stuff for a kid at the tender age of 6 or 7.

As is if the road of death wasn’t bad enough, there was also an ancient, rickety set of stairs leading up from that road towards the cottage. God help you if you had to climb these stairs in the dark because there was a step missing near the top. I once fell down these stairs but that’s a story for another time.


After the harrowing journey in, we would do normal cottagy type things like swimming and sunbathing. Swimming off the dock was generally ok, but there was a large pebbly area under the raised deck that was home to hundreds of blood sucking leeches. I was told by much older relatives that this area was also where “the bodies were buried.”

As a result, I was terrified of wading in the shallow waters because of the leeches (I’ve seen “Stand by Me”) and simultaneously worried that the unmarked graves would start to stir if I spent any amount of time down at the shoreline. Where were my parents you ask? Oh, I’m sure they were around but it was the 80’s so us kids had more freedom back then.

After a “relaxing” day of sun and swimming, we would all retire to the large, airy family room. After roasting marshmallows over a roaring fire (amazing stone fireplace all the way to the ceiling), the adults would usually decide to watch a movie or two before bed.

Here is where I was educated in the ways of horror movies. I’m sure my mom would try to rush me to bed, but no kid is going to miss an opportunity to watch R rated movies.


It was on these summer nights that I met Freddie, Jason, and Mr. Myers for the very first time. Against my parents’ better judgement, I was permitted to watch Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and the Sleep Away Camp movies with my older cousins (Do you
remember those?). The result? Nights laying in my little bed, trying not to pee myself because I was too terrified to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

You would think these trips would have caused major PTSD for me as an adult, or at the very least, an aversion to camping. I’m happy to say that the complete opposite is true. I LOVE camping, cottaging, or glamping if you prefer, and horror is my jam!

While I still appreciate the classics like the Friday the 13th movies, I do prefer
psychological horror and the paranormal stuff better, but I’ll never forget my roots.

I’m sad to say that the house of horrors… er… luxury retreat is long gone but I will never forget my summers spent in the dark, dark woods.

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Shanannigan’s First Fright: “In a Dark, Dark Wood…”

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