Fee-Fee Cree (or, A Short Memoir on the Creature Feature Effect)

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When I was a kid, growing up in Chicago, WGN (Channel 9) had a horror anthology show called Creature Features. I was already afraid of my shadow, so when the show would come on, playing the weird, electric-guitar-driven theme from Experiment in Terror, I would go into hysterics. The vision of all those monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Phantom, and, more riveting, Lon Chaney from London After Midnight) sent me over the top.

I have a theory that men show affection to children through over-the-top threats (“I’m gonna hang you by your thumbs!”) and crazy actions (holding a kid upside-down). I can remember being roughed up and tickled to the point of passing out on many occasions. I’ve done similar things like that to my own brood.

My Uncle Kenny was a tiny dude who, because I was a small kid looking up, appeared to be a giant to me. He often picked me up over his head, threatening to drop me. Of course, he never did (though there is a going theory that I may have been dropped on my head more than a few times! LOL!). What was one of his favorite things to do, along with my Uncles Lewis and Sherman, was to lock me in a room with “Fee-Fee Cree” (I couldn’t pronounce “Creature Features”) coming on TV. For a 3-year-old already possessed of an overactive imagination, this was enough to make walk through a wall somewhere. Quite often, my mother (who was older sister to that set of uncles) or my grandmother, would come to my rescue. But I had been initiated and scarred for life.

As a teen, I was extremely sensitive to the supernatural. I could sense spirits nearby and was dreadfully afraid of seeing one manifest itself to me. I’d been a tale-spinner as a young child, but my writing picked up when I hit those double digit years. And I wrote about everything that influenced me, from my undying fascination with girls, to my fear of things going bump in the night.

I guess it was in the cards for me to finally pick up the pen and make my first novel a horror anthology. Though zombies weren’t part of my list of haunts as a kid, the subject of the dead getting up to walk was at least as old as the beliefs of the West African Voodun religion. My initial offering would detail the effects of the undead eating the living. More than that, it would point out that people are the real monsters…

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I like writing horror stories. Why? Not because I’ve made some sort of infernal pact or don’t believe in God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Watching a good monster movie or spinning a great yarn of the sort makes me feel alive. That and, like my Uncle Kenny, I love stirring people up to make them want to walk through walls.

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