When I was seven years old, my family lived in Rochester, New York on Webster Avenue, in an apartment above a dry-cleaners. My parents often had the daughter of a friend of theirs babysit myself and my three siblings. Her name was Marcie, she was 19 years old and a goddess as far as I was concerned. I was sure that one day I would marry her, she did agree to that arrangement, alas it never happened. Yet, 57 years later, she still holds a warm spot in my heart. Marcie is the one who introduced me to monsters.
Up until my paramour opened my eyes to the world of horror I had only had one instance where something really scared me (okay, the words “Wait until your Father comes home!” did have that effect — but I digress!). That was watching “The Wizard of Oz” on our small black and white T.V.. I had nightmares for two weeks, because of that Wicked Witch of the West! And let’s not even talk about those flying monkeys! Then the luscious Marcie took me to a whole other level.
My parents would go out for the evening, leaving our babysitter the usual instructions. Carol Ann and I were to be put to bed by eight, sometimes after a bath (oh yeah!), Gary and Martha got to stay up until nine. By ten-o-clock everyone was asleep except for moi, I would come slinking out into the living-room whining, “I can’t sleep!” Marcie would smile, lips the color of ripe apples, and pat the couch next to her. I would cuddle next to her soft frame and half watch whatever was on, it didn’t really matter. Then it happened! One late Friday night she turned on Thriller Theatre, the movie was “Dracula” starring the brilliant Bela Lugosi.
From the very first scene, as the credits rolled over the carriage drawn by black horses careening wildly through the dark foggy forest, with wolves howling in the background, I was riveted! The whole story, as Jonathan Harker goes to the castle of Dracula, meets the Count, and is seduced, unfolded like a revelation to me. I watched utterly mesmerized by the brooding terror of those eyes glowing with unholy fire, as the vampire manipulated and controlled all who came under his dark gaze. His boat trip to England, the insane Renfield, and the battle for Mena’s very soul left me breathless. The fact that the love of my life was clutching me to her bosom escaped me.
I was in an alternative Universe, galvanized each step of the way. Every time he spoke, Dracula’s thick Romanian accent sent chills up my spine (yes, I know Lugosi was Hungarian, I was seven, for crying out loud). Lines like , “Ahh, the children of the night” echoed through my brain. When the movie came to a close with the words ‘THE END’ I was beside my self! This thing I had just experienced had eclipsed my desire for Marcie for the whole time it was on.
She picked me up carried me to bed, tucked me in and said, “Don’t tell your parents, okay?” I promised that it was our secret.
The next day I was over at my friend Frank Brown’s house, out back in the playhouse with his younger brother and sister, John and Sissy. I told them I had watched this scary movie about a thing called a vampire, that was undead. They all wanted to hear the story, so, for the next hour I regaled them, with a scene by scene telling of “Dracula. It left them breathless and squealing with delight. I warned them not to tell any adults or Marcie would get in trouble. They agreed, as long as I would tell them any other scary stories I would see.
By the end of that Summer my curvy goddess had let me watch Frankenstein, two Werewolf movies, and the Invisible Man. All of which I shared with my audience of three the next day. after that Summer, we moved and Marcie never babysat for us again. I was heartbroken. But my taste for Monsters had been whetted. Oh yeah, when I was in my Fifties I finally told my Mom that Marcie had allowed me to stay up and watch ‘Thriller Theatre’ ! She just laughed! So if you want to stay out of trouble with parents; wait 47 years before you tell them the truth!
Where ever you are Marcie, bless you for the gift of Monsters in my Life