Let me be perfectly frank. I'm a gigantic chicken.
I'm afraid of the dark, particularly of the things that go bump in the night; I'm afraid of the monster under my bed and the one hiding in the darkest corner of my closet; I'm afraid of the creature under the stairs just waiting to reach between the stair treads and grab my ankles and the other one lurking in the shadows behind the furnace in our basement.
You name it, it sends a chill down my spine.
But, interestingly enough, I'm also drawn to those creepy things that frighten me so. I'm like a kid terrified of heights who likes going on the biggest and highest roller coaster in the park for the adrenalin rush.
Perhaps one of the many reasons I write scary stories is because I find so many things to be afraid of. In that sense, the terror in this writer's heart comes easy -- there's simply no shortage of things going bump in the infinite night of my mind.
So let us now flash back to a young pre-teen Mark visiting Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls with his parents. Young Mark is, of course, unnaturally drawn to the wax museums, but particularly to the House of Frankenstein and Castle Dracula.
Outside the House of Frankenstein lurks the Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein's monster. He spends his time walking around scaring kids. I, of course, got too close, and he immediately reached out and grabbed me.
Yes, I knew it wasn't really Frankenstein's monster -- that it was a man in a suit. But the hold he had around my neck was tight and it was difficult for me to breathe. I remember actually being frightened that I was going to be choked to death while my Dad whipped out the camera to take this picture and both parents were giggling and enjoying the moment.
I can still feel the distinct impression of the monster's cold, dead hands on my throat.
Or is that just my imagination again?