Films that go bump in the night: What scared us as kids



I recently shared a meme on Facebook titled, “What Movie Traumatized You as a Child?”

I received a tidal wave of responses from filmgoers who had been frightened (hopefully with some sense of fun) by the things they’d seen onscreen as tykes.  I’ve included examples from 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and onward.  Apparently, we’ve been scared for a very long time.

Take a look at the movie memories that I’ve listed below.  By the way, I learned about some films I’ve never heard of before–neat!


This is what scared the bejesus out of us kids, in chronological order:

King Kong (1933).

“When King Kong battles the giant dinosaur.  That was scary.”

Elephant Boy (1937).  A British adventure/fantasy film featuring Indian actor Sabu as an elephant handler.

“I saw a movie about a boy in the jungle that entered a cave and was attacked by a giant hairy spider that had an even bigger web.  I had nightmares for a long time.  My mother told me that as a baby a spider bit me on my lip and it was poisonous and caused a red streak to appear on my face.  I have a scar on my lip where I was bitten.  No wonder spiders and their webs haunted me for many years.”

The Wizard of Oz (1939).

“I hate to admit it but the wicked witch and her flying monkeys really scared me when the Wizard of Oz was televised.  Miss Gulch’s character scared me as well – she reminded me of a not so favorite great aunt.”

Bambi (1942).  The respondent did not elaborate here, but I think most of us remember the scene where Bambi’s mother is shot.

Hitler’s Children (1943).  A young U.S. citizen studies at the American Colony School in Germany prior to WWII.  Years later, one of her friends, now a Nazi officer, sends her to a labor camp.

My horror movie featured [child actor] Bonita Granville….HITLER’S CHILDREN.  Had nightmares for weeks!” 

House of Wax (1953).  A disfigured sculptor finds a novel way to repopulate his destroyed wax museum.

“The moment you find out that the statues in the Museum are people that had been dipped in wax.”

The Night of the Hunter (1955).  An evil, serial-killer preacher chases two children down the Ohio River.

“Robert Michum’s character [the preacher] was scary.”

The Trollenburg Terror (1958).  This film concerns extraterrestrials which live in a radiation cloud in the Alps above a Swiss resort town.  They kill anyone who comes near them and threaten to descend upon the town:

        “I must have seen it 15 times.  Scared the s***! out of me.  We loved scary movies as kids.”

The Fly (1958).  A scientist develops a machine that can break down matter and instantly teleport it to another location.  He tries the machine on himself.  Unfortunately, a fly has accidently flown into the machine at the moment of teleportation.  Their atoms get mixed up.  Just imagine what that looks like……

“Helllllp meeeee!!!!” [screamed by fly-man at the moment he is eaten by a spider at end of film.]

Psycho (1960).  An Alfred Hitchcock film infamous for a brutal murder that occurs in a hotel shower.

“….That’s why I take baths to this day.”

Mr. Sardonicus (1961).  A man who robbed his father’s grave is left disfigured with a horrifying, frozen grin on his face.

“I just remember the guy with the huge, sardonic smile.”

The Birds (1963).  Another Hitchcock film where a small town on the California coast is inexplicably attacked by thousands of birds.

“….I couldn’t go out in the backyard without getting terrified of the birds sitting on the telephone line…..

 Hotel (1967).  A drama which takes place at the fictional St. Gregory Hotel in New Orleans:

        “All I remember is that there was an elevator crash.  To this day, I don’t like elevators.”

The Omega Man (1971).  Subsequent to a horrible plague, there’s only one man on earth….but he’s not alone, as mutant zombies (created by the plague) are on the rampage.

“I was so scared of Mathias and his zombies that I had to sleep in my parents’ [bed] for two nights in a row.”

The Shining (1980).  An alcoholic and his wife become the caretakers of a haunted resort hotel:

“When he [Actor Jack Nicholson] was breaking into the bathroom with an axe and he had this  very crazed look on his face.”

And a few memories strictly from TV shows:

“That stupid TV documentary about the Bermuda Triangle.”

“Pig people….as a little kid, I had nightmares for weeks!”  [referring to the denouement of a “Twilight Zone” episode called “The Eye of the Beholder.]


Oh, I almost forgot:  My scary movie memory dates from the time I was five or six.  I witnessed a film segment on TV with writhing shadows projected onto the wall of a cave….moans and screams of agony….hellish scenes….and that vision was with me for decades before I found out that it was a fantasy scene from a 1935 Spencer Tracy movie called Dante’s Inferno.  Tracy plays the owner of a carnival that features a ride called “Dante’s Inferno.”


4 thoughts on “Films that go bump in the night: What scared us as kids

  1. Jane Beavis

    For me it was “The Vikings” with Kirk Douglas (or was it Burt Lancaster?). The moment when they chopped off his hand. I screamed so loud we left the theater and then had nightmares.


  2. CineMuseFilms

    One of the earliest film clips I ever saw was in Battleship Potemkin from what I now know as the Odessa Steps scene. I was too young to realise it was staged and thought the murderous advances towards the crowd were documentary footage. I cant say it frightened me, rather it disturbed me deeply that such a thing could happen.

    Liked by 1 person


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