Growing up we had a small 12 by 12 inch black and white television set. It had a set of rabbit ears that sat on top and it all sat in a corner of our living room. We were only allowed to watch TV for about 2 hours per night. My Dad would watch the news at 6 o’clock every night and on occasion we would watch a movie. On Saturdays, we could watch the children’s programs in the morning as long as we did our “chores” afterward.
I think I saw my first “scary” show when I was about 9 years old. There were “The Munsters”, “The Addams Family”, “The Outer Limits”, and “Dark Shadows” allof which were pretty tame compared to what you can view today. However, they did there job and really had me freaked out.
I didn’t like the feelings I had when I watched any type of scary program. So I usually stayed away from anything that made me feel this way. Fast-forward to when I was 18 years old. My family had moved to Hollywood, California in 1973. My Dad had worked construction most of his life and had worked with a lot of asbestos. He also smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day. So it was really no surprise when in October of that year he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
He had radical surgery where they removed the right lung. and he had a scar that ran two-thirds the diameter of his chest and back. I drove him to Chemotherapy and radiation treatments 3 days a week. The doctor gave him 3 months to live. After about 6 months, my Dad was convinced that he was getting better. So, I started to go out more with my friends and spend more time away from home. It was now 1974 and the blockbuster movie of the year was “The Exorcist”. Everyone I knew was talking about it but I declined every invitation to go see it. Then my sister who was 4 years older than I and who had always been a bully towards me told me she wanted to see it and I had to go with her. Between my mother and her pushing me to go I finally gave in.
On June 23rd 1974 my sister and I went to see the 11:45 pm showing at a theater on Hollywood Boulevard. I absolutely hated the movie, and I was scared to death! Even my sister was scared, and she had cried during the show. We got home about 2:30 am and I had a hard time falling asleep, but I now I did at some point. I know this because I was abruptly shaken awake at 7:30 by my mother. She was standing over me with a big grin on her face, and she told me to come and see, my Dad was dead. I jumped out of bed and ran to their room, and he was indeed gone. I started to cry hysterically and I ran to my room, threw on my clothes and ran out of the house. I went straight to my boyfriends house 5 house down from ours. I stayed there, sitting on the porch swing with him until the coroners van left.
When I went in the house my mother was so excited, getting ready to go to the funeral home. This is a woman who had lived in the Los Angeles area for over 5 years and had never left the house except when we moved. She had a mental breakdown about 6 years earlier, and she had become a hermit. To say thing was unnerving is an understatement.
Now I know my Dad did not die on June 24th because I went to see that horrible movie the night before, but for many years after this event, that is what I believed. I decided that I would not watch any of these types of movies again and I never saw another horror movie after this.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on either Facebook or Twitter @VHughesAuthor.