Scared and Possibly Scarred for Life
* Sound decibels were sky high in the theater, and each time Count Dracula appeared on the screen the audience was treated to an earsplitting, serpent-like, hissing sound, “Hisssssss.”
His eyes were highlighted by the stage and camera lights which were focused right on the vampire's baby blues. Even though the eerie music warned me of the upcoming biting of another victim, I could not close my eyes nor turn my head away from the Count's next imminent encounter.
Sure enough, his victim would then became a vampire, also. She joined the others, living with the master, residing in the his dungeon-like palace. With his fangs shining brightly in the dark of his castle, he'd continue to seek out another bride-to-be in the Brides of Dracula movie, released in 1960.
What was I doing there?
I was born in 1952, and if you're wondering about my age at the time, I'm guessing I was a mere eight or nine years old. My age depended on how quickly the theater in the little town of Beaverdale received the production after its release. If you’re also wondering, what was I doing watching that movie at such a young age? I too, wonder about that.
I can only surmise that I spotted the movie placard, placed in the theater window, as we rode past the Palace Theater on our way home from church one Sunday morning, and convinced my parents to take me to the show later in the day. I do remember that a friend, John Prokop (who was a year older) was watching the same movie with me. And he and his younger brother Greg went to the same church as my family.
Well known in the area
The Palace was owned and operated by Helen Single and her family and I'm sure many older residents of the Beaverdale area will remember her and her establishment.
I can't speak for the feminine patrons of the theater, nor the condition of their restroom, but the boys' lav was a dark, damp, dreary room in the basement of the building.
The room, with no door, contained only a commode and possibly a sink, and one light bulb, high up within the dark wooden ceiling. The boys would pee on a pile of coal stored down there. The coal was used to heat the entire building back in a time when the coal reserves were plentiful. Neither the restroom, nor the dark stairway would pass health or insurance inspections today.
Boys will be boys, I guess – so, I remember well the contests we had to see who could pee the highest on the heap of coal in the bin. The commode was rarely used, if ever. I'm sharing this information here because it is very relevant to my story.
Back to The Count
Right from the beginning of that horror movie, I noticed that my buddy John closed his eyes and hid his face every time every time the Count or one of his brides made an appearance. With his initial cowering reaction, I asked, “Are you going to do that the whole way through the movie?”
Now, remember, John was a tad older than I and apparently much wiser. He retorted, “You bet! I want to be able to sleep tonight.”
I should have mimicked his behavior, but I didn't. Instead I kept sucking down grape Nehi sodas, which sold for a dime a bottle. I had become accustomed to doing that because I normally planned on a full bladder for the contests in the coal bin downstairs. And, as usual, I wasn't thinking ahead.
I grew more frightened and more thirsty as I gasped for air each time the Count added another bride to his bevy. Equally as terrifying, were the scenes when one of the brides also added to the harem membership with a fang-baring, blood-sucking bite of her own. Sitting there, (in the front row, I might add), I started to feel rather uncomfortable both in mind and body.
I will never deny my emotional state that afternoon in that theater. I was downright scared to death and didn't care one bit who might have noticed.
And I had to pee worse than at any other time of my young life. I was sure I would pee my pants at any given moment. But, there was no way this 9 year-old was about to navigate that pitch-black stairway that led to the equally dark coal bin. It was a perfect location and scenario for an attack by the Count. Had I ventured there, I was sure to hear the hisssss followed by an assault on my trembling body.
Still...Did I cover my eyes to keep my fear from escalating? No, not that I can remember. Instead I was trying to figure out how I was going to hide my wet pants when the lights came on at the conclusion of the movie.
So, there I sat; too proud to ask for an escort to the lav, and too stupid to quit watching the scenes, even with the music track blaring warnings of an impending attack.
I have no idea how I miraculously made it through the entire movie that day without peeing my pants. I do remember that the sunshine had never looked so inviting as I came out of the theater. And the Count would not appear during the daylight hours, so I was safe. I ran into my parents' car as they waited by the curb, and commanded that we stop at my aunt and uncle's house so I could pee. Their home was two blocks away and I never would have made the four mile trip to our house.
Scared and possibly scarred...
Unlike John Prokop, I did experience nightmares for months because of that flick. And to this day, I'm not a fan of vampire movies. You could say, I am scared for life regarding anything related to them.
Luckily, I suffered no immediate apparent damage to my urinary tract following that ordeal. But then again, I wonder, as I age, if my increasingly frequent trips to the bathroom might somehow be related to some un-diagnosed scarring to the bladder area.
Perhaps modern technology has produced some kind of video tube, inserted into the urinary tract, that might reveal purple scars or stains from over a half century ago. I must relate this story to my urologist during my next visit. If nothing else, he might get a kick out of it.
* Borrowed from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities