Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Sandmen Are Gonna Getcha!

Growing up in the 60's in The Youngstown Area, my "Must See" TV was "4:30 Showtime" on WFMJ-TV, channel 21, an NBC affiliate. Showtime always showed a Sci-FI movie usually the "B" type, that usually made you laugh more than be scared by the monsters, etc. that graced the screen. You could always see Space Ships flying across the skies and notice they were suspended by a string or see the zipper on an actor's monster suit. What a hoot!

Being eight or nine at the time, a few of the movies grabbed my attention and caused nightmares that reoccurred for years. Back in the Cold War Days, our parents were more worried about Nuclear War than what their children were watching on television. A family very seldom had more than one TV, a color set was a real luxury. Of course, my Dad controlled what shows we watched in the evening. After school until dinner time, I had my choice and "4:30 Showtime" was my favorite. I never dared telling my folks that some of the movies bothered me, knowing that I'd never get to watch Showtime again.

The movie that bothered me the most was, "The Sand Men". One of the corniest "B" movies ever made. Aliens landed in the outskirts of a small town and built an underground network of sand tunnels that unsuspecting locals walked upon and fell into the tunnels. The people were then captured and converted into Zombie-like creatures that were returned to their community. They slowly took over the town by attracting others to the sand dunes that swallowed up most of the town's people, including the Eight year old boy main character's father. Naturally, no one believed the little boy until it was almost too late. The military came to save the day, the boy was a hero, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Not long after seeing this flick, I had a nightmare that featured my aunt and uncle as the leaders of The Sandmen. They were always trying to capture me in my house by hiding in our furnace ducts and reaching through the grates to try and grab me. Our house actually did have huge furnace grates on the walls, being a converted coal furnace. The unmistakable sign that someone was an alien in the movie was two puncture marks on the back of their neck. This showed they had undergone the alien medical process of conversion. Never saying anything to anyone, I was always secretly checking adults for the tell-tale scars on their necks, especially my aunt and uncle.

I frequently was asked to go to my aunt and uncle's house after church on Sunday. I'd spend the day with them getting spoiled and knowing there would be special treats, like Dairy Queen. After the movie and my nightmares, I politely declined. I don't know what they thought about it, I just knew I wasn't going to become an alien! My days of visiting them alone were over.

Fast forward to 1973 when I was eighteen years old. Growing up in the Blue-Collar Steel Town of Struthers, I was a self-proclaimed Tough Guy. I admitted no fear and was always up for a challenge to prove my manhood. Then, I saw the movie, "The Exorcist". That movie scared the Crap out of me! When Linda Blair was spinning her head around and hurling Pea Soup, I was cowering low in my seat. Never appearing weak, I laughed along with my buddies afterwards proclaiming how lame the movie was. If my friends only knew then that the next day I moved my bed back upstairs after being in the basement most of my teen years.

I never trusted that dark, dank basement anyhow. When I was down there alone, I always had a feeling of someone was watching me. I'd race up the steps before anything could ever catch me. I heard enough hype about the Exorcist movie and some of the bizarre things that happened to the cast and crew. It was probably just conjured up to generate interest and help publicity. I just wasn't taking any chances. For all I knew, my aunt and uncle were still hiding in the furnace ducts!


  1. Oh, how funny! Our house had those big furnace grates on the floor. In the winter the house was so cold and drafty, I used to stand on one when it was blowing and let the hot air blow my nightgown up like a balloon. Ah, good times.

    For a while I thought there were creatures living down in the furnace, but then I pretended there was a pet turtle living down there. I would tear up magazines into little pieces and put them down the register to feed him. It's a wonder I didn't start a major house fire.

    And I thought Brutus from Popeye (the scariest bad guy I knew until I was allowed to stay up and watch scary movies) lived in our basement. Before going down there, I would stand at the top step and yell, "BRUTUS! I'm coming down! Leave me alone!"

  2. That's hilarious, Diane! Glad to know I wasn't the only little kid with such an active imagination!

  3. I loved that movie, it was Invaders From Mars. I have a copy of the original as well as the remake.
    I also loved 4:30 Showtime.