My Childhood Was More Damaging Then Your Childhood: 5 Things From My Childhood That Still Haunt Me Today

I think it’s relatively fair to say that every child of every generation was subjected to numerous cartoons, books and movies that warped our fragile little minds. Our parents were privy to the unquestionable insanity of the Looney Tune cartoons featuring, among other things, gratuitous violence, racism, and anthropomorphic animals who all wore varying degree of clothing and all of which had sexual urges that were clearly perverse in nature. Kids today get by on a steady ration of its successors with shows like Flapjack in which an androgynous young boy saddles himself to a wooden limbed monster of a sea captain whose only sustenance is an unhealthy diet of only candy or Spongebob Sqarepants which is a whole other blog post in its own. Either way, the point is that every generation is raised on a solid diet of crazy.

But I would make the argument that my generation is unique. I was born in 1982 which is part of a small block of time considered by many to be the lost generation. We are neither Generation X or Generation Y, and thus inherited the most destructive properties of both. We grew up on the first few years of reruns from our parents generation and all the new stuff that our younger siblings watched as well as a few things that belonged uniquely to us. Now it will not surprise me if you grew up with one or many of the following. If nothing else, it explains why you are fucked up enough to read this blog. Strap in and get ready because this is going to be a long read. Now let me see if I can shake loose any repressed memories of your childhood.


5. The Neverending Story (1984)

I think we can all agree that if you were born anytime between 1975 and 1990 you were privy to this little gem. This fantasy tale about a young boy named Bastian reading a book about a child hero named Atreyu was the stuff of nightmares. Atreyu, our hero, sets off on his quest to save the magical land of Fantasia.

The first step on his trek is the deadly Swamps of Sadness where he seeks out the wisdom of a giant and ancient turtle named Morla. As soon as they enter the swamp, his horse, Artax, is overcome by the depressing sadness of the swamp and begins to sink into the mud. Screaming and crying, Atreyu tries to save his horse but loses him to the overwhelming sadness of the marshes.

Thats right. In a childrens movie, we just watched our main character’s best friend sink into the mud, never to be seen again. He eventually finds Morla on foot and, as it turns out, he is terrifying. He speaks in cryptic riddles and could, with little effort, kill our young hero which he almost does on countless occasion. On top of which, he looks fucking scary. Even now.

Marla sends Atreyu to the Southern Oracle which is 10,000 miles away. The impossibility of this hits Atreyu like a ton of bricks and, much like his trusty horse, Atreyu begins to sink into the swamp. Fortunately for Atreyu and our already fragile minds, a luck dragon named Falkor saves him and whisks him away to the Southern Oracle.

At the Southern Oracle, Atreyu must pass a test in which he walks between two Sphinxes who vaporize the unworthy on site. How do we know this? We see someone get vaporized. So now we have seen a horse drowned and a dude get vaporized. Once inside, Atreyu is told how to defeat “The Nothing” which is literally an expanding cloud that is turning everything into an endless abyss.

This guy, powerful as he is, can still be punched in the face. Kids today are pussies.

Think about that for a minute. He is literally fighting the absence of anything. How does one fight nothing? Its one thing to fight a villain with a weakness, but fighting nothing? By very definition there is no weakness as a weakness would be something. But nothing? That is utterly depressing which was not lost on me even at that young age. That is when Atreyu is consumed by it, but not before being taunted and attacked by a scary-ass wolf with glowing eyes who sits in a cave and tells Atreyu how hopeless things are. Thanks for rubbing it in Gmork.

"Y'all are FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKED!"

Atryu passes out and when he wakes up, he is on Falkor’s back flying through what little remains of his entire world. Not his city, not his planet but his entire world. Thats when he manages to find the other lone survivor. The Empress (who every young boy fantasized about) tells Atreyu that the only way to save the world is for a human child to name her. Thus begins one of the scariest sequences of my childhood.

The entire point in having Bastian in the real world reading this story was to bring us, the children, into this tale. We were given a place in the story by way of this very normal boy in a very normal place. So as a kid, it was very hard to separate myself from the emotional reality of a young girl pleading with you to say her name as tears run down her porcelain face. First, how the fuck are we supposed to know her name? Second, she’s not just asking you for a favor, she’s asking you to save her entire world as the Nothing is eating away what little is left of her castle and closing in on her. She’s crying, pleading with you to name her. If you don’t she will cease to be. Whether this is a happy tale or a genocide of epic proportions rests on your tiny shoulders. That, my friends, is fucked up. The hopelessness of the situation buried me. Luckily for us, Bastian’s mom must have been a big ass hippy because he runs to the window and shouts “Moonchild!”

Im pretty sure we all know how it ends, but its is hard to deny that there is a lot of content in this movie that is a little too heavy for a little kid to wrap their minds around.

4. The Mouse and His Child (1977)

This is one of a handful of movies that I alone seem to remember. The basic story is about a wind up toy made of of a father and son mouse holding hands. They are unboxed in a friendly toy store, but after being broken are thrown out only to be found by a rat who forces them into slave labor in his casino located in a local dump. With the help of a psychic frog, they manage to escape and eventually take down the rat empire.

On the surface, this may not seem like anything worse then your average DIsney fare. I mean sure, there is a psychic frog which alludes to the psychedelic properties of licking certain species. And sure, they are forced into slave labor which, at many points, features undertones of rape and sexual sadism. But compared to many of the things we all grew up on (Secret of Nihm anybody?), isn’t really that bad. No, what did it in this movie was what has become known as “The Mysterious Bonzo Can.”

You think its just surface creepy. You are very wrong.

The can of Bonzo dog food appears many times throughout the story. On the surface, it seems like an ordinary can reused throughout the story as any normal prop would be. But even as a child, I was scared of that can. The label features an eerie grinning dog holding a can featuring an identical copy of himself. The weight sometimes read “666 grams” (which yes, I noticed as a child) and sometimes read “Heavy.” But that isn’t what did it. In a particularly fucked up and philosophical scene, the titular characters have become lost at the bottom of a lake and seek the help of a creepy ass turtle. What was it with cryptic and frightening turtles being the voice of wisdom in these movies?! Seriously. Anyway, at the turtles suggestion(?), they stare into the can’s label and thus, into the very concept of infinite. And what do they find at the end of infinite? Themselves. As a child, this kind of stuff is what gave me nightmares. I laughed at the Exorcist when I was seven. It was the concept of infinite as illustrated through this film that kept me up at night. The can still gives me the willies.


3. Unico (1981 and 1983)

The Unico series of films were one of the first Japanese imports I remember, and what’s more, they aired on the Disney Channel. Unico on the whole wasn’t all that strange on the surface. I mean, it was the story of a happy little unicorn who traveled around and made people happy. Lets look a little deeper. Unico, the last of the unicorns, had the ability to make all people happy. The gods felt that only they should have the right to manipulate others emotions so they order the West Wind to banish Unico to the Hill of Oblivion. THE HILL OF OBLIVION?! This is a cute little cartoon unicorn that makes people happy and it is to be banished to The Nothing’s summer cabin. Anyways, the West Wind likes Unico so instead it chooses to drop the little rascal into random places where bad shit is going down. Whenever the gods figure out where Unico is, they send the Night Wind to kill him dead so the West Wind always has to spirit Unico away to new places, wiping his memory in the process leaving him with no knowledge of who he is, how he got there, and the extreme power he has over others. I think the Russians did the same thing in the Cold War.

Like this, but way less friendly.

The first movie titled The Fantastic Adventures of Unico featured drowning (AGAIN), transmogrification, and even a lord getting a young girl drunk and trying to seduce her. No joke. Unico eventually manages to push the Lord off the top of his castle where he is run through by one of the spears atop one of the many high pillars. As his human form lays battered and bleeding, his true demon form is released. Unico is killed by this giant monster and is only revived when the girl (who was a cat) cries over Unico’s limp and lifeless body. Unco transforms into a giant full grown unicorn and runs the demon through the heart with his glowing horn, sending the demon back to the bowels of Hell. After the confrontation, his friends begin looking around for him, but the West Wind has already taken Unico into her grasp, carrying him off to another land and erasing his memories.

In the sequel, its much more of the same, but now the villain is an evil witch-puppet who turns townspeople into wooden puppets and makes them do her bidding. They took a page out of the Joker handbook here and made the witch completely chaotic. The animation and voice scared the crap out of me as a kid. Watch the first few minutes to see what I mean. Unico is again triumphant when he offers to be the witches friend in the final standoff. The witch, made of anger and resent, cant handle being treated with kindness and both she and the walls they are standing on crumble. Unico literally killed her with kindness. I think the murder by horn was less terrifying to watch.


2. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981)

I will keep this one brief because, after talking to some people, I think this may be the second most popular book in the history of mankind, right after the over hyped “Bible,” all you kids are reading now. This book was a collection of short scary stories for kids. Each story was 1-3 pages long and generally weren’t all that scary, even for the jumpiest kids at my school. Why did it make the list then? The artwork. Stephen Gammell was the kid version of Hunter S. Thompson’s artist Ralph Steadman. His stuff was trippy, loose and played on something very primal within each of us. His artwork featured such gruesome subject matter as a decapitated heads, flesh melting off eyeless faces, and spiders bursting out of a girls face.

"Hi, I'm from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints..."

The story/artwork that bothered me the most in this collection was titled “The Thing.” The story was about two young boys who see a figure coming toward them through an open field. They run, only to decide that running was silly. They return and the thing comes out of the field. One of the boys touches the twisted smiling figure to see if its real. When he realizes it is, they both run home. Soon, the boy gets sick and dies. His friend swears that his rotted and sickly corpse in the coffin is identical to the thing that came out of the field. The artwork, featuring the smiling thing hit me hard. Really hard. It was both the warning and the cause in my mind. It showed up just to taunt his eventual demise by showing him what he would become. Something in that really struck something deep within me. I taped those two pages of the book together. Years later, when I was about eleven or twelve, I decided to conquer the irrational fear of that image and give it another look. I remember cutting the tape during a commercial for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, a gameboy game. The image still scared the shit out of me and every time I saw that commercial, the haunting smile of “The Thing,” returned to my mind.


1. The Peanut Butter Solution (1985)

Now there is an interesting story behind this one. A few years ago, I was sitting in Room 5, a popular venue in LA. My friend Heather Porcaro and her band the Heartstring Symphony were playing a set. Throughout the set, her band needed to switch instruments or retune and Heather, being the social butterfly she is, would just talk to the audience. During one such occasion, she says to the audience, “I’ve had a very strange day. A friend of mine took me with her to a support group for kids that were emotionally crippled by this movie that came out in the 80s. Apparently, only a handful of kids saw it. The subject matter was damaging enough, but so few kids saw it that all of the kids who did spent most of their childhoods feeling alone, isolated and crazy because they thought maybe they had just imagined the whole movie. I can’t remember what it was called. The Peanut Butter….something….” Suddenly, it all came flooding to the surface like a Vietnam flashback. In a quiet voice, I said “The Peanut Butter Solution.” She heard me and said “Yeah! Thats it! Do you go to meetings too?” I only wish I had.

This movie had haunted my mind for years. I only remembered vague flashes of it and all of them were at the very root of everything I find to be truly scary in this world. A few days later, a bunch of friends were at my place and we were shooting the shit. We got onto the topic of artifacts from our childhood. Our own Nick “The Mexican” Camarena said that there was only one thing that has stuck with him in any serious way but he couldn’t remember the name of it or if it every really existed since all of his friends thought he had made it up. All he could remember was that a little kid was scared so badly that all of his hair fell out. My head whipped around, I stared him straight in the eye and I said “The Peanut Butter Solution.” Suddenly, his face grew very dim. He remembered. In that moment I saw all of the terror he suffered through his childhood flash across his face as it all came flooding back. Most of my friends didn’t understand why Nick and I were so serious and quiet the rest of the night. Nick spent the night on the couch that night.

By morning, I had tracked down a copy of the movie online. I dumped it to my appleTV so we could watch it. I feel that for both myself and for Nick, it was a cathartic experience. The movie was the metaphoric creepy uncle that molested us as children and, to make matters worse, everyone thought we had just made it up. It left us feeling hopeless and alone, questioning the difference between right and wrong and even our own sanity.

The story is about a young boy who goes into a haunted house. The next morning he is spit out of this demonic house. Although it is never quite clear what happened to him inside, what is clear is that he was so terrified by whatever it was that all of his hair fell out. His friends seek a cure for him and, with the help of two well meaning ghosts, discover a recipe that will allow his hair to grow back. The recipe comes with the warning that too much peanut butter will make the concoction go haywire and his hair will grow too fast. They ignore it and before long, the boy is growing hair faster then his friends can cut it. He has to tie it above him in a net before he goes to sleep so he isn’t suffocated by it. His friends have to sit behind him in class, cutting his hair without stopping to keep it a reasonable length. But the truly fucked up part of this movie is what happens next.

The art teacher at the school who was fired due to a run in with the boy hatches an evil scheme. He kidnaps the boy, whisking him away to an evil underground warehouse where he makes paintbrushes from the boys hair. Due to the magic hair, the paintbrushes can bring anything painted with them into reality. You can literally walk into the paintings. When this evil pedophile realizes the supernatural ability of the brushes, he begins kidnapping other children in the neighborhood, forcing them into slavery. The children of the neighborhood cut, assemble and package the brushes. The forced rape is clearly implied. What makes it even worse is that none of the parents seem all too concerned. Eventually the boy wins out by using one of his own brushes to paint the haunted house and forcing the art teacher through the same ordeal he faced in the beginning of the film. He is rid of the curse and everything returns to normal.

Every once in a while, Ill bring the movie up with a new group of people to see if they had the same haunting experience as we did and on rare occasions I will see that same flash of recognizable terror flash across someones face. Those of us who experienced it as kids will never forget it, but can’t quiet remember it either. It is a fog, a phantom in our childhood that will never let go.

This entry was originally posted about a year ago on another blog I wrote for.  Brunden read it and immediately the wave of terror came flooding in as his memories of The Peanut Butter Solution came rushing back.  The same thing happened to my friend Britt whose friends and family had told her for years that she had imagined it.  Both had a few sleepless nights contemplating the terror and coming to grips with the realization that they were, in fact, sane and hadn’t imagined the whole thing.  I’m not fucking around.  This movie deserves the number one spot.  It is, very seriously, childhood mind rape.

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~ by Andrew Craig on May 1, 2011.

8 Responses to “My Childhood Was More Damaging Then Your Childhood: 5 Things From My Childhood That Still Haunt Me Today”

  1. I hate you. I hate you so much.

  2. You know you love it. Plus, I added some new stuff just for you.

  3. I thought I was the only one that was freaked out by The Neverending Story as a child. Which by the way.. fucking ended! Live up to your title!!!

  4. I wandered across this page after, for some reason, remembering having watched The Mouse and His Child in my childhood. “The Mysterious Bonzo Can” led me here, actually, via Google.

    To my surprise, three of the other five items hit on media that, when I think back on it, profoundly creeped me the hell right out as a kid, but that for some reason I kept coming back to over and over again.

    Not only did I see TMaHC, but I also watched and re-watched the Unico films time and time again (my mother HATED the freakin’ little demon’s voice), AND I read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (and was freaked out by the illustrations; wasn’t there a a drawing in there of like, disembodied eyes or something?)

  5. Forgot to mention Neverending Story, of course. To be honest, it was sort of the tamest of the ones in my memory.

  6. Glad you enjoyed it Joshua. Its always nice to find that others were tortured by the same nonsense as a child that still haunt your memories. Have you read any of our other articles?

  7. I am so glad to read I am not crazy!!! I am 28 and I randomly think of the messed up hair movie that disturbed me when I was a kid… no ever knows what I am talking about… i googled “80’s movie about hair in a warehouse” and found your website… i am glad there are people out there that know what i am talking about!

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