Southern Accent: What’s scary? Childhood frights no longer startle
Monday, Oct. 28, 2013

Southern Accent: What’s scary? Childhood frights no longer startle

This semester at our home-school co-op, I’ve been teaching a class on “Macbeth.” It seemed appropriate for the Halloween season.

The teenagers have commented several times about how creepy the play is. While I appreciate the play’s psychological study, its structure and the flawless language – and I can agree Macbeth’s behavior is ruthless – I don’t find the play all that creepy.

Perhaps as an adult I can no longer appreciate the thrill of being scared to death of witches and ghosts. Too bad. I remember being their age and hearing ghost stories. I spent many sleepless nights contemplating the possibility of being visited by spirits. Scary movies did me in.

What scares me now? Not having enough money for groceries. My kids running out into traffic. Boxed hair color.

The last time I went to a haunted house, Phil and I chatted casually with a teenager in line behind us as we approached the entrance. The minute a chainsaw-wielding maniac came out of hiding, this girl wrapped her arms around my waist and refused to let go until we were safely back outside. She cowered while I laughed at the gory gags. I guess it’s good to be past kid fears.

My 5-year-old insists that I stay in her bedroom at night until she falls asleep. I know she’s afraid of monsters and ghosts, as other kids are. But the other night she confessed that she’s also worried other people are going to move into our house. It happened to the neighbors.

I reassured her that it was all voluntary on their part, offering a quick explanation of real estate transactions.

But I understand why that could be unsettling. You want your own space to be scared, and to feel like you have somewhere safe to go when the monsters are lurking outside.

Maybe that’s why the only thing that used to scare me as a teen and still scares me is “The Shining.” From the little ghost girls to the ax-wielding maniac dad, that movie is creepy.

But I can’t give Stephen King all the credit. As our class worked through “Macbeth,” I recognized many ideas borrowed from Shakespeare.

The more Macbeth makes evil choices, the more his mind plays tricks on him. His famous dagger scene just before the murder of King Duncan is the beginning of his delusional downward spiral. The same thing happens to Jack Torrance in the Overlook Hotel during “The Shining.”

As I study “Macbeth” with these young people, I realize what’s so creepy about it: Macbeth and his wife were respectable at one point. But something made them snap, and no one in my class blames it on the supernatural.

What’s seems to be truly frightening about both this play and my favorite horror film is the suggestion that there is potential for evil in anyone. That’s something scary to adults and children alike.

As King Duncan ironically said: “There’s no art/To find the mind’s construction in the face.”

Erica Batten is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Erica? Email her at

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