Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap Year Fears From My Childhood

February 29, 2012 is a leap day. Leap years always remind me of a legend I heard in my younger days. OK, it's probably not so much a real legend, as it is a plot made up for a TV show. Still, it's funny how the stories you hear as a child stick with you. Even if they're ridiculous. These stories seem to live on in that special part of your brain, the part where things don't need to be completely logical to make sense.

Like many kids at the time, I was obsessed with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. The urban legends in those books really stuck with me! Especially the one about the teenager who thinks she has a some kind of blemish, but instead it's an immense sack of spider eggs. The eggs are shown hatching in one of the more gruesome illustrations I've ever seen. I haven't had one bug bite (even now) that doesn't make me think of that story.

Don't worry, I'm changing the topic back to leap years now...

Aside from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, one of my obsessions during grade school was a show called Are You Afraid of the Dark? If you are relatively my same age and reading this blog, chances are you were obsessed with the show too.

If you're not familiar with the show, here's a quick summary. Each week, the teenage characters met in the woods at night and told scary stories around a campfire. The TV audience would see the stories re-enacted. One of the stories was about leap day, specifically a full moon on the night of February 29. The story was called "The Tale of the Whispering Walls" and featured this groovy guy:

This character is the story's villain, Master Raymond. The story isn't amazingly scary, but Raymond is creepy acting and I loved his jacket. It sort of looks like a rib cage.

As the story goes, you need to be careful if you're out during a full moon on February 29, because that's when spirits will come back to earth and try to change places with you. The story seems ripped off of old Halloween legends a bit. Anyway, here's the first part of the episode. I'm afraid that you'll have to follow this link to watch the video, because whoever posted the video won't let anyone embed it!

The Tale of the Whispering Walls

I don't expect you to watch the entire thing, because it's not spectacular. I do think the intro is worth watching, since you'll get an explanation of the legend. That and Betty Ann is wearing a cool mask (which looks like it was borrowed from her Day of the Dead stash).

"The spirits who prowl on a full moon leap year are hunting, and it may be for you."

That was pretty scary stuff to me back in the day...

Even those of us with large imaginations have no reason to be afraid this year, because the moon won't be full on leap day. I have to wonder if there has ever been a full moon on February 29.

I had wanted to share more about the full moon on February 29th legend, but there's really not much out there. Well, not aside from all the questions posted online by the other people who clearly watched Are You Afraid of the Dark? back in the day. Evidently, a lot of us are still thinking about the leap day episode 20 years later!

I suppose everyone carries childhood stories and superstitions into their adulthood. Probably each of you can think of a story that still seems scary now because you first heard it as a child.

Before I go, I'd like to mention something you've probably noticed already ~ My blog is wearing a new look! The new layout has two columns instead of three, and only one blog post will be displayed at a time. I hope these changes will cut down on my blog's loading time. I also designed some new icons to direct you to my Twitter, Pinterest, and Halloween Forum profiles. See the magnifying glass? Beneath that is a place for you to search my blog. Say you were interested in any posts I've written about vampires. Just type "vampires" in that search box, and a list of all my vampire posts will pop up. Pretty handy, hey? Please let me know if you have any trouble reading my blog on account of these changes, and Happy Leap Day!


  1. Hey Justine,
    Just love the new layout and the logos to your links.
    Happy Leap Day to you, wishing you some spooky surprises!
    Master Ramond's jacket is awesome ~ I too thought "rib cage" when I saw it, kind of millitary crossed with skeletal features :)

  2. Are You Afraid Of The Dark was my absolute favourite show as a child too!!! I didn't have SKY tv when I was younger but my best friend at the time did so every time it was on we'd watch it together at hers.

    Once during the winter when it was dark earlier we were watching a particularly creepy episode in the dark, when all of a sudden we heard load groans and banging which made us jump out of our skin! It was my friends dad banging on the window from outside!

    I remember I would have to walk up the very dark back lane to my house after the show had finished and I'd be walking very quickly past all the trees, sometimes I'd even run as fast as I could!

    That show was amazing!! The music and intro was probably the creepiest part!

    Love your new buttons in the side bar! especially that voodoo doll!

    I just looked up full moon dates ranging back to 1900 and the only full moon to be on a leap day was Tuesday the 29th of February, 1972! The next full moon that will be on the 29th of February won't be until 2048 when I'll be 60! xxx

  3. I don't know if I ever told you, but last year for my birthday my mom somehow bought all of the Are You Afraid of the Dark shows for me on DVD!!! Seriously one of the best birthday presents I've ever received.

    Miss you, by the way!!

  4. I am loving the new look!!!

    Happy Leapday!


  5. Yes, that childhood stuff seems to really stick with you. I know mine has.

    I always wanted a three column blog but I could never get it to work right. But, I guess for quick viewing, two is easier. Especially for a new viewer who is opening your blog in a pop-up window. Old viewers probabally don't mind exploring and you've got lots of sites to explore. :)

  6. Pensive Pumpkin ~ Leap Day does feel special somehow. I guess anything that you can only get every four years takes on some significance! What is it that you love about this day?

    Goth Clothes ~ Thanks so much! I'd been planning to change my twitter bird, but then I got carried away painting pictures for every link.

    Master Raymond's jacket looks like something you might sell in your shop. :) You could always start an Are You Afraid of the Dark? line of clothes! Haha. I can see what you're saying about the military style. I saw some people online saying how Master Raymond's jacket was similar to the jackets My Chemical Romance wore. What do you think?

    My Chemical Romance in their jackets

    Happy Leap Day to you too! The closest to anything spooky today was me watching the rest of this episode. :)

    VainGlorySinner ~ Oh, I was in your same boat! I'm guessing that SKY TV was cable for you guys. I didn't have cable, either. So I was mostly watching it my friend's house (actually the person who commented below you) or my Grandma would tape it for me. :) I remember staying at my Grandma's house the night they held that big Are You Afraid of the Dark? marathon. I forget the name of it, but there were several episodes and you could call an 800 number and try to win something at midnight. I think. Anyway, that was a big deal to me. :)

    Was your friend's Dad playing a prank or had you guys locked him out of the house? That's pretty funny, but I'm sure you two were scared at the time! Some of the episodes were pretty darn scary. I can't imagine walking home in the dark as a child after watching those. Yeah, I bet you were walking pretty quickly!

    Yes, the art director for that show did a fantastic job! How the show was filmed, those angle shots, what they did with simple props, the upward lighting... all fantastic. I agree about the intro! Since when was an old rowboat so freaky? Good, good stuff. I wish kids had something like this today.

    Thanks! I'm glad you like the new designs. :) Oh, I couldn't pass up drawing a voodoo doll full of pins for Pinterest! That one might be my favorite.

    Thanks a lot for doing that moon research! I tried to look up the same thing, but didn't find any answers. So good job! Hmm... The next thing to google is if anything weird happened on February 29, 1972.

    Marisa ~ Hey there! No, I don't think you mentioned that. That is an awesome present! It really brings back the memories. You probably already know that I have the set too. I've watched those old things so many times, I'm going to burn holes through the DVDs. :) It's funny that I never asked, but which episode was your favorite?

    Miss you too!

    LuLu ~ Thanks! Glad you like the new look. :) Happy Leap Day to you as well! It's funny, but I don't think I've ever wished someone a Happy Leap Day before this year. Oh well, there's nothing wrong with wishing someone a happy day on any day of the year. I'd never exchanged Happy Friday the 13ths with people before this year, either. :)

    Matt ~ Yeah, sometimes nostalgia is fun and other times I want to move on in my brain! I wouldn't want to erase any of the silliness I mentioned in this blog post, though...

    You'd rather have a three column layout? Well, that's not hard to accomplish if you still want it. You need to go to Template, then Customize, then Layout. Then you choose which of the formats you want. If you need help with it, I can try to walk you through the process.

    Yeah, I have a lot of links/interests! I actually cut back from the amount I had on the three column layout. It feels a little crisper and cleaner now, but I'll probably end up adding more eventually!

  7. It's funny but I didn't have any things about Leap year to fear. We had no scary traditions for the day.

  8. Thanks Justine, I'll try it tomorrow on my day off after I do the laundry. (3 columnes)

    Yes, forgetting the past is hard because it used to be the present. It's hard to distinguish between last week, last year, or even ten years ago. Remember An American Werewolf in London? Wow, seems like last week. Now it's the Woman in Black!

  9. Adsila ~ Probably most people don't! Aside from that old TV episode, I didn't have too many associations with leap year. It feels like people are really talking about leap year this year! I watched three different sitcoms that dealt with leap year over the past few days. I don't remember so much of that in the past. If you watched 30 Rock last week, you'd have a reason to fear leap year. :)

    Matt ~ Cool, send me a tweet if you need any assistance. Yeah, time is a funny thing. It's true that some old memories feel like they just happened yesterday. It's especially hard to keep track of time with the memories that involve people you've known for years.

    Speaking of The Woman in Black, have you seen that movie yet? I haven't, but I'm looking forward to it!

  10. Sadly, I'm not familiar with the books or the TV series, but the intro was very cool! I agree, the mask the girl was wearing did look very Day of the Dead. I remember hearing the one about the teenager with the egg sack of spiders in her cheek, but just as a word of mouth urban legend. The rib cage jacket is fabulous!

    I notice Blogger has changed the comments format again. There doesn't seem to be a box to check for subscribing to the comment feed anymore. Sigh!

  11. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Really? Well, the show probably wasn't shown all over the world, but thanks to the magic of the internet you can catch up now. :)

    As for the series of books, I'm sure you could find those online if you cared to. They're worth looking at for the illustrations alone. Some are silly and some are horrifying. Here's a small sampling: A few illustrations

    In just googling those illustrations, I found an article about how they're being redone to be less scary! Ugh. This must be another one of those things where people have decided to wrap kids up in bubble wrap because God forbid they ever get scared. I'm going to hold myself back from a rant... Actually, I might save that rant for a future blog post.

    Haha, yeah I don't know about that Day of the Dead mask. I guess if kids were really meeting in the woods to tell stories, they'd just bring whatever props they had at home. So in a way that's kind of real...

    There was an option on my blog for you to subscribe to every comment? I didn't even know my blog had that! I guess that shows how often I use that feature. :)

  12. I like your knew look. I hadn't even realized it was leap year until you posted it here. I'm obviously very slow these days.

  13. Justine - No, I haven't seen the movie. I wouldn't even know how to go about seeing a movie today. For example: movie theater, DVD rental/purchase, NetFlix. Wow, it's so confusing, I'll have to wait till it's on YouTube :-) But all the buzz concerning the movie reminds me of when the aforementioned werewolf movie came out.

  14. Jessica ~ Thank you! I'm glad to be a leap year news source. :) I probably found out from looking at my wall calendar. There have been leap year plot lines on a few of the TV shows I watch too. So those were my clues.

    Matt ~ Yes, there are a lot of choices for watching movies now! It's kind of no wonder that the Blockbusters are closing... I've never tried Netflix or those little red boxes with the DVDs. You know, those things that stand outside of drug stores and grocery stores. At least around here. Well, you could always do what I do and just borrow DVDs from the library. In fact, I just picked up a bunch from the library last night. I have more vampire movie viewing ahead of me! :)

    Yeah, there has been a lot of buzz around The Woman in Black. I think people are excited for a new Hammer movie. Also, it looks so artistic. I can't remember the last scary movie I watched where that much attention was put into the visuals. Maybe it was The Ring, and that was a decade ago! So, it's time for something new...

  15. Justine - Yes, I thinking about those Red Boxes. I guess they have them out there too. It's funny but the local Hollywood Video went under and then all those Red Boxes sprung up. Apparently they're coast-to-coast. I haven't tried one though, but people are always lined up by them.

    The library sounds like a good idea. Lots of sultry, tasty, old vampire stuff then. :-)

    I looked at the Woman in Black trailer and boy does it look good. I love the set design. Might be worth checking out.

  16. It's true ~ As soon as the video rental places closed, we had these red boxes. Well, I haven't witnessed any long lines around here. There's usually just one confused looking person outside the box, who can't get it to function! So that isn't exactly encouraging. Still, they don't charge much for the DVDs. What's funny, is that those boxes never advertise movies I've heard of! In a way I miss the DVD rental places. It was fun to walk around with friends and explore all the different aisles.

    Oh, there wasn't much sultry vampire viewing going on this time. I picked up Nosferatu and Shadow of the Vampire from the library.

    Yeah! The set design and art direction for The Woman in Black looks great. That's enough for me to want to see the movie, whether it's scary or not.

  17. I looked up the illustrator, Stephen Gammell. His name sounds so familiar to me, but it's not from those books. Actually, the illustrations remind me a bit of Tim Burton's paintings. (The Tim Burton exhibition came to Melbourne about a year and a half ago, and it had loads of his artwork from over the years.) I looked for the books on Amazon and the one with the original illustrations is only available through other sellers and is very expensive. There is an updated version available directly from Amazon. I don't know if these are the less scary illustrations or not, but as illustrations go, I still quite like the look of them. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Scary-Stories-Tell-Alvin-Schwartz/dp/0060835192/ref=wl_it_dp_o_npd?ie=UTF8&coliid=IJP7ZT0B0EEOT&colid=2FR0Q1DQIJZ2T

    It's funny that you mention the illustrations getting watered down because I was only recently having a discussion about that regarding the Count from Sesame Street. I remember him from the early days when he was fun and spooky, but someone was saying that his spook-factor has been toned right down. I always find things like that pretty ironic when kids are exposed to much worse in general advertising. Speaking of Count von Count, I found this clip of him back in the good ol' days. it's adorable. "You are a terrible mirror... no reflection on you, of course." Haha. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xunXQPEcoHM)

  18. Justine - Well, I was reinspired to watch Christopher Lee's Dracula through you, and I heard about the "Woman In Black" through the horror community, so I think I'll just hear about stuff through the grapevine of the horror community and pursue it from there.

  19. Little Gothic Horrors ~ It's weird for me to think of the original book as being expensive, because I was so used to seeing it everywhere when I was a kid. It hardly seemed uncommon at the time. Now that the illustrations were redone, the old books are probably real collector's items!

    The link you sent led to a book with the newer illustrations. Don't get me wrong - I do like the new ones. They're probably the level of scary you'd see in my art. It's just that the old ones were crossing the line into disturbing, and that was kind of exciting for kids.

    That Count von Count clip was very cute. I like the way that puppet more or less glides along. :) I didn't find that overly spooky, and I don't think I ever was scared of him! I can't imagine kids being scared of this character, I think it's just that there are some weird complaining parents out there. I heard that some people were trying to get The Count completely removed from Sesame Street because he was "too scary". As far as I know, nothing happened with that. These are probably the same weirdos who complained that Katy Perry was too sexy to sing on the show, or that it looked gay to have Bert and Ernie living together. Who's even thinking about Bert or Ernie's sexuality? Yeah... There are some strange people out there.

  20. Matt ~ Oh, which Christopher Lee Dracula movie did you end up watching? I know what you mean. Probably the last ten or so movies I've watched have been recommended through the blogging community!

  21. Justine - Hi! Well, I haven't actually "watched" any yet, but I'm still planning on ordering them on DVD so the "watch" was in a future tense. I also want to get Basil Rathbons Sherlock Homes too.

    Yes, I agree, the video store experience was great. But a lot of people like RQOH like to keep tabs on what's new so there is plenty of recommendations around.

  22. Matt ~ That old Sherlock Holmes is a good choice too. I've been getting obsessed with a new modern update on Sherlock Holmes. I'm afraid that there aren't any episodes of it available online, but you can get an idea of the show here:

    New Sherlock Series

    Yeah, The Real Queen of Horror is pretty much my source for finding out about new horror movies. Otherwise, I'm not too up to date on recent scary movies.