Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"In Search Of"

I read something in passing recently, that kind of got my attention. It's a hypothesis about a bigger reason for the creepy-clown sightings.

(And yes, I know: probably the mundane reason of "A few people did it to try to do a viral promotion of a movie, and then a whole bunch of foolish people decided it was their ticket to either fifteen minutes of fame or a day off school if they scared authorities enough" is more likely, but I tend to look for deeper meaning in things).

Anyway, they referenced the UFO sightings of the 1970s. Gads, I remember that. I didn't want to believe in UFOs - I was a kid, it was a creepy thing, so my brain just clamped down and said, "No. Not possible. The photos are all faked, the lights and stuff were either atmospheric phenomena or the people hallucinating"

But the linking idea here is: in troubled times, people see weird stuff. Whether it's they "see" it and it isn't really there, but they latch on to it because they're scared and it's easier, intellectually, to be afraid of creepy clowns than it is the rise of Putin or continued crumbling of the Middle East, or whether it's that there's some kind of warning sign from the universe going on, I don't know. But I do remember how fascinated people were in the 1970s by that kind of stuff. (And I wonder if also a parallel can be drawn between all this and the plethora of "ghost hunter" type shows that have filled the airwaves since the recession of 2008). I wonder if it's that weird scary stuff has always been out there, but in difficult times, people notice it more - either because they're already wigged out a little, or, conversely, because it's somehow easier and less-threatening to "worry" about ghosts than it is to worry about The Bomb.

There was even a show called "In Search Of" that was about all kinds of crazy creepy junk. Leonard Nimoy hosted it. I watched it some, at least, until the episode about spontaneous human combustion freaked me RIGHT out and I decided not to watch it any more. (And I admit, even as it seems biochemically impossible, it's still something I worry about in the dark of night - what an awful way to die. Nevermind that the supposedly-documented cases are really shaky, and in several cases it was someone known to be a heavy smoker and they could have, for example, fallen asleep with a cigarette in their hand). I just remember having "spontaneous combustion" added to the pile of worries I carried around as a kid.

The 1970s were an unsettling time, too - and into the 1980s. The biggest thing I remember was the cold war and nuclear proliferation; my dad kept Civil Defense pamphlets on hand and one I remember was how you could stack paperback books up on a table, and get under the table (!) and supposedly it would block some of the radiation. And lots of people I knew had "plans" - either a reinforced area in the basement, or a food supply, or something. It wasn't until years later that I realized that, come an all-out nuclear war, I probably WOULDN'T want to be one of the "survivors" because, at worst, that would doom me to a life cut short by radiation-caused cancer (with no medical treatment available, likely) or at best, as a young woman, I'd have to be a "breeder" to help repopulate a decimated Earth.

Heh. I remember feeling odd relief after the death of the Soviet Union - actually, for much of my young-adult years, things did seem relatively more peaceful and less existentially scary than they did when I was kid listening to Sting speculate as to whether the Russians loved their children, too. Then, of course, September 11 happened, and we all got the wake-up call of a lifetime. (Yes, Oklahoma City was a good bit before that, but somehow, it was easier to dismiss it as "home grown nutcase anti-government type" and also, a smaller number of people were killed - oh, granted, each one of those was a giant loss to their families, but there didn't seem to be the extended shock and horror, at least outside of the state where it happened, that there was to September 11. And of course, we didn't wind up being virtually strip-searched upon entering government buildings in the name of being made more "safe")

And it does seem to me that after that, and especially after the crash of 2008*, that ghost-hunter shows/zombie shows/ other things about the sort of nameless horrors that are the grown-up version of monsters in the closet became more common or at least more prominent.

(* I think Oklahoma is FINALLY being hit by that. We are a bit more than 5 years behind the rest of the nation. We were actually doing pretty OK for a while and for a time, at least, the posted unemployment rate for my county was well below the national average. No more, with the oil crash and all. And there are a HUGE number of empty storefronts downtown now, when just two years ago, most of them were full - now it's gone to more empty than full. Which makes me very sad. There are other issues there, like the Rte. 70 bypass coming in to play, but I do also get the feeling that no one has any money any more and so that's why businesses are leaving.)

And I don't know. I don't like the creepy stuff. I've always mostly-disliked horror movies, especially ones with supernatural horrors. I don't like, as Pinkie Pie talks about, "being scared a little." I understand that some people do, but that's just not me. (Mostly, I don't like being startled, which is different from being scared). And I also feel like I have enough real-world, grown-up fears (aging parents, economic insecurity, changes to my profession, random angry/violent people in the world, geopolitical stuff, diseases....) that I don't want to worry about ghosts or zombies or UFOs or creepy clowns or anything like that. (I just want all that junk to STOP. I don't need more things to make me anxious; I'm already plenty anxious).

But I don't know. If the "clowns are the UFO sightings of the 2010s," maybe that gives me hope, because the UFOs eventually (mostly) seemed to go away. And we survived that craziness. So maybe we can survive the clowns, too. And maybe things will get better somehow, just as they (at least seemed to) get better for a while after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But I still might spend Halloween night (figuratively) under my bed* with a jar of peanut butter, some books, and Harry the Bear.

(*I don't literally fit; I'd have to get bed risers to do that)

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