The stuff you can learn on the Internet never ceases to amaze. There is, for example, an entire Internet subculture of people who were—and are—freaked out by the short musical logo used by Screen Gems studios to identify its TV productions from the mid 60s to the mid 1970s. It appeared at the end of shows such as The Flintstones, Bewitched, The Monkees, and The Partridge Family, just after the closing credits. You know the one I mean:
Fear of the Screen Gems logo and theme has apparently been satirized by The Simpsons and Family Guy (unless those YouTube clips I found are homemade parodies), and now somebody’s actually made a short film about the fear called The S From Hell, which was shown at Sundance last month. I can’t tell if it’s intended to be a parody or a true documentary of an actual phenomenon, but that may be a distinction without a difference in this case.
I vividly remember the Screen Gems logo from my own childhood, although I found it more cool than scary. (Perhaps that’s how teenage synthesizer geeks are made.) But I know well how we can seize on little things when we’re kids, and how they stay with us for years thereafter. I’ve written before about the episode of the 1998-2000 TV series Sports Night in which a character perceives Three Dog Night’s “Eli’s Coming” as the harbinger of bad news. In high school, I knew a kid who abhorred the Emerson Lake and Palmer song “Tank” because of the nightmares it caused, thanks to an older sibling who played it all the time. (Listening to it again for the first time in a while, I’m not surprised that kid found it scary. I’m a little bit disturbed by the last couple of minutes myself, and I’m almost 50.)
How do we function every day, anyhow, what with our heads a roiling stew of everything we’ve ever seen, heard, and felt, an endless fugue of audio and video playing every waking hour? It’s no wonder some psychologists believe that consciousness, contrary to being a mechanism that opens the world to us, is actually a filter that shuts a lot of the world out. If we could perceive everything there is to perceive—the sound of every insect, the sight of every detail in the carpet—we’d be so overloaded that everyday life would be unbearable. It’s tough enough living with our memories.
Audience participation time: What are the little things that scared you—and maybe still disturb you now? Places, songs, bits of cultural ephemera or other oddments of life that your head has collected? Show ’em if you’ve got ’em, in the comments.
(Tip of the baseball cap to Matt at Scrubbles.net, who mentioned The S From Hell earlier this week.)