There’s a good reason why so many horror films use children in the plot.
It ramps up the tension, that feeling of unease, that heart-stopping dread, when something so innocent is at the centre of a scary plot.
When the soft and sweet voice of a child says something terrifying, it dials up the creepy-factor.
I’ve seen plenty of horror movies, even though I don’t cope with them very well. I get a bit too absorbed and then imagine stuff lurking in the shadows. I have a bit of an overactive imagination.
Because of this, I’m struggling with the bit of parenting where we need to reassure our children that there are no ghosts and no monsters lurking under the bed.
And it’s not just my overactive imagination that’s causing the problems.
My toddler is convinced that there are things that go bump in the night. And it’s making me feel like I’m living my own horror movie.
I’ve had a rant already this week about how I think Halloween decorations are too scary for young children. The trouble is her imagination is already coming up with stuff that’s frightening enough without any added inspiration.
Let me set the scene.
It’s the middle of the night. The house is dark, apart from the dim nightlight at the top of the stairs.
My toddler wakes up screaming and I stumble from my bed, stubbing my toe as I go.
I get to her bedside, still unsteady on my feet and more than a little confused. I ask her what’s wrong.
“There’s a ghost in my room.”
There’s no ghost darling.
“It’s a girl.”
There’s no one in your room darling.
“She’s under the bed.”
*pauses to glance nervously under the bed.*
No, there’s no one under there, you’ve just had a dream.
“Now she’s behind you.”
Now that overactive imagination of mine kicks in. I remember every single one of those movies where the ghosts are stalking small children while plotting to bump off the parents.
Suddenly I notice how eerily quiet the house is at night. Is there someone behind me? Do I dare look?
Now I’ve paused for too long when I should be the grown-up one in the room and instantly move to reassure my toddler and laugh this ghost business off.
But instead, ridiculously, I’m actually wondering if there is a ghost girl behind me. I mean, script writers have to get their ideas from somewhere, right? Maybe these things aren’t all in our imagination after all.
At last I turn and chance a look, there’s nothing behind me except for a knitted teddy bear that’s looking a bit sinister in the dark.
So I pick my daughter up and we have a cuddle. I reassure her that these things are all in her head, I hope!
I feel daft in the cold light of day, but everything feels so different in the dark. It’s like our nightmares become possible in the stillness and deafening silence.
It happens with my baby too.
Every now and then we will be alone together in her room and she will just randomly fixate on a particularly bland corner of the wall.
She will stare for a while before breaking out into a giggle. Then I will try to bring her attention back to me, even if I manoeuvre her to look elsewhere, she cranes her neck to look back at the spot.
I start to get paranoid. Can she see something that I can’t? Does she have a sixth sense? Is there a ghostly Bruce Willis in her nursery?
I guess I will ever know. However I hope if there are ghosts in my house they’re more Casper than Evil Dead.