When I was about 10-years-old I developed a real phobia about vampires. I can trace my fear back to a single movie, "Dracula's Daughter", an early Bela Lugosi triumph, which my older sister, Sandy, and I saw on late night television.
Well, after that movie, there were some nights I'd wake up so terrified I couldn't stand it. I'd lie there, heart pounding, eyes bulging in the dark, too scared to get out of bed because my feet would then be dangerously close to "Under the Bed", and then somebody, namely a vampire, could grab my ankles and pull me under the bed too, where he/she would plunge his/her fangs deep into my neck and suck out all my blood. The worst part of it was from that moment on, I too would become one of the most unholy and disgusting creatures on earth, one of "The Living Dead."
Naturally, I was very embarrassed about this irrational fear. Certainly, by age ten I knew it was mostly irrational, and when my parents asked me what I was afraid of, why I wanted to sleep with the light on for instance, which was not allowed because it wasted electricity, I was too mortified to tell them the truth. Instead, I said I was afraid of prehistoric monsters, like Tyrantasauras Rex. At the time, this seemed solid and rational, Tyrantasauras Rex being a more academic sounding fear than vampires.
I had developed an elaborate approach to my terror. Our house had two stories, and the hall light was always left on until my parents came up to bed at nine o'clock. At eight sharp, I'd kiss everyone good night and go upstairs. This gave me an hour's head start. I'd take a calming hot bath, climb into bed and, if I were lucky, I'd be asleep before the hall light was turned off. Usually this worked, but some nights I’d wake up long after everyone else had gone to bed, and there I'd be alone in total darkness. On those nights, I'd lie in bed and contemplate which was the better strategy: stay in bed and wait for the vampire to attack, or to risk bringing the attack about by making that long journey past the stairwell (as likely a vampire hiding place as "Under the Bed") and down the hall to Sandy's bedroom where I'd beg for her protection. After an agony of indecision, I'd stand up on the bed and leap into the air, landing with my feet as far from "Under the Bed"as my rather limited atheletic ability allowed. Then I'd enter the shadowy hallway. Pressing my back against the wall to prevent attack from the rear, I'd stand absolutely still for a few minutes while I waited for the blood to stop rushing in my ears so I could detect the telltale sucking sounds a vampire makes when he/she’s attacking your mother, father or sister. When I was satisfied that I was the only one in the hall, I'd release my toe grip on shag carpet, and begin to inch my way along the wall past the heating grate, past the linen closet (which I'd tightly shut before going to bed, just in case) and past the portraits in pastels of my two married sisters. At this point, I'd drop to my knees and crawl under the big window with its gauzy nylon curtains, another danger point, and finally through the darker dark of my sister's door. At her bedside I’d whisper, "Sandy, let me sleep with you." Then the miracle would occur. Even though I was a rather chunky girl and the bed was only a twin, she would say yes. She'd even let me sleep next to the wall, which was by far the safest part of the bed. And though we were not always on the best of terms, Sandy was never irritated, or impatient and she never mentioned it to my parents. For that, I will love her forever.
Eventually I earned a glow-in-the-dark plastic cross for attending The First Methodist Church four Sundays in a row, which I tied on a string and wore around my neck. Well, that solved the problem. As everyone knows, Vampires are terrified of crosses.