The Tingler Incident, A Boy’s First Movie Adventure

I guess I was about nine when “The Tingler” was shown on the big screen in my hometown.

I have an aunt you met earlier. Eunice was about six years older and reluctantly babysat for us. She was a huge Elvis fan. Not one of those who swooned at the mention of his name. When she was with her friends, they played Elvis day and night. I know she pretended not to be one of his screamers. In private I heard her doing the “ oh, Elvis I love you, on-and-on for what seemed forever. If she Ever met Elvis she would have embarrassed herself by probably wetting herself and passing out.

She decided to take me to see this movie. Why she thought this was a good idea is beyond me. I had never been to a movie theatre or seen a scary movie and had no idea what to expect or how to act. I guess this was just another one of those learn as you go experiences.

Two things happened, I did learn and I did go.

At the time “The Tingler” was made, there were not a whole lot of special effects. To make things more interesting, the managers of theaters had to be creative to make these low-budget movies scarier and attract more customers. I do not believe I was their target audience, quite the opposite, I believe my aunt, a teenager of about fifteen at the time, thought of me as her target to scare the daylights out of, and give her something to laugh about with her friends.

She was the aunt that had such a significant impact on my life as a babysitter. The one who punished us for misbehaving by making us stand with our nose in the corner as punishment. The only accomplishment of this punishment was to establish our growth rate by measuring the height of where the paint was worn away in the crack of the corner of the wall. I spent so much time with my nose in the corner I had to start wearing glasses when I was eight years old.

Being so young, I was not expected to know better and looked forward to experiencing my first movie, but with this aunt’s track record, I should have known better.

My aunt was not a malicious person, only inexperienced in learning my ways of how I react when I feel threatened. I do not believe she intended to cause me irreparable harm by simply taking me to a movie. Quite the contrary, today, scary movies are my favorite.

We arrived at the theater and took our seats on the end of the aisle. Or, should I say, I took the aisle seat at my aunt’s insistence. I should have suspected something was not right, but being the trusting soul that I am, I did not give it a second thought…at least that is until “The Tingler” appeared for the first time.

For you who have no clue what “The Tingler” was and to demonstrate the imaginative genius of film producers in the 50’s, ‘The Tingler’ was a creature that feeds on fear, lives inside the human body and looks like a disgusting centipede. Really, no imagination involved other than trying to devise a creature that was scary and believable.

Did I say believable? I meant credible. The early movie creatures had to have a gimmick to make them seem real and a story line that moviegoers could understand. This movie did not meet the basic qualification of a scary movie other than it was not meant for an impressionable nine year old to see. I probably could have been all right with the movie if I had known what to expect. Of course, for my aunt to tell me what to expect would have ruined all her fun.

The movie was full of eerie music that built to a crescendo just as “The Tingler” appeared. At the same time, a totally unexpected event happened. My seat began to vibrate and move back and forth. The mind of a nine year old already frightened by the music and “The Tingler,” itself had reached its limit when the seat was set in motion.

The theater management thought rigging the aisle seats to move at a specific time in the movie would heighten the effect of “The Tingler.” They exceeded their greatest expectation when this little boy jumped up and yelled as loud as he could, “I am out of here,” and on that note, disrupted the entire theater trying to escape as fast as possible. There was just no way “The Tingler” was going to get this kid.

I was well on my way to escaping the theater when my aunt finally caught up to me. I think she was a little embarrassed and mad, because my reaction was not what she expected. As a stark raving lunatic, I was more believable than the actors and even “The Tingler” on the screen. You might say I succeeded where the movie failed.

Yep, to this day, I think I stole the show and was the real star. My aunt would never recover and would eventually escape her embarrassment by joining the Air Force.

I would get to the point where I love horror movies and to this day, the only thing I look forward to, is having her take me to another movie. I guess I will have to keep waiting.