At first glance, you might not think of this post as related to genealogy research. Well, it isn't but it is. This post contains stories from my past, and when you get right down to it, a major part of genealogy is recording stories like these. I didn't have to research these stories since they come from my own memory, but if I didn't record them anywhere, they wouldn't be written down for a future researcher to find. So, here we go...
One of my many interests is reading and watching various science fiction works from a wide range of artists. There was a long discussion on the Slice of Sci Fi podcast this past summer about what got listeners interested in science fiction. I had a couple of thoughts on this, but when the discussion branched into asking what was the first thing that scared the bejeebus out of listeners, it got me really thinking about my experiences in the early to mid-1970s. Now that we're into October, let's hear all about those scary events.
Probably what got me interested first in science fiction was the earliest memory I have of being scared out of my gourd. That memory is from a time when the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" aired on television. SPOILER ALERT - If you haven't seen this movie yet, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. In particular, the scariest part for me was the scene just after the candy garden, soon after Augustus Gloop got caught in the suction pipe that siphoned liquid chocolate to another part of the factory. That in itself was a bit scary, but then the remaining children were led onto a boat that was then piloted down the chocolate river. Gene Wilder, playing Willy Wonka, started reciting a poem as the boat traveled and the intensity of emotion in his voice increased with the speed of the boat as they went into a tunnel. Wilder's recitation was reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe's most famous work "The Raven" and the sound of his voice combined with the dramatic music and the sudden and wild images that were appearing as the boat sailed down the river were enough to get me to hide in fear and avoid the rest of the movie for several years after that.
Two more instances of tunnel imagery haunted me for a while after that. I don't remember which of the two came first, but they were also both in that decade. Probably the earlier incident was one time when my maternal grandmother went with my family to Disneyland. This must have also been in the early to mid 1970s. My interest in science fiction was slowly developing at the time, so on my visits to the park, I usually headed off to Tomorrowland first. Right at the entrance to Tomorrowland, under what used to be the Peoplemover ride, was a ride sponsored by Monsanto called Adventure Thru Inner Space. The attraction opened in 1967, two years before my birth, and it was kept in operation for almost twenty years. The premise of Adventure Thru Inner Space was that visitors would ride in small pods called atommobiles into a giant device that would shrink the riders down to atomic levels and inject their atommobiles into a snowflake. The entryway was enough for me on my first visit. I believed that the shrinking was real and was terribly afraid that the process wouldn't or couldn't be reversed. My mother and grandmother were with me at Disneyland the first time I remember encountering this ride. They were amused at my reaction, but let me wait for them at the ride's exit. I was greatly relieved to see them smiling back at me when their atommobile rounded the corner at the exit. It took three or four more trips to Disneyland before I could find the courage to ride it myself, and we soon started calling the ride The Shrinker, making it a mandatory ride on every trip to Disneyland. The ride was finally closed in 1985 to be replaced with Star Tours, a simulator ride based on the Star Wars series of movies, which my friends and I made sure to ride frequently on subsequent visits to the park, but I'll always remember The Shrinker. As it turns out, I'm not the only person who has fond memories of this ride; quite a bit more information about it, including some of the original audio from the ride, can now be found on the Atommobiles.com website.
The last tunnel that really freaked me out as a child was also one that I saw on television. Coincidentally, this also helped influence my interest in science, but not in a very helpful way. As far as I can remember, the show was titled "The Human Body" and was meant as a way to showcase advances in medical science through some of the newest electronic devices of the time. One of these devices was an early version of an endoscope (I'm not a doctor and have very little knowledge of medical devices, so please help me out with terminology in the comments). The device consisted of a small video camera and light at the end of a long tube; the tube would be inserted into various holes in the body and what the camera saw was directly played on the television show with no editing. The only part of the show that I remember actually watching was when the endoscope was inserted through a patient's mouth into her throat; the patient was asked to sing a constant tone and the camera caught the flapping of her vocal chords as she sang. While I was thoroughly grossed out at seeing this and utterly refused to watch any more of the show, I thought it was a fascinating idea. But it still took me quite a long time before I would willingly set and keep medical appointments.
So, now that I've told you my story, what got you into your hobby and what was the first thing that scared the bejeebus out of you?