Alright. the month of Spook-tober is a month to confront your fears. I’m about to tell you guys about the scariest story I’ve ever read in my whole life, a tale that I almost wonder if I ever should’ve read in the first place. And now here I am, ready to share it with all of you. I hope you’re ready too.
What makes truly gripping, mentally scarring horror? Well, half of it is, I think, your own personal state of mind. When you read it, what kind of place your are in and where you are in your life, these factors have a heavy say in whether or not you find something just scary or bone-deep terrifying. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the same reaction to this tale now as I did when it was first told to me. At that time, though, and being the person I was, this story came off like the most horrifying thing that could ever exist.
I’m not sure it’s too widely known. It’s writer was, and the collection it was printed in definitely held other stories that were considered classics. This one story, though, holds a deeper place in my psyche than any of those other works, a dubious honor it worked very hard to earn.
I am talking, of course, about Dr. Seuss’s “What Was I Scared Off?” which was better known in my family as the “Pale Green Pants” story. In it, some teddy bear-esque Dr. Seuss creature is stalked by a pair of green pants just empty and floating there. They follow this little guy all over. He sees the pants in a whole bunch of different places, many of them very isolated spots, and each time the little teddy bear guy sees them, freaks out, and runs away. It’s only at the very end that he sees the pants are actually scared too and they laugh it all off and become best friends. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover kids! A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met, and other heartwarming lessons like that.
Except no, I never took any of that “heartwarming” crap at the end seriously. How could I? I mean, whimsically imagined creatures are one thing, but a floating pair of pants that just happens to show up in the darkest, eeriest, and creepiest landscapes I’ve ever seen in a Dr. Seuss story? Nuh-uh. Nope. Not having that. It’s not like they’re just showing up in one neighborhood or area. They show up in some random forest, a random town, a random lake, wildly different places. Even if we are to believe that these pants are just some innocent, non-demonic, silly storybook character, it’s still pretty hard to really tell whether a pair of pants are just chilling out and minding their own business, or if they are eerily watching you, demonic serial-killer style. They had no face guys, no eyes. Nothing except the void. For all we know, we cut the story off not at the happy ending, but right before the furry guy realizes the pants were creepy stalkers and befriending him was only phase two in a process that would eventually lead to the pants eating him or sending him to the Shadow Dimension.
My imagination just ran with that story, and probably not the way Dr. Seuss had intended it to, unless he was more messed up than I ever thought. The worst part is my parents read that story to my sister and I several times, because it was in the same book as that story about the Sneetches and the woman who named all her kids Dave, really cute stuff. Adults just don’t have a very good gauge for what could actually scar a child for life and what’s kooky fun when it comes from a source they trust and is smushed between actual harmless and kooky fun. However, I don’t really blame my parents for this..not anymore… and not too much. I’m a stronger person now, stronger for having to deal with the horror of the “pale green pants with nobody inside ’em!”