Unsettling Story #1

It was 1964. I was seven, and my father was in the Hollywood Community Hospital for cataract surgery. Mom and I were visiting; after a while in the room talking to my dad, it was my practice to explore around on my own. (It was the early Sixties and people were a lot less concerned about child abductions.) Usually I'd ride the elevators over to where the vending machines were or look out at a big neon Pepsi sign on Sunset from a balcony, but on this one occasion I thought I'd go explore around where the mysterious "B" button in the elevator led me. So I punched it and rode the thing down, and exited.

Unlike the other areas of the hospital, the hallway off the elevator seemed poorly lit, deserted and very quiet. I saw the word "morgue" written on the wall. Feeling somewhat disquieted, I didn't walk around, but rather summoned the elevator and waited for what seemed a long time. As Mom and I left the hospital, I asked what a "more-guew" was, telling her that I had seen it on a sign. "That's where the dead people are put," Mom said.

I distinctly recall a chilly feeling coming over me when she told me that...

I was reminded of this incident recently when I saw an episode of The Twilight Zone, "Twenty Two," which concerns a hospital morgue.

Unsettling Story #2

I had just gotten home from seeing what was the scariest film I would see as a child, 1964's "The Night Walker." It was double billed with Jerry Lewis' "The Disorderly Orderly," but the comedy film didn't help blunt the frightening aspects of the William Castle thriller. (The plot: A woman is nearly driven crazy when she cannot tell dreams from reality. Her jealous husband Howard, shown at left, who may or may not have died in a lab explosion, is scary-looking and apparently stalking her. It was a film noir plot with some horror aspects.)

I was back home from the movies when Mom announced that she had to go somewhere for an hour or so, leaving me in the house by myself. (Nice display of responsible parenting there, Mom.) As she ran late in returning I went to bed - leaving some lights on! The phone rang and I answered it. After saying, "Hello?" there was a pause and then a burst of horrible electronic noise that thoroughly freaked me out. You must remember that at this time I was wholly preoccupied with space, and so what I thought I was hearing was an alien in a precursor to an invasion or something like that. ("Grix, call 620 North Robinson St. and see if anyone is home. If not, we can stage the saucer pods there.")

I slammed down the handset and prayed that it wouldn't ring again - it didn't. I hid under the covers for the rest of the evening. With the wisdom accumulated from working as an engineer, I know now what I undoubtedly heard was a modem tone, or perhaps an early FAX or teleprinter. It was almost certainly a misplaced call on the part of somebody or a fault of the telephone network. But I certainly never forgot it!

As for Howard, he and his blank white eyes creeped me out for a long time after seeing this film. It was a pleasant watching this film again about thirty-five years later when e-Bay made it possible for me to get a videotape. I was pleased to find that I remembered Vic Mizzy's memorable theme almost note for note. The real surprise was in learning that Howard was played by Hayden Rorke, the comic and eternally put-upon and confused Air Force colonel in TV's I Dream of Jeannie. Had I known that as a kid, Howard would have seemed much less frightening!

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