Kids Need Scary, Too: A Plea for More Middle Grade Horror

We’re celebrating middle grade horror this month. So I thought of middle grade me, and if you had asked kid-me if I liked horror, I would have said no. Maybe because Mom was all about the non-scary, about keeping us from things that she didn’t like. Maybe because Dad liked it, but being a not-so-talkative guy, there was never any discussion about it.

But when I look back on my childhood, I did like horror. If Dad was watching some crazy, creepy movie, I watched it, the whole time knowing I “shouldn’t”. I had books I loved, only later realizing they were horror. I was drawn to the weird and scary.

I should have known horror was for me when we saw Poltergeist at the drive-in. My dad casually announced, probably at my mom’s request, that my sister and I might not want to watch certain scenes. I peeked. So did my sister. The difference? My sister promptly hid her face. I kept watching. My sister has never watched a horror movie since. Me? Well, Poltergeist is one of my favorites.

Seems that, overall, kids are encouraged not to watch scary things. They are told they will have nightmares. They are told they won’t like it. My sister had her kids so scared of the basilisk in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that they wouldn’t watch Harry Potter at all. They never saw Sleeping Beauty because the dragon was too scary.

Did my nieces not watch it because they wouldn’t like it, or did my sister influence them that much?

Me? I let my kids watch all sorts of things. I watched Buffy with my toddlers in the room. As they got older and noticed what I was watching, we talked about the monsters, the demons, the ghosts. I exclaimed how cool the monsters looked. We talked about how people reacted. We talked about how the things they saw on TV were made up…ISN’T THE IMAGINATION FANTASTIC!?!?! Of course, all this bleeds into real life. It’s not all made up. Some movies and books are based on true events. When my kids asked if I believed in ghosts, I told them the truth. I do believe in ghosts and demons and everything supernatural… and THEY ARE COMING TO EAT YOUR SOULS…

Okay…I didn’t say the last part…out loud…

Now, neither one of my kids ever jumped on the HEY-THIS-HORROR-STUFF-IS-SUPER-COOL wagon, but they appreciate that I like it. They get that I find it incredibly fascinating. And my daughter loves books with magic and demon battles, so there’s that. (Note to self: Make teen girl-child watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) They were exposed to it. Decided that it wasn’t their thing and moved on. But they never cowered in a corner certain they wouldn’t like it because someone told them they wouldn’t.

How many kids missed out on the wonder of creepy because their parents decided they couldn’t handle it? Or was it the parents who couldn’t handle it?

Middle grade needs more horror. Show kids the marvelous world of terror, maybe they’ll like it. Don’t treat it like a horrible thing that will devour their very essence. (I’ve been scarred for life and I’m fine. I think.) Don’t change the channel telling them that they can’t watch that. Let them watch, if they seem interested…I mean don’t strap them to a chair and duct tape their eyes open…unless you want to. Talk about what they see. Let them tell you what they like, what interests them about what they see.

And this is so fitting, because my next writing endeavor will be a middle grade horror! I have had this idea for SO LONG…TOO LONG. Finally, it has formed a solid enough story, that I can start. I am super excited to begin, to add to the pile of horror for kids.

Because kids need scary, too.

Then they grow up to be awesome horror-lovers like those of us here at The Midnight Society.

Who wouldn’t want to be like us?

*sticks knife in my belt* *grabs my chainsaw* *puts on my demon mask* *heads off to the dark cabin in the woods*


A reminder to join me TONIGHT at 9 EST on Twitter for the live-tweet of… #NightmareonElmStreet

A Nightmare on Elm Street movie poster


  • Erica Davis
    April 21, 2017

    Kathy, you’ve nailed it. I fully admit I grew up in a bubble (for which I am very grateful) (sometimes). But I am only just starting to realize how much I have missed. Collecting the entire first editions of Goosebumps (“Too disturbing!”), Garbage Pail Kids (“Too gross!), Any 80s horror film (“You’re too young!”), You Can’t Do That On Television (“Too young! Plus they should be ashamed of themselves for doing that on television!”). So, instead, I did what any child of the 80s growing up in a historic town in upstate NY would do. I snuck Fear Street out of the library and hung out in a graveyard, and looked up “bad” words in my great-grandfather’s dictionary.

    • Kathy Palm
      Erica Davis
      April 21, 2017

      I was lucky that my dad just didn’t care if I watched what he was watching. Lol! Though Mom would have put us in a bubble…

  • Mary Rajotte
    April 21, 2017

    Don’t parents know that depriving kids of horror is the very thing that leads to secret horror shenanigans? Reading scary books under the covers with a flashlight! Wearing fake plastic fangs! Reciting morose poetry in graveyards! No matter what you do, horror will always find its way in…with creeping whispers and the feeling of ghostly fingers up the back of your neck…BOO! 😀

    • Kathy Palm
      Mary Rajotte
      April 21, 2017

      Parents should know better by now. And once you wear those plastic fangs, there’s no going back.

  • Judi Lynn
    April 21, 2017

    My sister and I watched a lot of horror when we were growing up–Vincent Price and Lon Chaney on old TV channels. I’ve read that kids like horror because it helps them deal with their personal fears. I believe it.

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