Jennifer Anne Gordon On Her Biggest Fears
Hello all! I’ve been lucky enough to guest post here at Horror Tree a few times, but for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jennifer Anne Gordon. I am the author of Beautiful, Frightening and Silent, which won the Kindle Award for Best Horror/Suspense for 2020. I am also the author of the Hotel Series (the second novel in that series When the Sleeping Dead Still Talk is currently a semi-finalist for this year’s Kindle Award for Best Horror/Suspense for 2021!) My latest novel Pretty/Ugly is a dark literary horror novel with a dystopian vibe; it was was released in July.
When I’m not writing I spend time teaching Ballroom Dance, (scary, I know) and I am the host of the top-rated video podcast on the Global Authors on the Air Network, called Vox Vomitus. I am also the host of a brand-new podcast that is debuting on September 16th called “Let’s Scare Jennifer to Death”. (Check it out, I will be talking with Richard Chizmar, author of Chasing the Boogeyman as well as the editor and creator of Cemetery Dance Magazine. I can’t wait to delve into all the things that scare me to death—bumps in the night, ghosts, ghouls, puppets, scarecrows, serial-killers—it’s a lot of things.
Now, that might seem strange for a horror author and true crime addict to be a scaredy-cat, but that’s me. In fact, when I was pitching the idea for the show to my executive producer, she and I had a conversation of what was my biggest fear, and that was easy. Eyes. ANYTHING with eyes. I mean…I can’t watch someone put in contacts, I almost have to reach for the Xanax every time I have to put on my own eyeliner. It’s worse to have someone else do it though. In fact, my eyeball paranoia has even had me convinced that my dry eye (likely due to allergies) was in fact some sort of ocular tumor that would eventually push my eye out of my body.
Yikes. I shouldn’t have typed that. I’m feeling woozy. I need to take a moment…
Okay, I’m back.
The eyeball thing started when I was a kid and frankly, I never stood a chance at getting over it. I wasn’t born with healthy coping mechanisms—then again—are any horror writers? So here it is, the moment in my life that has made me fearful of things like harsh eye makeup remover, and glittery eyeshadow…
Trigger warnings: eyes—obviously, Catholic School, hot dogs, nuns, sharp pencils, Jell-O cubes…I think that’s it.
So picture it, I’m in second grade. I attend Mount Saint Mary’s School. It’s housed in a creepy old brick Victorian building that had secret passages, steep staircases, bathrooms with flickering greenish light, and NO cafeteria. Which meant we all ate lunch daily at our desks.
Soup from a Muppet theme thermos, and a cold grilled cheese sandwich was my regular daily lunch. Do not judge me. The girl who sat next to me, who will remain nameless, often had Jell-O cubes shaped like hearts. I was jealous, she knew it and flaunted those cubes anyway. This has nothing to do with the story—just a little background to who she was. Cough… she’s the villain…cough…
Once every couple of months the school would have Hotdog Day. This was a day of unbridled childhood joy. We would get to go to the basement of the school where blank-faced and bored parent volunteers were busy boiling hotdogs in dusty crockpots. We were allowed to have several hotdogs if we wanted to, and most of the time we did. I know that day…I did.
We would end up back in the classroom, hands sticky with grease. Our uniforms smeared and speckled like a Pollack painting. Yellow mustard and ketchup red staining the plaid tartan and our crisp white cotton shirts. There was no relish served. I remember my first-grade teacher telling me that anything that came from a pickle was whorish.
The energy back in the classroom was wild and feral. The way I remember it is akin to the boys dancing around the fire in Lord of the Flies. Kids are creepy.
I was creepy.
We were hopped up on hotdog preservatives and sugary orange drink. It always took a while to settle us down, we were all shifting in our seats, rearranging the messy interiors of our desks. There was always a line at the pencil sharpener, and kids asking to use the bathroom—we were trying to hold onto that hotdog day magic just a little while longer. Learning to count to 1000 and studying three-digit numbers could wait just a little while longer. Let the hotdog memory live a little longer…
The Jell-O mold girl in the desk to my left was one of the pencil sharpening kids, a detail that I didn’t notice until it was too late. I don’t know what I was doing before it happened. Before she came back to her desk and said, “Look at how sharp my pencil is.”
It was sharp, I remember that. I remember that even now. If I knew at the time about the theory of Chekov’s gun, I would not have been as shocked at what was about to transpire. I must have been half hypnotized by the pencil because I did not realize she had reared up her hand, until said sharp pencil was stabbed into my left eye.
It’s my left eye that gets dry now, that’s the eye I am on again off again convinced has a tumor behind it—but I digress.
After the pencil stab I screamed and was allowed to go to the bathroom even though my teacher, Sister Assunta, assured me that my eye was “just fine”. And to be fair, my eye could have been a lot worse, it could have been truly horrifying, but for me just seeing the small red scratch on the white part of my eye was enough to send me crashing to the bathroom floor.
I am not sure how long I was there, in the Dickens-style version of my childhood I was left abandoned there for hours, but surely it was just a few minutes until Sister Assunta found me and picked me up. I was just coming out of “my spell” as she stepped back into the classroom and I proceeded to throw up, down her back.
With an amped up hotdog day audience.
Hot dog day was ruined for me, and probably for a fair share of the class. I was mortified and convinced my parents to let me stay home for the rest of the week. I claimed my eye was giving me a headache, but I knew in my heart that I was equal parts embarrassed by my trifecta of screaming, fainting, and getting sick—I was also afraid I would see a sharpened pencil and be stuck in a vicious cycle.
When I did finally return to school little miss Jell-O cube had been moved to a new desk, and I would never eat another hot dog again.
Hit me up in the comments about your biggest fears!!