Here’s the story about how an old episode of Sightings ruined my life.
Or maybe made it better?
You remember Sightings, right? It was essentially a copycat Unsolved Mysteries, but with a stricter focus on the paranormal and otherworldly.
Now let me take you back to October, 1992. You’re eating Keebler Pizzarias, and the radio won’t stop playing Whitney.
I was thirteen years old, and only barely settled into my new downstairs bedroom. Thirteen-year-olds have a biological compulsion to find their parents irritating, and I sure did love the extra privacy.
I felt so mature, but I was still just an easily-spooked kid. It was darker downstairs. Weirder. I’d traded living next to my parents to living next to the laundry room, which creaked and cracked with noises that belonged on a Halloween SFX CD.
My bedroom had two windows. There was the front window, which offered a view of our driveway. That was where the burglars would break in. Then there was the side window, peering into our little-used backyard. That was the entrance for monsters.
So I’m in this room, on a Friday night in mid-October.
Sightings comes on my TV set. The one covered in Rose Tea ceramic animals. Against my better judgment, I do not switch channels to watch Baby Sinclair bang pots.
It was an episode about aliens. Sightings had a lot of those. The theme was alien abductions, with an emphasis on reproductive experiments. One woman swore she gave birth to a human/alien hybrid. I forgot all about Baby Sinclair.
I loved this stuff as a kid, but it got to me. It’s like when you order a pizza and eat four slices in ten minutes. It’s great while it’s happening, but then there’s the six hours of torment.
In the moment, I was too engaged to worry about what’d come later. A hundred images of scary space aliens, and me downstairs? What could go wrong?
During the episode, there are several shots of extraterrestrials looming outside windows, and even a few where they’re inside people’s bedrooms, watching them sleep.
These shots wrecked me. Completely and totally wrecked me.
I already had a hangup about spooky windows, but this put the fear into focus. Every night, I’d contort myself on the bed until I was confident that a peeping alien would not be able to see my face, nor I his. I’d lay backwards and facedown, with walls of pillows surrounding my head.
The windows in my bedroom had no curtains. Just well-worn venetian blinds, with enough broken pieces to guarantee voyeurs from Venus easy access. I was never 100% sure I was safe, and at night, I never felt 100% safe.
Maybe I should’ve watched Dinosaurs after all.
Damn, it was the episode where Earl became a TV exec. Loved that one.
The effects weren’t fleeting. Hell, I’m still weird about windows at night. This random episode of Sightings wasn’t the only thing to ever fuel those fears, but it’s the one that hit hardest.
I wonder if I subconsciously embraced it? Like, imagine a thirteen-year-old’s life as a sitcom. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if that thirteen-year-old had to outwit space aliens every night? My life was so boring, otherwise. This alien window thing at least kept things interesting.
I can picture myself in there, on the floor, organizing my Marvel Universe trading card album, eating Goldfish crackers. I’m under the faint glow of chili pepper party lights, which I feel so lucky to own. It’s calm and ordinary, save for the fact that I have to stare at my windows every three minutes to make sure Klaatu isn’t staring back.
The whole episode is currently on YouTube. I can’t say that it’s just as haunting 25 years later, but if you squint and project, I think you’ll see how it could ruin a thirteen-year-old’s life.
Ruin or make better.
I’m still not sure.