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Colin F. Barnes: On Childhood Nightmares

Colin F. Barnes

We asked Colin F. Barnes, author of ‘Shades of Red’ in Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed, what haunts his dreams, both now and as a young lad, and where his inspiration for horror comes from – this is what he told us…

Freddy Krueger: Monolith of Children’s Nightmares

I was lucky to be an 80’s child. Lucky that I had a plethora of groundbreaking horror films to scare the crap out of me on a regular basis. We had such great titles as Halloween, Nightmare On Elm St, Omen, Poltergeist; Exorcist was still around then too. All these great films were, to a pre-teen, scary as hell.

The other great invention of the 80s that helped scare kids all over the country was the humble VHS tape. For the first time, world-class horror was super-accessible. Usually your parents had a collection of VHS tapes; some borrowed from work colleagues, some pirated (yes, it happened back then!), some rented from the local video shop—that was even before Blockbuster was around.

These videos would often get copied and swapped around at school. Sometimes if you were lucky, you’d find one discarded in the woods like an adult specialist magazine.

There was always one kid at school whose father was either really cool about his kid watching horror, or more probably, an inattentive douchebag. That kid was usually the one to bring to the attention of the trembling masses the latest horror flick.

By then, and we’re talking about 9 or 10, we’d already progressed beyond your standard Hammer House of Horror films; that’s not to say they weren’t scary or memorable—they were—they just weren’t visceral in the way some of the slasher films, or something like Hellraiser was.

There is one standout protagonist from that era that still haunts me in some manner today. And that’s the bastard Freddy Krueger. I was staying at dodgy friends place in London where junkies frequented the stairs and balconies. My older brother and this other kid (also older than me) decided it would be great to watch Nightmare on Elm St 3. At this point I’d not watched many horror films, and certainly not in such unfamiliar surroundings.

I got through the film with a great deal of tension, but it was okay. I kind of enjoyed the thrill, and was mightily relieved when it finished. All was good. Until my douchenozzle brother and his friend decided to taunt me all night. There was a particular scene where Freddy’s hands come out of the taps in the bathroom; let’s just say brushing my teeth in the dark (they wouldn’t allow me turn the lights on) was a harrowing experience.

This heinous mental torture created such vivid images in my head that I had nightmares about Freddy for weeks after that. Even back in the sanctuary that was my own bedroom I would be sure I could see the outline of Freddy standing in the curtains, or late at night hear the screech of his blades against metal railings (In truth, it was probably a cat in the alley).

I can look back on it all with fondness now; I often mine that experience for my own stories, and so far, I’d have to say it was an experience worth having, and it didn’t do me any harm. Much.


Those whispered tales of monsters hiding under the bed, or of the demons lurking in the shadowy corner where we dare not glance for fear that seeing them will make them all too real. Oh, how the innocent landscape of a child’s imagination lends fertile soil to horrors ready to be sown on the slightest of sounds; the tales and the terror they wreak on our youthful minds never quite leaves us.

We asked the authors in this collection to reach into the forgotten recesses of their twisted minds and share with us the tales of nightmares that can only thrive in the hidden corners of a child’s imaginings; the bogeyman under the bed, the outlandishly fiendish creature lurking in the dark, the slight murmur of sound coming from the hall… did you close the door completely?

Explore the myriad terrors that only a child can twist from nothing into some ‘thing’ in the span of a single rapid breath. Do you dare delve into your own memories? Perhaps you’ll start sleeping with the lights on again…

Tell us, who is Under the Bed?

Contributing Authors:  Colin F. Barnes, Nina D’Arcangela, Phil Hickes, Amber Keller, Kim Krodel, Lisamarie Lamb, John McIlveen, Kate Monroe, Brandon Scott, Joshua Skye, Julianne Snow, and Jack Wallen

Pick up a copy of Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed as either an eBook or in print format from:

eBook:  Amazon.com, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.itSmashwords.com (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, PDF)
Print:     Amazon.com, CreatSpace.com


‘Shades of Red’ is the story of Mitchell and how a malicious tale told at bedtime can change a young mind forever. Here’s a longer look at Colin’s contribution to Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed:

     “Mitchell recalls the sinister shadow watching Emma. Was it just his imagination, or something worse? His skin crawls with gooseflesh and his shivers.

     Something’s banging about in the basement. Again and again. It’s more like a flapping than a bang. Mitchell pads down the hall to the basement door. Presses his ear against it. More flapping. A trapped bird? It wouldn’t be the first time a bird had found its way in. Shirley Mains isn’t exactly on top of things when it comes to maintaining the house.

     Stale air greets Mitchell. He descends the creaky wooden steps until his bare feet touch the cold stone floor. He wishes he had taken a torch with him as he remembers that the light bulb doesn’t work. Weak light filters through a small, grime encrusted window. He sees the legs of the two policemen walk past, each stride casting a moving shadow into the gloom of the basement.

     It smells of rust and engine oil.

     The flapping continues. Comes from an old, broken dresser in the corner.

     Despite spending a lot of time playing in the basement, Mitchell can’t help but to breathe a little bit quicker. They’re just birds, he thought. In the dresser? He can’t work that one out, but he approaches and opens the door. Quiet. The flapping stops. Did they get out? He reaches inside for the candles and the matches. Lights one. Shines it inside the dresser.

     Two birds lie on their sides on the bottom shelf. Dead. Above them on the next shelf is a pair of white tennis shoes…”

If you’d like to read more of Colin’s work, you can find links on where to purchase them here.

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