One winter afternoon in the early '50s, two of my father's sisters came to our suburban Chicago home on a rare visit. One bore a gift for me, perhaps from her son, my older cousin Billy. It was either a Tales From The Crypt or a Vault of Horror comic and featured a putrefying skull floating in a vermilion pool on its lurid cover. Though I don't remember the exact title, I remember the EC brand in one of the upper corners. Thoroughly steeped in harmless DC and Dell comics, this was the first "Entertaining Comic," let alone horror comic I'd ever seen. Screaming and hyperventilating, I threw it across the living room. One of the aunts picked the offending object off the floor and guided me to the fireplace. Joined by her sister, they stood and solemnly watched as the source of my discontent was purified in flame.
But neither lady was around to comfort me a couple decades later when I
was provoked to the same level of terror by Cousin Billy's film, The
Exorcist. By then, I'd learned to hide my emotional life from
the general public, thanks to a raging case of OCD.