Jennifer Anne Gordon is one of the hosts of the delightfully entertaining podcast Vox Vomitus and a true lover of all things Halloween. So of course we are soul mates, right?
She also writes creepy fiction and her novel Pretty/Ugly is currently on sale on Amazon for $.99. That’s right, kids. One dollar. What are you waiting for?
She has made her living as an actress, a magician’s assistant, a “gallerina”, a comic book dealer, a painter, and burlesque performer, and, for the past 10 years, an award-winning professional ballroom dancer, performer, instructor, and choreographer.
BUT WHAT SCARES HER? Let’s find out!
What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?
The first time I really remember being afraid of something was when I was watching the Electric Company. I was probably about three-years-old. I don’t really remember why, but they showed an X-ray. I was mortified by the thought of bones. It scared me to see what was inside of us. The next day in pre-school I told some of the girls during lunch. One girl, I still remember her name, told me that at night sometimes she saw a skeleton walking around in her hallway.
I think that broke my brain a little. I was scared enough just thinking of an X-ray of an arm or leg, but to think that all the bones in a body could move without the actual body. Well, that was more than three-year-old Jennifer could handle.
I remember some sleepless nights after this and making sure that the hallway closet was closed tight, and that we kept a light on in the hall. I remember staying up most of the night staring into the hallway and just waiting.
The fear of the skeleton eventually went away, but what did stick with me was the need for a nightlight. I still sleep with one, and the need to have all closets closed tight before bed!
What is your weirdest fear?
I have an intense fear of eyes, specifically having to touch my eye or have someone else touch my eye. I can’t even have someone do makeup on my eyes, and I have never worn false eyelashes. (That’s saying something seeing as I have been a professional performer on some level for most of my adult life.)
I blame all of this on an unfortunate incident from second grade. It involved a very sharp pencil, me fainting in the bathroom, and then eventually getting sick all over my teacher—Sister Assunta—because, of course, this was in Catholic School.
The worst part of all of this (besides the sharp pencil in the eye) is that it happened on Hot Dog Day. So I also have a fear of hot dogs, and maybe this plays into why I became a vegetarian.
“I have an intense fear of eyes, specifically having to touch my eye or have someone else touch my eye.”
What are your phobias?
Eyes, spiders, ticks, heights, closed spaces, wide open spaces, going under water, accidentally dropping a baby, car accidents, being kidnapped, death by hammer, driving—yikes this is a lot.
And to answer the question people are probably asking themselves…yes, I am on anti-anxiety medication.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
Probably a tie between Adam’s grief and nervous breakdown in my novel Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent, and Omelia getting sick with a deadly plague in my novel Pretty/Ugly.
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Is there a particular scene that really haunts you still?
For me the scariest book will always be The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The scene that gets me every time is when there is an incredible pounding in the walls. The way Elanor experiences that gives me chills. (Fun Fact…I have been in a haunted mansion in Newport Rhode Island that this happened in as well, and I heard it…so maybe that’s why I find it so terrifying.) The scene blends into the one where Elanor and Theodora are holding hands out of fear, and it leads to Elanor saying the line that I think is the scariest in all of fiction: “Whose hand was I holding?”
I even have that tattooed on my arm.
Do you have a childhood memory of your parents or other trusted adults being truly terrified by something?
My father was always petrified of the wind. He was a man who never cried, never really showed fear at all, but when it was windy, he would sit at our kitchen table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, with a white-knuckle grip on the mug and haunted eyes that stared out the window.
When I was small, I didn’t understand his fear at all, and that made me scared of it as well. When I got older, I heard from my mother that during the war (Korean War), my father was on a small ship that capsized during a typhoon. The water was filled with sharks, and my father and the rest of the men were eventually pulled from the water but were then captured and all became POWs.
There was so much more to his fear of wind than I ever understood when I saw it when I was small. It was nothing we ever talked about in our family—my father was not the type of person to open up about things like this. But I remember being scared too when it was too windy.
People often say death is their greatest fear. What are your feelings about death/dying?
It’s so complicated. I have seen people that I love die, I have given CPR to a stranger to get his heart pumping again, I have been sick enough to be close to death. My thoughts on it change all the time. Where there is death there is grief, and grief to me is so complex. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
I tend to write a lot of grief-based horror and suspense, so my feelings on it are always changing as I explore the part of death that is the most tangible to me, which is grief. I think death is harder on the living, and it’s something that we all have to find our way through, like a maze.
I am not scared of dying, though I am scared of being ill. I am also scared of loved ones suffering and losing them. But death itself does not scare me, and I tend to not think about it very much, even though most of my writing has death, ghosts, murder involved somehow.
Do you like Halloween?
I LOVE IT. I love all of it really. The folklore, the dressing up, the decorations, all of it. My husband and I even got married on Halloween of 2020!! If I had to choose my least favorite part, it would be the candy.
What’s scarier: attics or basements?
BASEMENTS!! I can say this very easily because I have never lived in a house with a real attic. We only ever had crawl spaces in the walls (those are scary.) Growing up we lived in an old house with an unfinished basement that had a creepy room with a dirt floor. My parents used to stockpile canned goods in there in case of a nuclear war.
Our basement had everything: Mice, spiders so big that they had actual faces, tons of boxes of broken plates, AND the worst of it all there was a scary monkey with cymbals toy hanging down there—like on the cover of Stephen King’s Monkey Shines. My parents used to tease me with that a lot. It’s no wonder I write creepy books now.
Jennifer Anne Gordon is a gothic horror/literary fiction novelist. Her work includes Beautiful, Frightening and Silent which won the Kindle Award for Best Horror/Suspense for 2020, won Best Horror 2020 from Authors on the Air, and was a finalist for American Book Fest’s Best Book Award- Horror, 2020. It also received the Platinum 5 Star Review from Reader’s Choice as well as the Gold Seal from Book View. Her second novel, From Daylight to Madness (The Hotel book 1) received the Gold Seal from Book View, as well as The Platinum Seal from Reader’s Favorite. Her third novel When the Sleeping Dead Still Talk (The Hotel book 2) was published in late 2020. Jennifer is one of the hosts, as well as the creator, of Vox Vomitus, a critically acclaimed video podcast. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, where she sits on one of the Juries for the Bram Stoker Awards. She is also a member of New England Horror Writers.