poltergeist 3 movie poster

My Kindertrauma: Poltergeist III (the puddle scene)

So I already mentioned Poltergeist in my “Faces of Death” entry, but here’s a scary scene from a movie I never saw. I’m still not sure if I’ve ever seen it.

In 1988, Poltergeist III was released. It includes a scene where Carol Anne is running through a parking lot, then stands in a puddle. Two demon hands grab her and drag her down into the water. But her two older siblings* find her and catch her in time. Unfortunately, THEY are dragged into the puddle as well. The whole thing ends with a vacant, quiet parking lot.

Now I didn’t see Poltergeist III (I’m still not sure if I ever have) at its release. Obviously, my parents had better sense than to take a quiet sensitive boy like me to any horror movie in a theater. But HBO (cause of more than one other kindertrauma) frequently aired Behind the Scenes vignettes between films. They decided showcasing the special effects behind that scene was good to air between Fraggle Rock and Braingames (I don’t think they actually did this, but this is what I caught while channel flipping).

Holy shit, that is some freaky stuff for a seven-year-old. Christ, if that happened no one would ever find you ever again. Would you be dead? Or trapped in some hell dimension forever? Not even stronger near-adult people could save you. And it wasn’t just you that got dragged down, but so did your loving brother and sister*. And I lived in Minnesota–one year later Jacob Wetterling would be kidnapped, reinforcing the scene in my mind.

*Actually they are Carol Anne’s cousin uncle’s daughter from a previous marriage and her boyfriend, but A) who cares B) what seven-year-old can make sense of that relationship — Spaceballs was clearer in that regard C) that information does not come across in the clip I saw.

I’m not sure if I always had some “thing” about drowning–it seemed a scary way to die because it was slow. There weren’t enough cars around my neighborhood to make being hit by one a possibility. Death by choking wasn’t likely, since I was always eating around adults and there was that miraculous “Heimlich maneuver” everyone kept talking about.

But drowning seemed a likely death, especially given all those warnings around pools, how frequently we went to the lake, and the ease you could be overlooked flailing around with all the others playing. Hell, water’s supposed to be good for you and you could drown in an inch of it. Not to mention it seems slow and painful. Not like a car accident where it’s sudden. You can feel your life draining away as you go under, both hope and oxygen fading.

Add to that the periphery of Heather O’Rourke’s death, this incident is equal parts terror and dread.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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