Thursday, April 10, 2014

Children of the 1970s: The Darkest Decade That Formed Us!

The 1970s ushered in a whole new love for the paranormal for the first time since the early 20th century spiritualists' movement.  It also was a bleak decade showing that progress wasn't always pretty and sometimes downright evil. This inspired a decade of horror entertainment, serial killers, and the disillusionment of church, educational and governmental institutions.

If you were a "child of the 70s," who are you today was very much determined by the events of that decade and their influences. I hope to show you why and take you on a trip into the dark past....

The Marked Events 

Sexual freedom.
Excessive drug use.
Smoking addictions.
Three-Mile Island.
The ever-present threat of the "Bomb." 
Oil shortages and gas lines.
Middle East hostage situations.
Ineffective presidents.
Soldiers coming home from war.
Financial recession. 

If the 60s were high, the 70s were low.   If the 60s made us break free of tradition and question authority, the 70s made us confused and without guidance.  Many were deep into escaping behaviors, whether it was cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or sex. All of these would result in later complications like addictions, unplanned pregnancies and disease.

There was a general lack of belief in the future, a government that became too bloated and ineffective, environmental concerns, and an economy that was churning in place.  If ever a decade was cursed, the 70s were.  But, how inspiring for some of the most creepy stuff ever!  It formed those of us who grew up in it to not trust authorities, be skeptical of our education's accuracy, dislike growing corporations, and adoring horror films and books, as we cut our teeth on these!


The 1970s started a real boom of excitement about Halloween. Stores began to sell ready-made costumes -

But, sometimes the scariest stuff was homemade - 

There were a lot of worries for the first time in the 70s about "stranger danger" and "tampering" with candy.

The most famous case of actual tampering came from the murder of an 8-year-old named Timothy in the mid 70s, who was actually killed by his father who laced his Pixie Stix with cyanide. And, just as people need to realize, we actually are at more threat by our own family more than strangers (which is why persons of interest are pretty much always a family member--comforting, huh?). This evil man also gave the candy to his daughter and some of her friends, but they hadn’t eaten the candy. This was apparently motivated by an insurance policy on the kid.

A woman named Helen Pfeil in 1964 was tired of older teenagers showing up for free candy so she handed out ant killer poison buttons to those kids. The packages contained steel wool, dog biscuits, and the ant buttons and were marked “poison” and with a skull and crossbones. She told the kids it was a joke and no one was hurt, still she was charged for potential harm. 

This ended up perhaps being the last decade that children were allowed to run wild with pillowcases like hungry pagans on Halloween night. 

Your resulting tendency?  

You don't just love Halloween, you freaking worship it and it depresses you that less and less kids trick or treat anymore. The fever starts for your as summer is closing and the entire month of October is the promiseland of horror movies and decorating, pumpkin carving, and hard cider. You actually enjoy making or wearing costumes and you add to a collection of decorations each year. This is THE holiday for children of the 70s. 

Serial Killers/Criminals

A new apparent hobby for the disillusioned of the 70s was serial killing. The decade birthed a lot of freaks.

John Wayne Gacy:  Sexually assaulted and killed a minimum of 33 boys. This man was a church goer, businessman, respected citizen.  He buried 26 of them in his crawlspace. Does it get creepier? Uh-huh. He was a clown for charity events.

Hillside Stranglers:  Two men who kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed women in California making all women fearful of going out.

Son of Sam:  David Berkowitz used a .44 caliber gun to kill people over a year's time, 6 died in New York. He became known as a lover's lane killer because of the location of many of the victims.

Ted Bundy:  Serial kidnapper, rapist and killer committed 30 killings (by his confession before death) in several states. This wholesome looking man was the last person anyone expected would hit the roads on a killing spree.

Dean Corll:  "The Candy Man." He kidnapped, rape and killed at least 28 boys in Houston and owned a candy factory.

Gary Gilmore:  This serial killer was put to death by firing squad in Utah. Now, that's seriously bad-ass.  He was then taken to an abandoned cannery behind the prison, which served as its death house. He was strapped to a chair, with a wall of sandbags placed behind him to trap the bullets. Five gunmen, local police officers, stood concealed behind a curtain with five small holes, through which they aimed their rifles. When asked for any last words, Gilmore simply replied, "Let's do it."

Chowchilla Incident:  Men abduct a bus load of children, dig a hole in the ground, drive it down into it and cover it up, asking for ransom. Luckily the bus driver and children got free and the men were caught.

DB Cooper:  This nondescript man, held up an airplane, took the cash, and parachuted out in the Northwest. Many decades later, remains of some of the cash was found and other items, but the man still has not been.

Your resulting tendency?  

Slasher films that began in the 70s and peaked in the 80s are "nostalgic" movies for you. "Halloween" is a cult standard. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hills Have Eyes," were must-see movies. You both feared the contents of the movies, hid from the gory parts, but still felt compelled to see them as if you were conditioning yourself to handle any situation in a world gone crazy and unpredictable. You still find yourself yelling at the characters in horror movies to tell them what they should be doing to get out of their situation. You have both a cringing fear when you recall things like the Chowchilla hostage situation where children in a school bus were buried underground for ransom and a curiosity about why someone would do this. This reinforced a decade marked by both freaks and geeks. Between the killer next door and tampering with candy, you're just wanting to stay edgy (which will later usher in your obsession for zombies in the early 2000s).

Horror/Supernatural TV and Movies

The 1970s TV was filled with so many shows and movies with occult/horror/supernatural themes that it was hard to decide what to see on which night. Added onto that were blockbuster horror movies at the theater for perhaps the first time with longer lines than traditional release movies. It was all about the next thrill, and the next, and the next....

Kolchak: The Night Stalker  - This quirky TV series had us believing that it would be entirely possible for some newsman somewhere to be running into X-Files-like paranormal cases and a world that was not ready to accept the reality.

Scooby Doo - This creepy-themed cartoon with its cheery colors and neat happy endings left all of us children of the 70s with a strong desire to climb into a van and solve mysteries. It showed us that not all things that go bump in the night are paranormal (early debunking), but seeking the answers might mean facing our greatest fears and gaining knowledge.

The Legend of Boggy Creek -This 1972 documentary/drama reenacted events in a small community in Fouke, Arkansas and presented Bigfoot to us as a real possibility. Unlike the brief film clip of the Patterson-Gimlin film of the 1960s, this docudrama provided scenarios that were chilling and mystifying. If we hadn't heard of Bigfoot before, he was now on our paranormal radar and the woods would never be the same.

Hammer Films - Hammer Films and many of the British BBS horror-themed shows and movies brought us the mood and atmosphere, ambiance of hauntings and monsters that sucked us into a world of scary old misty manor homes, dark secrets, shadows and the horrors designed in the minds of those who are frightened and coaxed into terrifying scenarios.

The Omen - I remember sneaking in to see this 1976 movie when it came out. "The Omen" was one of the darkest most nasty tales of horror in its time. The acting and writing, directing and cinematography were of a quality to make it very believable and then you add in the dimension of the antichrist and religion, power and corruption and the chilling result was one of the scariest movies of all time.

The Exorcist -  This 1973 film was the launch of the true terror films of the 70s. The biggest terror in this era was that which we could not control; possession, Evil, and ghosts. Considered the scariest movie of all time, this haunting film created an eager horror audience.

The Amityville Horror - The concept of "true" stories made into movies came to life in this haunted house tale that seemed quite feasible and very disturbing. Once again, ghosts, religion, possession; all were portrayed in this film, leaving us uncomfortable every time the phone rang and there was static.

Steve Austin Versus Bigfoot - Bigfoot found his way into popular TV on the "Six Million Dollar Man Show" when Steve Austin went toe-to-toe with Bigfoot.  In a subtle way, Bigfoot was becoming accepted as a concept in our cultural understanding. 

In Search Of - This fantastic series by Rod Serling and later hosted by Leonard Nimoy was a cult favorite and still is now that it's been newly released to DVD. Every week, a new paranormal subject was studied and supported by experts and evidence. Suddenly, things that seemed rather fantastic like spontaneous human combustion and UFO visitors from space seemed quite possible.

Chariots of the Gods - Erich von Daniken wrote the book and a very popular documentary supported the concepts of ancient aliens having been to earth and the proof being here in cave drawings and unusual architecture.  Suddenly, there was an entirely new explanation for our world and its mysteries. 

Dark Shadows - This vampire and werewolves soap opera was overly dramatic, dark, and acted out like a theater play and yet it had the viewers enthralled with the relationships between the players in a paranormal world. We also developed an affection for characters that were hardly thought of as sympathetic before.

Night Gallery - Rod Serling didn't unsettle us enough with Twilight Zone, he moved on to a series that was darker, more on the horror radar with Night Gallery. This weaved tales of almost urban legend feel with dark elements that had to be watched in the dark. 

More shows:  Bewitched, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Made-For-TV-Horror Movies - The 70s saw a HUGE wave of made-for-tv horror movies. We couldn't get enough. Remember "Scream Peggy Scream," "Crowhaven Farm," "When Michael Calls," "Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark," "Satan's School For Girls," "Salem's Lot," "Killdozer," "Gargoyles," "The House That Would Not Die," "Something Evil," and "Trilogy of Terror," were only a small number of the excessive ones that were on the TV every night of the week. 

Your Resulting Tendency?

This is where the para-geek was born! The documentaries opened us up to aliens, ancient technology, Bigfoot, UFOs, you name it! Ghosts and witches were two of the most favorite themes for horror entertainment. We opened our minds at this time to the possibility that there was a whole world of unexplained we knew nothing about and subjects like possessions and portals to hell helped us in a world where the guy next door could be a killer and the government could be plotting against us. The constant barrage of horror made us immune to the terror, but deeply infatuated.

  Urban Legends

Many a sleepover were based on urban legend games, many fears were conjured up by what you were willing to do. Would you a Ouija board session or try to summon Bloody Mary? What about the telling of local legends of escaped lunatics and maniacs? 

Bloody Mary:  You go into a dark room and study the mirror, calling her name "Bloody Mary" many times until she shows up in the mirror.  Depending on who tells the legend, most insist that Bloody Mary can take your soul or pull you into the mirror.

Light-As-A-Feather-Stiff-As-A-Board:  A game in which a friend lies flat on the floor and friends sit on their knees around her and put a couple of fingers underneath her, all around her body. The person near her head says "She looks ill, she is dying, she is dead" and then they all whisper "Light-as-a-feather-stiff-as-a-board" over and over again and the person begins to levitate.

Ouija:  This party board manufactured by Parkers Brothers has lead to some of the most superstitious urban legends of all time! Everyone has a story of things that happened during the conjuring and afterwards, either themselves or someone they know, or someone they know knows. Just the very thought of having one in the same room gives people the heebie jeebies even decades later.

The Hook:  An escaped lunatic with a hook for a hand is the most popular urban legend. Lovers park on a quiet lane to make out and the radio mentions an escaped lunatic. The girl keeps hearing something odd, it makes her nervous, and she begs the boy to drive her home. They arrive at home to find the bloody hook attached to a door handle.

Your Resulting Tendency? 

You love storytelling, hearing a good story, getting caught up in a campfire tale. Even the urban legends online are titillating. Did they uncover a 50-foot giant in Iran? Was there a guy on top of the Twin Tower when the plane hit and his camera captured it? Even though we know better, we still get a little uneasy around a Ouija or even looking at a mirror in the dark. You might even have a bit of superstitious streak - just in case.


The entire melancholy mood of the 70s showed in the music. The first half of the decade, we were depressed and despondant and the second half we were drugging up and discoing to forget it all. This manic shift in music had quite an effect on us. 

"Seasons in the Sun" (about dying), "DOA" (about someone who is Dead On Arrival), "Wreck Of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (about a ship that sank), "American Pie" (believed to about the death of Buddy Holly), "Timothy" (about miners eating their friend in a cave-in), "Cats In the Cradle" (about the distant relationship of father and son), "Billy Don't Be A Hero" (about a guy going away to war), "Dust In the Wind" (fatalist song about how useless life is), "The Night Chicago Died" (about Al Capone and a shootout).
Your Resulting Tendency?

Your interest in music was impressed upon you by a.m. radio and transistor radios.  You like your rock hard and powerful and your ballads tragic and sung from the heart. You are likely to be more moved by music than any other generation. It either tells of your tragic heart's situation, makes you ready to move your body, or totally engaged in fight mode to battle the world. The highs and lows of the 70s show up in the music and in you response to it.

Environmental Disasters 

Three-Mile Island radiation leak did not comfort citizens afraid of the new technology and the word "radiation." We grew up with the Bomb hanging over our heads as a constant threat. Years of people driving the highways and dumping trash from windows carelessly had the highway shoulders littered with tons of trash. The air was getting smelly, the rivers were becoming dumping grounds for careless corporations, and babies were being born with defects. It's not wonder movies like "Day of the Animals" and "Prophecy" were born in this decade.

Your Resulting Tendency?

You might wonder why you sometimes fantasize about having your own organic garden, don't trust Monsanto controlling our food supply, and think you could seriously opt out as a survivalist.  The 70s were responsible for that push from within.  You feel guilty if you don't recycle. You can't litter, you'd rather carry trash with you until you find a can. If you pass something someone missed near an outdoor trash can, you toss it in.  You learned a guardianship for the outdoors and a protective need to be sure endangered species make it and Polar bears can live in arctic bliss.

Government Distrust

The 70s saw the first truly big presidential flub up - Watergate. While soldiers came home from an unwanted war and struggled to find a place in society again without a hero's welcome and damaged by things like Agent Orange, trust for our elected officials was at an all-time low. Ineffective presidents made for even more of the 70s indecisiveness and terrorism in the form of hostage taking in the Middle East was a harbinger of a new kind of crime aimed at Americans. 
Your Resulting Tendency?

You would rather be an independent, something your parents could not understand. You aren't even sure sometimes you want to vote. You don't hand over important decisions to the elected officials and expect them to represent you, but to represent the special interests of corporations. All in all, politicians are shifty people who are in it for the status, the power, and the women they can bed. 


Julie Ferguson and I wrote the book "Paranormal Geeks" as an homage to these children of the 70s who love all things unexplained, horror, gothic, scifi, and more. We interviewed a wide variety of what we coined "Para-Geeks" to put the book together with wonderful commentary by Ben Hansen of "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files" show and Cliff Barackman of "Finding Bigfoot." We are so entrenched as Para-Geeks that we have a fantastic shop with lots of cool logos to proudly show your para-geek to the world.  As well, we began the radio show Paranormal Geeks Radio hosted by the greatest para-geek we know, Jim Heater on Tuesdays at 9 pm EST.

**Tomorrow's post is "Just How Big Were Ancient Giants?" 


1 comment:

  1. Great post! I grew up in the 70s, this rang a lot of bells...



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