Excuse me while I borrow and paraphrase a few words from the opening line of Reba McEntire's hit song, "Fancy." I remember it all very well, looking back, it was the winter I turned nine." Oh, yes! I remember it ALL very well.

My parents decided to have a date night so they asked a family friend over to babysit my younger sisters and me. To protect the identity of the babysitter and not divulge her real identity, I'll just refer to her using an alias.  We'll call her Lana Dashbrook. If you know, Dana, er, I mean, Lana, you'll find humor in that rather lame attempt at a pseudonym. But, truth be told, we're longtime friends and now, as adults, have an annual laugh about the time she scarred me for life.

Nearly 40 years later, I still remember that night VIVIDLY.  I have been a fan of the Olympics my entire life. As an adult, I am obsessed with them and that obsession traces all the way back to my childhood. On that particularly cold, February 13th, 1980 evening, I was ready to sit on the couch, with the sitter and the sister, and watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, which were held that year in Lake Placid, New York.

I was ready to spend the night cheering for the red, white and the blue. I suppose Lana Dana wasn't quite feeling the same Olympic or American spirit. She was bored watching the parade of nations pour into Olympic Center, because she quickly suggested that we watch something else. That something else was The Exorcist. The FREAKING Exorcist!!!

I don't remember much about my reactions during the movie (other than being absolutely terrified), but I remember EVERY single reaction I had AFTER the movie. When my parents got home and told us to go to bed, we lost our EVER. LOVING. CRAP. I remember standing at the hallway, looking down the corridor of our house, which, by the way, was pitch black because no one had bothered to turn on the light. I friggin' came unglued.

I started screaming at the top of my lungs, "NOOOOOOOOO! I don't want to go. I'm scared. The devil's down there!!!!!"

My parents weren't having this drama at all. I was now ruining their previously pleasant night at Beermasters in Knottsville. They insisted that I go to bed. I think my mom eventually walked me down the hallway and into my room, which I thought was a touch on the cold side, just like Linda Blair's bedroom in the movie. Remember, when she kept the window open and her lips got all chapped and cracked? Yep! I thought my room was THAT cold and, again, I started unleashing the hounds of Hell with my screams! "NOOOOOOOOO!!! It's cold. That means the devil's in here and he's going to try to possess me! NOOOOOOOOO!!!"

I was convinced that I was going to crawl into bed, it would start levitating, I'd vomit pea soup, my head would start spinning on its axis, my parents would have to wrap my bed frame in sheets and put wrist and ankle restraints on me and that my lips and face would get chapped. I mean, you'd think I had never of Chapstick.

That experience wrecked my world that night. Of course, after crying and screaming myself into a brief coma, I woke up the next morning to find I had thankfully not been possessed by Pazuzu. It took me YEARS to be able to watch The Exorcist again. Honestly, I was probably in my late teens before I felt brave enough to tackle it again.

Now, as an adult who spent ten years of his professional life doing movie reviews for radio and print, I think it's THE scariest movie ever made. It's brilliant actually. If you can get past the shocking images of possession, the movie's an intellectual examination of many themes- fame, single parenting, religion and faith. Of course, I had no concepts of or appreciation any of those concepts at the age of nine. I just wanted to watch the Olympics with the babysitter.


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