I is for Innocents (from the A-Z of Horror)

Did his mother wantonly give him a pincushion to play with? Did his father take away his pretend pirate hook? Or, horror of horrors, did someone tell him a tale of the boy who told scary stories to his school chums and grew up to be rich and famous and live happily ever after...?

"I had a perfectly sane upbringing, but my major fear, curiously, was being murdered. And that was because my grandmother, my father's mother, who was Irish, had a very morbid imagination and one of the things that she would do was to talk about grisly and ghastly things - not necessarily to the children, but in the children's presence. And so, very early on, I got the idea that the world was not a particularly safe place and that people were being murdered on every street corner, which of course is not the case. But you know, children have strange impressions; when a woman who you trust as I trusted my grandmother would talk about terrible things, I would listen. And then, at the age of ten, the boy living two doors down from me - who was a bully and I was very scared of him because he was older than I was, fifteen or thereabouts - was taken to court for murdering someone; which sort of reinforced every such idea I ever had. One side of my family is Irish and the other side is Italian and there were a lot of morbid and fantastical tales being told by both sides. My mother, part-Italian, had a very powerful imagination; she is a great storyteller who was able to weave stories out of nowhere...My grandmother, my paternal grandmother, had a very morbid imagination; the other thing she would like to talk about was the way people were buried, she loved to talk about funeral details. Her house was a place where the clocks would tick, a very dark and quiet house, and I can picture her now, she lived until she was 97, sitting by the fire and telling terrible tales."

Addicted To Creativity

By Bill Babouris, Samhain, No 70, November 1998

"I remember seeing the Beatles go by in a car, and the Penny Lane street sign being repeatedly stolen by fans. But it didn't really have a great deal of romance at the time - isn't that always the way - that was where I lived, it wasn't anything particularly special. Peter Pan was the real start of everything. In the last few years, I've gone to see the Royal Shakespeare Company do Peter Pan as a Christmas show and it just breaks me up. Not only is it a wonderful production, but it is exactly as I remember it when I was a kid. I didn't go and see films very regularly, not until I was in my teens. I would see occasional titles, but movies were never big when I was young - it was books that interested me [Edgar Allen Poe and fantastic literature in general]. As far as my parents were concerned, it was the source of some anxiety - and probably quite legitimately! I was a podgy, slightly short-sighted schoolboy, lousy at sports but great at art and English. And I knew these imaginative areas where I had authority, where I had some kind of power. I could tell stories to people and they would listen."

Clive Barker : Raising Hell In London

By Stephen Jones, Monsterland, No 17, Fall 1987

"It would be wonderful if I could produce something gross from my past. But my pets lived to ripe old ages. None of my relatives died in particularly odd circumstances. The most dramatic thing was the sheer banality of growing up in a town that was not of great interest to me. Right through my childhood I was supplied with all of the things I needed in the way of imaginative materials. My mother was keen that I should be reading, and allowed me to range through the library. I suppose for imaginative kids, deprivation comes not in the home, but in school. That's certainly where I felt it most keenly, because that's where the world is divided up into the real and the unreal. That's where you learn the gross national product of Chile. That's where live things are dissected - and I speak both literally and metaphorically. That's where people bully you and shame you into pretending that you don't actually like the things you actually like. That was the time I saw the world."

The Future of Horror is Here : His Name is Clive Barker

By Curt Schleir, Inside Books, November 1988

"It was in that fine but distinctly haunted city [Liverpool] that we first met, when he [Ramsey Campbell] came to my school... to deliver an informal talk on his passion for horror in the cinema and on the printed page. The talk was called, I believe, 'Why Horror?'. The question needed no answer as far as I was concerned (except possibly: Why Not?) but he talked with a warmth and wit which left many amongst the audience mightily impressed. Though there were only a handful of years between he and me, he stood in the outside world while I still labored in the salt-mines of State-supplied education, and it was wonderful to hear somebody from that other world express such an unalloyed love of all things dark and disturbing. The pride he took in the genre contrasted forcibly with my own slightly furtive passion. Horror fiction has rarely been viewed as an intellectually credible area of endeavor and I - with one eye on Oxford and the other on Edgar Allan Poe - didn't have the courage of my enthusiasms. I may say he changed that, simply by demonstrating that horror fiction could be spoken of with as much aesthetic insight as any other fiction."

Ramsey Campbell : An Appreciation

Essay by Clive Barker, (i) 1986 World Fantasy Convention Programme (ii) Skeleton Crew, No 5 [ ]

"My parents, who had wanted me to be quite heavily educated, because my father had left school at 14, said they would prefer me not to go to Art School because it housed decadence and depravity - which were the reasons I was going in the first place! They said, 'You should go to University, where you can study something which will be fruitful and useful and which will make your fortune.' So I said I would study philosophy. I went to university in Liverpool and studied philosophy. I was writing plays, I had my own theatre company, and I had no desire to go to university - Academe nauseates me and always has."

Transcript of talk at UCLA 25 February 1987

Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

"I was 8 or 9 when I saw his [Cocteau's] films, and I guess I had an unusual childhood in that I hated toys, all I wanted was whatever had to do with painting."

The Great Life

By George Christie, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 November 1987

"The thing I wanted to be when I was small was Peter Pan - I wanted to be able to fly; I wanted access to a Never-Never Land.I then moved on to 'The Pan Books of Horror Stories' which I just devoured - I thought they were wonderful. Then I would retell these stories to my friends, probably elaborating outrageously as I went along... It did become something of a preoccupation with me. I was a podgy, slightly shortsighted schoolboy - a classic wimp... However, I knew these imaginative areas where I had authority, where I had some kind of power. I could tell stories to people and they would listen."

Clive Barker: Anarchic Prince of Horror

By Stephen Jones, Knave magazine, Vol 19, No 5 1987

"I don't feel that my taste was shaped by anything in particular that happened in my childhood. I remember strange things from my childhood, but there were no traumas. I was always an imaginative child, and my imagination had a considerable range - from very fanciful, light material to rather darker stuff. I know I had a reputation for being a dreamer; I had imaginary friends and so on. But I think lots of kids like monsters."

Give me B-Movies or Give Me Death !

By Douglas E. Winter, Faces of Fear, 1985

"I never was a very pragmatic man. I might have been had I not decided at 11 that maths, biology and physics were a waste of time and that I should really pursue, with major gusto, the arts. I felt very much, in my early 20's, a need to catch up with that, because if you're writing, you need a kind of breadth. Often I've felt the need to support my fiction, support the narrative, with the kind of detail about geography or physics or biology which I was sleeping through at the age of 12. [Laughs] So therefore I've gone back to a kind of re-education, self-education."

Babel's Child

By Mark Salisbury, Fear, No 2, Sept/Oct 1988

"[My parents] are confounded. Sweetly and pleasantly confounded. They've never read my books, although they've tried. Dad more than Mum. But he doesn't get it because it isn't real."

L A Gore

By Paul Mungo, GQ, December 1992

"It goes back to me wanting to do circuses since the first time I ever saw a circus, which was when I was five, probably. They used to bring the circus to Sefton Park in Liverpool every, I guess, summer and it was the grand, old, probably Chipperfields. And the smell of it and this kind of scary ambience of it - the clowns used to freak the hell out of me. These are all very obvious things, but there's something quite powerful about those images and ideas and so we really tried to capture some of that [in Infernal Parade]."

In Anticipation Of The Deluge: A Moment At The River's Edge

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 1 and 12 July 2004 (note - full text here)

...other comments

Joan Barker: "He was a perfectly normal lad... we're quite normal."

Who's Afraid of Clive Barker?: The Titan of Terror and his Studiesin Dread Reckoning

By David Streitfield, The Washington Post, 1987

home search contact Opinion