I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was weird. I knew well before my differentness was socially exposed and remarked upon by my peers, though of course it was. I knew that I was unshakably interested in things that other people were reluctant about.
I was drawn to dark things. I sought out creepy, nightmarish things, but I was even more interested in things that were real, or realistic. Murders, depravities, scientific anomalies, tortures, disappearances, parasites, epidemics, I wanted to see every strange or gross or scary thing this world ever produced. I wanted to know if evil really existed.
More than that, I was obsessed with the idea that there were things that it was healthy and normal to be curious about, and that there were things, my things, that it was morbid and disturbed to be curious about. My enthusiasm for books was great, but the significant portion of my library devoted to serial killers raised eyebrows. My interest in history was applauded, but my particular focus on medieval interrogation and torture was troubling.
These distinctions always seemed arbitrary and counter-intuitive to me, and I was never really clear on the exact concern of the people around me: was my interest taken as a sign that I was a budding psychopath, that my desire to know would become a desire to emulate? Or was the anxiety I produced protective? Was everyone worried that too much knowledge of the dark places in the world would damage and frighten me? And how, I wondered then, and frankly still wonder now, did everyone fail to notice that these things, these terrible things, were also fascinating?
I still don’t understand why some people avoid gruesome information and some people seek it out. Maybe, for me, there was a feeling of triumph, of being able to handle something that overwhelmed other people. Maybe, as a child who wasn’t strong, who was hurt easily and often, this was the only way to be tough.
I’m not sure that I’m stronger as an adult for all that curiosity. I don’t even know that I’m really that much darker for all the ghastly bits of information I’ve gathered over the years; after all, I was at home in the dark to begin with.
But I think that what was once a fascination and a self-administered test has become a genuine love, a source of thrill and enjoyment, as well as a source of fear and occasional pain. I’m not drawn to the dark now, to the sinister and the grisly; I just like them. I like horror movies, and scary stories. I read true crime and visit medical anomaly museums. I still seek out the darkest chapters in human history. And sometimes the terrible things in the world have frightened me, but I still want to know about them. I still want to see them.