I’m sitting at a table, like at a wedding reception. There are other people sitting at the table. I turn my head in counter-clockwise motion to look at each person sitting around this table. There is a man with no identifiable face…there is a woman with no identifiable face…then another man, no face…another woman, no face…and then there is a man…with a face. I stop on this man. Is it? It can’t be. But it is. It’s Charlie.
Yes, there is Charlie Chaplin, staring right at me with dead, expressionless, silent-film-era eyes. He gets up from his chair and walks clockwise around the table, not overly fast, not overly slow, but with purpose. Oh no. He’s coming for me. He’s coming for me. Around the remainder of the table he goes and stops when he gets to me. Then, he leans down and shoves his face right into my face. There is still no expression in his eyes. He doesn’t look angry. He doesn’t look happy, either. He just stares at me with those dead eyes of his. His energy is so intense. He’s terrifying.
And that’s when I wake up…with a jerk.
I sit in my bed and process what has just happened. Holy shit, I say to myself as I gather my druthers. This is the second time in about a month that Charlie has made an appearance in my dreams. For most people, this would be no big deal, but you must understand, Charlie and I have a history that goes back years, almost since I was born. You’re probably familiar with the movie Nightmare on Elm Street, right? Well, let’s just say Charlie is my Freddy Krueger.
Thing is…up until this past month or so, I hadn’t had a dream with Charlie since I was about eight years old. In fact, I specifically remember the last dream I ever had with him. I was on vacation down on Cape Cod when it happened, staying in a cottage in Harwich, sleeping on a little fold-up mattress, in a Smurfs sleeping bag, on the floor. I don’t quite remember the specifics of the dream, but I remember it being not as intense as the usual ones. Maybe I had reached an age where I was overcoming my fears and Charlie no longer had a hold on me. I remember him not being as scary and not being as threatening.
Previous dreams with Charlie, however, were another story. In fact, they were not dreams at all. They were straight-up NIGHTMARES, recurring nightmares that haunted me from about the age of two or three, up until the age of eight.
With some exceptions, these nightmares usually consisted of the same exact scenario:
I find myself standing in the kitchen to my house, a raised ranch. Nobody is home. I’m all alone. I then get this foreboding feeling. Terror overcomes me. A chill runs down my spine and travels all the way down to my toes. Oh no, I say to myself. He’s coming. I know he’s coming.
I turn and look out the kitchen, down the stairs…to the foyer…and I see the front door to the house. To the side of the door, there are five small square windows, one on top of the other, that allow you to see outside to the front steps. It’s dark out, or maybe dusk. There’s nobody out there right now…
But I know he’s coming. I feel his presence.
Sure enough, I see movement—not a full person yet—but a half a body or so, just what the square windows allow me to see coming up the stairs. Then I hear the screen door to the outside swing open. Then the doorknob to the inside door turns, the door opens and that’s when Charlie walks right in, so matter-of-factly, and proceeds to walk right up the stairs…not fast…not slow…but with purpose. He says nothing. He looks nothing (meaning he shows no emotion whatsoever). He has his signature, square mustache under his nose. But no cane or bowler hat. Just a half-messy mop of curly hair atop his head. He’s not even wearing his Tramp suit. No, this is more like casual Charlie, wearing suit pants, yes, but just a white dress shirt from the 1920s, sans the suit jacket. And his eyes…my God, his eyes. Have you ever watched a silent movie and noticed how strange the eyes of the actors and actresses of that era looked? Those were the eyes!
I run out of the kitchen and down the hallway.
Charlie runs after me.
I get to my bedroom at the end of the hallway, I run into the room, it’s dark, and…there’s no escape. I try to scream for help, but no words leave my mouth. Charlie is right behind me now. I turn around and there he is. Just as he gets a hold of me…
Boom. I wake up.
This was the nightmare that recurred over and over again until I was eight years old. Simple, yes, with not a whole lot of action or drama. But there was something absolutely terrifying about it. There was something about Charlie’s eyes. They were dead, yes, but they exuded an energy that was utterly demonic in nature.
It’s odd, of
course. Why in the world would a three-year-old growing up in the 1980s have a
nightmare involving a silent screen star from the 1920s? A comedic, lovable
silent screen star, no less? This is a very good question, and there are
perhaps many theories that can be explored, but the most likely explanation
comes from the show Sesame Street. See, I used to watch A LOT of Sesame
Street. And, in the show, the character Maria used to dress up as Charlie
Chaplin and do a little dance or bit of a jig or a sketch or whatever it was
(watch the sketch “Charlie Chaplin at the Art Museum” as an example: https://youtu.be/LR1FPZjXUq4). For some reason, this scared the absolute crap out of me. I
don’t know if it was the Hitler-esque mustache or what, but, yes, the look of
Charlie Chaplin frightened the living crap out of me. And, thus, the nightmares
began, ones that would terrorize me for most of my childhood. How ironic! A
show that was supposed to help children learn actually became the source of
terrifying nightmares that haunted me for years. Thanks, Corporation for Public
Now, it’s very common for a child to have recurring nightmares, that much is for sure. But the question now is why Charlie has come back into my dreams after disappearing from them for about 30 years? There are a few possibilities to consider.
Possibility A: I am under psychic attack by a dark entity from another dimension, kind of like Freddy Krueger. Okay, maybe that’s a little far-out.
Possibility B: My adrenal glands are shot to hell. I’m possibly not eating as well as I could be or drinking as well as I could be (too much coffee comes to mind). If you assault your adrenals with irregular eating and drinking habits (like with coffee), you may be asking for trouble when you go to sleep. To be specific, your cortisol levels will be all screwy, but let’s not get too fancy with the buzzwords.
Possibility C: The
nightmares are a symptom of my ongoing struggles with Lyme disease. Lyme can
(and usually does) cross the blood-brain barrier, cause inflammation in the
brain, which can often trigger intense nightmares.
Possibility D: There is no possibility D. There was going to be a Possibility D, but then possibility D requested that it not be mentioned as a possibility and I decided to honor this request, however reluctant I was to do so. Between you and me, Possibility D is kind of a jerk. I could say other bad things about Possibility D, but I’m going to take the high road for once in my life.
Possibility E: My stress levels have reached new and greater heights. Although I wouldn’t say that I’m consciously aware of a high level of stress in my life (meaning I’m not biting my nails every second or grinding my teeth into oblivion), it’s possible that stress is affecting me in ways I’m not even consciously aware of. Not only have I been battling a menacing disease for the past three years (i.e. the aforementioned Lyme), but now we have COVID-19 anxieties thrown into the mix, social unrest in the world, unprecedented levels of division, intolerance and hatred in our culture, not to mention a general apocalyptic feeling. Again, on a conscious level, I don’t feel like I’m overly affected by all this turmoil in my life and in the world, but maybe, on a subconscious level, I am and, of course, it’s the subconscious that manifests itself in our deep dream states.
Possibility F: It’s perhaps possible that all of the above possibilities are…possible. Even though I mentioned Possibility A in jest, there are people out there who believe extreme amounts of physical and emotional stress can “open ourselves up” (our energetic bodies, that is…or “auras” is another word for it) to lower dimensions where the Freddy Kruegers dwell (read the book Psychic Vampires by Joe H. Slate for more about this). Maybe my Charlie is a dark being from a low-level dimension (like hell) that takes on the guise of Charlie Chaplin because it knows the appearance of Charlie scares the crap out of me. Maybe, as a child, I was more vulnerable to these types of lower energies. And maybe, for reasons of stress, I’m making myself more vulnerable to them in my adult life…
It’s also possible that, since dreams are often symbolic, Charlie represents something, like…FEAR. Indeed, he could be a personification of my fears. Because it did occur to me, just the other day, that, with maybe one exception, Charlie never actually hurt me in my nightmares (the one exception to this is that he stabbed me with a pitchfork-like contraption once, in the ankle, and it didn’t really hurt that much). All he usually did was scare the crap out of me. But never kill me. He seemed to feed off my fear of him—that was his agenda.
After having this revelation, that Charlie never actually hurt me in any major way, I realized, shit, maybe the next time I have a dream with Charlie, I need to react differently. Maybe I need to stand my ground, tell Charlie to fuck off, or perhaps even fight back. Maybe Charlie represents some unresolved fear from the past that I need to cast out of my life once and for all. Yes, he’s come back for a reason. Because I need to address him, face him, and essentially tell him to go back to hell where he came from.
This is easier said than done, of course. It’s easy for me to tell myself right now that Charlie, just like fear itself, is not really real. He and the fear he represents is all an illusion, something that seems like an imminent threat, but in reality, never hurts or harms me in any negative way. So just stand your ground, dammit, and tell that son of a bitch that YOU’RE in charge. Dominate him. Tell him who HE works for. That kind of thing.
Once you’re in dreamland, however, it’s a whole other ballgame. First of all, you’re rarely consciously aware that you’re dreaming and the threat of Charlie feels so real. Also, you don’t have much control over how and when you dream, so it’s not like you can say, “Ok, tonight I’m gonna find Charlie and the hunter is now going to become the HUNTED!” That way I could just get this whole thing over with.
Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Charlie is tricky. Just like Freddy Krueger, he will come when I least expect him to. I can only hope that, this time, I will be ready to fight and I won’t turn all yella when the shit goes down. In the wise words of Cypress Hill, “When the shit goes down…you better be ready.” This sage advice couldn’t be more relevant.
Mark my words: I WILL BE READY. I know I will. You hear that, Charlie? I’M COMING FOR YOU. Wakey, wakey, you can run but you can’t hide! I’ve GOT YOUR ASS!
I mean…if that’s ok with you…Sir. Love your work, by the way.
 The reason why eyes looked creepy like this was because early silent movies were shot on orthochromatic film, which made the colors red and yellow look black and the colors blue and purple look white. This meant that, if you had blue or hazel eyes, you would end up with whitish demon eyes on screen! (Source)
 Crystal, Jennifer. “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.” Global Lyme Alliance, 2 August 2018, https://globallymealliance.org/sleep-perchance-dream/?fbclid=IwAR2KcE7Hf1pRmuzJLNSmvxJciQCTrvk21hW4jwdRaSzaEQigP2jjoiewxmA#:~:text=When%20the%20Lyme%20bacterium%2C%20called,in%20my%20brain%20get%20stuck.
 Also, read this article for more information on psychic attacks: https://www.ayuok.com/spirit-dark-light?fbclid=IwAR1jkCHo3C4BuCFR3RMalhExJk3rCrBaE8v2F56a8v7diRQnS3CFBphatLk.
MATT BURNS is the author of I TURNED INTO A MISFIT!, MY RAGING CASE OF BEASTIE FEVER, JUNGLE F’NG FEVER: MY 30-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR W/ GUNS N’ ROSES, JOHNNY CRUISE, THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON, WEIRD MONSTER and several more books. Check out these books (and many more) on his Amazon author page HERE.