I have never outgrown my childhood fears. I am not afraid to admit this. (On the other hand, that was never a childhood fear, either.) I suppose I should clarify this at the outset and say that this does not apply to all my childhood fears. I have conquered some, as anyone must do as they advance into adulthood where polite society frowns upon you taking Mr Cuddles with you everywhere. Openly, anyway. Even if the world would be a much better place if we all carried a teddy bear or stuffed tiger with us in our bags and briefcases and purses. Just a thought.
(No, none of my stuffed animals were ever called "Mr Cuddles." I swear. And no, I do not have a stuffed animal in my bag. Really I don't. ... There is one in the chair in the corner, here, but it's my daughter's. Really, it is.)
That aside, there are some fears from my childhood that, despite my best efforts, simply will not go away. I know they are irrational. I know they are silly. I know that, even if they aren't and are actually 100% justified, in real life if the monster jumps out at me I am likely toast.
So I still walk a little faster in strange dark places, or out in the woods, even though my rational mind knows there's really no difference between daylight and darkness in the upstairs attic. (There used to be bats, though, but that's a different thing.) On the other hand, I draw on my non-rational mind as a writer, and my imagination often goes to dark places, so a little creep into my rational waking world is to be expected. The only real difference between my childhood and now is that back then I was 100% sure there were things out there, and now it's down to about 50/50.
Okay, maybe 70/30.
Some things, however, I think are completely justified, and don't make me feel silly. Such as the pool that has long since given up any pretense to being a clean, clear, safe place to swim and has devolved into a black, foul-smelling, flotsam and jetsam-filled bog. Even if it's just a kiddie pool, no deeper than my ankles, these are frightening things. You have no idea what's lurking under the water, not to mention what might be in the water. There is also that sense of urban neglect and decay that triggers more reasonable, if no less irrational fears.
I bring this up because while I adore the monsters, and the sorts of horror things that rely on them, I find the horror of the everyday things just as frightening, if not more so. Haunted houses still remain scary precisely because we all know of at least one house that, even if it is not, looks like it should be haunted. Places that, like the pool, also trigger more grounded fears that are harder to dispel with the simple flick of a light switch.
Which may perhaps be an unconscious reason to hold onto childhood fears: these are the kind of fears I can vanquish easily. I can do little about my fear of not having enough money, or of being out of work, or half a dozen other adult fears I am forced to confront on what seems an almost weekly, if not daily basis. Holding onto the things that frightened me when I was small also gives me some hope that I have held onto some of the better aspects of my childhood, too. So that while I have nightmares, I still have dreams.
And persistent dreams are a fair trade for having to walk a little faster down the darkened steps.