August 23, 2010


Quicksand and Mudbaths

I like Daniel Engber, and read pretty much anything he writes. So I clicked. And then I held my breath, because I haven't thought about quicksand in years and years. But whenever I do contemplate it, I hold my breath because just the thought of it makes me not be able to breathe. At all.

I saw my first quicksand movie when I was probably 6 or so. It must have been Tarzan, because whoever was in the quicksand was a) being filmed in black and white and b) was rescued by a vine from a tree. That's a pretty safe bet it was Tarzan, though I don't recall having any pronounced affection for Tarzan movies. Probably my sister Roz made me watch it.

All I remember is sharing the pressing, suffocating feeling of whoever was waiting for Tarzan to rescue them. As the movie quicksand (no doubt oatmeal or grits or something) closed in, and the camera did those cheesy 1960s closeups of a silent scream, or just a hand reaching, reaching....well, I waited desperately right along with the victim.

As Engber's article on Slate debates the demise of quicksand as a horror movie staple, I am reminded that we've been quick to write off the effectiveness of such a creepy concept. Forget serial killers, this generation's lazy go-to fearmeister; quicksand was bloody awesome. And it could happen anywhere, unlike serial killers who only happen to women home alone who leave the back door unlatched, and who all come conveniently middle named 'Wayne'. No, quicksand is a far better all around tool.

I'd forgotten it myself until about 5 years ago. I went to a spa-type place, which is always a nice way to burn through a scad of money while wearing a bathrobe. For some reason, I found myself signed up for a mud bath. I'm sure it had some fancyass name to justify the ridiculous cost, and I'm sure my gentle, distant mood had much to do with wine and said bathrobe. Anyway. I walked into a weird marble room that resembled nothing so much as a Roman bathhouse (sans naked Romans), and beheld a large cutout in the floor filled with chocolate pudding.

I glanced at it, one eyebrow raised. The attendant, standing patiently with an arm extended to receive that bathrobe, told me step down into the mud. I considered I could probably get two facials and a massage for what this was about to cost, but sold on the health benefits of immersing myself in mud they'd imported from between the toes of small amphibians in a remote jungle, I did as I was told.

It was hot. It was pudding- like, if pudding had a low grade grit in it. But worst of all, it sucked me down like a living pudding vacuum cleaner, and I instantly couldn't breathe. "Make sure you drink lots of water," said the cheery attendant. I had no idea why I needed to be hydrated to be dead, and a silent scream filled my throat as she left me to my doom. No doubt to go sit with the other attendants outside, all laughing that stupid women from the suburbs paid for this hell.

I pictured the brochure, which promised me rosy skin free from years of accumulated abuse; I closed my eyes and tried to feel cleansed and at one with nature. I lasted five minutes before I started hollering.

Two attendants burst into the room and pulled me free from my muddy grave. I looked like a Swamp Thing as I gasped for breath. Standing under a shower, I considered my close call with death, and thanked my lucky stars there had been two vines close at hand to pull me from certain death.

Turns out I was not the only person to have this experience. They gave me a freebie facial, and I deleted the experience from my brain. Until I read Engber's article, and wondered why, indeed, quicksand isn't used as a terror device anymore.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous buzzwhack said...

Boy, that article reads like someone's PHD thesis on quicksand. I never thought of quicksand death scenes as something "sexual" before. In East Ontario, Glengarry County, and the 1000 islands area there are big marshes. I grew up in Glengarry so swamps were no big deal. The only thing we had to watch for were snapper turtles. Maybe we're missing the boat here for tourism? Maybe Parks Ontario could start a quicksand t-shirt contest?

August 23, 2010 3:20 PM  
Anonymous B1 said...

Ah, quicksand. Yeah, it was a staple in my recollection of horror movies back in the day.

We used to scare ourselves silly with warnings about quicksand at the Byron -- now Sifton -- Bog in London. All kinds of dire threats and warnings and urban (suburban then) legends.

As far as I know ... no one ever went down in there. But it's a great cinematic device.

August 23, 2010 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Puleeeze! Make you watch men in loin cloths? I would never, well maybe.

Roz

August 24, 2010 10:04 AM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

Something that Lorraine may remember, is that the original quicksand was the famous Tar Pits that the poor little dinosaurs wallowed in. Cave Folks created their own stories to scare the kiddies with... speaking of the horrid sounds and sights of dinosaurs sinking to their (probably hairy) armpits, then to their heads in ooey, gooey, tar. After a couple million years those stories got "old" and faded out, too. Only to be replaced by the quicksand stuff. Now it's time for a new slush bucket to replace quicksand.

Super Slurpie, anyone?

August 24, 2010 11:32 AM  
Anonymous jmd said...

Quicksand survival tips -

1) Do not struggle - you sink faster.

2) Lay flat - the sand will support your weight and you can slowly swim to land.

I learned this from reading Bomba the Jungle Boy books when I was little.

August 24, 2010 12:10 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

That's it. Next time you come to the spa with me.

August 24, 2010 12:12 PM  
Anonymous jmd said...

I'll go anywhere but the spa - I don't want a bunch of strangers handling my cellulite, plus I'm ticklish.

August 24, 2010 12:59 PM  
Blogger marcelleqb said...

This is exactly how I feel about lightening. My parents told me to go to bed but of course I snuck out and saw that old black and white Frankenstein where the monster ties someone to the mast of the ship and lightening strikes (more than once) and suddenly the man is turned into a skeleton. For years I feared that would happen to me.

August 26, 2010 9:00 PM  
Blogger Nursedude said...

Let's see now: "a nice way to burn through a scad of money while wearing a bathrobe". In my house that would be eBay.

September 06, 2010 8:05 AM  
Blogger Sinking said...

I still haven't quite figured out what's so scary about quicksand! In my nearly half-century on this earth, I've been in mud and quicksand hundreds of times... literally!

Sure, there are times when it can be a little intimidating. But mostly it's about being shoulder deep in a wonderfully smooth, creamy substance. And you just let it envelope you like a glove.

It might not be for everyone, Lorraine, but once you get past the unfounded fear of it being able to "kill" you, it can be quite enjoyable!

October 20, 2010 6:04 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Bah. I've done some scary stuff in my life, and that mud bath wins, hands down.

Strap me to the back of a superbike any day...

October 20, 2010 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Adigun A. Polack said...

Lorraine, I thought that was a really interesting little article on quicksand and mud-baths, and that you have done such a great job on the writing of it... truly well done!!! :D

My, I can remember back in the day that quicksand used to scare the living hell out of so many people and even caused the kids so many nightmares as well, especially back in the 50's days in the movie theatres where they showed many jungle flicks, including those Tarzan ones indeed to be sure! Well up to now (even before that Slate article came up a few months!), we have eventually learned and known that quicksand does NOT suck us under on its own, upon further and further studies of that substance and on an episode of Mythbusters, in which they did a FANTASTIC job at exposing the nitty-gritty on quicksand for what it is and what it was about... and I truly, truly applaud the Mythbusters staff and crew on that indeed!!! ;)

My mom and I once talked pretty extensively about quicksand a few months back, and she was really quite honest to me about it and even said to me that she was so curious to find out about quicksand for what it REALLY is... a soft, gooey, miry blend of fine earth/clay mixed with flowing, upwelling water in which one can actually float better in this stuff than in plain ‛ol water alone. Yeah, such a truly fascinating little discussion my mom and I had when I brought up the talk about the certain quicksand scene involving male actor Rudy Youngblood from the 2006 film Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson.

You know, the thing that absolutely disturbs me truly on the internet regarding the whole subject of “quicksand” there is that there are certain, but rampantly-increasing amounts of people online already who are so blatantly and sexually damn obsessed on quicksand/bogs/deep mud/tarpits and/or watching women sink and be totally swallowed up by it that they have actually turned it into a “quicksand fetish” in the first place and even possibly (and perhaps most deliberately!) let it take over their entire lives... even so much so that they do not even give a stinking care whatsoever for regular society and/or human beings whatsoever (except those small and certain groups who have that same fetish, as well as those who create quicksand-based pornography out of that, too!)!! Boy, I am so UTTERLY plain sick to death of that kind of repulsive, ghastly, and most deplorable bull right there coming from that so-called “quicksand community” that has been happening for more than 15 years straight, to be honest — whether on YouTube, deviantART, or on a couple of their own forumboards or other sites, too!! Why, you ask? Because for one, just watching a quicksand scene alone is quite scary enough for at least some people as it is. And secondly, most members of that community prefer a woman to be involved in a quicksand scene on TV/movie or in a video game rather than a man in one, which I thought was completely damn sexist and insulting in my opinion! My, glad you and I are *not* part of those sick sort of individuals who just fly off the handles on quicksand like that and blatantly throw caution to the wind, let me tell you right now. That is like literally taking a damn dive right off of the Empire State Building from the top floor, to me!!

You and I are not that stupid, Lorraine, you know!? ^^

And, I can well-understand that a mud-bath (like the one at the spa, for instance), CAN be quite more relaxing and most enjoyable than a scary, clichéd, movie-style bottomless quicksand that used to scare a ton of movie-goers back in the day. Makes things a whole lot safer in a way, I must say!!! ^-^

Again, REALLY interesting article you have got there, and such an absolute pleasure to meet you as well, Lorraine!!! (^_~)v

October 20, 2010 9:21 PM  

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