The Ghostwriter, or the mental scars of my childhood

Embedded in all of us are images that have dug their way deep down into our psyche. Whether it’s a disturbing video, an all too-raw real world event, or a scary movie; no matter who you are there’s something in your mental vault that’s always trying to escape.

It’s why the The Vault was such an interesting episode of Adventure Time. Finn opens up his mental vault and has to confront a memory that’s buried within him. Unlike Finn who is able to prevail over his fears, for me I’ll never exactly be able to get over the horror that is Gooey Gus.

Gooey_Gus

Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter was a television show that played around the mid 90s and was created by Liz Nealon who worked on Sesame Street and a bunch of other education television series during that time. It starred a number of kids, whose names I don’t remember and won’t look up, who had an invisible collective hallucination that would write stories for them. These stories would span a number of episodes and this mother was a big part of one.

Gooey Gus was a disgusting, horrible, purple-faced toy who wore a shiny plastic jacket and he was spawned from a short story writing contest one of the kids entered into. What horrible event helped create this purple-faced nightmare fuel is really unknown, but each actor in the show takes it in turn to look at Gus, feel disgusted by Gus, and in turn get devoured by Gus when the slime hits the fan.

Seriously, who thought up this guy? It’s like… holy shit. It’s scary enough that Ghostwriter is this unseen entity on the other side of the computer interacting with little kids… but this is just too damn much.

Slime, anyone? At least they got the punctuation correct. Unsurprisingly, this twisted note in a kids television show was the last episode and the first I watched to literally make me wet the bed for years to come. I am not saying that Ghostwriter was a bad show, but I am saying that this arc in the series probably left more scars on 90s kids than most of elementary school.

The Power-Rangers-like monster Gooey Guy captures each of the kids and slimes them with his disgusting purple goop that apparently tastes like bubblegum. If you watched the episode you probably had the same reaction when the girl puts some of it into her mouth and goes, “Yup, that tastes all right.”

Didn’t Don’t You Put It In Your Mouth do anything for you?! Well, that probably scarred you even worse. So now we have blue monsters and purple monsters both wanting you to put stuff in your mouth, and you’re a little kid hiding under your bed because you’re afraid Gooey Gus is going to get you and slime you to death.

My gosh dang mental vault is swinging open right now!

Gooiest of Gus

What really made Gooey Gus so horrible was just how evil he was. Gus’s weapon was his slime, which in itself was actually something almost positive in the 90s.

The idea of “Slime” played a big part in science fiction and fantasy genres in the 90s. That neon-green/neon-pink goop represented something gross, slimy, and ewe-ey, which basically sums up most of my elementary school experience… minus the intonations of the slimy part. It’s why Creepy Crawlers were something that every kid wanted, but was way less excited to see in action.

It’s also why Slime played such a big role in kids shows at the time. Whenever you messed something up or didn’t do something right on a gameshow, you’d get slimed. Over at Children of the 90s, they explain a bit more about the phenomenon:

Imagine for a moment that there were indeed dozens of people employed by the slime industry in the mid-90s; there were scientists and formula-testers, the guys that hung the roof buckets, engineers to build the pouring mechanisms, someone to flip the slime-dumping switch. This had obviously gotten out of hand. Instead of reigning it in, however, Nickelodeon just kept on milking it. Slime was featured heavily in the late-90s Nickelodeon game show Figure It Out, was used liberally and continuously at the Kid’s Choice Awards, and squelched into the 2000s with a commercial break feature aptly titled “Slime Time Live.” Yes, slime was here to stay, and there was nothing we could have or would possible have wanted to do about it.

While there was money behind the idea of slime, the act of it represented something so much messier. As with the Ninja Turtles, slime represents a kind of chaotic transformation. Screaming out of the 80s, the 90s represented something new, radical, different, and its slime was the zeitgeist wrapped into one bucket-full of disgusting pseudo-liquid. Kids in the 90s had so much to latch onto, but slime represented something almost enlightened.

Many of the toys seen in the 90s surround this idea of scientific creation and discovery. Shows like Bill Nye The Science Guy and Beakman’s World helped reinforce this by showing kids the physics behind heating up some liquid goop and turning it into a solid. Slime was a convenient, safe, relatively harmless, and exciting way for kids to get their hands dirty in all facets of the scientific world.

This is why Gooey Gus is so terrifying. The writers at… Ghostwriter… knew exactly what to prey on. When you transform the fun of slime into something sinister and the fuel of nightmares is brewed.

Watch the fuck out because Gus is literally everywhere and ready to ejaculate goo into your face and hair. Even the shade of purple goop he sprays is bizarre when compared to the neon-green shade of slime that Nickelodeon had in every show on television at the time.

So let’s bullet point why Gooey Gus is my choice for intentionally having a small part of my brain removed to forget his image:

  • Gooey Gus is designed to horrify kids with his purple appearance and adult features.
  • While Slime was something fun in the 90s, his goop represented something toxic and horrifying
  • The act of sliming the kids on the show was violent engulfing them in death
  • Gus preyed on the zeitgeist at the time making his horror self aware

How to deal with Gooey Gus

The “Nightmare” is really what lies at the bottom of all fears surrounding Gooey Gus. While he can’t jump out of the television and get you, when you’re asleep he can jump out of the closet. As a child, I had nightmares about this guy that resulted in many a nights screaming myself awake. Rarely do adult horror films elicit this same reaction, but they aren’t targeted at children with a producer who has made children shows for the better part of her career.

Gooey Gus is everything great about the 90s distilled into something horrible. Guy plays on something fun that all kids know and makes it into something laden with horror elements that make most scary movies today look like garbage. Kids are the easiest targets for scares, but also the easiest to leave mental scars on that will last. the. rest. of. their. lives. Like me, and I turned out all right…

So if you’re a kid right now, how do you deal with the image of Gus?

Realize he’s a toy. As a toy, he can’t do any harm to you… wait, Chucky and Toy Story kind of makes it seem like toys can do harm to you if they want, so maybe that’s not the best way of dealing with it. Maybe think, slime isn’t something we see around in 2013 and that we’re free from its horrific connotations, but then there’s this:

So slime making in 2013 is even more sophisticated than before… well, I guess you’ll just have to deal with how horrible Gooey Gus really is and be safe in the fact that Ghostwriter isn’t on television, yet there are other horrifying shows on that kids watch today.

Maybe the best way of dealing with Gooey Gus is to know where he came from and his origins. As a creature of two layers of fiction, first being in a television show and secondly being a piece of fiction on that same show, he’s far removed from the real world.

Let’s just be thankful they didn’t actually turn him into a toy.

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13 thoughts on “The Ghostwriter, or the mental scars of my childhood

  1. Omg…. I remember this. I must have watched one episode of it, and after that, the image of gooey gus haunted my childhood. I remember I started hating the color purple. There was this one weird arrangement of purple hydrants and pipes that we always had to drive by and they used to have black garbage bags tied over them. This one time when I was half asleep, I looked out the car window, and I could swear one of those pipes turned around and it was gus. Years after, my braid tried to block the show from my memory and I started to question whether gus was some thing I saw on TV, or something from nightmare. Now I know.

    • The nightmares I had after watching that episode. It’s odd how I watched so many horror movies as a kid, but he seemed to be one of the monsters that stuck with me even until today. You mentioned the colour and I think that was the thing that really stuck with kids, the sickly, toxic purple.

  2. Thank you, thank you for this article. For years, I’ve told friends about this abomination and how it affected me and you summarized it so excellently. My parents couldn’t get over how this was on PBS as they were the hyper-vigilant types who tried to control everything I saw. It was especially bad as I already had nightmare/sleeping/paranoia issues and had juuuuuust become better about making it through the night (and thereby letting my parents get some rest). Man, Gooey Gus haunted me for so many years!

    • He’s completely nightmarish and definitely haunted my dreams for years too. The team at the television studio must have done some kind of survey to see what scared teens the most back in the day because I can’t imagine something so perfectly 90s and yet so terrifying. Also the way his name rhymes with other words, Gooey Gus like Gooey Pus ugh. Glad you enjoyed the article and hope he doesn’t come to visit your nightmares tonight 😛

  3. Wow. I really appreciated your writing. Gooey Gus was the one thing I was absolutely terrified of as a child. I suffered through reoccurring nightmares and every now and then I will come across his picture and it still gives me the creeps. It’s funny because I have an obsession with the color purple, I wonder if there is any correlation. I honestly cannot remember a single other thing from the series. Thank you!

  4. Oh my god I watched ONE episode of this, saw the scary af purple guy and ran out of the room literally crying to my mom. I had nightmares for weeks and I remember trying to draw pictures of him to show my mom because I didn’t know what the show was and she didn’t understand why I was so afraid. I’m glad other people are as messed up about this as I am.

  5. For me, it was the fact that the slime literally consumed the kids… not only did it bind them, but it slowly ensconced them, and merely touching it was enough to doom you. I remember the main threat being that the slime would eventually cover your face, and suffocate you to death. Sweet Jesus, what a horrifying concept.

  6. I WAS WONDERING IF THIS NIGHTMARE WAS REAL HOLY SMOKES.

    Oh my word- for years this haunted me and recently for my 22 year old self it made a return. THE EYES are just eugh-awful- and the concept of suffocation / the mental image that he could be anywhere. Most vivid memory was him on the back of a door in a sort of jumpscare though I don’t know when I saw the show but somehow little me did!

    Gave me bad sleeping issues as a kid- just as bad as the time I saw this oil featuring horror movie where a dog underneath a truck or car got eaten up by acid. That was terrifying too- and it was in black and white, and yet I’m not sure what movie or series it might have been. Didn’t hang around on the stairs to bother t’watch longer.

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