The Treat: Writer Jeremy Dauber on Stephen King’s ‘Night Shift’

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“I knew for a fact that that [‘Night Shift’s] cover, with a hand with eyes on it, that those eyes were looking at me and they were going to somehow move,” says writer Jeremy Dauber. Credit: Jeremy Tilly Blair

Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber, author of “American Comics: A History,” and an upcoming book on American horror, considers Stephen King's 1978 short story collection “Night Shift” a treat. 

King’s first series of short stories sparked Dauber’s fascination with horror. Dauber first read the collection while at sleepaway camp as a child. 

He was particularly taken with “The Boogeyman,” a tale that originally appeared in the magazine Cavalier’s March 1973 issue, and featured a full page illustration of the frightening titular creature. Dauber was so gripped by the story that its final phrase, “so nice,” still finds its way into his dreams The story is now being adapted for film

Listen more: Writer Jeremy Dauber on the ongoing anxiety in comics

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

[“Night Shift”] came out when I was five years old. I didn't read it quite that early, but I read it much earlier than I should have. 

I read it one summer, my first summer at sleepaway camp, which means that I was probably about 10 years old. And I remember very distinctly being on the top bunk of a bunk bed, and having read these stories — stories about huge rats underneath a factory, and evil beings coming through eyes that are the doorway of your hand, and of a mysterious and horrible washing machine that turns and breaks out on its own, and stories that are much, much worse even than that — and literally being too scared to turn around and look at my cubby.

I knew for a fact that that cover — with a hand with eyes on it — that those eyes were looking at me and they were going to somehow move. I knew this, with the full knowledge of a 10-year old, they were going to move, and then I was just going to lose my mind. 

There is a story in the collection, called “The Boogeyman,” and I will not spoil the story … but I will say that the premise is that it is about a man who believes that the boogeyman, an actual monstrosity boogeyman, is stalking and killing members of his family, and he is expressing these concerns to his therapist. At the end of the story, there [are] the words, “So nice,” and they are repeated. I still sometimes hear that phrase, those two words in my dreams. 

Since that time, I've become a parent with kids roughly that age and a little younger, and things that would have seemed incredibly melodramatic or not particularly affecting, such as having little kids in danger, they now terrify me in a way that certain other kinds of things like monsters, or what have you, they don't really bother me in the same kind of way at all. 

I'm writing my next book now on the history of American horror, and I've spent a lot of time teaching and writing about it, but it all started there in summer camp with a Stephen King collection, and a cover with a hand with eyes that may or may not have moved.



Rebecca Mooney