When I was in elementary school, I found a book on superstition in the school library. I had already enjoyed reading autobiographies and true stories, not fiction, so superstitions were right up my alley. My interest progressed from there to all things paranormal.
My best friend and I would look through library and Scholastic books about ghosts and hauntings, Harry Houdini, seances, ghost ships, ghost planes, etc., and scare ourselves silly. We’d drag a huge bedspread outside with us and hide underneath it so we wouldn’t be alone in the house when my mom was outside mowing the grass or talking over the backyard fence with a neighbor. Borley Rectory scared us, though I can’t remember if that’s the one with the brown monk or the one with a supposed apparition ascending the stairs, with its pale hand on the staircase or the one with the white figure in the middle of the stairs. All you had to do was say Borley and me and my best friend would giggle nervously in our terror. We were dorks. What can I say?
My dad used to tell ghost stories every now and then, just mild things that wouldn’t horrify me. Just enough to make me all tingly and nervous. He told me about how the late 1930s Frankenstein movie scared him to death when he saw it as a kid. That he’d plopped down a nickle or dime to see the film when it played in the afternoon and how he’d duck in his seat and cover his eyes and watch it from behind his fingers whenever anything scary happened. And how terrified he was when a woman sitting near him was startled by something on the screen and shrieked out a blood-curdling scream and scared him so hard he popped out of his seat. Although it scared him, he loved it and watched it two more times that afternoon. He didn’t plan his trip to the movies very well because when the movie let out, the sun was setting and he had to walk home in the dark. Along his route, there was a house with head high hedges all around it. The owner was a skinny, old lady who everyone thought was a witch, and everyone thought the house was haunted. She was real mean, he said, and always screamed at people when they went by. It was a corner house and there was no way he could avoid going past it. He was afraid there might be something behind the hedges that he couldn’t see; that the Frankenstein monster would reach over the leaves and branches and carry him off. He hemmed and hawed a while, trying to avoid the house while getting up the courage to walk past it. He didn’t want to get into trouble for being late so he finally scrounged up the courage to do it. He took a deep breath and high-tailed it across the sidewalk so fast, he said, that his feet barely had time to touch the ground. He said he had never run that fast in his life either before or since then. And thankfully, he survived his journey home and lived to tell his daughter, which fueled her interest in all things paranormal.
As the youngest of four, I was often too young to participate in some of my older teenage siblings fun and games with their friends. I was in elementary school and they and their friends were in their early teens. One summer night, I was particularly upset at this because they all went out to the patio to tell ghost stories. My parents were afraid I would be exposed to something I shouldn’t hear – scary or otherwise, so I wasn’t allowed to sit with them. I was kind of a tag-along pest and tattletale of a sister so I’m sure they were all relieved. I tried to get as close to the patio as possible so I could spy on them and perhaps hear about ghosts and such but I was not as quiet or clever as I thought so my Dad brought me back inside. He saw me pouting and said we could have our own fun and scare them all. I was game for it. Heck, yeah, I was game. There was a corrugated fiberglass topper over the patio to protect them from the elements and the material and design played into mischief that evening. My dad filled a large cup with ice and we went to the side door of the house where they couldn’t see us. We listened to them talk and laugh for a few minutes, then get more quiet as the conversation got more serious and scary. When there was a lull in the conversation, my Dad growled really loudly and lunged the cup of ice up and over onto the patio where it rained down. landing on the fiberglass topper, sounding like firecrackers and hail. All of them burst up and ran from the patio. There were kids scattered all over the backyard – some in trees, some over the back fence, some behind the shed. My Dad and I roared with laughter. It was such sweet revenge seeing all of them shivering and scared from our little pranked. I had the coolest Dad on the block.