Halloween was only one week away and my adrenaline was starting to flow. I had just spent my Friday evening watching Creature Features on WGN television in Chicago and I was highly motivated to scare the hell out of someone.
The first victim in line for a good solid scare would be my ten-year-old brother who usually was served up as sacrificial pig for bigger things to come. The diabolical scheme had been carefully broken down into a step-by-step sequence. When he would step into the shower on Saturday morning, I would go downstairs and turn the hot water on full blast in the wash basin. This in turn would cause the water in the shower to change to ice cold and result in screaming noises emanating from the bathroom. At that point my brother would turn off the shower and run downstairs looking for the source of his liquid nightmare. I would be hiding in the upstairs bedroom and as soon as he left the bathroom looking for me, I would sneak into the shower stall and hide behind the curtains crouching over like Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, ready to deliver a massive shock. The plan worked exactly as designed. The water went cold, he screamed and ran downstairs, and I sneaked into the shower. He turned the hot water off in the wash basin and sprinted back upstairs to get into the shower. As he pulled the curtain back, I delivered a massive Lon Chaney like werewolf howl into his milky face. His eyes widened as he recoiled backwards, falling sideways into the toilet. The scare was a smashing success and the was game afoot.
Since my brother enjoyed a good scare as much as the next fellow, I recruited him into the fright club. As I lay in bed that evening I chose my next victim and hatched a plan. The object of my terror tactics would be a neighborhood kid we called “the Mole.” The nickname was derived from his dark matted hair and mole-like snout that doubled as a nose. I often played tennis with “the Mole,” so I appropriately devised a nice tennis-based scare to get his blood pumping. I would call “the Mole” and advise him that I would pick him up with the car after school so that we could play tennis at the park. My brother would be hiding in the trunk along with the tennis rackets. When I would arrive at the park, I would toss the keys to “the Mole” and ask him to get the rackets out of the trunk while I laced up my tennis shoe. When “the Mole” opened the trunk, we would find out if he really did have a heart murmur.
Once again the plan developed smoothly. We arrived at the park, “the Mole” took the bait and opened the trunk, and my brother delivered a Jimmy Conners jack-in-the-box power blast that sent “the Mole’s” head straight into the trunk lid for a knock-out blow. While lying flat on his back on the gravel stones of the park, I heard him mutter, “You sons-of-bitches.”
Now it was Peck’s turn to be frightened. Peck and I had been best friends since grade school and he was a great guy to scare based on his nervous condition. He once warned my brother and me not to scare him because he may have a heart attack (that was all the fuel we needed). The plan consisted of calling Peck up and asking him to come over for pizza. When Peck would arrive, my brother and I would ask him to get the telephone book from the pantry so that we could look up the number for Al-Nino’s Pizza. This is where my five-year-old sister would break ranks and join the major leagues of terror. She would be hiding in the pantry, sitting on top of the telephone books with her plastic witch mask on. The scare went off without a hitch.
Peck arrived at the house and entered the from the front door. My brother and I sat at the kitchen table sipping our sodas in a nonchalant manner, careful not to tip our cards.
“Hey Peck, get the phone book out of the pantry so that we can call Al-Nino’s,” I said.
I sensed trepidation on Peck’s part. He had been scared many times before and he was weary of any of my requests that dealt with opening doors. Since my brother and I were seated right in front of him, everything appeared to be safe. As he opened the pantry door, the wicked witch of the Midwest flew out of the cabinet giving Peck’s nervous system a wake up shock. Peck’s face had turned as white as our new linoleum kitchen floor, while tremors consumed his body as he sat down and fumbled for a cigarette.
“I suppose you guys think that’s real funny,” he said.
The Peck scare was so sensational, I decided he would need another one on Halloween. The blueprint for this scheme consisted of having Peck pick me up at the house under the false pretense of attending a Halloween party. When Peck would arrive through the front door, I would leave through the back door and sneak through the evergreen bushes in front of the house. Opening the car door quietly, I would slide into the back seat and lie on the floor. My brother would inform Peck that I had already left with someone else and when Peck returned to his car and sat down, I would jump up and put a “Son of Sam” choke hold on him.
A set of headlights shone into the bay windows alerting us that Peck had arrived. Before I stepped out the back door, I asked my brother to be prepared to call 911. Sneaking around the corner of my house, I dropped to my hands and knees and began creeping through the shrubs that adorned the front of the house.
Suddenly I was blinded by a search beam. “Come out with your hands up,” someone shouted from a megaphone.
As I stood up, I could see two police officers with their pistols drawn. “Wait a second, I live here,” I said.
“Shut up and put your hands behind your back,” one of the officers said as he proceeded to cuff me. I was shuffled into the squad car and brought to the station for interrogation. Busted!
I entered the interrogation room and sat down. An officer with a Krispy Cream stuffed in his face followed me in and sat across from me. “Do you want to tell me what you were doing in front of that house?” he said.
“I was playing a Halloween joke on my friend. I was going to jump out and scare him,” I said.
“Who do you think you are, Bela Lugosi? There have been many burglaries in this neighborhood and you fit the profile,” he said.
“Just call my father and he will straighten this all out.”
My father left the Halloween party he had been at and entered the police station. “What’s going on here,” he demanded.
“We caught the Phantom of the Opera over here creeping around the front of your house,” the officer said.
“He’s my son,” my father said.
“Sorry sir, just doing my job.”
After a thorough scolding I was brought back home. I had been grounded and confined to my room. I sighed, perused my fishing brochures, and turned on the television. What luck! I was just in time for Creature Features.