by Maria Schulz
Anyone who has ever lived with siblings knows that Halloween (and really, any time of the year) often presents itself like a gift from the gods. Why, you ask? Because it’s the perfect time to scare the bee-jezus out of your little brother or sister.
My brothers used to have a really good time scaring me. That’s probably because I was the owner of a hyperactive imagination and I was convinced that the stairs in our old house were haunted. I was too young and naïve to hide that information from them, so they tortured me with it for years. They also always enjoyed:
- Standing underneath the stairs to the basement (which was dark and scary in and of itself) and grabbing my leg while shrieking as I tried to walk by
- Reinforcing our grandfather’s notion that the Boogie Man did, in fact, live in our boiler room
- Suggesting that the entire house (including the staircase) was haunted
- Letting me know that furthermore, not only was the house haunted, but I would soon be possessed
- Telling me that no priest on Earth could save me
- Playing television shows that weren’t inherently frightening, but watching for any signs of fear on my part and exploiting them exponentially. For instance, Alice Cooper may not have been the devil, but his makeup was scary, and once they saw me cowering in fear, they told me he would be coming for me
- Finding new and bizarre ways to torture me, like playing the very corny and not at all scary TV show, A Year at the Top. Remember that gem? It was about two young guys who make a pact with the devil’s son to become rock-n-roll stars. My brothers were sad when it was cancelled just 5 shows into the season, mainly because they couldn’t watch me live in fear of the devil showing up.
- Standing behind doors and screaming when I walked into the room
- Encouraging me to stay up very late on a Friday night so I could watch The Night Stalker. If I made it, I would then be rewarded by being unable to sleep that night, or many nights to come
- Putting on TV shows that were absolutely terrifying, including The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and an occasional Star Trek
- Then of course, there was Creature Features on Saturday nights. The spooky music and the hand coming up out of the grave at the beginning of the show often put me over the edge, much to my brothers’ delight
Out of all of my siblings, my brother Chris didn’t try to frighten me very often. As my twin, we spent years being teased and frightened by our older brothers together, and so he was sympathetic to my plight. Our five older brothers would come up with ingenious ways to terrify us, and we always fell for it.
Once, when Chris was about 3 years old, he started playing with the telephone when he hit “0.” An operator came on, scolded him for playing with the phone, and told him to hang up. He dropped the phone and told our brothers what happened. This was probably a mistake, since they told him the police were coming for him and then ran after him afterwards, clutching the phone and singing “OPERATOR! OPERATOR! OPERATOR! OPERATOR!”
Chris and I were terrified that the police would soon come knocking on the door to take him away. And what would I do then? I couldn’t handle all that brotherly attention alone.
When we were in the second grade, Chris was too sick to go trick-or-treating. I missed having him by my side and I felt so bad for him. Missing Halloween seemed like the worst fate that could befall anyone, anywhere. So, at my mother’s prompting, I carried an extra candy bag and asked all of my neighbors for another piece of candy for my sick twin.
People thought it was touching that I was getting my sick brother candy. They enthusiastically threw extra pieces into my bag and his. Why I didn’t think of that scam sooner was not lost on me, except that most of my neighbors knew my brothers and me. I couldn’t exactly ask for extra candy for my sick brother when he was screaming “Trick or Treat!” by my side.
However, our lives were not exactly the Norman Rockwell painting I’ve just described. At no time, anywhere, were Chris and I considered saints. We enjoyed teasing, tormenting, or playing practical jokes on each other. Just because he didn’t usually try to scare me doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do so if the opportunity presented itself.
So of course, the opportunity presented itself.
My 8th grade English class had just finished doing our own rousing, in-class version of “When a Stranger Calls.” I was cast as the lead, and if I do say so myself, I made a very convincing potential victim.
Coincidentally, I had a babysitting gig for a pair of twins (boy/girl, just like Chris and me) that Saturday night. I happened to mention to Chris that my little charges’ house was undergoing renovations, and it freaked me out that the second floor was covered by a tarp. “Couldn’t someone just shimmy up the trellis and come in?” I said, kicking my imagination into overdrive. Then, I also mentioned that their neighbors had recently been burglarized. Chris just shrugged. I wasn’t even sure if he was listening to me.
So, off I went to babysit. That night was gray, windy and damp. The upstairs tarp was blowing vigorously, making spooky noises and causing weird cold spots in the living room. I was secretly wishing there was a door separating the upstairs rooms from me, but I was sure everything would be fine. At least, I hoped everything would be fine.
I got the twins to bed after a rousing episode of WKRP In Cincinnati and sat in the quiet house, watching television. The Love Boat was almost over when the telephone rang.
“Hello,” I said.
“I’m in the house, and I’m WATCHING YOU.” Someone whispered.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” I screamed, as I dropped the phone and ran around the house turning on every light and hunting for a weapon. I smashed the phone back on the cradle and then picked it up again and called my parents.
Oddly, our line was busy.
As this point, I was pretty sure that the phone line would die at any moment, and a psycho would be heading down the stairs to kill me. I was in a total lather when the phone rang again and I grabbed it.
You may ask why I would pick up the phone if a psycho just called and said he was watching me. Well, I’m not sure, except that I was hoping it was the police with some information that was vital to my rescue. Or maybe I was hoping it was Sister Clara, because in my eyes, she was certainly more frightening and could tell me how to get myself out of this situation.
“MARIA! MARIA! MARIA! It’s Chris! I was only kidding! It’s A JOKE!”
I burst into tears. My two little charges came out of their bedroom and comforted me while I brow beat my brother.
“What are you doing? Didn’t you think I would get upset? What if I’d called the police? What if I dragged the kids out of the house and ran away? Now the twins are awake, and if I can’t get them back to sleep, I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”
Chris seemed really upset. I like to imagine that my brother regretted what he’d just put me through and was truly sorry. However, I think he was probably just panic-stricken that I was about to call my parents and tell on him.
This would have had dire consequences, since it would interrupt their Saturday night ritual of watching Fantasy Island. In one possible case scenario, my mother could insist that she and my father get right in the car, drive to my babysitting job, and stay with me until the parents of my “kids” came home.
The very idea of disturbing my father, getting him up, dressed, and out of the house while he was half-awake and watching Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize help D-List celebrities play silly characters was perhaps the scariest prospect of all.
Tearing him away from this quiet moment of mindless TV would probably make him really, really angry. The only thing scarier would be the moment Dad discovered you were the cause of it—because then there would be hell to pay.
Once the drama died down, the twins sat in the living room with me and held my hands to comfort me. I let them stay up and we watched the rest of Fantasy Island together. Meanwhile, it took a whole sleeve of Oreos and a gallon of milk to talk me down.
The only after-effect I endured from Chris’s prank phone call “Fright Night” was a nasty cold. I’m not sure if it was from:
- The momentary shock and belief that I was about to be visited upon by a psychotic lunatic
- The twins, who were like little cold incubators with more victims than Typhoid Mary and the psychotic lunatic upstairs, combined
- The draft blowing down from that gaping hole that was the second floor
- The psychopath hiding upstairs who just happened to have a cold himself
It’s hard to tell.
Chicken Noodle Soup
If you’re feeling sick, there’s nothing better than a big, steaming bowl of chicken soup. Here’s a slide show of 25 Chicken Soup recipes that cover everything from the traditional recipe to delicious spins on the original:
Chicken soup is also a really satisfying meal after a day of trick-or-treating, or when you’re exhausted from a long day of tormenting your brothers or sisters.
So, Hungry Lifers: did your siblings ever scare you? What was the silliest—yet most terrifying—thing they ever did to you? Which TV Show freaked you out most: The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Creature Features, or was there something even more frightening? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!