Friday, October 30, 2009

Pesky Pranksters Past

This is not about writing, but it IS a true story, and it is rather Halloweeny, so I'm going with that...

It was a dark and stormy night.

Now wait... clichéd...

I was recently participating in a reading/writing blog and someone (in the spirit of Halloween} asked "what is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you related to a book or movie... I gave a short version of the story below and a woman contacted me asking if she could quote it in an article.  The article will be or was (need to find out) in the Spokesman Review (ironic, as it occurred just  80 miles from Spokane, when I am now so far, and the blog owner is in New York, I think).  It reminded me just how good a story it was...

I suppose I should set it up first...

I came to reading late... not the ability, but the love. The primary problem was I thought I was all that, as they say now... far too mature for 'kid's books' but not skilled enough for adult books. I read a little smut when I could get my hands on it (made me feel older) but it took me a while to find my genre. In sixth grade a girl moved in down the block... I'll call her Mildred for now (explained next section) whose mom read a book a day—voracious reader (and extremely nice lady)... in 7th grade Mildred read a book called Amityville Horror... and I borrowed it... and really liked it... I wanted more...

And then she showed up with The Shining... (also borrowed that from Mildred and her mom). I fell in love with the genre, the author, and reading (pretty important in the grand scheme of things). I loved all the psychic stuff I now know is called paranormal, I loved the setting... I loved that a book I was capable of reading had actually captured my attention and imagination. And yes... I liked that it was scary.

The Players...

[Beatrice, Mildred & Gertrude]

I had a lot of friends from a lot of different groups of people all the way through, but when I did things in a group, the group I was 'a part of' had four key people through most of Junior High. These three nuts, and me.

Junior High girls, being what they are, pass notes between classes so they have something to DO in their classes (heaven forbid they'd pay attention), but a few crafty teachers did things like posting all confiscated notes on the bulletin board, or reading them out loud... We were prepared... we tried code, but it was cumbersome... instead, we just gave everybody an alternate name and called it good... if nobody knew who we were talking about, it couldn't be all THAT embarrassing... I was Prudence (a name bestowed by Gertrude which I am obviously STILL trying to prove false)... the others, Mildred and Gertrude, (obviously), and Beatrice... there was at a time also Suzy Chapstick, but she moved at the end of 8th grade...

Our group of girls had a corresponding group of boys (as groups of girls are likely to do) and since I have no memory at all of what we called them in our notes, and I've done some thinking about parallels, I am going to call the three involved in this story Sirius, James and Remus [and no, to my HPANA friends who've heard me say I married Sirius—not this one, but YES, this IS the Sirius depicted in Awakening, though he plays a smallish role here... in fact it is possible it was a DIFFERENT 3rd with James and Remus *annoyed with faulty memory*]

Back to the story...

So Mildred and I had read the book and Beatrice and Gertrude had not when The Shining was made into a movie (for the first time) in spring of 1980. Of note is the fact that the movie came out 5 days after Mt. St. Helen's blew. In Moscow, Idaho, where we all lived, we got almost an inch of ash settling on the streets, creating a spooky apocalyptic feel and canceling school for the rest of the year, so there was a MOOD present, as well as the antsiness that comes from not being able to get out much and having school unexpectedly canceled.

We decided to go to the movie (only my second R movie, if I remember right) and then spend the night at Beatrice's house. [girls of 13 and 14 come in packs and rarely have a weekend without a sleepover, so this is all run-of-the-mill...]

We were all dropped off at the movie theater downtown (anyone remember stand-alone theaters?) and watched... the movie was not LIKE the book, but it had a few spooky additions... Jack Nicholson was divine... Overall I love the book much better, but I think the visuals of the movie played into the rest of the night.

We went back to Beatrice's house and sat around her kitchen table doing that finger thing Danny does, saying “REDRUM, REDRUM,” and “Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!”

Mildred was decidedly spooked, telling the rest of us to stop. Gertrude was hysterically amused, laughing and not particularly sympathetic to our spooked friend. Beatrice and I... middle grounders... went back and forth a little. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but it seems to me SHE was more participatory downstairs, while I was my meek mild mannered self *glares at unbelievers*. The reason I think so is strictly this... as an only child, I had not mastered (or learned to enjoy) teasing somebody and she is the younger sister of a MERCILESS teaser, and so had.

We all went upstairs to get ready for for bed. As we walked into Beatrice's room (on the second floor, mind you) across her bedroom window was REDRUM in red.

Mildred screamed... and screamed and screamed and screamed. I think I screamed at first.  Beatrice screamed but then got MAD (I now believe because of how upset this had made Mildred), Beatrice's mother ran in, stark naked, to see who was dying... and all the while Gertrude was laughing hysterically—she'd never SEEN anything so funny. I went back and forth... I mean... It was a GOOD JOKE, but I was sympathetic to the upset Mildred, or so I remember it... I'm not positive it came across at the time...


In the aftermath...

We learned that the Marauders, who knew we'd gone to the movie that night, sat outside the kitchen window and listened to us scaring each other (laughing all the while). Remus and James (at the very least... I don't think Sirius made it to the roof) then climbed onto the garage roof with a tube of lipstick stolen from one of their mothers (probably Marilyn, as Remus called his mum), and wrote REDRUM (of course they remembered that from the OUTSIDE for it to look right, what they really had to write was MURDER. They didn't make it off the roof before we came in, and I think it was James who twisted his ankle leaping off the roof.

And I'm pretty darned sure Beatrice's mom called and made them come over and get on the roof to clean the lipstick off the window a few days later, but I might be making that part up... it would be very in character, though--Beatrice's mom has a certain undeniable authority when she gets that look in her eye, even today.

Oh, that's a fond memory... Even Mildred enjoys it in retrospect!

4 comments:

Aleta said...

What a great memory to share! Might have scared the heck out of her back then, but it sure makes for some laughter now. Funny how memories are like that :)

Helen Ginger said...

I am such a wimp, I don't read horror or watch horror movies, so I didn't see The Shining. That is to explain why I'm glad you explained Redrum. I was clueless that it was murder spelled backward. Duh.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

My memory of sleepovers from back in the day is that everyone got REALLY freaked out and melodramatic and emotional as the evening progressed. We would have *fallen apart* at REDRUM on the window!

Scariest part of "The Shining" to me? When Nicholson's character works SO HARD on that manuscript. Really *slaving* over it. And then the poor wife sees he's written "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" over and over again for pages and pages. I get a chill just thinking about it...

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

That manuscript is REALLY central to the book too--in Jack's delusional mind of typing the masterpiece... hearing voices of All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy... talking him into going to the bar... it's much more spread out there, and you are in Jack's head, so to realize what he's been typing! *shivers*

An you nailed the slumber party thing... we could get each other so freaked out over NOTHING! then to add actual STUFF to it...

It was such a great prank though!