It's October and Friday the 13th... and that means that it is time to tell a ghostly, ghastly tale. This year’s narrative is entitled How to Properly Freak Somebody Out.
It was the fall of 1987. I was sixteen years old and thankful for it every waking moment. I had a driver’s license, a love interest, and a friend who was just as willing as I was to drive 40 minutes to Tommy’s, the best chiliburger in Los Angeles. I was pretty confident that if I shopped my life story around to a few production studios, it would be a made into a movie. And not just any movie, a summertime blockbuster movie. With cool cars, loud music, and an occasion make-out scene. On the beach, preferably.
One crisp weekend evening a group of us had gathered at our house for some holiday frivolity. As it got late most had gone home, but my friend Steve was lingering. Probably to see if we were going to make what we had affectionately called a “Tommy’s Run” to get chiliburgers. Suddenly the phone rang.
It was Steve’s sister, Shannon, who was two years older than us. Steve and Shannon’s parents were out of town so Shannon was home by herself. She had called to see when Steve was coming home because she had been home alone all night and was kind of unsettled. Steve looked at me with this kind of “the wheels are turning” look, and he told Shannon that we were going to finish watching a movie, and he would be home. Then he hung up and we hatched a plan to properly freak Shannon out.
Shannon wasn’t expecting Steve for another hour, at least, so we had the element of surprise on our side. Originally, our plan was just to sneak into the house, sneak up behind her and scream “boo!” or some such non-life-threatening scare. But then we reached the house…and we just sort of went with the flow.
The front door was locked, so we snuck around the side of the house to the back, and peeked in. There was Shannon, sitting on the couch watching television, with a perfect view of the sliding glass door and also all the windows along the back of the house. We had to break in, but obviously couldn’t do it with her sitting there.
“Let’s knock on the front door and then run around to the back,” I suggested. She’ll come to answer the front door, nobody will be there so she’ll stand there for a few minutes wondering what’s going on, and it will give us enough time to sneak in through the sliding glass door in the back.”
So we knocked and ran.
As we cleared the corner of the house we could hear Shannon’s unanswered “Hello? Hello…? Is somebody there…?” We ran to the sliding glass door at the back of the house, but it was also locked. Steve’s collie, Princess, could see movement outside though, and she began barking like crazy.
At that point we heard the front door slam and we knew Shannon was spooked by the dog barking and was heading back to the living room to see what she was barking at. So we ran back to the front of the house. We tested the front door, and much to our good fortune, Shannon had run away so quickly, she left the front door unlocked. We silently walked in. We stepped into the guest room off to the side of the entryway, and waited for just a few moments to plot.
Shannon ran right past the guest room and up the stairs. Sensing that Shannon was now a little freaked out, we began to turn up the fright. We turned off the TV and then went all around downstairs turning off the all the lights. Princess recognized us at this point, so she wasn’t going crazy…but she did let a couple of barks fly.
There was a guest bathroom downstairs, just off from the guest bedroom, so Steve turned on the shower. And for some reason, maybe because we were seeing it from Shannon’s point of view, but to be in a house where all of a sudden the TV has been turned off all by itself, all the lights downstairs have mysteriously been turned off by themselves, and your dog is occasionally barking…to have the shower suddenly turn on seemed so unnerving, we could barely stand it ourselves, and we knew we were the ones doing it! Like some axe-wielding maniac was washing off his axe before coming upstairs to finish you off.
We crept up the stairs then, and started down the hallway. We could hear Shannon on the phone in her bedroom, talking to their other sister, Michelle, who lived across town. “I don’t know what’s happening – but the lights have all turned off and I am freaking out and I think I’m going to just call the police!”
That should have been enough to encourage us to come clean, but instead we turned off all the hallway lights upstairs, leaving Shannon’s bedroom as the only lit room in the house, and then Steve picked up the little music box in the hallway, wound it up, and put it back in its place, emitting this ghostly echo of a miniature piano playing. And that was the final straw.
We heard Shannon hang up the phone, and before she placed a call that could have made for a very bad evening, we sped downstairs opened the front door and slammed it shut, acting like we had just come home.
We walked upstairs and gave a non-convincing, “Oh, hey, Shannon, what’s up?” At that point, she threw the phone at Steve. Some people just don’t know what’s funny.