Some haunted houses occur at times other than Halloween. I hope you enjoy this memory of one at my own home.
That morning when I opened the door to my daughter’s room to wake her, I realized that World War III had taken place and no one had told me. There were no late-breaking news bulletins, no 4-inch headlines in the newspaper, just a sign on her door that said, “Do not inter.” In hindsight, I should have had more respect for my children’s privacy and my faint heart.
She said they were just playing haunted house. The ride at Disney World by the same name would be boring by comparison. Young chemistry majors had prepared exotic potions by combining water, bubble bath and magic markers in unique beakers such as gumball machines and piggy banks.
Ghosts and apparitions hung suspended from the ceiling by either giant, purple thumbtacks or grape bubble gum. Sometimes close examination is best left for those with stronger constitutions.
The corpse under the blanket on the floor drew life from dirty socks and clean towels now melded together. Any two-bit detective could tell he expired from suffocation. Those socks had been under the bed a long time.
The closet of horrors was self-explanatory. Undoubtedly, the damage was caused by the Mad Dresser, who became trapped in the closet. There he proceeded to try on my daughter’s entire wardrobe, including hats and jewelry. In an attempt to prevent this tragedy, Ken, Barbie and Baby Soft Sounds had hurled themselves off the shelf at the intruder. But they were no match for him. Bodies lay everywhere. Ken’s legs were gone, Barbie’s head had been snapped off, and Baby Soft Sounds’ batteries were nowhere to be found.
Later, I discovered the batteries were stolen by none other than the terror of portable radios, flashlights and miniature video games everywhere, Junior Electrical Engineer. In the corner of the haunted house he had rigged up a device using florist wire, twist ties and batteries, which was, I suspect, a convertible lie detector/silent dog whistle. Judging from their bristled hair and dazed looks, I can only assume that the gerbils were interrogated first.
Not being of the Catholic faith, I immediately ruled out exorcism. Demolition crossed my mind, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without leveling the entire second story.
Then I turned to every mother’s last resort, threats. This was way past “Don’t you think it’s time we see what color your carpet is?” I decided to play my trump card: “If you don’t clean your room up right now, there will be no allowance this week.”
Eyes popped and heads snapped as the two children flew around the room stuffing junk in drawers, the closet and under the bed. The average run-of-the-mill mess was back in place in 30 minutes.
I’d like to think I used psychology to appeal to their sense of responsibility. But for kids, while psychology whispers, money talks.
P.S. Thanks to all of you who called, wrote and emailed to save me from those horrible do-it-yourself air machines to refill your tires. A big thank you to all the local tire dealers who do free tire checks and refill air and so kindly keep people like me from pulling out the last of their hair.