Last week, Josh asked his bevy of correspondents if they had any spooky stories for an upcoming L-V edition. I’m at a loss because all mine kind of stopped in 1973, and they weren’t that scary to begin with.
My weird tales are of the elementary school-kid variety, not the kind of material that Rod Serling or Stephen King would bother with. On the other hand, King might tease out something good. I’ve seen him being interviewed and got the impression that he might have been a very interesting five-year-old.
When I was four or five, I was sure that there was a brown furry monster lurking inside a wardrobe in my bedroom. Now, I never mentioned that particular fear to my family. I mean, they’d only laugh, take no precautions and I would end up in a ghoul’s lunchbox just the same.
But I hit on a cunning plan. I just knew that if I covered my feet, the monster couldn’t grab me by the ankles and drag me under the bed. Heck, I’ve followed my instincts ever since and here I still am, so I guess it works.
About the same time, my now-former step-cousin told me that there were goons that arose from Red Bank Creek on a foggy night. I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning, kneeling in front of my bedroom window while peering through the mist.
Andy never told me much about their appearance other than their having long white fur. Imagine my horror when I watched a Sunday afternoon movie starring furry white aliens with shattered-glass eyes, attacking intrepid Antarctic explorers for some unstated reason.
He and I reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago and we both had a good laugh. He didn’t remember telling me that wild tale and so remains unrepentant.
Fast forward a few years, and the Munsters were on television. Naturally, all the networks were cashing in on Frankenstein’s monster references and you could find a bolt-neck critter on everything from lunchboxes to Frankenberry cereal.
Somehow, nobody managed to make Frank look all warm and fuzzy to me. And so yet again, I had to devise some kind of personal protection that didn’t involve a jeering older sibling or unmindful parent. For a year or so, Frank awaited me at the top of the stairs, never where I could see him but hiding behind a bedroom door.
But if I half-hummed, half-sang a self-composed tune with a jumbled reference to reindeer, I was monster-proof. Once again, my DIY magic worked.
These days, it is not at all polite to talk about Bill Cosby in a positive way, but his childhood story of chasing off monsters with music made me laugh when I was a teenager. At least somebody else in the world understood.
Of course, teenagers are prone to telling wild ghost stories to their friends for fun and maybe some profit. One of my GC Murphy’s co-workers, who shall remain nameless, once told me that there were things resembling yetis that lived in the woods beside Summerville hill.
The good news is, part of that hillside started sliding a year or so later and the proper state authorities removed it. The trees were gone and so were the yetis.
I never realized that yetis were migratory. You learn something new every day.
I was thinking about all this over the weekend. I didn’t go to the annual Bigfoot and UFO convention held at the Milton Loop campground this year because I covered it during the very memorable 2020. Such events lose some of their magic when overexposed.
That said, I missed talking to some of those folks. While I am a Bigfoot denier, the jury is still out on extraterrestrial visitors. I mean, there are so many stars out there, and I met a Penn State astronomer who saw planets circling a couple of them.
One conversation that has stuck with me over the years was with a vendor who had been immersed in weird and scary things since childhood. Otherwise, he seemed like a pretty rational and compassionate person.
Paraphrasing here, he said that part of the reason we like ghost stories, especially those told around a woodland campfire, is because we no longer really belong in nature. Our minds play tricks on us out there. It scares us and we like it.
Those were his words, not mine. I still give Summerville hill a little side-eye if I’m driving in that area at night. I got over the creek goons many years ago, but I’m not so sure about Frankenstein at the top of the stairs.
[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]