2006-10-26 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

Serious research into all things scary
By Sam Bari

Halloween night is next Tuesday, the time when all

things scary come out to party. But we don't have to worry about that, dear readers, because almost a generation ago, the Secret Society for the Serious Research of All Things Scary wrote the book on how to outwit the netherworld of witches, goblins and ghouls. The secret society that isn't so secret any more consisted of my stalwart band of ne'er-do-well friends from the days of my adventurous youth. The gang included Pookie Grossberg, Chilly Mac, Kinky Boswell, Muffin Duffy (the only girl in the group, and she always beat us up) and me. There were more, but we were the core of the secret society that made the rules for dealing with anything even remotely spooky.

It all started the day before Halloween when I told them my dad's story about the shadow people. He said that my wise grandfather passed the tale on to him when he was a boy, and without it, he'd probably be dead. He told me that when children go out alone at night the shadow people have been known to swallow them up and make them one of their own. As soon as I said, "shadow people," Pookie Grossberg's eyes got big, and he wanted to know all the details. They all wanted to know - so I told them.

My dad took me out on the back porch one day, just before sundown. We watched the sun drop behind the trees in the dense woods at the back of our property before he said anything. As the sun set, the shadows kept getting longer and the forest grew darker and darker. It wasn't long before we couldn't see between the individual trees because everything was so dark. My dad said that was because the shadow people came out at night and took over the land. "The shadow people don't like light," he said, "so they block it out. They don't even like moonlight. That's why things seen in moonlight don't have any color. The shadow people filter the color out. They only like dark." As if that wasn't scary enough, he then said that if they get you, you'll be nothing but a shadow for the rest of your life. I slept with my light on that night. I wanted nothing to do with the shadow people.

The next morning my dad woke me up early, before sunup. He said he had something to show me. We went out on the porch again. I was scared. After a few minutes, the sky began to glow and the first ray of sunlight hit the woods. He told me to keep watching. The shadows started to shrink back amongst the trees. He said that was because the sun chased the shadow people back into the forest where they could hide and avoid the light. After that, I was in the house every night before sunset. The shadow people were too scary for me.

Then Kinky Boswell told us about the ghouls in the closet and under the bed. None of us knew exactly what a ghoul was, but it sounded pretty awful. Kinky's mom said that it was really important to keep his closet neat and always close the door at night. If his closet was messy and clothes were on the floor, ghouls would disguise themselves as part of the mess and he wouldn't be able to see them. And if the door was open even just a little crack, he'd see their beady red eyes glowing in the dark, staring out at him. She said that if he saw the red eyes, he'd be too scared to scream. She also told him that before he went to sleep, he should turn on all the lights in his room and look under his bed to make sure that nothing was there for the ghouls to hide under, otherwise they'd wait to grab his ankles when he got out of bed and pull him underneath, never to be seen again.

That's when Muffin told us about goblins. Her grandmother said that people made their beds so that goblins didn't hide in the messed up covers where they couldn't be seen. If the bed was made and the covers were flat and neat, you'd know if a goblin was there because it would make a bump in the middle of the covers. Goblins never bother a made bed.

Chilly Mac was too scared to talk. He never made his bed, always sneaked out at night, and his closet was a mess. We had to take him home because he was afraid to go in his room alone. We helped him clean it up.

Anyway, those rules worked. We're all alive today because of them. None of us ever went out at night alone. We always made our beds, kept our closets neat and the doors closed. I didn't tell you all the rules to avoid the night creatures, just the important ones. As far as witches and warlocks, and vampires and werewolves are concerned, we don't really know much. They're just part of that system we can't understand.

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