Stangl

I was recalling some of the Halloweens of my youth and remembered an incident that occurred in the fall and scared the Dickens out of me. I’m not sure what category this falls into: horror, comedy or adolescent stupidity, but here is my tale of the night my friends and I knocked on the door of the scariest house in town.

There was an old maid that lived alone a couple doors down from the grandparents of one of my childhood friends in an old house with an overgrown yard. The myth and legend surrounding this lady ranged from a local Lizzie Borden to a misunderstood, slightly crazy spinster.

One of the legends about her was about that overgrown and unkempt lawn. It was said that she didn’t own a lawnmower, was too cheap to hire a kid to mow, and preferred to cut the grass with a large knife, wearing only an apron. I was never able to confirm or refute this legend, but her tall grass eventually did get cut several times during the summer.

My friend, Jeff, who had four brothers and lived just a few doors down, was obsessed with the crazy lady in the spooky house. We debated many plans of how we could get inside the house to see if there were dead bodies or trapped animals, but could never agree on a foolproof plan.

Jeff, tired of the endless debates on the topic, came up with what he thought would be the perfect plan: a frontal attack, knocking on the front door. The ruse we would use, wearing hats and coats, was that we were from a neighboring town going door to door recruiting scouts. Yes, it was a stupid plan. So stupid that it might just work!

The night came, we had our hats (Jeff wore a cowboy hat — he thought it would be more convincing) and what remained of our nerves and we stepped on to the creaky boards of the front porch.

Jeff knocked on the door and we stood, petrified with fear as he knocked on the door. What happened next convinced us to never, ever talk about the crazy lady ever again. After two knocks (there might be animals trapped, we HAD to follow through), the front door opened.

The door creaked open, revealing nothing but the dark silhouette of the crazy lady. (Brilliant move - leave the room dark so we can’t see the corpses) Jeff, to his credit, gave his pitch, using a Texas drawl (I guess the cowboy hat took over). There was a brief period of uncomfortable silence and the crazy lady closed her door.

We ran as fast as we could and would later boast of our bravery.

It turns out the crazy lady wasn’t a killer, just a crazy old lady. She died years later, and I don’t recall any bodies being found when they moved her home.

Later, I would read the novel and see the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” and realize that I had nearly come face to face with what I had imagined to be our town’s Boo Radley.

It’s a universal truth — you never really know a man (or woman) until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.