I was 11 and in that “I want to be scared” mood. This has not ended well for me in the past, as my mother fulfilled that request once by jumping out of the closet at me, scarring me forever.
I suppose you live and learn. I still had a lot to learn.
The timing was perfect for being scared, though, as my parents had rented the movie “Trilogy of Terror” one night. They told me I couldn’t watch it. I hid behind the couch and watched it anyway.
I should have listened.
It was the scariest movie I had ever seen up to that point in my young, movie-watching life.
“Trilogy” means three of something, which is hilarious because I have no memory at all of what the other two stories were about. That is because nothing could be scarier than the story about the small wooden warrior doll that comes alive.
The basic premise of that story is that a woman (Barbara Hershey) has procured a foot-high African tribal doll to give to her boyfriend. He has countless jagged teeth, a very sharp spear, and a little gold chain around his waist. The note that came with the doll said that if chain fell off the doll, an evil demon would possess it and bring it to life.
(Author’s note: This is a note that you really should pay attention to, if you ever come across an African tribal doll.)
She trotted off down the hall to draw a bath. Moments later, THE CHAIN FELL OFF. This almost goes without saying, because there would be no scary movie if the chain didn’t drop off. He’d just sit there on the counter, letting all those teeth go to waste.
However, the chain did fall off, the evil doll with the sharp teeth did come to life and boy howdy, did he want to stab her but good with his little spear. Think Freddy Krueger and Pinocchio’s love child. That was him. The sound it made as it chased her around the house was horrifying.
For the 11-year old me, the aftermath of this movie was (at best) unpleasant. It frightened me so bad that evening that the smallest sound made me jump. It was hard to form words because my mouth wouldn’t work. I couldn’t get warm. I was petrified.
I should have listened.
That night, and for many nights afterward, I dreamed about that tribal doll. I couldn’t avoid dreaming about it. In my nightmares, the little wooden man was chasing me, or surprising me from behind a curtain or closed door, or heaven forbid, slowly army crawling up my covers as I slept. With a sword in his teeth. To kill me.
My parents didn’t help matters any, either. They found out I watched the movie and knew how bad it scared me. True to form, they used that knowledge to their benefit. They reveled in scaring me. It seemed like a contest between the two, to see who could scare me more. Did I mention I was only 11?
One day shortly after viewing the horror movie from hell my dad drove his police cruiser past me while I was walking to school and told me that he had a special friend in the car with him who wanted to say hi. I knew what that meant—somehow, that little evil doll had gotten to him. I was terrified and ran the rest of the way to school but could still hear my dad laughing.
My mother waited til my back was turned then drum on the table like tiny footsteps were running for me.
In short, they preyed on my terror.
The crescendo came one night while I was innocently soaking in the tub in our upstairs bathroom, blissfully unaware that my parents were planning something big…a unique, creative prank, just for me.
I stopped splashing when I heard a noise-that-didn’t-belong down the hall. I leaned up and peeked out into the hallway. I saw nothing; the coast was clear. Well, that was odd. I sat back down. Then I heard another noise, several bumps, and then a rhythmic ree ree ree sound.
My blood went cold and my heart spasmed in my chest.
What was that?
My hands shook as I pushed the door open again a tiny bit. I expected to see nothing. I hoped to see nothing. However, it was there, in the hallway. It jerked down the hall, toward the bathroom, where I was naked and defenseless in the bathtub. It was holding a spear.
The noise it made was terrifying. Bathwater wasn’t the only thing in the tub at that point, unfortunately.
Ree. Thump. Ree. Thump. Ree. Thump.
It would have been nice to see what was coming down the hall to get me, but I was blind as a bat and not wearing my glasses. The only thing I could make out was that whatever was coming my way was little, had the ability to walk, and was carrying a weapon.
That was all I needed to spur me into action.
I grabbed a towel, screeching the whole time, and flew out of the bathroom in the other direction, towards my room, when I heard a familiar sound over the creepy noise.
I hastily grabbed my glasses off the dresser and jammed them onto my face, then peered out into the hall.
I should have known. There was my mother, convulsed with laughter on the floor in the hallway. I see that the African tribal doll with the pointy teeth was actually a smiling, walking baby doll, armed with…a nut pick.
It was brilliant.
Looking back on this and other various dirty tricks my parents played on me growing up; it’s a wonder that as an adult, I appear to be normal.
I never stopped watching scary movies, though, and as horrible as it is to admit, my parents passed down the “I’m-going-to-scare-the-stuffing-out-of-you” gene. It has served me well in my children’s formative years, and I’m confident they’ll pass it down to their children.
I’m off to hide behind the door now. My daughter’s due home from work any minute and I want to be there to…welcome her.