Things That Went Bump

I’m not into scary movies and I don’t really get the whole Halloween thing, nor the desire to be frightened. Maybe I’m just too logical.

The fascination with the whole slasher-horror flick thing, I don’t get it. I recently read somewhere that for some people, watching a horror movie creates a feeling similar to a “runner’s high.” Way to go, couch potatoes, nice effort.

I may not do horror flicks, but I have participated in something far more sinister. Something scarier than a horror flick and has been known to bring fear in the minds of most of us, at one time or another. Sometimes it even haunts us for the rest of our lives.

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What is it? Childhood.

Those of you unfamiliar with the atrocities of a large-family upbringing might want to stop reading here. (Unless you want to hear some scary, stupid or gross, real-life stuff.)

Did any of you ever have older siblings, like I did, that would pin you down to the ground then dangle a “loogie” over your head? Were any of you raised where a sibling-on-sibling fight was treated as if it were a major pay-per-view event? There were pranks, teasing and behavior that sometimes bordered on cruelty in my family. Picking on each other was both a game, and an art.

One time, one of my younger brothers took a set of deer antlers, went out side at night and used them to scratch on my little twin sisters’ bedroom window. They were maybe seven years old. When they opened their curtains to see what was making the noise, all they could see in the dark were disembodied deer antlers. Talk about blood-curdling screams. And laughter, for those of us that were in on it.

In a large family, sometimes you get ganged up on. I was in the middle, with five older, and five younger and I got hassled from both sides. On one occasion I was around twelve and babysitting. I was supposed to get the younger ones to clean the house. I got a little bossy and all five of them chased me with belts, sticks and brooms. Mutiny! I had to lock myself in the bathroom until an older brother got home to save me.

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Fire played an integral part in my childhood. Once, two brothers lit a mattress on fire in the basement. Young, frightened and stupid, they hid under the bed! What saved our house, and my brothers, was that our dog pawed at another of my brothers who was sleeping, he then noticed all the smoke and called the fire department.

Once, a brother wanted to play “stunt man” so he put on several layers of clothing and a helmet, doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire. (Darwin Award candidate.) Another time the older brothers kicked a bucket of burning lighter fluid at one of my younger brothers and started him on fire, it spread all the way up his back, fried his wool jacket and melted his hair. They managed to put him out before it got worse.

When I was around six, my older brothers were making pipe bombs in the backyard and throwing them into our burn barrel, then they would run away before they exploded. I came outside to watch, and I didn’t know I was supposed to run. One bomb exploded throwing shrapnel everywhere, and one 3” piece embedded itself in one of my brother’s back. Luckily, I was short at that time and the trajectory of the metal went over my head.

“Why did your parents allow this sort of behavior?” You might ask. They were working all the time, to support all these kids and didn’t know about most of the things that went on, until much later. This is what happens when you leave eleven children home alone unsupervised. Anarchy. We all survived and are stronger for it, and we even laugh about these things now. A testament to “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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For some of us, surviving childhood was unpredictable and scary enough, so that now as an adult, I have no interest in anyone else’s predictable version of horror. What about you? What crazy events in your youth did you survive, that you laugh about now?

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