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Columnist

It runs in the family – we scare because we care!

If I ever invite you over to my house, and you can’t find me, I’m either cleaning or hiding from you so I can pull off a jump scare. I know, it’s ridiculous (not the cleaning part … that part is much needed in this house of four children). I can’t help it though, I come from a long line of people who love a good scare.

My dad, who is famous for sitting around a kitchen table and telling stories, has a treasure trove of “scared ya, didn’t I?” tales. Mostly because, as a parent, he pretty much lived to dress up and spook my sisters and I, or just taunt us with anecdotes that had us begging, “Can I sleep with you?” at night. This thrilled my mother.

Dad passed his love of scaring people down to me, and I’ve spooked the kids a handful of times, but I’m nowhere near the master that his mother Betty was. Grandma Betty made scaring children an art form, but she had 10 kids and I think that she must have done it for survival: “Don’t touch that or the ghost at the end of the hall will eat you!” Okay. I will make sure and NOT touch that.

My Grandma died when I was 9 years old, and I do not have a lot of memories of her, but she lives on in the funny stories dad likes to tell of her. For instance, Grandma Betty never could remember anyone’s name (I mean, 10 kids, I don’t blame her. I have problems with four), and on the nights she would make pancakes she would just assign the children numbers and say: “Number 1, you’re up for flapjacks.” Kind of seems streamlined and efficient to me rather than forgetful, but who am I to say?

Dad’s favorite story to tell about my grandma is one that I never tire of, and since it is close to Halloween I thought it would be an appropriate one to resurrect – it’s about The Bogeyman.

My dad is only 11 months younger than his big brother Bob, and the two of them were nightmarishly busy boys. I cannot imagine having five other children, and then Bob and Chuck. My poor grandmother. They spent a lot of time outside, but sometimes the weather didn’t cooperate and they were forced to stay indoors and terrorize grandma as she attempted to do laundry for eight children (my Uncle Morri was a baby at the time), and just keep a home that was housing that many people from imploding.

This was during the late ‘50s, and my grandparents were relatively poor, without indoor plumbing or heat, so things were extra hard on grandma. She had to be extra creative to keep those two little boys busy.

One particular cold winter day, my dad (Chuck) and Uncle Bob were underneath the old wooden kitchen table swatting Grandma’s legs as she was attempting to make noodles for supper. The boys couldn’t play in the living room because baby Morri was sleeping there. Plus, all of the older children were at school, so getting a sibling to take one for the team and play with the two little ones wasn’t an option. That meant grandma was stuck with two giggling little boys who were grabbing her ankles as fast as they could while she tried her best to bake.

At her wits end, she finally said, “You both should better quit, or the Bogeyman is going to get you.”

Choruses of, “Nuh uh,” and “There’s no such thing,” ran out from underneath the table.

Grandma said, “Oh, well. You are two brave little boys, for the Bogeyman is definitely real, and all I have to do is holler for him, and he’ll come get you. When he does, he’ll toss you over his shoulder, and carry you away to eat for his own supper later.”

“I’m too skinny, he won’t want me!” my dad said in the snottiest voice he could muster. Uncle Bob simply said, “Yeah!” (Uncle Bob wasn’t as creative).

“The Bogeyman likes skinny kids, the skinnier the better. He likes lean meat,” said my grandma. Dad didn’t quite know what to say about that, so he just replied, “I don’t believe you,” reaching out to snag her skirt as she walked by.

Well, that was just enough. Grandma had absolutely had it. “Bogeyman! Come down here!” she yelled while walking to the door in the kitchen that led to the upstairs of the house. “I need you to take these two boys away!”

Unbeknownst to little Chuck and Bob, my Uncle Gary was home from college on winter break (having arrived late the night before). To this day, Uncle Gary says it’s a coincidence what happened next, that he didn’t hear his mother calling for the Bogeyman, and was simply coming downstairs for breakfast. Ah, comedy.

Meanwhile Bob and Chuck, underneath the table, were planning their next assault on Grandma Betty when they heard stomping coming from upstairs. Looking at one another with wide eyes, they were for certain that all of their older siblings were at school. Grandma Betty then peaked underneath the table and said, “It’s been nice knowing you two,” as the footsteps grew heavier and closer.

Uncle Gary also had a terrible cold at the time, so his normally deep voice was even deeper and quite scratchy. Legend has it that he was attempting to say, “Good morning, mom” but what came out of his mouth from the top of the stairs sounded more like, “I’m going to eat you both,” according to Chuck and Bob. “The Bogeyman,” aka as Gary, hit the middle of the stairs, which were old and creaky, even more terrifying, and started into a coughing fit – which the boys thought was snarling and growling.

“I have just the thing to sooth that cough for you!” Grandma said, winking at the little boys, but before The Bogeyman could hit the bottom step and walk into the kitchen, Chuck and Bob ran off lickety split (without coats even!), out of the kitchen, onto the porch, and clear across the frozen yard, to the safety of the barn. There in the safety of the hay they sat snuggled up with their Collie dog Mitsy and their duck Puddles, until their brother Gary (not the Bogeyman) came to rescue them.

Dad says that he and Bob were pretty well behaved after that, at least for a little while, because all Grandma had to do was start to say any word that sounded like Boogie, and they would instantly begin to act like angels.

Sometimes people tell me that I’m a lot like my grandmother, even though I don’t have many memories of her, and when they say this I smirk. Sounds like she was dramatic, too.

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