After a viewing of Children of the Corn, Joanna Schroeder and her dad hatch a plan to scare the living shit out of her older brother and his friends in true Halloween fashion.
Any little girl who grew up with older brothers will tell you that she spent her childhood having the crap scared out of her on a regular basis. Okay maybe not all older brothers live to terrify their little sisters, but my brother—4 years older—made a hobby out of it. He loved gore, and every year he and my dad would make a sacred trek into the big city (in West Michigan, Grand Rapids counts as a big city) to this incredible Halloween store that sold things like severed arms and movie-quality masks. Not that any of those gory props were reserved for Halloween in our house. Terrifying me was a year-round tradition. I would come home to find my Barbies strung up by nooses with red magic marker (sometimes strawberry-scented) dripping down their bodies, or turn down my bed at night to find a fake severed arm “bleeding” all over my sheets.
This was hilarious to all involved, though I imagine our mother did not enjoy washing the fake blood out of fabric. While I hated the pranks, I also somehow understood that it was better to be the one discovering the gore than to be completely left out of the game. And understanding the nature of my brother as I did—he was the gentlest, most sensitive child on the planet, who cried the first time my dad took him fishing, saying over and over again, “Poor fishy. Poor, poor fishy”—it was clear that he wasn’t cultivating a future as a serial killer. It was all just a game, maybe even a bonding ritual. It still created a pins-and-needles lifestyle, especially when his friends were around to help him hatch one of his devious plans … you never knew when you’d turn a corner and someone would be waiting to BOO you nearly to death.
In the mid-80s, my brother had a Halloween sleepover with a bunch of his most devious pals, where they watched the movie Children of the Corn on a giant rented laser disc machine. The selection of this film was no coincidence—our dad had a plan. In the months leading up to October 31st, he had somehow acquired a giant executioner-style robe, like the one Fezzik wore in The Princess Bride. And being on a farm, of course our dad had a scythe on hand. There were all sorts of terrifying rusty tools of death and destruction lying around that place. Check out the photo below of me innocently sitting on a railroad tie, just waiting for that giant, rusty old-fashioned plow and hacksaw to fall on me … Fortunately, they never did.
So anyway, imagine a room full of adolescent boys, all playing Halloween pranks and scaring one another and walking around like a bunch of badasses who own the joint, teasing me for being scared shitless by the movie. At my dad’s prompting, I casually walked into the living room and suggested the boys take flashlights and go run through the lower field near our farm, which was still full of the bent-over remnants of the summer’s crop of corn. To those boys, who predictably rose to a challenge, this was brilliant idea, and so off they went, still stuffing trick-or-treat candies in their mouths.
It was a perfectly clear moonlit night, near-winter in its coldness. A half-dozen boys were running around the dry cornfield, hooting and hollering and sneaking up on one another and laughing their asses off. I watched from up above, on the cleared-out side of the hill we used for sledding in winter, squirming with gleeful anticipation of what was about to happen. The moment of reckoning couldn’t come soon enough.
From a corner of the field, my dad, cloaked in black and carrying a huge (real!) scythe crept toward the boys. A few fell quiet. Whispers. Nervous laughter, then a beam of light fell on the scythe and all of those boys screamed and bolted up the trail into the house. I was surprised that no one peed his pants.
When my dad walked in just after them, robe over his arm and scythe leaned against the side of the house, it was a moment of pure Halloween joy. Adrenaline still pumping through their bodies, sweat dripping down their faces which were pink with fear and autumn chill, they collapsed in ecstatic relief, and the glee of being truly tricked on Halloween.
And for me? Sweet, sweet revenge. No matter what pranks they may have played on me in the years that ensued, I always had the mental image of my brother and his pimple-faced pals screaming and hauling ass back up to the farmhouse like their lives depended on it.
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Images courtesy of the author