My sixth grade teacher, Ms. Brown, earned my eternal respect and admiration by scaring me practically to death.
Keep in mind that my mom rarely let me watch scary movies. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was very prone to nightmares. It’s likely she didn’t want to give me any more fodder for my all too frequent bad dreams.
For that matter, I wasn’t familiar with many ghost stories. I had only heard those stories about ghosts who make a lot of noise, but are basically just supernatural annoyances.
But, Ms. Brown changed that. She told our class a real horror story. She didn’t just read it to us, either. She didn’t have a book or need one. I was in awe as I watched her face and listened to a story about a merciless killer and a young babysitter.
She made eye contact the whole time she spoke and never once paused to search for her words. When she paused it was for effect.
If you didn’t know she was just telling a story to a bunch of kids, you’d have thought she was repeating the details of a gruesome murder to the police. She was somber throughout. Her voice rose and fell, but she maintained a seriousness that is usually reserved only for funerals.
She had been born to do theater and had settled for teaching us. I was so grateful to her while I bit my nails and squirmed in my seat. Of course, I didn’t put names on my emotions at the time. I couldn’t be distracted from her story.
Here it is to the best of my recollection:
A couple who live in a secluded area need a babysitter for their infant. They will be away for one evening and return home the next morning. The girl they want for the job is too young to drive. She is a little skittish about being trapped in in such a remote area alone with the baby. But, the couple assure her that their dog will be there to protect her and that everything will be fine.
So, they bring her to their house, and after giving her a number where she can reach them, they leave.
Two hours later, the girl is making popcorn and listening to the radio. A news bulletin warns that a homicidal maniac is loose in a town which is only a few miles from the home she is visiting.
She immediately calls the baby’s parents. They tell her that she should try to relax and that they’ll be home as soon as possible. So, she sits on the couch and begins watching a movie. Whenever she starts to feel anxious or scared, she reaches down so that the dog can lick her hand.
She is just about to fall asleep when she hears a loud thump. She runs up to the nursery. She screams when she sees it. The sound she’d heard was the baby’s severed head hitting the floor. (Ewww!)
She screams and runs into the bathroom to hide. There she sees the dog gutted and hanging from the shower-head by a rope.
Scrawled on the bathroom mirror in blood are the words, “Humans can lick hands too.”
That’s it. But, you’d really have to see her telling it to get the full effect.
She was amazing. She really taught me something that day. I felt a little silly for allowing myself to be taken in by a old woman sharing a far fetched story like that one. But, I learned that the spoken word can wield a lot of power.
Thanks, Ms. Brown. I hope you are still telling stories and scaring the be-jesus out of your listeners.
*I didn’t publish this right away, because it seemed too personal for some reason. It’s not my usual silliness. I’m sorry if it’s boring for that reason.