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Scary Stories from the Schoolyard

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and its follow-ups were easily the most popular books in any elementary school library. There’s some special thrill kids get out of being terrified by creepy images and stories, almost as if it’s a rite of passage on the way to adulthood. While the stories and illustrations from those books were amazing, some of the urban legends at my elementary school were even better. The imagination of a child can be truly twisted, so here’s a few tales you can tell on Halloween night by the light of a Jack O’ Lantern.

For years I lived with the fear of a house inhabited by ghastly ghosts just 2 driveways from my own. One day while being dropped off after a play-date with my friend Crystal, her older brother Keith excitedly pointed at my neighbor’s home and blurted out, “Hey Mom, is that the haunted house?” Confused, I asked what he was talking about. Quickly he recounted the twisted tale of terror supposedly ripped from the headlines of our local newspaper.

As the story goes a young married couple who lived in the home a few years prior had drowned themselves…in debt! After one particularly expensive vacation to the Bahamas, they returned home and realized they were financially ruined and seeing no way to get their lives back on track, they tragically chose to go out like Romeo and Juliet. Ever since then, no one could sell the house because it was haunted by the ghosts of these restless spirits.

Understandably for weeks after that, every time I passed the house I got a little shudder and found my legs moving that much faster. I didn’t know if these ghosts were friendly like Casper and personally, I didn’t want to find out! After a while though I began to go over the facts and they didn’t quite add up. See I had lived on that street all 7 years of my life and though I never really saw anyone go in or out of the house, I didn’t catch sight of any cobwebbed For Sale signs either. Plus, isn’t it more likely that one of the neighborhood kids would have told me this story already, not some newspaper reading 6th grader from 5 miles down the road? 

The real nail in the coffin though, was that about 2 months after the incident was recounted to me a family did move into the house who had a daughter my age. Scared for her safety, but embarrassed to bring it up, I struggled with the decision to let her in on the history of her new home. One day while we were playing on her lawn I gathered up my courage, blurted out the story and asked if she had seen any ghosts. Rather than be scared by my report she simply affirmed, “that’s stupid”. So much for that haunted house! 

I grew up about 30 miles from the now defunct Movieland Wax Museum that used to be located down the street from Knott’s Berry Farm, home of the annual Halloween Haunt. As much excitement as funnel cake and Camp Snoopy had to offer, my love of Hollywood history always made me much more partial to the wax dummy likenesses of my favorite movie stars. So why do I bring this up in a scary stories article, you ask? Read on and find out.

In 4th grade, my classmate Erik came to school with a story of his trip to the Movieland Wax Museum’s Chamber of Horrors. Erik was always good for a synopsis of the latest R-Rated films like the Nightmare on Elm Street series or Child’s Play, so I was an attentive listener on the playground that morning. Our storyteller started with the list of classic movie monsters on display ranging from Frankenstein to Dracula and even Vincent Price from House of Wax dipping his victims into the melted goo that was its namesake, but these were all old-timey yawners as far as we were concerned.

Our schoolyard scare-meister then ramped up the excitement with his description of the Jason from Friday the 13th exhibit. Erik claimed that to fit with his Hockey goalie like appearance they had built a net/goal that Jason stood in front of with dry ice billowing around him. He also claimed that a mechanism had been built in to make Jason’s eye’s glow red and launch severed heads into the net with a hockey stick. Gruesome, sure, but hardly anything to have nightmares about. 

Obviously desperate to keep the attention of his captive audience, he went for the shocking ending to this tale of terror. After his Mom had left him alone in the darkness of the dungeon Jason had come alive and chased our playground pal through the maze of horror icons. He excitedly told us how Jason was slashing at him with the fury of 1,000 Marty McSorley’s!

Our brave narrator had only managed to escape by crossing the threshold of the chamber that the monsters within could not pass through, likely due to some magic spell that had imprisoned them there centuries before. As much as I wanted to call shenanigans on this story, a part of me worried that if I shouted something like, “That never happened”, that I would be Jason’s next victim after falling asleep that night. Plus, what if it was true? AWESOME!

I eventually visited the Movieland Wax Museum myself a year or two later and did not find any evidence of such horror-filled happenings. Though those terrible creatures may have feared the wrath of the souvenir Oscar from the gift shop I was wielding. And let's be real for a second, Elvira brings out many feelings in young boys, but fear ‘aint one of 'em! Now the next scary story as told by my classmate Brent had the frightening distinction of taking place near the schoolyard where the tale was told.

At the time, a new housing development was being built a few blocks away from our elementary school in what I always considered the “fancy” part of town (based solely on the fact that my family’s house was built in 1971, while these were being built 20 years later). Setting the scene on a rainy day during the previous week, Brent claimed that he and his friend, Jeff had ridden their bikes over to the construction site after school to check on the progress of the new neighborhood and were involved in a scene right out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Apparently as they snooped around the skeletal structures of the homes that were covered in plastic sheeting, a naked lunatic emerged through the falling rain with a power saw and started screaming at them to “GET OUUUUUUUT!” The brave duo claimed to have defended themselves by throwing 2x4s and shovels at the maniac before mounting their bikes for a quick escape. This one actually shook me up quite a bit. I mean this could have happened to any of us, right? Plus, Brent had another person there to back up his story, how could it be a lie?

Truth be told, what actually makes the story so terrifying is the fact that their construction site serial killer was butt-naked. I mean, at least Freddy Krueger had the decency to hide his charred body under a sweater and some slacks, this sicko wanted to slice them up while his “tiny terror” was swinging in the wind! Even without the table saw in hand, the idea of this creep-o was scarier than Candyman and Pinhead combined. Forget Clive Barker or Stephen King, true horror comes from the overactive imaginations of 5th graders.

So while you can’t believe everything you hear on the playground, there’s surely some stuff that will scare the candy corn out of ya until common sense kicks in. Now these kinds of urban legends are regional so I know you've got a couple up your sleeves. What kind of spooky stories did you hear in your neck of the woods?

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NLogan Posted on Oct 14, 2014 at 10:57 PM

Nah, my big favorites were X-Men, Hulk, and Spider-Man. My favorite was Wolverine when he was still cool. My collection runs from the 1960s-1990. But I do like the wendigo but he just happened to be in the hulk and X-Men books and it sort of pertained to this conversation. If you want to check out a creepy weird wendigo movie watch Ravenous. Oh I like how the paper in this article is in Latin.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Oct 14, 2014 at 06:34 PM

@NLogan Wow, that is an impressive and costly collection. You may be the only person who bought Hulk 180 and 181 for The Wendigo appearance, LOL.

@Vaporman I wanna see those catfish, freaky!

By the way, I called my Dad last night to confirm the first story about the haunted house, he said it was 100% true. Apparently the people that did buy it years later totally remodeled it to eliminate any connection to the deceased owners and possible haunting...crazy.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 14, 2014 at 02:25 PM

I think we've all had at least one of those stories passed around regarding "the house next door" or some escaped murderer on the loose. Kids love scaring other kids.

I was not immune to it, unfortunately. More than once, I made up a story about a little girl getting caught in hidden quicksand in the woods behind our house (DOH!). Naughty, naughty.

And there was at least one house in our little neighborhood that could have easily been the subject of a scary tale (though it wasn't).

One thing that IS true, and can be good for giving a kid some fright, is that the catfish in the Ohio River (a mere 10 minutes from me) can reach the size of men. I've seen pictures of some that were almost that size, caught be people I know.

Tales of them were pretty regular after divers began searching for the remains of people who had died in the Silver Bridge Collapse in the town over from us (and also across the river in Point Pleasant WV). Oh, then there was that whole Mothman thing... but that's a whole other subject unto itself.

NLogan Posted on Oct 14, 2014 at 05:12 AM

@Hoju here are my Scary Stories and my son's Scary Stories that have new artwork.

Looking at some of my pictures for the wax museum I saw I forgot they also had Rocky, Chuck Norris, Hulk Hogan, Abbott and Costello, and the cast of the Wizard of Oz.

NLogan Posted on Oct 14, 2014 at 05:08 AM

@Hoju here are some of my Wendigo comics.

pikachulover Posted on Oct 14, 2014 at 01:11 AM

I have not been to many tourist-y places. I've never been to Pinks either.

About the Chupacabra the kids claimed they saw goat carcasses by the McDonalds and by the train tracks by out junior high.

NLogan Posted on Oct 13, 2014 at 10:13 PM

I have copies of hulk 162, 180, 181, and 182. I like the Wendigo. I think it comes from an Algonquin legend. The kids version is in book 1 of scary stories. An interesting take on the legend. The Roosevelt version shares more similarities with the marvel version as victims are fed on. Marvel is reasonably close to the original legends in that anyone who commits cannibalism in the north woods becomes a wendigo.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Oct 13, 2014 at 06:36 PM

@pikachulover That's crazy. All those trips to the Halloween Haunt, I thought for sure you would have had some sort of annual pass to Movieland Wax Museum. Chupacapra by the train tracks sounds like a great legend. Were there any goats there for him to snack on or just McNuggets?

@NLogan I only know the Marvel comics version of Wendigo who fought the Hulk (and Wolverine in his first appearance), I'll have to check out the original version. My favorite was always "The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers". Nice list of wax memories, I remember being impressed that Michael Jackson had a whole room devoted to himself with a figure in his "Bad" outfit and they played his music videos from that album on a loop.

pikachulover Posted on Oct 13, 2014 at 04:57 PM

I kinda regret I never went to the Movieland Wax Museum.

In school I remember stories about Bloody Mary and the Chupacabra. When I was told about what she really was it was way scary. The kids at school used to say they would see the Chupacabra at the train tracks by the local McDonalds.

NLogan Posted on Oct 13, 2014 at 04:10 PM

Scary stories to tell in the dark are the best. My favorite was the wendigo. You need to track down the full length story by algernon blackwood. Teddy Roosevelt also wrote one about the wendigo. Scary stories were an excellent beginning for kids to look at ghost stories from literature that was nearly a century old.

I went to the Hollywood wax museum around 1993. I remember there being exhibits for Elvira, Norman Bates from psycho, the crew of the original star trek enterprise, Clint Eastwood, Tom selleck from magnum P.I., red Skelton, laurel and hardy, snd Marilyn Monroe.

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