The Horrifying Tale of Christopher Walker
Last Halloween, I was approached by our friend Alice. It seems she was holding a Halloween party for her 8-year-old daughter, Amberís classmates, and needed somebody to tell scary stories to the kids. I guess she figured that if I could tell funny stories, I could tell scary ones too. She offered the suggestion that I could wear a grim reapers outfit or something, and tell the stories in a darkened room. The kids would love it.
I must say, I was a little apprehensive about this. I had no idea what would scare one eight-year-old, let alone a whole room full of them. I mean, if you want me to scare an adult, that's easy: "...the I.R.S. agent slowly approached the door; the bulging briefcase at his side swollen with paperwork; the phrase Audit Division scrawled on its side in devilish script..."... *shiver*
But what scares kids these days? What age group does R.L Stein target? Just what grade are eight-year-olds in, anyway? I was stumped. But my wife, Becky assured me that I would do fine, and convinced me to accept the challenge.
I thought long and hard on the subject. I tried to remember every
scary story I'd ever heard as a kid. I hacked them apart and sewed
them together again into a hopefully terrifying tale. A tale of a
stormy night, a babysitter, an eight-year-old girl, and an escaped lunatic.
I then went to the costume store and bought a mask and a cape. Actually,
the entire ensemble took shape from the seeds of our friends first suggestion.
The mask was a sight to behold, a latex skull on a black nylon hood.
The cape was hooded. I already had a black puffy-shirt (from the
renaissance-faire), black pants and shoes. I added one final piece:
a pirate's hook would replace my right hand. The next stop was to
the local ice-cream shop, where I picked up ten pounds of dry ice.
I wasn't going to take any chances.
Becky and I arrived at the apartment with the party in full swing.
At the moment, I had on the black shirt, pants and shoes. The cape
was tied around my shoulders, but the hood was down. The mask, and
hook were safely hidden in the ceramic bowl I carried in my hands.
A dozen kids in costume looked up from the various activities in which
they were embroiled. They turned toward the intruder at the door.
One stepped forward ... a defiant edge to her stance. "Who are you
supposed to be?" My heart sank a little bit. These kids were
going to be way too savvy for this story.
I disappeared into the bathroom and carefully placed the mask on the top of my head, rolled up so that while my face was uncovered, the mask could easily be pulled down into position. I pushed the hook-hand into the sleeve of the puffy shirt. Lastly, I pulled the hood up, so it covered the mask, and just barely outlined my face. In effect, I looked no different than I had when I first walked into the apartment, except the hood was now up. The final thing I did, was unwrap two of those cold-light sticks, activated and pocketed them.
When I returned to the living room, the children had been gathered into a circle on the floor. Becky had placed the ceramic bowl in the center of the circle, filled it with warm water and tossed a couple cakes of dry ice inside. It was bubbling nicely, and spewing fog across the floor. I sat down on the floor in the only open spot in the circle. Four little girls, including Amber lined the circle to my left. Five little girls lined the circle to my right. The three boys were directly across from me, against the far wall.
All was in readiness. All lights in the room were extinguished so that the candles which lined the wall provided the only illumination. Somebody had placed a CD of spooky sounds on the stereo. Twelve pairs of eyes turned toward me. The boys grinned at each other and snickered something I couldn't make out. With trepidation gripping my stomach like a vise, I began the tale:
"Amber and her mother live in this apartment now", I began, "But this
hasn't always been true. In fact, ten years ago, another little girl
lived in this apartment, along with her mother and father. Her name,"
I paused meaningfully, "was Annie."
"Eventually, it was Annie's bedtime. Kathy tucked Annie into bed, and went downstairs to watch TV.
Before long, Kathy heard what sounded like soft whispers coming from upstairs. She turned down the television and crept up the stairs to Annie's room. Kathy opened the door, and found Annie sitting up in bed, facing the window. A bolt of lightning flashed across the dark night sky, and Annie quickly turned toward the door.
"Who are you talking to?", Kathy asked.
"My friend Chris.", Annie replied.
Kathy nodded to herself. She knew about Annie's imaginary friends.
"Well, you need to go to sleep now. You can talk to your friend in the morning."
"But nothing, Annie. Go to sleep ... or I'll have to tell your parents you were bad."
Annie looked down at her blankets and nervously wrung her hands. "Okay Kathy," came the sheepish reply.
Kathy went downstairs and started watching TV again. A few minutes later however, she heard the whispers begin again.
This time when Kathy opened the door to Annie's room, she saw Annie standing by the sliding glass door that led out to the balcony of her room. Her face was pressed against the rain-spattered glass, and she appeared to be trying to unlatch the door.
"Annie!", Kathy cried. "Get back in bed this instant!"
"But Kathy, my friend Chris is trapped outside in the rain. He says it's cold and wet outside. He wants to come inside and play."
Kathy grabbed Annie's arm and led her back to bed. "But now isn't a time for play. Now is a time for sleep. Now go back to sleep, and I don't want to hear another word about Chris."
Kathy could hear the little girl sobbing softly as she walked back downstairs. She sat down and flipped channels until she found the news. The normally friendly face of the newscaster had a grim look to it as he continued his story:
"...repeating our top story tonight. Naperville Asylum reports that one of their inmates, Christopher Walker has escaped from their facility. Walker is six feet tall, and can be identified by his right hand, which has been replaced by a hook..."
Kathy's blood froze. Naperville Asylum was only a few miles from here. Could it be that Christopher Walker and Annie's friend Chris were the same person?
"...anyone with information about Christopher Walker is urged to call the police immediately. He is extremely dangerous."
Kathy grabbed the telephone and frantically dialed 911. In a few minutes, the desk sergeant informed her that a squad car was on its way, and she should stay right where she was to let the policeman into the apartment. Kathy was terrified. She could hear Annie whispering upstairs again.
Before long, she heard a car pull up outside the apartment. She
could see the flashing red lights of the police siren flickering against
the window. She heard the car door slam, and a minute later there
was a knock on the door.
"Oh thank goodness you're here," she sobbed, "We have to get Annie. She's upstairs in her room."
The policeman shook his head. "No. You go wait out in the squad car. I'll go up and get Annie."
The policeman in the front seat was dead. His throat had been cut ear-to-ear with something jagged, like a sharpened hook. And worst of all, when Kathy looked down at his right hand, she saw that it had been chopped off! And that is when Kathy realized, that the man in the house was Christopher Walker, wearing the severed right hand of the policeman!
The kids started all talking at once. "What about Annie?
Did he get her? What happened next?".
"He's ... he's ... he's HERE!"
Twelve pairs of eyes locked on the black eye sockets of the skull mask. Twelve pairs of eyes grew big as saucers. Twelve voices rose in a simultaneous wail of horror. And twelve eight-year-olds broke the first rule of a seance ... and scattered to the four corners of the room.
Actually, their headlong flight wasn't completely undirected. Five little girls jumped into Alice's lap. Four other little girls jumped into the lap of Amber's aunt. Three little boys, caught in the middle cowered in terror before the visage of the ghost-made-flesh. But inside my mind, I'm thinking "Shit. They broke the circle. Now I'm going to have to hurt them!" So I played it up a little. I call out in my raspy voice, while brandishing the hook, "Whhhoooo arrrre yooouuu?" And the three little boys do a very good job of trying to skid on their backs through the wall (to no avail). Meanwhile, behind the cowering mound of aunt and kids, I see Becky, standing behind the mound, gesturing wildly with her finger across her throat: "Cut! Cut! That's Enough! Stop! Cut! Stop!"
Which brought me back to my senses. I had succeeded in scaring the shit out of them. Now I needed to give them back their control. I put my "hands" to the sides of my head and shrieked, "WHAT IS THAT TERRIBLE SOUND!? THAT CHANTING! IT HURTS ME!"
Alice picked up on the hint and called out through the tangle of young bodies, "You hear that? Keep chanting! The chanting hurts the ghost!"
"Do you sense it? Can't you tell? You DID IT! YOU EXORCISED THE GHOST! The ghosts are gone!"
And with just a little prompting from mom, the entire group broke out in a weak cheer.
Then the lights came on, and I got my first chance to survey the damage. Two girls were in tears, including Amber. In general, the kids were scared out of their minds. In fact, I spent the next half hour, leading the children through the apartment not only explaining to them how this story I told wasn't true, but I also had to pick it apart to show how it couldn't possibly have been true.
The true depths of how the story affected them came to me second hand via Alice. It seems that the following week, a new "boogey man" showed up in the lore of Amber's school. One child was heard to say to another, "You better not lie, or Christopher Walker will come to get you."