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. 
I told the story to Becky.  She said it was fine.  I called the Alice and gave her a brief outline.  "What do you think?  Too much?  Too little?  Is the subject matter okay?" 
"They'll love it."  she repeated. "Don't worry about it.  You'll do fine." 

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'm the storyteller."  I replied. 
The smallest of the girls stepped forward next.  "Are you going to tell scary stories?" 
"I'm going to try." 
"Are you going to make us scream?" Two of the boys nudged each other and snickered behind their hands. 
"We'll see."  I said, smiling.  Yup ... I was going to be crucified here. 

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." 
"How old was she?", one of the girls on the right asked. 
"She was eight years old," I replied. An excited whisper rippled through the group of kids. 

    "Eight!"  "She was eight!"  "We're eight too." 
"On a rainy Halloween night, ten years ago, Annie's parents went to a party, leaving Annie with her favorite babysitter, Kathy."  I did a quick check of the kids, a few of them seemed to realize what being left alone with the babysitter might mean for poor Annie, because they grabbed each other's hands. 
"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. 
By this time, the rain had begun to fall in torrents, and the policeman had to raise his right hand to brush his rain-soaked hair away from his face. 

    "It's a hook!"  "I'll bet it's a hook!" 
Kathy made sure she saw a hand on the policeman, and not a hook before she unhooked the chain.  By this time, she was really upset, and she reflexively hugged the policeman when he came through 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." 
    Just then, the stereo produced a very appropriate flourish of a heroic minor chord.  A ripple of excitement passed through the knot of children.  This was working! 
Kathy ran out into the rain and opened the back door of the police car.  She hopped inside and pulled the door shut.  Inside, the car was warm.  The windshield wipers brushed away the torrents of rain.  The policeman sitting behind the wheel was leaning against the window, looking toward the balcony outside Annie's room.  Kathy let the warmth of the car soothe her.  Then she started to wonder what was taking so long.  "Where are they?"  she asked the policeman in the front seat.  There was no reply.  She reached through the cage that separated the front and back seats, and tried shaking the policeman's shoulder.  She felt something warm and sticky against her hand as the policeman's head dropped backward. 
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?"
"Well," I replied.  "Kathy was trapped in the backseat of that car.  You may not know this, but there aren't any door handles in the back seat of a police car. 
Several of the kids nodded their heads.  "That's true.  No handles.  You can't get out." 
"When Annie's parents finally came home, they let Kathy out of the car.  But when they searched the apartment, there was no sign of Annie or of Christopher Walker.  And neither one of them was ever seen again..."  I paused again, to let that sink in.  This was going better than I'd hoped. 
Amber was shaking her head in disbelief.  "This happened here!?  In my apartment!  I'm never going to be able to sleep here again." 
I had anticipated this.  She played right into my hands.  The one thing I didn't want to do, was leave any of them with the certain fear that a ghost lurked in the apartment. 
"There are ways to find out if there are ghosts in your house.  And there are ways to get rid of them if there are." 
"Really?" the now-rapt dozen asked. 
"Yes," I said matter-of-factly.  "You have a seance." 
The peanut gallery chimed in again.  "Oh.  A seance!  Yes, I've heard of those.  Seances get rid of ghosts." 
"Seances are tricky though.  You have to follow the rules for the seance to work." 
"What are the rules?" 
"Well the first rule, is that you have to sit in a circle and hold hands.  This is very important.  You must hold the hands of the people on either side of you.  And no matter what happens, you don't let go!"  The second rule, is you have to help me do this, by chanting.  The chant is very important.  As long as you hold hands, and say the chant, no ghosts can hurt you. 
"Wait a minute!", one indignant youngster chimed in, "This is supposed to be a party.  Nobody said anything about hurting!"  I was losing one of them.  I needed to get on with the next part... 
"Well then do exactly as I say.  The chant has three words.  The first word is "Ohwa" can you all say that?"  And twelve little products of our public school system responded in perfect unison, 

"The second word is "Tahgoo". 
They repeated in instant harmony. "And the third word.  A very important word is "Siam". " 
"Now repeat them altogether now.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam!" 
    "Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam!" 
"That's right!  Now keep repeating that softly, and we can begin." 
    "... Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam ..." 
I reached into my pocket, and pulled out the cold light glow-sticks, and tossed them into the smoking pot in the center of the circle.  Then I reached up and pulled the hood down so it covered my face. 
    "I bet he's putting on a mask."  "Yeah a mask."
I returned to my place in the circle and joined the hands of the two girls on either side of me to each other.  Then, with a flourish, I flung my arms out at my sides and cried out:  "We are trying to contact the spirit of Annie, who disappeared this night ten years ago!"  Are there any spirits who will speak to us?" 
    "... Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam ..." 
I pitched my voice up as high as it would go ... then very softly, and breathy:  "Yes?" 
    "... OhWA - TAHgoo - Siam.  OhWA - TAHgoo - Siam.  OhWA - TAHgoo - Siam ..." 
"Annie!  Is that you?"  I called again in my own voice. 
    "... Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam ..." 
"Yes!", came Annie's cry from beyond. 
    "... OhWA - TAHgoo - SiAM!  OhWA - TAHgoo - SiAM!  OhWA - TAHgoo - SiAM!  ..." 
"Annie!  Where are you?" 
"I'm hiding." 
    "... Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam.  Ohwa - Tahgoo - Siam ..." 
"What are you hiding from?  Is it Christopher Walker?" 
    "... OhWA TAHgoo SiAM! OhWA TAHgoo SiAM! OhWA TAHgoo SiAM!  ..." 
"Annie!  Where is he?  Where is Christopher Walker?" 
"He's ... he's ... he's HERE!" 
     *Shriek!* "... OHWA-TAHGOO-SIAM! OHWA-TAHGOO-SIAM! ..." 
"Is there another spirit here?  Christopher Walker?  Are you here too?"  I reached up under the hood and slowly pulled the mask down over my face.  Then I pitched my voice to a low rasp: 
I reached into my sleeve, and pulled the hook down over my right hand, then I reached up and flipped the hood off my head. 

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!" 

    "...-oh what a goose I am!  Oh What a Goose I Am! OH WHAT A GOOSE I AM!  OH WHAT A GOOSE I AM!" 
And I dutifully wailed in agony, and collapsed writhing to the floor in a heap of black swirling cape.  Then I quickly pulled the mask off my head, and tossed it and the hook under a nearby table. I sat up with a look of wonder. 
"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."

"The Horrifying Tale of Christopher Walker", 
Copyright © 1997 by Michael J. Marchi
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