Why do we like to scare each other and ourselves so much? Maybe it’s part of our DNA, maybe it’s good to get the adrenaline pumping or maybe it’s that little devilish streak inside all of us. Whatever the reason it probably helps explain the popularity of Halloween and all the paraphernalia being sold in order to create fear.
Even young children love hiding in corners and jumping out to yell, “Boo!” in order to scare others. But if I were to venture a guess, I would say that most times it is our own imagination that ends up frightening us to the point of silliness.
I know this to be true because it happened to me when I was about seven years old and playing with my cousin in our old farmhouse. My family no longer lived there, but we still kept a big garden in the yard. While my mom and aunt picked produce, my cousin and I explored the house which still contained a variety of items from bygone days.
As we poked around the dusty furniture and discarded toys, we discussed the notion of what might be upstairs. My mom had told us not to go up there, because it wasn’t safe. But we decided the real reason was because something was up there ready to pounce on unsuspecting children. So we made up stories to scare each other. Each tale became more fantastical as we tried to outdo each other.
Meanwhile we kept nosing around looking for interesting knick-knacks. The old wardrobe sitting against the far wall looked promising, so we decided to check it out. My cousin opened the door and then let out a blood-curdling scream. “There’s a lady in the closet!” she yelled as she streaked by me.
Without stopping to verify her sighting, I quickly raced after her and took up the cry. “There’s a lady in the closet! There’s a lady in the closet!”
Meanwhile I had abandoned my toddler brother and left him to fend for himself. (So much for sisterly love.)
We kept up the screaming all the way to the garden where my mom and aunt had now stopped working to come to our aid. Although they doubted our claim, they thought they had better check it out. (Besides my brother was crying loudly in the house. “Oh! No!” I thought. “Maybe the lady got him!”)
So they quickly made their way into the house and then cautiously to the wardrobe, where the door still swung wide open. My brave mom took a look inside and then she started to laugh. My aunt did the same and then she, too, began to chuckle.
My cousin and I crept slowly forward for a look only to realize that our “lady” was actually a hat on the top shelf, a dress on a hanger and a pair of shoes directly underneath. We (and our overactive imaginations) had managed to scare ourselves silly, and if we hadn’t gone back to check, we would probably still be convinced that a lady had been lurking in that closet.