I love scaring people.
Honestly, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I love it all: jumping out at friends, grabbing ankles, putting on a blank stare and creepy doll makeup, combing my hair over my face like the girl from “The Ring,” and pretending that there are spiders on my mom’s head (as she learned during the first Aragog scene in the Harry Potter movies). Obviously this makes me popular around Halloween.
So today and Thursday I’m going to tell two stories about scaring people on Halloween. Today: The Saga of Spider-Girl.
I performed with a group that put on themed Renaissance faires at a castle in Gloucester, MA for a few years in high school and some summers in college. Hammond Castle was a perfect venue. Its original owner, John Hammond, invented the Hammond Organ and used his earnings to build himself a palace, even importing some stones from various castles around the world, not unlike the Wrigley Building here in Chicago. Now it serves as a museum and scenic place for wedding photos. The castle was (and remains) a perfect place for King Arthur or Robin Hood or Three Musketeers faires, but what it was most suited for was the Castle of the Damned.
Unfortunately, Gloucester is about an hour’s drive from where I grew up, and so it was difficult for me to participate in events that happened during the school year. That meant that I couldn’t be a part of the planning or rehearsal of Castle of the Damned. But I had some time one Friday night while the festivities would be going on, and so I volunteered for a one-night commitment.
I figured they’d make me a zombie or a vampire or something. Instead, I got assigned to be a Spider Girl.
What’s a Spider Girl? I’m glad you asked. No one really knew. They had a room covered in spider webs, and a guy dressed in black who would hide in the corner with a 3-foot-wide spider on a stick that he could skitter across the floor to make patrons scream. They just figured that the room could use something more. So I put on the white shift, covered my face with white foundation, and drew little bite marks all over myself with eyeliner. Then I scoped out my literal haunting grounds.
There weren’t many places to hide or lounge in the room. As soon as I went in, I knew where I needed to go. This room adjoined the indoor pool on one side, and had bay windows on the interior wall that let out into the pool area. There was also a window seat built into a niche in the wall. The design team had stretched cobwebs over the niche, so there was a nice, cozy little spot behind them just the right size for a teenaged girl. I crawled under the webs, curled up into a ball, and waited.
At first it was enough just to rock back and forth and look at patrons with huge, unseeing eyes. But then I started to get bored. So I decided to sing a little song. Everyone loves a little girl voice singing a nursery rhyme. I would rock myself and sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in my best baby soprano. After a few guests had passed, though, even that began to get stale.
I decided to re-write the lyrics:
“The Itsy-Bitsy spider, he wanted to bite me
He took my parents and tied them to a tree
And then he bit me until he made me cry
Oh won’t you please help me…oh won’t you help me…die”
It turns out that if you start singing different words to a well-known song in a dark room where no one can see anything but cobwebs, what will happen is this. Children will cling to their parents. Grown men will puff out their chests. Women will actually be the boldest. They’ll come up to you and look down through the cobwebs. They’ll take the mothering angle: “Oh, what a poor thing, what’s that she’s singing?” They’ll even smile, right up until you sing the last word of your song. Then, if you suddenly scream in their now-held-close-to-you faces, they’ll jump, and when the giant spider in the corner chooses that moment to thrust itself at them they’ll scream and bolt from the room.
And if you’re lucky, like this Spider Girl was lucky, you’ll get at least one man to wet his pants.
So…who wants to hang out with me this Halloween?