The backyard campout was all Billy and his friends could talk about. My cousin Sue and I furiously watched them build a tent out of old quilts stretched over the clothesline, furious we couldn’t camp out with them. No girls allowed!
The boys kept reminding us all day what a great night they would have while we slept in the house. However, watching ghost movies had their teeth chattering even before they headed out for their camp-out. Those smart-alecky boys were spooked even before they straggled out to the tent with only one failing flashlight between them and the terrifying night. The further they got from the door, the faster they ran, expecting to be grabbed at any second. The lights in the house blinked off one by one, leaving them totally alone in the blackness. Sue and I gave my parents plenty of time to go to sleep before slipping out to fix Billy and his buddies. We made a wide loop behind their tent and lay in the bushes quietly listening to the boys telling the story of Maggie Parker.
“Maggie Parker was a witchy old woman who had lived deep in the woods not far from us. There was gold buried behind the house haunted by the ghosts of her seven husbands all buried in a row. If you were brave or crazy enough to go out there on a dark night and wade through the thick vines, you could see ghostly eyes shining on each of the seven tombstones. No one knew how her husbands had really died, but the rumor was she killed each of them after she got their gold. Someone else said she kept her crazy hired man locked in the shed and only let him out to work. If he ever got loose at night, he would kill her or anyone else he crept up on. Froggy told about his daddy’s grandma’s uncle who went out one night looking for Maggie Parker’s gold and was found four days later in the woods by some hunters. His hair turned white and he never spoke another word. He was led around like a child for the rest of his life. He screamed in his sleep and shook in his bed so bad, they had to lock him in a shed at night. One morning a few years later they found him lying in his bed, eyes wide open, like he had seen a ghost………..scared to death.” The stories got scarier the later it got.
The only sound was the chirping of crlckets as they lay in their lonely tent, talking in low voices about the last movie they had seen. An angry village mob had tortured a poor crazy old hermit, cut his legs off, and left him for dead. He somehow managed to survive by dragging himself into a cave. The frogs were croaking loudly as the darkness fell. In his fevered sleep, he dreamed he had his legs back. He rose and walked on his stumps, leaving bloody prints behind him. The frogs got quieter. Just before he knifed his torturers……..….total silence. The last thing you could see was him raising his knife and hear the screams of the dying.
The longer they talked, the more scared they got. Finally they got so tired they just had to try go to sleep. They could hear the frogs just outside their tent. The frogs got louder. It was horrible. Suddenly………..dead silence. Too scared to breathe, they waited for the knife!!! Finally…..the frogs started back up. Just as they exhaled nervously, they were grabbed from behind! They exploded outward, disintegrating the tattered tent, falling and grabbing in their fight for survival, their fear fed by the maniacal screaming in the dark. A ghostly figure was staggering around in tattered rags, arms outstretched. They beat each other and everything else in their path trying to reach the safety of the house. In their wild terror, they ripped straight through the latched screen door of the kitchen, shattering it. The ghost was right behind them!
My parents were jolted awake by the crashing screen door and screaming campers, sure they were being murdered in their beds. The pulled the tattered quilt from around the ghost revealing Foggy, who’d gotten tangled in the quilt, thought the ghost had him, and was as terrified as everyone else. When they finally calmed the boys and did a head count, they found everyone alive but battered. Sue and I came staggering out of my bedroom rubbing sleep out of our eyes and trying to look like we just woke up though we both had wet grass stuck to our feet and dirty pajamas. Our plan to scare the boys had worked far better than we dreamed it would, and the best part was, we had more fun at the camp-out than anyone else!