|Posted by Admin on April 28, 2015 at 10:15 PM|
One of the boys who lived in the neighborhood was Robert Daly. He and I hung out together a lot. I believe he later became Chief of Police in Jackson, which is surprising, considering the rough crowd he used to associate with. Anyway, he was fun to be with. We got into some interesting things together.
One night we decided to go downtown to see a movie. We had to walk a mile or more down East Chester and over to Baltimore, where the two major theaters of Jackson stood side by side in all their brilliant splendor…the Paramount and the Malco. We couldn’t wait to get inside.
We walked up to the entrance and looked up to see what was playing. There on the marquee, in two-foot high letters was the one word…”FRANKENSTEIN.” I felt chills go up and down my spine. That movie was without a doubt the scariest movie of all time. Made in 1931, it resurfaced periodically. This was the first time I had seen it.
I kept telling myself throughout the picture that the guy in the hairy suit with a railroad spike through his neck was just an actor. He wasn’t really a monster. Creatures like that don’t really exist. Do they?
Knowing it was really Boris Karloff, who was just an actor doing his job didn’t help much. To us the name Boris Karloff inspired fully as much fear as did the name Frankenstein. As the movie progressed toward the final hair-raising scene Robert and I scrunched lower and lower in our seats, desperately cramming popcorn in our mouths, as if that would protect us – sort of like holding up a cross. Nobody ever got mangled by a berserk monster while eating popcorn.
When the movie was over we started home, surrounded by an aura of fear. Of course, neither of us would let on. We covered our anxiety by laughing and joking about what we would have done to Boris Karloff if he had come after us in his chunky steel boots. But something…something had changed about the neighborhood. It was getting late, and all those comfortable looking clapboard houses we had passed on the way to the picture show, windows ablaze with good cheer, had suddenly taken on an atmosphere of menace. The windows were now dark, like the hollow eyes of a skull. The houses were black, hulking shapes against the night sky. The shadows between them seemed to reach out to grab us as we passed. We hurried from the dim glow of one street light to another, imagining the gloomy areas of sidewalk to be peopled with unspeakable things that would snatch at our ankles. We were afraid to run. The wind moaned. A cloud passed over the moon. It was a long way home.
Only a sense of humor sustained us. Robert Daly was a joker. He got ahead of me and hid behind a tree. I saw him do it. But I still screamed like a girl when he jumped out right in front of me and yelled, “Boo!”
He laughed until he was too weak to laugh any more, I recovered control of my body functions, and after that we felt a little better. We got a little of our confidence back, and continued on for a block or two, thinking we had shaken our fear. But I was waiting for a chance to get even. I spotted a place where some concrete steps came down to the sidewalk through a wall built up to protect the yard. I ran ahead and hid behind the corner of the wall. When Robert came even with me I leaped out of the shadows and yelled, “Boo!”
Nothing original, and it wasn’t as if he didn’t expect it, having watched me hide. But it worked like a charm anyway. He screamed and jumped like he’d stepped on a snake. I laughed myself sick, and by that time he was laughing too. It seemed ridiculously funny to us that we had come out of that movie so saturated with fear that even when we expected it and saw it coming we were still able to scare the life out of each other.
So, naturally, we kept doing it, all the way home. Frankenstein was one spooky movie, all right, but the trip home on the dark streets of East Jackson was five times as scary.
Continued Next Week.........