In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : a nice spooky story

Endurance Granny shared a nice spooky story on her blog this week, and asked other folks to share their favorite haunted tales. I am a storyteller--I know LOTS of scary stories. I spend the entire month of October every year telling scary stories!

This one is a story that I'll be sharing in the schools this week, leading up to a scary story program at the library right before Hallowe'en, and our super-scary-storytelling radio program on Hallowe'en morning. And now...I'm gonna share it with you.

I call it:

The Dare, or, Why I Became a Storytelling Librarian

My parents were teachers, which meant mostly that I knew something that most of my classmates didn’t know: teachers have first names.

Because my parents were friends with most of my teachers and their families, I knew that my 2nd grade teacher’s first name was “Roxanne,” that my 4th grade teacher’s first name was “Walt”, and that my 5th grade teacher’s name was “Greg.”

It didn’t occur to me until years after that I never knew the first name of the librarian at my elementary school.

I spent a lot of time in the school library with Mrs Walton. She was really good about letting me read the new books when they came in from the district office—as soon as she had finished reading them, I was next on the list. She also let me “help” in the school library. I got to put away books and file cards. I was thrilled.

One day I told Mrs Walton that I wanted to be a librarian like her. She smiled at me and said it was an excellent career choice.

To be a good librarian, she told me, a person needed to like books. I was good there.

A good librarian also needed to like people. Not a problem for me.

And then she said something that really confused me: She said that a good librarian knew how to be scary.

Scary?

She told me that it was a long-standing tradition of librarians to be scary. And then she explained further by telling me a story that happened right in my own hometown, in the cemetery close to my house, from waaaaaaaay back in the olden days, when she was a little girl, about my age.


“There were two kids who lived close to the cemetery,” she said. A brother and a sister. The brother was Robert. The sister was Alice. They were always daring each other to do stuff that was silly. Or naughty. Or sometimes, scary.

Like, Robert would dare Alice to climb up to the very tallest branch of the apple tree and sing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” She thought that it was a silly thing to do, but she did it.

Then Alice dared Robert to steal a pie that their mom had baked for the PTA bake sale, and feed it to the chickens and put the pie pan back all clean and shiny before their mom had noticed it was gone. Robert knew his mom would be really mad if she found out who took the pie, but he did it.

Then Robert dared Alice to walk by the cemetery gates on the way home from school without whistling. Everybody knows that whistling keeps the ghosts away.

Alice was scared of the cemetery. It was a big, old-style cemetery, with black iron gates at the front, and big granite headstones scattered all over the green lawn. Some of the headstones had pictures of flowers carved right into the stone, and those were kind of pretty. But some of the headstones had pictures of skulls carved in, and those were kind of scary.

One big tombstone was in the shape of an angel with the wings stretched w-a-a-a-ay out. People said that the high school boys liked to sneak into the cemetery at night and paint the eyes of the angel with glowing paint, so they would light up at night. Alice never wanted to see those glowing eyes. She was too scared.

But she couldn’t say “no” to a dare.

“All right,” she told her brother. “I’ll walk past the gates of the cemetery without whistling. But if I do it, then you have to go into the cemetery at night, and touch the stone on the librarian’s grave and count to ten.

It was the scariest thing she had ever said. The cemetery was the scariest place in the whole world, she thought. And the librarian had been the oldest, meanest, scariest lady in the world…and just this week, she had died. And Alice knew that her brother Robert was especially scared, because he had an overdue library book, and it was still under his bed at home.

Alice thought that Robert would never agree to go into the cemetery at night, and she knew he’d be too scared of the librarian to touch her gravestone and count to ten. She thought that he would chicken out and then Alice wouldn’t have to walk past the cemetery gates without whistling.

But Robert didn’t chicken out. He looked really scared. But he said that if Alice would walk past those gates without whistling, then he would go inside the cemetery at night and touch the librarian’s gravestone and count to ten.

He thought that she would chicken out. And she almost did.

But then she thought, “He never said I had to walk slowly. I can walk really fast, and I can make my lips ready to whistle but without really whistling, and then I won’t be a chicken.”

Robert walked past the gates first, whistling. Then it was Alice’s turn.

She almost ran—but the dare was to walk. She made her lips ready to whistle, but she held her breath…and then she walked really really really fast in front of the gates, and as soon as she got to the far side, she pushed out her breath through her whistle-lips, which was not, she told her brother, not nearly the same as whistling in front of the gates.

They almost got into a real fight, with hitting and yelling. She said that walking fast was still walking, and he said that whistling on the other side of the gate was almost exactly the same as whistling in front of the gates, and he called her a chicken-pants and she said she wasn’t and then she said that he was a chicken-pants, and he would be too scared to just go into the cemetery and touch the librarian’s grave without counting or anything.

Robert said he wasn’t scared. He said he’d do it. He said he’d walk into that cemetery that night, as soon as it got dark, and he’d touch that gravestone.

She said he probably would just pretend to touch it, and that he was scared.

He said he’d touch that grave, and he’d stick his jack-knife into the grave-dirt to prove he’d done it.

So that night, they both went down to the cemetery. It was raining hard, and the night seemed especially dark because the moon was covered over by rainclouds. Robert had his hand on his knife in the pocket of his raincoat, and he looked back at her right before he squeezed through the iron bars of the cemetery gate. Alice stood at the gate, shivering in the rain, and watched him disappear into the darkness.

A minute passed. Then two minutes. Then, three minutes.

Then she heard a scream!

She didn’t wait for more. Alice sprinted back to the house, pounded up the stairs, and shouted for her parents to come and rescue her brother. They didn’t understand what she was saying at first, but finally they figured it out and ran out into the rain. They couldn’t fit through the bars of the gate, being grownups, but they hammered on the door of the caretaker who lived next to the graveyard, and he came out and opened the gates.

Alice waited outside the gates. It took them a long time.

Finally, she saw them coming back. The caretaker was helping her mother walk. Her father was carrying her brother. And Robert…wasn’t moving.

Her aunties were called, and her uncles, and they came to the house and took care of Alice while the doctor took care of her brother. One of the aunties finally explained to Alice what had happened:

Robert had walked up to the librarian’s grave. He pulled the knife from the pocket of his long rubber raincoat, and stuck it into the dirt of the grave, just as she had dared him to do. And then he turned to run away—but something was holding onto him. He pulled and pulled but couldn’t break free. Then he screamed. That was the scream that Alice had heard. He was sure that the scary librarian had come back from the dead because he still had that overdue library book.

He was so afraid that he fainted, right there on the grave dirt.

Then, when his parents found him, they discovered what was holding him so tightly: he had stuck his knife right through his own raincoat….and nearly died of fright.

Alice learned her lesson about making dares, Mrs Walton told me. She decided that she would never try to scare anybody with dares ever again.

Mrs Walton told me that Alice grew up and became a librarian. But she wasn’t the mean, scary kind of librarian. She was a nice librarian. And if she ever wanted to scare anybody, she would just tell them a scary story.

I thought that was a great story. I loved the idea of a librarian who scared people with scary stories, and when I grew up, that’s what I became: a scary-storytelling librarian.

As for Mrs Walton, she retired a few years ago, and moved to Florida. I went to her retirement party right before she left. I was really surprised to see what they’d written on the cake:

“We’ll miss you, our favorite librarian: Alice Walton.”

Comments

  1. On.The.Edge.Of.My.Seat!

    I thought for sure Robert wasn't scared b/c he was going to sneak the overdue book in with him.

    Alice is a perfect first name for a librarian. I suspect there are many perfect first names, and you have a perfect one also!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just wait 'til next Saturday, Jane...I've got another scary story, and this one is about a horse!

    ReplyDelete

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