What can I say? I did something awful as a child. My poor mother, my poor, poor mother. Horror movies, gore special effects, and scary stories dominated my world after I discovered Edgar Allan Poe. I followed that path from his eloquent prose, expansive metaphors and grasp of the grotesque to more extreme and crass expressions of horror. The first glimpse of Fangoria magazine and I knew I wanted to make monsters and bloody horror scenes like described in those pages. I did with the help of my brothers.
As latch-key kids in the eighties, we came home to an empty house until my parents returned from work each day. We followed a routine, get inside, stay inside, let my mom know we were home and safe via phone call, do our homework and clean up. But Ben, my older brother, bought a bottle of Karo syrup and food coloring. A plan unfolded from there. We had a recipe we had lifted from the pages of the horror magazine, a recipe for fake blood. Itching to test it, we birthed a wicked scheme.
Let’s take mom’s Polaroid camera and snap photos of one another posed in apparent murder scenes with fake blood on us. We did just that one early fall day. We mixed up the blood. A cup of Karo, one drop of blue food coloring to six drops of red. It looked real. Time to execute.
First up, our little brother, Jon. We posed him in our playhouse in the backyard. He was seated on a chair in the doorway body slack with a metal rod apparently stuck into his chest with blood running down from the rod. We had managed through angle and a small penny nail propped the rod so it looked like it was jutting out of his eight-year body. We snapped the photo and waited for it to develop. It looks like our little brother had been stabbed through the heart with a metal tent pole.
Next up, Ben. We found a mattox in the barn and that was to be the weapon for his demise, at least for the photo. He lay on the ground and we stuck pick side of the mattox in the ground against his armpit in between his arm and torso. Then we added the blood. I looked through the viewfinder and adjusted my angle until the long-handled tool appeared to be jutting from my brother’s prone chest. Snap, whirr. Shaking the photo, trying to quicken its development, we waited. It looked real.
Last, Me. We took a hatchet and I folded my torso across it. I held the head with one hand against my stomach. Ben and Jon poured the rest of the blood on the hatchet and my side. Ben snapped the photo. It also looked real. We laughed and loved the photos. Three murdered brothers in photos we had created. They were convincing photos. But now what do we do with the photos?
We set them on the kitchen counter looking at them. Then an idea waltzed through my mind. A memory first really. Ben had borrowed a Halloween sound effects album from his best friend, Eric a few years back and my mother had been cleaning the upstairs as we listened to it. It got to this great track of a bear attacking campers or something like that. We had it cranked. When the crunching of bones and people screaming reached a fever pitch, my mom began yelling our names. We didn’t answer, we figured if we did we’d have to clean too. She ran downstairs, screaming for us to answer and out the front door. She had thought we were outside, getting attacked. So gullible, we laughed about her panic. My idea was to leave the photos on the kitchen counter and hide from mom when she got home. It would be hysterical, or so we all thought.
The “prank” was successful. My mother so convinced by our photos of our faux murder scenes screamed when she saw them. She thought a psychopath had come into our home, murdered her children and left her a photograph of each child. Her crying brought us from our hiding places. After her relief that it was all a fiction, we got a very stern talking too. We couldn’t get Fangoria magazine for a while and we had to promise no more pranks.
Creativity can mimic reality, it can blur the line. Often it does, its effects can be very real. It was the first time that I realize I could truly make an idea have real impact. My poor mother.