One Halloween, I scared myself half to death. It was the year I turned 18 and I was living in Sweden as an exchange student in a house that was about a 45 minutes drive from a town of 9000 people, situated 500 km north of Stockholm. By the end of October, it got pitch dark in the afternoon and stayed that way till late morning. The house itself was quite isolated. There were a few neighbours in walking distance (assuming these were very fit neighbours), but nobody who you could call a 'next door' neighbour. To put it into perspective, if you were to stand on the front porch and scream at the top of your lungs, no-one would hear you.
When the night of Halloween came round, it just so happened that the family I lived with all had to go to another town for some sort of family reunion. To keep me company, they suggested that I invite a friend to stay with me for a few days. I had a good friend at the time who was also an Aussie exchange student who was living in a city about three hours north. She came down on the bus on the morning of the 31st. We were just about bursting at the seams with excitement at the prospect of having the house all to ourselves.
By the time it got dark, we had already gossiped ourselves hoarse and decided we should do something in the spirit of Halloween. Being isolated and not having any access to a car, going out anywhere was out of the question, so we decided it would be fun to watch some scary movies. We raided my host family's video cabinet and found Silence of the Lambs and The Exorcist, both of which neither of us had ever seen.
What exactly had convinced us that this would be 'fun' is still a mystery to me. Neither of us had ever seen any films even half as scary as these and we spent the next four hours gripping each other's hands so tightly the circulation almost stopped and shrieking and jumping off the couch every time we got scared. Which was often.
When the films were over, it would only have been about nine o'clock at night, but we were too frightened to even move. The thought of getting up off the sofa and walking up the stairs to bed was almost too terrifying to contemplate. So we both agreed we would sleep on the sofa, holding hands to make sure neither of us got skinned alive or succumbed to demonic possession.
Of course we couldn't sleep. Every few minutes, one of us would say, "I'm scared" and the other would answer "me too".
Then the unthinkable happened.
There was a knock on the front door.
We both froze in terror. Who would be knocking on the front door?? We weren't expecting anyone, we had not heard a car pull up and it was late. We lay there squeezing the living daylights out of each other's hands.
Then there was another knock.
We didn't even discuss whether to answer or not. There was no way either of us could even move, we were so paralysed with fear.
We waited and waited. Would whoever or whatever it was knock again? Or would they break open a window? Or perhaps they would sneak down the chimney? But we heard nothing else all night. I suppose eventually we did sleep, and when we did wake up, we were stiff and sore and both as white as sheets.
We had just enough courage to tiptoe into the kitchen and make some breakfast. The kitchen window looked out to the front of the house and as we sat down to eat, my friend gasped.
"Bloody hell", she said (actually she probably said something far worse, but let's just keep it at bloody hell).
"What?" I asked.
"There are no footprints", she said, pointing out into the snow outside the window. "Somebody came up to the door last night and knocked", she continued. "There should be footprints".
Now I'd never been one to believe in ghosts, but at that moment I felt every hair on my arms and my neck stand on end.
"What should we do?" I asked her.
"I don't know", she said, "Can we call someone to come and pick us up. I'm too scared to stay here any more."
We sat at the table discussing how we were going to evacuate from our haunted house for about another hour or so and then suddenly, we saw a figure appear near the top of the road, turn into the driveway and walk towards the house. As it came closer, I could see that it was Malin, a girl from school who lived about a twenty minute walk down the road.
She knocked on the door and we let her in.
At breakneck speed, we recounted for her the horror of the night before and the terrible discovery just minutes ago that there were no footprints in the snow and that we had therefore been visited by a ghost on Halloween.
She looked from one of our petrified faces to the other then burst out laughing.
"Why are you laughing?" I asked her angrily, "It's not funny at all".
"That was me", she said when she came up for air.
"What do you mean it was you?" I snapped, "You're not a ghost".
"I was going to call you first but our phone was down, so I thought I'd just walk over and see what you were up to. I thought you'd both still be up".
"But what about the footprints?" I asked indignantly, "You're just saying this to make us feel better. If it really was you there would have been footprints in the snow".
She erupted in a fit of laughter again.
"It snowed last night, right?" she said between guffaws. "So you know what that means?"
"That you're a lunatic for going for a walk?" I asked.
"You Aussie girls are so funny", she said, "I'm sorry to ruin your ghost story ... but it means the footprints got covered up when it snowed".
So how 'bout you? Got any Halloween memories? Ever scared yourself out of your mind watching a scary movie? Please tell me it's not just me!