My Dad was a practical joker. There was nothing more he enjoyed than playing a prank on someone. My brothers and I grew up keeping an eye out for his more familiar attempts at a prank. These would often include large knots of fishing line supplemented with eyes and appendages to look like a giant spider. As you entered a room, the ‘spider’ would rise or fall from the ceiling attached to the door handle with yet more fishing line. He scared a few people with that one! Another favorite was to fill your bed with metal toy cars under the mattress cover!
My Dad was also quite the inventor. He would disappear into his shed where he had grinders, saws, lathes, and goodness knows what, and a few hours later, emerge with something fantastical and amazing.
One year, he worked several nights late into the night, and the three of us could hear the saws, the hammering and smell the paint. What emerged from the shed was a Dalek from Dr. Who. It was made from a kid’s tricycle so you got in it and could peddle and steer sitting on a seat. It had usable weapons and the masterstroke was the arrangement of mirrors in a periscope set up so that you could see where you were going. We were the envy of the entire neighborhood let me tell you.
Years later, when our kids were growing up, he did the same sort of things. He made my son Paul, a ghost detector that fully functioned just like the one in Ghostbusters. It used a light meter as its base along with switches and flashing bulbs! He made a small working car for my brother’s son complete with headlights, horn and so on. He was a genius my Dad.
Anyway, back to the story! Of course, it involved my Dad. This particular Halloween, he insisted on reading us a story at bedtime. Now my Dad was a lot of things, and a very good father, but he never read to us. It wasn’t his thing. So it was with some surprise that we sat in bed as Dad read to us the story of the wicked witch who would steal children away in the dead of night taking them through the windows on her broomstick. We should have known shouldn’t we, that it was simply a set up for his prank.
Having read the story, he wished us goodnight and left. We sat for a while, a little scared by the story, but eventually put out the light and attempted to sleep. A few minutes later, we heard a tapping on the window. Our blood froze in fear. Again, there was tapping at the window. One of us put on the light and then we discussed who would open the curtain to check what it was. I do not recall who finally did, but the tapping continued and so, eventually, one of us pulled back the curtain. There, outside of our window was a horrid old hag staring back at us. We both screamed of course, and then there it was, my Dad’s laughter. A second look at the old hag established that, in fact, it was simply a hat sat on top of a turnip attached to the clothes prop ( a long wooden stick used to prop up a line full of wet washing).
We did see the funny side and to be honest, we were not as scared as it might sound, because we had sort of twigged it when he unusually read that story. But that was my Dad. A real prankster.