I grew up in a little Illinois town by the name of Farmer City. Yeah, that’s a real place.
When my friends and I were 20-21 years old, we had one main hobby: drinking and driving around the rural roads outside of town. I’m not condoning this behavior in any way, I’m simply stating that’s all there was to do. Well, that’s all we liked to do might be more accurate. If you’ve never been in rural Illinois, the land is flat and depending on which direction you’re looking, there’s either a cornfield or bean field outside your car window. Finding dirt roads that navigate off the country roads to isolated and creepy locations was a kind of ingrained talent in Farmer City. Not only did those secluded spots help our underage subterfuge, but they often lead us to dilapidated farm houses that nature had claimed years before we needed a place to chug Purple Passion and potentially make out with the opposite sex. You can tell this has horror scenario written all over it already. Many nights we would sit on my Dad’s open truck tailgate under cloudless skies watching fog creep from behind outcroppings of trees and rickety houses. We were hardly trend setters; the scattered beer bottles and cans were evidence of our town’s long-honored tradition and rite of passage.
This particular scenario took place on October 1990. There’s a lot of reasons why I remember it so well, but I can’t tell all my secrets in this article. We were sitting around a friend’s apartment one night when we realized it was exactly two weeks from Halloween. Somehow we hatched a brilliant plot between Keystone Lights and Southern Comfort shots. I had a cousin in Washington, Illinois that taught at a Baptist seminary, and some of my friends had either met him or heard about him at least. He delivered a terrifying story to me about the dangers of playing with Ouija boards. Now, Wayne is a good-natured guy and he would never mislead me to drive a point home, so I take his word at face value. He once told me of a girl who had developed a strange attraction to a Ouija board, and no, this is not inspired by the classic horror movie, Witchboard. The girl’s mother had asked Wayne to come to their house and talk about her unhealthy fascination. I’ll never forget this part, he said, “Nathan, I had hardly shook her hand and sat down when the board flew across the dining room table and slammed into the wall…” I was all ears, I ate that stuff up – somewhere between terrified and curious. This story helped plant a seed…one that would blossom in a well fertilized pool of fake blood and convincing cult rituals.
You had to make your own entertainment when you lived in a town of 2000 people. We were a large group of interchangeable friends, so the planning came together quickly. We sat in Ty’s upstairs apartment, making plans between terrible beers and digressing tales of similar experiences. Chris Zimmerman, Ty Dozier, and myself decided to draw up something that looked a little like this.
I wrote up some bogus incantations that would allow us to “communicate” with the dead on Halloween – the night the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. We had a plan, all we needed was some willing participants. Over the next few days we shared our plans of conducting a séance at this old and creepy house, much like the one pictured in this article. Being Farmer City, we had no trouble rounding up a group of girls who wanted to go drinking and take part in this “ritual”. We shared some back story on the incantations origin, making sure to stress how dire things would be if we deviated from the spell. Word spread quickly and before we knew it, we had several people in on it and a group of cute local girls dying to take see this with their own eye. Every good prank needs some rubes. No one could resist this chance to sink deeper into my beloved Halloween evening.
Right before dark, we dropped off a couple of friends at the old house and gave them their terror instructions. One guy was stationed in the basement and had plenty of old paint cans to toss around and metal shelves to push over at just the right times. Up in the attic we had another friend ready to stomp around and help deliver three stories of pure terror. The sun vanished along with the groups’ apparent inhibitions. I’m pretty sure Purple Passion and Miller Lite had a say in that as well. As soon as night fell, we loaded up my dad’s truck and headed out to the abandoned house on the outskirts of town. It was going to be a pretty simple prank as long as everyone did their part and we had our timing down. The group was going to stand hand-in-hand around the circle while I stood in the middle reading the ancient “incantations”. As long as everyone hit their mark and employed perfect timing – we knew we were going to have some terrified girls on our hands.
We parked the truck behind a barn so our vehicle would be hidden from traffic. We spilled out of the truck and walked the weed-choked path to the front door that was already ajar and seemed to welcome our impending séance. The night was clear with a waxing gibbous moon, 92% visible; the conditions were perfect. There was some minor convincing involved in coaxing the girls up those creaky stairs and into that silent pitch black house. I can remember some rather tight hand holding as the boys lead the group inside the house that could have been the center point of any horror movie at that time. I fought back laughter walking up those stairs to the second floor. According to my chart, we had to find the corner room facing southwest in order for the spell to work. Between nervous conversation and palpable anxiety, I drew the symbol on the floor. What the ladies didn’t know was this.
1. We had two people stationed at the house – ready for their cues.
2. I had several blood capsules in my pocket that I had purchased at the local IGA grocery store.
Our friend, Chris Z. had a secret job once the group clasped hands and I started the ritual. His job was to make fun of the whole ceremony and undermine the perceived seriousness of the upcoming rites. Of course the girls would tell him to stop it and to focus so I didn’t incur any supernatural wrath since I had volunteered to stand inside the symbol and read the invocation. See where this is headed?
The symbol was drawn, I stepped inside the circle with my sheet of paper and a lone candle. The group closed in on me, each person holding hands and completing the circle required for such egregious of ceremonies. Being such a huge horror spaz at the time, no one questioned my intent or integrity – what a bunch of dumb shits. How long had these people known me?
The candles flickered from the wind circulating through the long broken windows in the corner bedroom – complete and total silence blanketed what felt like the entire town. A bright moon cast eerie shadows and stars twinkled on a tapestry of what looked like black velvet. With a wink and a nod, the ceremony began. I lit my candle and recited the words on my sheet of paper. “Servants of Darkness, we come to you tonight not in fear, but as your brothers and sisters! We implore you to break the veil separating the living and the dead and make your voices know tonight, the night of Samhain!”
All you could hear was labored breathing and the sound of knuckles popping under the girl’s death grip on one other. “We ask you to give us a sign!” I rattled off a bunch of words I created for the ceremony. Somewhere between Latin and H.P. Lovecraft, I continued to recite the words needed to penetrate the barrier. Chris snickers. “Okay, this is so effing lame.” His comments were met with several of the girls reading him the riot act. So far, so good. “I command you to reveal yourselves NOW!” Loose boards were slammed to the floor above us in the attic. Everyone screamed. Not just a terror scream, but one of fear and anticipation. A demented smile grew across my face.
“Spirits of the Air, I command you to make yourselves known to me!” Boom! Glass breaks in the basement as our plant chucks decades old paint cans out the window. Now we have achieved near terror-level screams. “Come to us! I beckon you to come to us!” This is the time that Chris decides this is “lame” and breaks free of the circle. He laughs it off, not scared at all. “This is big set up and I’m done.” The seconds it took for him to break the circle and the girls to start screaming to get back in was an intense moment or two. Too late. Blood pills already in my mouth – I fall to my knees. Somewhere in my house is an Iron Maiden Powerslave shirt still stained from those gross tablets. I begin to choke as the entire house begins to rumble and shake. One of the girls drops down to help me up. As I’m standing with her assistance, a stream of fake blood and saliva erupts from my mouth. I’ll never forget the scream of horror. I think I might be a little deaf in my left ear thanks to Sherri.
By now, windows are breaking, shelves are being pushed over in the basement. One of the plants is walking slowly but heavily up the already creaky stairs. Even Chris is “terrified” at this point. Between his apologies and concurrent trauma, I see my friend Sherri bolt across the room towards an open second story window. I moved as fast as possible and caught her by the back of her pants, my thumb had suddenly become very intimate with her butt crack. A second later and she might have been on the ground with a broken neck and I wouldn’t be recounting this tale as anything less than a tragedy. Our talented actors above and below don’t know what’s happening, so they continue to scare the life out of the group. At some point in the fray, the group decides that down the stairs and out the front door is the only option. Chris and I are about to die with laughter as we make it down the stairs as well – just in time to see my Dad’s truck peeling out and blazing down the gravel driveway. Our two friends step outside as soon as we do. I hear from the truck, “What about Nate and Chris??!” Sherri’s response was, and I’ll never forget this, “FUCK CHRIS AND NATE!!” And with that, we watched the truck screech out onto the black topped road and rocket back towards town. Still laughing, but pissed that we’re stuck in the country, we recount the entire story to our plants and they nearly die from laughter. A few minutes later, we see headlights at the end of the dusty lane. Someone in the truck told the girls it was a trick and they reluctantly came back for us. My ass was a little leaner after Sherri got through with me, a small price to pay for such an evil prank.
And that, my friends, is how you scare your friends.
Being the founder and editor-in-chief of Fister Roboto is nothing short of a blast, but if not for this huge group of friends from my days in Farmer City, Illinois, I might not be here right now. These life events in our developmental years lead us to the places we travel now, and it’s with the utmost pleasure to say I wouldn’t have wanted to share those early years with any other group of people. Most of us are still friends on Facebook and actual life. I went home in 2011 to see those folks, and it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in recent times.
I love you guys to this day and hope you count those times to be as golden as I do. I’ll never forget that crew.
In much love and sincerity –
Nate, aka, Fister Roboto