I remember it so clearly, the memories I had repressed for so long, how come my parents never spoke about this with me? How did I forget something so, horrifying? To tell you the truth, it’s not something I want to be etched in my mind, and I’m not quite sure why it is but there’s nothing I can do about that now, not when I can see it so clearly, the sights, the sounds, the smells, ugh the putrid smells!
The year was 1985, I was only 11 at the time, I lived with my parents in Lebanon, I remember one night I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house, Anthony was his name, how did I forget about Anthony? He lived alone with his father, his mother had died during childbirth and I’ve got to say, his father was strict, but I guess he only wanted a polite son who was brought up properly. It was around 8:00 PM when Anthony and I were just finishing up eating, we were around the dinner room table when Anthony asked his father if we could go watch TV,
“Bad kids don’t eat all their greens” his father replied,
“But dad..” Anthony started saying when his father interrupted
“Bad kids, don’t, eat, all their greens” with which Anthony finished all his vegetables and stood up,
“Ahem” his father cleared his throat, “Bad kids don’t have manners,” he said sternly,
“May we be excused, father?”, his father nodded.
We both left the table just in time to catch the end of some TV show Anthony was obsessed with, I don’t recall the name of it, all I can remember is that it had something to do with puppets, which doesn’t narrow it down much I know. After the show had finished Anthony said we should get ready for bed, he only had one bed so we would have to top and tail, we got ready for bed, quickly ran upstairs and settled down ready to go to sleep, and then things got, weird… Anthony had a clock next to his bed and he seemed to be counting down the minutes, watching this clock intently.
“What are you doing?” I asked, no reply, “Anthony!” he turned his head slightly, seemingly keeping one eye on the clock,
“Five… Four… Three… Two… One… 9 PM, time for sleep” he muttered, before turning over and closing his eyes.
I lay there in silence for a minute or so, confused by what Anthony was just doing, then I sat up, looking at him through the darkness.
“Anthony…” I whispered, “Why were you staring at the clock like that?”… no reply, “Why won’t you talk to me? I’m going to ask your father to take me home!”
“NO!” he shouted under his breath, “Just go to sleep, we’re already late!”
I was understandably confused by this and he piqued my curiosity
“Late? What do you mean, we’re late? Late for what?” I asked
Anthony sat up, looked me dead in the eye and said
“Bad kids stay up late,”
He then laid back down and went to sleep.
I didn’t know what to make of this, I wasn’t a bad kid, I never hurt anyone, I sure as hell never disrespected my elders, I was a good kid. I must have laid in the darkness for way over an hour thinking about what Anthony had just said, the way he acted as if out of pure fear, “What was his problem?” I thought to myself, unbeknown to me, I was soon to find out. A strange smell began to fill the air, which, to my 11-year-old nose was quite peculiar, but now, years on and thinking back, I could only describe as having an acetone-like smell, I began to feel as though time was slowing down and I heard a little voice on the other side of the door whisper
“Bad kids stay up late,” And then everything went dark.
I awoke to the sound of crying children, I was laying on a hard, wooden surface, on what seemed like a bed which somebody had made from an old table, I looked around wondering where I was, trapped in a small, blood-stained room, surrounded by small bones scattered around the floor, there was small cage hanging from the ceiling with an old microphone inside it, and a clock on the wall next to some writing, scratched into the wall it said “Bad kids stay up late”. It was 3:45, and I could do nothing but sit on the floor wondering what was going on. I was terrified for my life, all alone, trapped in that room for hours before I heard shuffling around outside. The clock read 7 O’clock, I looked through the keyhole and what I saw made no sense, there was a man, wearing.. a bear costume? Was this some kind of sick joke?
“Anthony!” I screamed, “Do you have something to do with this?!” … Typical, no reply.
I could see the man in the bear costume moving around, pushing a cart carrying plates and glasses, he disappeared out of sight for a split second and then, as if appearing out of nowhere he put his eye up to the keyhole and I fell back, terrified, a smell similar to the one at Anthony’s house began to fill the room, and then, it went dark.
I awoke some time later to a plate of stale bread and a glass of water by the door inside the room, I just sat and stared at it for a few minutes before there was a bang at the door and a man’s voice said,
“Bad kids don’t eat their food,”
I wasn’t going to touch anything that psychopath gave me, what if it he had poisoned it?
“I… I’m not a bad kid… But I’m not eating that,” I said.
The door began to unlock, the sound of bolt after bolt clicking as the man in the bear costume unlocked them one by one, the door swung open and he flew at me, picking me up by my throat and slamming me into the wall,
“Bad kids don’t eat their food!” he screamed in a muffled voice through the bear costume.
He then threw me onto the bed, picked up a slice of bread and began ripping off small pieces, stuffing them into my mouth, forcing me to eat. After both slices of bread were gone he handed me the glass of water,
“Bad kids don’t drink their water,”
I didn’t want him to pour the water down my throat, I was already in too much pain and didn’t want to choke on the water too, so I took it from him and drank it all in one big gulp before handing him back the glass,
“Bad kids don’t use their manners,..” he said, staring down at me,
“Thank you,” I replied as if begging for my life.
He then left, locking the door behind him, and once again, I was alone, staring at the bones on the floor, “I need to get out of here”, I thought to myself, looking for a way out, but there wasn’t one, I was stuck behind 4 walls and a door, how was I supposed to get out of here? Shortly, I heard that voice again booming from beyond the door,
“Bad kids stay up late”
I looked at the writing on the wall, and then at the clock, it was… 9 O’clock… I didn’t want to find out what happened to the bad kids who don’t sleep, so I laid on the bed and closed my eyes.
This went on for days, weeks even, I was alone all day surrounded by the sound of children crying and screaming for their parents all day long, I didn’t have a toilet so I would have to, do my business, in a corner, which eventually built up a putrid sewage-like smell mixing with the smell of blood and death that was already lingering in the air. 7 O’clock would come back around and I would hear shuffling around outside the door, followed by the familiar smell, and then, darkness, I would awaken to a plate of bread and a glass of water, which, unless I wanted to be force-fed piece by piece again, I would quietly sit down and eat before the smell poured back in and I’d be smothered in darkness once again.
Waking up shortly after, I’d find myself pacing the room staring at that clock.. 7:30, 8 O’clock, 8:… Almost 9 O’clock,
“Five… Four… Three… Two… One… Bad kids stay up late” I thought to myself climbing onto my cold, hard bed.
This was the first time in who knows how long, that the man’s voice didn’t call out reminding us we had to go to sleep, all of a sudden I heard a blood-curdling scream coming from the other side of the building, “Bad kids stay up late, bad kids stay up late” I thought to myself, closing my eyes as tight as I could. The screaming continued for 4 solid minutes, and then another kid started to scream too. By now the smell of smoke was pouring into my room, I jumped up and looked through the keyhole, there were piles of burning wooden furniture stacked up against the back wall of the building, through the doors and into the room where I assume the other children were, I never wanted to get out of this room as much as I did right now, but maybe I was safer in here? I heard shuffling around outside and instantly ran for the bed, hiding under it, and there it was, my way out.
How had I not noticed this before, I mean, the bed was pretty low but I never ever thought to look, here it was the whole time, a vent! I didn’t know where it led and I didn’t care, all I knew is I had to get out, I began pulling and scratching at the vent but it was screwed on tight, I decided to crawl out from under the bed, grabbing the largest of all the small bones scattered about the room, I had to try to jam them behind the vent to break it off, after 4 or 5 attempts and 3 of the bones breaking into small fragments, the vent came loose and I wasted no time climbing in. I have no idea how long I was in there, my face pressed up against the cold, solid base of the vent, the sound of children’s scream crying out for help, I must have blacked out because the next thing I remember is the unsettling silence that filled the air, the smell of smoke and burning flesh still lingering. I looked out from the vent and my door was still closed, I somehow manage to avoid the flames just outside this room, I climbed out from the vent, walked up to the door, and peered through the keyhole, the whole place was still, the fire had long since gone out and there was no sign of life anywhere, this was my chance to escape, finally, freedom was within reach. I crawled back into the vent and started exploring, frantically searching for a way out, but it was badly damaged, around every corner was a dead-end or a bend upwards and there was no way I could climb that.
I must have been stuck in that God forsaken place for days, no food, no water, nothing, just the sound of silence and the rotten stench of excrement and smoke still lingering in the air, the loneliness was driving me insane, and then, there it was, that unmistakable sound of shuffling outside my door. I dived into the vent holding it closed behind me, on the other side of the vent was the sound of somebody forcefully breaking the locks, was it, him? Did he notice I wasn’t in the room? The door slowly opened and a person walked in, I could only see his legs through the gap in the vent but he wasn’t wearing a bear costume, I wasn’t taking any chances, I stayed right where I was, and after a minute or so, the person left, and the door was left open.. I waited a couple of minutes just to make sure they weren’t coming back, then I crawled out of the vent, left the room, and made a dash for the exit.
I ran through the metal rusty door and into the street, I was in the middle of nowhere, I decided there was only one thing for it, I had to pick a direction and commit to it, so I did. I was walking for what seemed like hours, when, in reality, I was probably only walking for 20 minutes. when I heard the sound of cars, lots of cars, I was near a road, I had to get help, I ran towards the sound of the cars waving my arms about in the air like a child possessed,
“HELP!” I scream, “HELP ME, PLEASE!”
A car pulled over to the side of the road and out stepped a young woman asking what was wrong, I briefly told her about what had happened to me, she was horrified and said she recalls seeing me on the news, she offered to take me to the local police station, I looked in the back seat of her car to see she had 2 children of her own,
“No, please! Just take me home!” I pleaded.
The woman opened the back door of her car, waited for me to sit down and then closed the door before sitting in the driver’s seat, after giving her my address she began to drive, I was silent the whole way home. Upon arriving I jumped out of the car, paused, turned to thank the woman then ran up my garden path, slamming my fist repeatedly against my front door. Both of my parents came running out and tears started to fill their eyes, I went inside with my father and my mother went to speak to the woman in the car, when my mother came inside I told both my parents about the whole ordeal and they rang the police. The police took a statement and description of the man in the bear costume and a manhunt for the murderous psychopath soon followed, we skipped town and moved to a quiet little place in Canada and the last I heard, the man in the bear costume had never been caught.
After escaping to Canada I must have blocked everything out of my mind until today, I went to high school, met a wonderful girl named Julia, we both graduated, got married and had our own little baby, Connor.
Fast forward to today, August 14th, 1999, for days, Conner, now only 6 years old, has told me countless times about this TV show he’s been watching, he said that if you write to the address shown on the TV he could go and play games with the host, I told him for days up to this point that it was out of the question, but eventually gave in and said to him,
“OK, the next time the show is on call me and I’ll come and have a look,”
I wanted to at least see this show, if I was going to send my only son along, I at least wanted to know what I was signing him up for, sure enough, today he called me and everything came flooding back,
“Dad, dad, this is the show, can I go?” Connor shouted in excitement,
What I had been faced with shook me to my very core, on the screen was a guy in a bear costume, sitting in a chair talking to the audience,
“Hello kids! Do you want to visit my cellar? If you do, please write me a letter at this address!”