I would make a terrible private investigator for two reasons: one, I am very lazy, and two, I am extremely gullible.
I have a tendency to trust people that I’ve been led to believe are my friends. If I like you, I want to believe you, even if what you’re saying is only intended to make me look like an easily fooled suck.
Back in the second grade, I was friends with Melissa—a pretty, popular, deceptive little pixie with dimples and freckles and murder in her heart—who told me her cat had kittens and I could have one if I wanted. I knew my parents wouldn’t approve, so I created a kitten-cave in my closet where I could keep the thing: I padded the walls with pillows from my old crib, folded my baby-blanket into a bed, and stole some plastic bowls from the kitchen for the kitten’s food and water.
Melissa and I discussed the mechanics of cat-care, from bathing (“Just rub some water on its nose,” she said) to whether cats need exercise (“Nah”). After a month of preparation she invited me to her house for her birthday, and to pick up my new baby. Somehow, I believed that this seven-year-old had a box of mewling kittens at home, and her parents would be totally cool with giving me one in a plastic bag so that my parents wouldn’t know about it. This is how things work in real life.
“They’re in the basement,” she said. Made sense. Do you not keep your litter of kittens in a cardboard box in the pitch-black basement? I walked down the narrow, darkened staircase into an undeveloped bottom floor, standing on cold concrete and trying to feel my way around. I looked up to the light of the doorway to see her still standing there. Before I could stop her, she calmly said, “I was just kidding,” and locked the door with a laugh. I wept my way back up the stairs, tripping over my pink lace party dress, begging her to let me out.
But the worst part was that I really believed I was getting a cat. I was going to name her Mittens.
Halloween is a breeding ground for this kind of vicious trickery and tomfoolery. I love Halloween more than any other holiday and my major organs combined: I like feeling just a little afraid of something unreasonable, I like dressing up like someone I’m not, and I like how I could conceivably wear a mask and demand that strangers put tiny Kit-Kats in this pillowcase I am carrying around my neighbourhood. But, I hate being tricked because it happens so easily. Remember when you were little and some asshole kid (usually in a dumb hat) would tell you that “watermelon” sounded like “gullible” if you said it really slow? I fell for this every time.
I still fall for it.
I am carefully enunciating “watermelon” right as I type this.
But there’s no stupid Halloween legend that I have a worse history with than Bloody Mary.
So the story goes, if you call Bloody Mary’s name three times in front of a mirror, she will appear, after which there is usually some variation of her consuming your soul or telling you when you’ll die or getting her blood all over your mom’s new towels. As a kid, my friends and I would say her name twice, in the dark, huddled together around a mirror, testing our fates. We were always too afraid to say it a third time. It was hard to believe that a spirit would appear before us just because we’d called her name—more likely, one of the kids would scream to scare you into thinking it was real, or would commission their older sister to grab you from behind, possibly causing you to pee a little. But what if she were real? Wouldn’t we look stupid then! Or dead! We would be dead!
By the time I was 12, people were sending Bloody Mary chainmail, usually alerting the recipient that Bloody Mary would “kIlL yOu BeFoRe MiDnIgHt” if you didn’t forward the message to five of your friends. I did what the email said, every time, until one night, I decided I’d had enough of my own gullibility. I did not forward the email. I would prove this dumb legend wrong.
Midnight came. Nothing happened. I was invincible. I feared nothing. Victorious, I decided to test fate further by calling for Bloody Mary and flashing the lights on and off in front of my bathroom mirror—another version of the old legend, where she appears after the third call and accompanying flick of the switch.
Meanwhile, my mother was creeping up the stairs to check on me because I was making noise at 12:30 in the morning. While I flashed the lights and spoke Mary’s name loud and clear, my mom hid in the shadows, quietly making her way towards me.
“Bloody Mary!” Flick, flick. My mom was now at the top of the stairs.
“Bloody Mary!” Flick, flick. She inched closer to the bathroom door.
“Bloody Mary!” I flicked the lights off. When I turned them back on, all I saw was my mother’s figure behind me, smiling coolly at having caught me out of bed, her hair thick and frizzy from a recent perm gone bad, her mascara running down her face from falling asleep with her makeup on. Is that what Bloody Mary looks like? I thought. I had no idea she was brown. Before I could register the vision as a living family member who also technically owned the house, I elbowed her in the stomach and ran screaming to my room.
She took my Internet away for a week. “There is so much nonsense on this computer,” she said, unplugging the cord from the jack. “I don’t know why you believe everything so easily.”
Where I live now, the light switch for the bathroom is outside of the door, meaning anyone can turn it off if you’re, say, looking at yourself in the mirror and waiting for a spirit from the depths of Hell to suck your soul from your chest. And while I know it isn’t going to happen, and though I’m no dummy, some evenings I tape the switch up so that no demons can emerge from the darkness and plunge me into torturous hellfire while I have shampoo in my eyes.
I mean, unless they just pull the tape off. How good are demons with tape?