The complete invocation reads: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and other things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.”
This anonymous saying has its origin in a traditional Scottish prayer of deliverance first recorded in the early 20th century. There’s a framed copy on our wall that serves as a constant reminder of some uninvited visitors to our home in the past. The incantation now comes to mind as lawns fill up with tombstones, skeletons, cobwebs, ghosts, bats, jack-o-lanterns and witches near Halloween when one might encounter “things” out there in the dark of night.
Bats in particular are associated with Halloween. Likely because of their beady eyes and razor-sharp fangs, they are called sinister and spooky. That’s why I’m now reiterating how two visited us on separate occasions. As I said afterward and still proclaim, “I’d rather face a burglar!”
I know, bats are really good pest exterminators. They eat lots of bugs and pollinate hundreds of plants, some of which we use for food and medicine. But I don’t care. They’re ugly and frightening when they fly at you when you’re trying to catch one inside!
My wife, Marty, insists it says somewhere in our marriage contract that it is my responsibility to catch and get rid of all critters, whether they “go bump in the night” or thump in daylight, dead or alive! And she enforced that principle shortly after we were married and living in a small apartment.
We both heard it! Something was scratching at the bedroom window screen. She sat up first, visibly frightened. But when I touched her shoulder to reassure her, she screamed! That brought the bat into the bedroom and we both dove under the covers.
It “bumped” our hidden heads a couple of times before I heard a rustling in the closet where I had a plastic shoe bag. I jumped out of bed and closed the closet door. There, safe for the night!
I don’t remember going to work shoeless but we didn’t open that closet door. My wife refused to stay in the apartment wondering when the fearsome creature was going to fly out at her. So, she stayed at her folk’s house for the day.
When I got off work, I joined my wife and in-laws for dinner. Afterward, my father-in-law and I inspected the apartment to make sure it was safe. Ha! When we opened the screen door the newspaper fell out and we both sprinted back to the car.
As I recall, he kept “inspecting” cupboards and closets I had already looked in. Finally, he said, “I think it probably got out the same way it came in.”
My wife didn’t believe that and neither did I. Sure enough, when we turned off the bedroom lights, out it came and we reoccupied our former hideout under the covers.
When I had the courage to peek out, I saw the thing flying in the hallway. Again, I sprang out of bed and slammed the bedroom door. As an active member of the U.S. Army Reserves at the time, fortunately I was equipped to do battle. I put on my helmet, boots and fatigues, and grabbed my tennis racket.
When I spotted the thing on a kitchen wall near the ceiling above a decorated shelf, I yelled that I might have to destroy half the kitchen and break some dishes. My wife said, “I don’t care. Just get it!”
I gave it my best serve from a kitchen chair. The bat landed on the sink along with some plate pieces and I hit the floor still swinging. I scooped the “monster” into a garbage strainer and sailed it out the kitchen door into the backyard where I figured a cat would take care of it. But being dead, it was off limits to cats, so later I had to see and dispose of it one more time along with the strainer.
We had four children and moved four times before one of these creatures of the night visited us again. It was the 4th of July and we had plans to accompany the youngsters in an annual Kiddie Parade in Indian Village followed by a band concert in the adjacent park. Later we would grill hamburgers in our backyard.
Marty alarmed me as I was still sleeping saying that when she opened the freezer in the basement to get the hamburger, she saw a bat! I asked if she closed the freezer lid because what was in there would spoil since neither of us ever were going in the basement again. That’s when she reminded me of that hidden clause in the marriage contract regarding critter capture and disposal rules. Also, I remembered my trumpet was in the basement and I was scheduled to play in the park band that afternoon. Yikes! I saw the bat on a window as I closed the freezer and grabbed my instrument.
Our next-door neighbor was a realtor and had sold us our house. He was outside so I asked him if he wanted to trade houses, no questions asked. He said, “What’s the matter, got a bat in the basement?” I said, “Yes, how did you know?” He quipped, “Because we’ve had three of ‘em!”
He did come over and perform the execution but he didn’t dispose of it. I had to do that and walk through an array of neighborhood kids outside all anxiously waiting to see a bat!
Late columnist John Ankenbruck once wrote a piece in The News-Sentinel describing that the horror of facing his tenth bat was as terrifying as the first! I carried that clipping for years just to prove to anyone my fears were justified.
Regardless, I have no choice. It says so – someplace – in our marriage contract!