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Salt Lake City Weekly Once Upon a Midnight Dreary...

By John Paul Brophy

OCTOBER 6, 1997:  The garage band playing down the street late one summer Saturday night was making sure I wasn't going to get to sleep until after midnight. Hey, never let it be said that I'm too old to rock and roll — it was a nice night, I had some reading to catch up on, and I wasn't really tired, anyway.

Suddenly there came a tapping ...

Canyon winds prevail most every evening in my neighborhood, so I at first chalked up the intermittent noise to probably just a branch being blown against the idle swamp cooler.

This it is and nothing more.

As it persisted, I became a little unnerved in noticing that the tapping wasn't really in rhythm with the breeze, and that the sound was metal on glass. I turned off the light in my study, and tried to see what — or who — might be outside my window.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing/ Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

It's times like these when I remember why I really don't like those damned horror/slasher movies: Strange, unexplained noises in the middle of the night vividly recall Jason and Freddy. Since I couldn't see much of anything out there, nor did calling out get any response, I uneasily returned to my reading.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning/ Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

Now I was starting to be afraid. Grabbing the flashlight, I sneaked out the front door into the dark, trying to surprise the someone whom I now was convinced had to be there.

'Surely,' said I, 'surely that is something at my window lattice/ Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore/ Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore/ 'Tis the wind and nothing more!

I waved the light all around the bushes beneath the window, but no one was there. One pass of the beam, however, revealed what appeared to be a very long strand of spider web streaming from the window. I looked more closely and found that it actually was a length of mono-filament fishing line. One hard yank and the car that I hadn't noticed before suddenly roared off amidst peals of laughter.

Tracing the end of the line back to my window, I discovered a Band-Aid: The top half was attached to the glass, while sandwiched to the bottom part were the penny and the line. From across the street, these pranksters (renegades from the Dead Poets Society?) would tug on the line and make the penny tap the window, no doubt trying hard to stifle giggles as they watched me slowly come unglued.

When I got over my fright and anger, I really had to laugh at the clever trick. Sure, it was breaking the laws on trespassing and Peeping-Toms, but it was a hell of a lot more benign than the flaming bag of dog droppings left on the porch after the doorbell has been rung, and certainly a lot easier to clean up than others, like the "TP-ed" tree and the "egged" brick wall.

It also crossed my mind that the short time that I had to eerily re-live Poe's masterpiece, The Raven, was infinitely less terrifying than being the target of a drive-by shooting.

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