Monday, October 04, 2010


Halloween is coming around again. It was at this time of year almost 20 years ago that the electricity went out in my neighborhood, and my neighbor's kids didn't know what to do with themselves without television. It was the season for spooky stories, so to entertain them I told the scariest one I know. I got it from a book my grandmother had in her library and that I have now: Alfred Hitchcock's Stories for Late at Night. "The Fly" is in it. But the story that creeped me out more than "The Fly" was "The Whistling Room" by William Hope Hodgson.

It seems that long ago in a big lonely castle in Ireland, a jester sang a song about what a fool his king was, so the king cut out the jester's tongue. But that didn't stop the jester from whistling the song, and so the king executed him in a room in the castle--burned him in the chimney--and even as he died the jester whistled the song that angered the king.

Since then the room has sat waiting for a descendent of the king's to visit the castle, and when she came, the room became a giant bellows, whistling and hooning a ghastly ghostly version of the song, calling to the king's great-great granddaughter to come into the room...

Well, that was pretty scary when I was a kid, and it scared the neighbor's kids out of their wits, too, when I told it to them that night near Halloween when the lights went out. For a couple of weeks afterward, all I had to do was whistle at them to make them jump.

That book was a departure for Alfred Hitchcock. His movies aren't paranormal (The Birds could have been driven mad by radar or telephone wires or something entirely explainable) though they are definitely creepy. If you need to begin working on your creepy Halloween mood, the library has plenty of Hitchcock movies (below is an incomplete list):

And if you're looking for live Hitchock (and who isn't?), the Austin Playhouse will be performing The 39 Steps until October 30.

Blog post in homage to the man who designed Alfred Hitchcock's most memorable scenes, Robert Boyle, who died August 1, 2010, at 100 years.

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