Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
He slowly walked around the cabin, shaking our bunk beds, while making the sound of a beating heart -- it truly sounded like it was coming from under the floorboards -- and some other-worldly sound effects.
I was at sleep-away camp, the summer before seventh grade. My counselor, Pete, an inventive and fabulous storyteller, was telling his modern day version of Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," first published in 1843.
The story is considered a classic in the Gothic fiction genre and is one of Poe's most famous short stories.
Growing up, I was a voracious reader; mostly Gothic fiction, fantasy and science fiction.
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I also loved going to the RKO Castle Hill, when they ran a horror or monster movie double bill, or turning off all the lights in the living room, and watching the TV show "Creature Features," which ran classic and cult horror movies.
My favorites were the British horror films by Hammer Film Productions like "The Curse of Frankenstein" and the "nuclear monster" and "space alien" science fiction movies, where mutant monsters and aliens from outer space terrorized Earth.
However, all the horror movies I'd seen and all the horror stories I read or were read to me could not prepare me for the all encompassing terror I felt when I found myself in a true life horror movie.
Over the opening credits, the camera slowly pans across a typical sprawling suburban community in Fairfield County, finally stopping on a typical Colonial with a well-manicured front lawn. It's a stormy night and the thunder and lightning are ripping and roaring.
Inside, a mom and dad are sharing thoughts and stories from another typically hectic day, dining on Indian take-out, which Mom got at Cafe Spice in Grand Central Station. As Dad is about to take a bite out of his lamb samosa, and Mom, the vegetarian, out of her potato samosa, there's a series of loud knocks at the front door.
Creepy horror music up -- the kind that tells you that something so frightening and so horrible is about to happen. Cover your eyes. Peek only if you absolutely must.
"Were we expecting someone?"
"No, but I'll see who it is. Probably a local politician trying to get our vote or one of those kids selling magazine subscriptions."
"Not on a night like this."
Dad opens the door and lets out a blood curdling scream.
The music gets louder and soon drowns out the thunder.
"Who is it, dear?"
The music reaches a crescendo.
We hear uncontrollable giggling.
"They're back," slashes across the screen.
Off screen voice: "Yes they're back. Just when you thought it was safe to answer the door again, the Halpin twins are back home and the peace and Zen-like serenity of Mom and Dad's empty nest is shattered. They're older, savvy and incredibly more melodramatic. They want to take over the house and nothing will stop them. A spine-tingling, psycho horror story for the age."
Two weeks later: The family has settled into a routine that seems to work most of the time, when Erin stomps into the family room, rolling her eyes like a pinwheel and announces, "There's nothing to eat in the house."
"Huh? The fridge is full and the cupboards are far from bare. Considering your college whenever, wherever fast food eating habits, the food in our fridge should look like gourmet treats."
"Yeah, but there's nothing for me to eat."
I reply: "Get in your car and drive to Stop & Shop, sweetie."
The next day as I'm pulling on my upper eyelid, Kelly says, "Dad, stop. You always do that. It's not good for you."
"Only when I have something in my eye, and what's the big deal if I do?"
"It's a really bad habit and you never know, you might pass it along to me like you've done with other stuff."
Far be it for me to argue the genetic point, but I had to say something.
"Hopefully I've passed along some good stuff. Anyway, if the pulling on the upper eyelid trait should manifest itself, we'll take you in for immediate gene therapy."
According to the Pew Research Center, more than 21 percent of adult children ages 25 to 34 are living in multi-generational households, the highest level since the 1950s -- a decade that gave birth to those "nuclear monster" and "space alien" movies.
It's been two years since Kelly and Erin boomeranged home; at times it feels like we're in the middle of a 1950s "space alien" movie. It has definitely been a challenge and adjustment for all of us.
We can't wait until our lovable "space aliens" colonize elsewhere, but at least we're no longer living in a horror movie; only a crazy and at times overly melodramatic reality television show.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the countywide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Check out his blog at http://blog.ctnews.com/halpin. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.