Friday, August 10, 2007

York 2007: Make Them Scream

The Ghost Tour

1. The Concept

C: "So the idea is: We wait till its dark, turn all the lights off, take them round the school and scare them."
K: "And at the end, we throw water bombs on them."
C: "They hate that."
R: "But how do you scare a child?"
C: "Children are scared of the dark. That's the main thing. And we hide and make scary noises and someone tells them ghost stories."
R: "Who's going to do that?"
K: "I think Andrew would be good at that."
C: "It has to be Andrew. The shit he comes up with is priceless. I don't know where it comes from."
R: "So I still don't quite get it. We get the kids - in groups? Yes? - and take them around the school. Andrew makes up stories. We throw water at them. The end."
C: "Yep. But they really do get scared."
A: "Okay listen. If you seriously want me to do this, then we have to do it properly."
C: "What do you mean?"
A: "I mean that if I'm bringing them round the school I want to scare them to death. I mean that my goal, literally, will be to scare the students so much that at least one student actually dies from the terror. I want creative control or I'm not doing it."

2. Brainstorming

A: "Right. So after the White Lady and the Zombie Room, I want to calm it down a bit."
K: "Take them into the grotto."
A: "Grotto? You mean the games room?"
K: "I call it the grotto because it's underground."
A: "What can we use in there?"
R: "The lockers! Get one of the kids to open a locker. Then when they are about to open it, just scream at them!"
A: "Can I get a foghorn? Maybe? And then we need a big finish."
K: "What about another White Lady?"
A: "What would be great is if we could get a big piece of meat shaped like an arm. And we could chain someone to a radiator and give him a saw and when the kids arrive he starts to saw his arm off."
K: "The meat would go bad."
A: "Think of the smell though. That'd be perfect."
K: "No-one wants to carry a rancid piece of meat about all day."
A: "Fine. I've got a better idea anyway. Have you noticed how Sasha's hair is sort of Japanese?"

3. Practice

A: "And then when we get up here I'll tell them about the girl who was trapped in the school waiting for a phone call, and we can make the phone ring and scare them."
J: "That's strange..."
A: "What?"
J: "Someone left the light on in that classroom. I'd better go check it out."
(When Jason and Lucy go into the classroom, I hide in the darkness.)
L: "Maybe it was me actually. That's my room."
J: "Where's Andrew?"
L: "Oh, no."
J: "He was just here."
L: "I don't like it."
J: "Andrew?"
L: "Jesus, Andrew, this isn't funny."
J: "Andrew! Where the hell did he go? He was just here."
L: "Andrew I'm going to kill you! Come out, now. Jason... What...?"
J: "This is really creeping me out!"
L: "I'm going."
(I hear them run away. I follow them down the corridor and use my key to unlock the library, which is never used. I wait. A few minutes later I hear Jason come back - with Keely.)
J: "He just disappeared. Seriously."
K: "This is so creepy..."
J: "I keep expecting him to jump out at me. He must be up there somewhere."
K: "Maybe he went-"
(I have crept up close behind them and suddenly shout 'JASON!' They freak out.)

4. Screams

The first group comes into the lobby. I ignore them. They are the youngest students, already worked into a frenzy after being forced to watch Scream. Some of them giggle at my bizarre makeup. Carolyn has painted my face white, with black Joker lips and an entire can of hairspray keeping my hair in a manic explosion. They stop giggling when I stare at them. Their apprehension is palpable.
"Before we begin," I whisper, "I must ask if any of you have weak hearts." Their eyes widen. "Are any of you taking medication? No?" I pause. Most of the students are already holding on to one another. "There has been a school here forever. Many students have come through those doors there... some have died. The Romans brought Death. The Vikings brought Death. The Plague brought Death. The War brought Death. This is a school," I tell them, "of Death."

We walk along a black corridor. I don't mention the White Lady. The students notice her walking through the door. Then Sabrina throws loads of spoons down the stairs and the noise is tremendous. The kids recoil but I force them up the stairs, where Sabrina - made up like a zombie - chases them down the corridor. The kids have been startled into a state of hyper-awareness.

"Come in here. Come in. Don't worry. Nothing bad ever happened in here." I think about what I have said. "Nothing... except for the zombies." I have turned the torch off so there is no light at all in the room, but I can sense the students shiver. I give them a narrow beam of light and very slowly lead them around the room as I tell the story.

"In 1919, a local man named George Lazenby began using this room. He had lost both his sons in the Great War. He cursed God and vowed to learn the secret of eternal life. He began to perform strange experiments, taking arms and legs from dead people and giving them to sick people to make them live longer. The results were amazing... George Lazenby became an international celebrity.

"In France, they called him George Le Zombie...

"But George Lazenby went too far... He began using children in his experiments, and police came to arrest him.

"They never found him...

"But the people of York believe that if you say his name five times he will reappear..."
(Some students plead, 'Andrew, no, no, Andrew.')

"Le Zombie... Le Zombie... Le Zombie! Le Zombie!! Le ZomBIE!!!"
Jason, unrecognisable in zombie makeup, impossibly emerges from nowhere.
Pandemonium...

5. Tears and Betrayal

I take the kids into the 'grotto' and turn the light off. They have a bit of a panic while I take a breather. I take a short walk and find a girl on the stairs, crying. In my head, I punch the air. I have scared a child.

I sit next to the girl and give her a little hug, and promise that there is nothing else in the tour that is scary. She sniffles, and nods, and seems to think about standing up, but then she notices the foghorn in my back pocket, and she resumes crying.

"This way. Come on." The students follow me, looking everywhere, alert for the danger they know is there. They know something is going to happen because I promised them it wouldn't. There is a lot of whimpering. We arrive at the end of a corridor. We hear something strange. It is a tape of Keely singing 'Ring a ring o'roses.' It is really creepy. There's an invisible bubble around the door, it seems, as the students simply refuse to go through. I push some of them inside. The others follow.

I shine the light around the room. "Oh...," I say, "There's nothing here. Unless it is around this corner." I gather the students so they can see and wave the torch around. They are aware of a shape at the far end of the room. Slowly I move the beam closer to the shape, and we see a flash of white, and more white, and the students relax. It's only the White Lady again. That's not scary at all. But something is different. The figure has long straight hair which covers her face, and I shine the light on something - yes - a baby. The students gasp. I move the light up towards the face, but very slowly.

"Who are you? Are you all right?" I ask. Some students have edged forward to get a better look. At exactly the right moment, the light hits the face, and the eyes open, and the head jerks back as the mouth opens and screams, and the creature runs through the students, and the students have turned into jelly. Scrambled jelly.

We have scared the children. They will have bad dreams. Maybe they will have flashbacks. It is extremely satisfying.

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