If we could find one of the few survivors of this Halloween prank and get them to talk about it, they might say something like;
“It was my first Halloween night without a parent. Mom had finally agreed to letting me go out with Chris, my best friend in 3rd grade. We were only going a few blocks from home and it was just dark enough for Halloween trick or treating to start. We thought we were ready. The first 4 houses had been really nice and we were walking up Mountain View to the next neighborhood when I heard something strange from the street – only there wasn’t anything in the street. It was quiet and empty. “How could that be?”
Chris noticed I’d stopped and turned to see why. I stepped towards the empty street, looking both ways and all the way across. There was nothing there but I was positive that I’d heard something creepy. Impossible. . .
Chris asked me, “What are you doing?”
“Sssh – I heard something.”
“Where? Someone is probably are playing scary noises through speakers or something.”
“No – it was closer, but there’s nothing here now.”
“Are you trying to prank me ? I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Ssssh. It was right here; I swear it.” I noticed the curb drain that our baseballs used to roll into. Anything that fell in there was gone forever. Could that be it? I took one step over to look down the dark drain. It was so dark – I don’t know what I expected to see.
Suddenly light exploded from the drain and a monster bellowed at me from deep inside. A giant ugly face was coming up from below. It was real. It was huge and was just below that drain. I must have jumped backwards about 10 feet because I landed on the neighbors lawn and was screaming at the top of my lungs. Chris didn’t see it all, but saw enough and was screaming also. We had dropped our bags back by that drain. There was no one else nearby so we waited but thought we heard laughing from somewhere far away, but it didn’t matter. We were pretty sure we’d been pranked – really hard. Our hearts were pounding and I wet my pants I was so scared.
After things were quiet for a few minutes, Chris crept back and quietly grabbed our bags. We ran back to my house so I could change and decide if we wanted to go back out.
“I’m good with these 3 candy bars.” I said. “I’m done for tonight.”
“Me too. No more for me thanks.”
Despite knowing it was a prank, I was afraid of that drain until long after I graduated from Grant School. To this day, I can’t walk too close to a storm drain grate without moving as far away as I can to pass. We never found who did it.”
During my early high school years, the local civil government had not realized the entertainment possibilities and raw fun that could be had in the storm drain system and thus had not yet spoiled it by locking it down from young adventurers like us.
One Halloween evening, we were too mature to be running around in costumes begging for candy. On the other hand, we were not mature enough to know that some ideas are just plain cruel so we pulled the trigger on what we thought would be a great prank. We decided to use the latent fear everyone has of hidden things, evil – vile things living just below us in the storm drains.
You are certainly familiar with the setting because storm drains are located on almost every street around any town. The small gang I ran with knew the world beneath all these grates because we knew where to get into the drain pipes and, with our handy little flashlights, go exploring. We knew, by heart, the whole system from the back hills down to the Petaluma River where all the water eventually exited.
Early in the evening of Halloween night, a buddy and me grabbed our flashlights and scampered down into the drain system like a couple of raccoons. These pipes were four feet in diameter so we easily could bend and scramble to where we wanted to be. We had pre-selected a drain grate because we knew almost all the kids would be passing right over-head and this particular grate was constructed in a way that was compatible with our great idea.
We quickly found our way to the target and settled in to prepare for the fun. These pipes are round and any water actually present would be at the bottom of the pipe, and on this evening the trail of water was all of a few inches wide and perhaps an inch deep. There was no rain in the forecast – so forget any idea that either we or the kids above ground would be washed out of our Halloween plans. We took a few minutes to use the water and small amounts of mud to dirty and darken our faces. And then we waited while the sun dropped and…
… soon enough, the innocent little children began to come out to meet the threats of Halloween night… Queue distant scary music. Scary storm drain monsters were about to come alive and there were nightmares to create.
With our flashlights and dirty faces ready – this prank was a solid “GO”.
I went first.
From the 4 feet of pipe, I could stand up and wiggle my head and shoulders up into a small concrete box area and get my face about 1 foot from the grate above. I was just barely able to get my hand with the darkened flashlight up into the box as well so that it was pointed mostly at my face.
Then I waited and listened.
And soon enough — there came a child.
I began with a low growling noise; ” grrrrough – urahhh. Grrrrrough – urahhh.”
… which echoed around the small box, with a wonderful creepy reverb.
The approaching child turned out to be 3 children who were too busy talking to pay attention to a storm grate with stomach acid.
So I waited again. And soon enough, more children approached.
So I repeated the low growling noise; “Grrrrough… urahhh. Grrrrough… urahhh…”
… and a child stopped talking mid-sentence and then asked, “What was that…?”
My buddy whispered, “ This is going to be epic…!”
Suddenly a child with a Batman plastic masked face appeared above the grate – just a few feet above me – investigating the sound from the storm drain.
With my victim in sight, I turned on the flashlight (casting ugly shadows across my dirty face) and delivered the finish line as loud as I could; “RRROOAHHHH!” which echoed amazingly.
And SCORE! I nailed him – the costumed child screamed and went running – I think.
Recall that I was in a storm drain and could not see much other than what was right above the grate. But some kind of disturbance happened up there and the sidewalk soon went quiet again.
My buddy and I now knew we had the best Halloween prank going and began taking turns scaring kids half to death. It was getting very hard to maintain the silence needed for the gag because each child’s freak-out would leave us giggling even more than the previous child.
About my 5th or 6th turn, another small child’s costumed face appeared above the grate and I turned on my flashlight and made the huge growling sound. She screamed, dumped her candy bucket (we heard that much) and ran, but instead of silence above for our laughter, we heard a voice; oh no – a dreaded adult voice.
What? We stopped laughing and listened.
It was our worst nightmare – an angry mom – yelling at us. “You rotten little thugs – who are you!? I want your names! Now! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”
Seriously! Who goes trick-or-treating with their mom? Wow – was she angry. She was screaming louder than we had by a long shot. And she was using words that I’m won’t repeat here. She scared us a lot more than we had scared her child. We looked at each other and one of us whispered almost silently, “don’t say our names…”
“You little creeps – get up here NOW!” she screamed while looking down into the grate. “I’m calling the police on you – you horrid little jerks!”
Okay, even if we wanted to, we could not go straight up there without digging through the pipe and road asphalt.
So, we could not obey that instruction. Arguably she had little leverage to force us to do anything, so perhaps we should quietly withdraw. We decided it was very unlikely that she knew where our access to the drain was so we fast-hoofed it back to the pipe opening and made our escape. If she did call the police, they might know where our pipe opening was.
She was still yelling as we put some distance between us and the scene of the prank – her threats echoing as we disappeared down the pipe. We left the area without passing the grate where children were being frightened. As much as we wanted to see what was happening, we doubted we could do so without risking being discovered.
Later we heard that she had indeed called the police, but, being before the internet, details were never available and we were not really willing to ask around for them. There was however, plenty of local talk about some bullies hiding in the storm drain scaring the trick-or-treaters. I’d never been called a bully before. That was unsettling.
Our neighborhood did Halloween in a big way with several homes that set up amateur spooky displays and other scary stuff, but apparently, our idea went over the top. We didn’t even have creepy clowns, which are walking nightmares in my book.
When we were safely away and the rest of the trick-or-treaters were safe for the evening, we reviewed the “scares” we got in. We reran the best laughs, but just in case, we did not speak much about this adventure to anyone else. Just as this mom did not know who we were – we did not know who she was. It only made sense that she was a neighbor mom from somewhere nearby – stewing until she could discover who those little raccoon-like thugs were so she could track us down and continue yelling at us. Or worse yet, complain to our parents. Our only safe option was to remain silent until she was old enough to be locked up in a retirement home.
To this day, I can’t drive past that old storm drain grate without grinning about all the Halloween memories we must have made that night. Now that I think about it, if you grew up near Grant school, you might have been one of the kids we petrified that night.
Apologies for that.