I just had the oddest conversation with my wife Kit. We were listing off all the things that were popular when we when we were growing up, like pogo balls, the colour teal, and Designing Women. Then I brought up the Night Scream.
In my family you never knew who was going to come around which dark corner, pop out of which dark room. The long corridor upstairs that ran half the length of the house and led to the bathroom and the children’s bedrooms was perfect for scaring the bejesus out of people. It was a long, dimly lit hallway, with many darkened doorways. There I would be, walking down the hall to the bathroom, and suddenly my mother would jump out of the doorway to my brother’s room yelling, “Boo!” Consequently, I now have a bladder of steel.
The walk-in closets were also excellent hiding places, where one could hide away behind the rows of clothing, leaving the closet door open several inches. Your family member could easily go to bed without knowledge of your presence. And there you’d wait until the time was right. The light would turn off and from the closet you’d begin to make strange clicking sounds with your tongue until they peeked inside the closet. You’d then scream as you tore yourself from the racks of pressed shirts and stored winter coats, lunging toward your victim, arms outstretched like a zombie. But, of course, this is chid’s play. This is not the Night Scream.
In the late 80s/early 90s when the Night Scream craze took over North America, I was the first in my family to threaten to use it. After all, it was a perfect fit for a family who enjoyed scaring the shit out of each other. “You’d better watch out! You’ll wake up to the Night Scream!” I’d taunt. Immediately, it was a running joke with all of us. “Oh, would you like a Night Scream tonight?!” “Nooooooo!” was always the answer. Finally, I gave my sister the Night Scream. It was tremendous. Her need for therapy is not related to this incident.
Kit remained confused so I had to explain. I realize this explanation may vary from how your family conducted the Night Scream. I know there are regional differences:
Wait until your victim is sound asleep. Come out of your hiding place or very quietly enter their room. Ideally, they will be sleeping on their back, but it’s not necessary. It is safer for you if they are on their side. Take a deep breath and hold it. Very, very slowly and quietly get your face within an inch of their face. Eye to eye, nose to nose. Open your eyes as wide as possible and keep your face in position. Then scream with everything you have within you.
Kit still had no idea what I was talking about. I suppose though it might be the kind of thing you do when you grow up outside of the city on a bit of acreage, where stately homes are separately by pool houses, stables, and thick hedges. In that environment, with everyone screaming in general, it’s just part of the background noise.