RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES explains how a classic British horror film and a Led Zeppelin LP dealt with a case of bullying.
The following story is completely true. Names of actual persons and locations have been omitted to avoid embarrassment to the parties involved.
Our tale takes place some years ago. A female friend of mine was getting some verbal stick from some little runt of a teenager living nearby, who had taken objection to her style of dress. She had a liking for what some might term a bohemian fashion; flowing skirts, headscarves, calf length boots. He had decided that it would be amusing to call her a witch. Not just the once, mind you, but at every conceivable opportunity.
On a regular basis he would comment as he passed her in the street. At first it was just a source of mild irritation. She figured that, if she just ignored it he would get bored soon enough.
Wrong. It actually got to the point where she wondered if he was deliberately looking out for her leaving the front door so that he could be there, ready to mouth off whenever she ventured outside. More often than not, a visit to the shops or the walk to a college lecture would be greeted by his unwelcome presence, shouting such witticisms as “Where’s your broomstick, love?”, or “Shouldn’t you be boiling frogs?” Oscar Wilde, he wasn’t.
Even this wasn’t enough to satisfy him. He had begun to up the ante, and decided that picking up litter from the ground and throwing it at her at every opportunity might be good for a giggle. Make no mistake, this was nothing more than bullying, plain and simple. My friend was becoming quite distraught, especially as some of his friends were starting to get in on the act. They had now progressed to throwing stones. Things were getting out of hand.
A love and knowledge of British horror flicks comes in useful at the most unexpected of times. In this case, it was a late night screening of Night Of The Demon (1958) which provided the seeds of revenge. The two of us chatted about how, if she were a witch, she’d like to summon up a demon to sort him out. This sparked a quick brainstorming session. We might not be able to summon up a demon, but… if this twerp thought my friend was a witch, we would give him some witchcraft to worry about.
The plan was quite simple, really. Inspired by the means of passing deadly runes to the unsuspecting victims in the film, we cut a strip of paper, singed the edges and discoloured it using a candle. Then we needed to write something slightly sinister on it. Nothing that might be construed as a written threat of any kind, but something to put the frighteners up him. But, how to be cryptic and yet give him a chill?
Then I had a light bulb moment. I reached for my copy of the fourth Led Zeppelin LP. The four symbols!!! Perfect. I scrawled them on using my non-writing hand to make them look suitably deranged. Having ascertained exactly where the bully lived, we then popped the home made “runes” into an envelope addressed to his home.
We hesitated. Was this too much? Was he too thick to even understand what it meant? After sleeping on it, we decided to proceed, and popped the stamped letter into a nearby postbox. Then, we waited.
We’re still waiting. Neither of us heard, or indeed saw another peep from him, or his friends for that matter. Now, I’m not suggesting that he was vanquished by a giant demon (although that would have been no more than the little squirt deserved, frankly). However, I do suspect that he had enough of a grasp of British horror traditions to think twice before hurling abuse at a potential sorceress.
Personally, I’d like to think the demon got him.
Dana Andrews, and indeed Led Zeppelin, we thank you.