Turnabout is Fairplay
A New Jersey Ghost Story
Retold by S.E. Schlosser
Everyone laughed at jumpy Uncle Phil, who believed the world was largely populated with monsters and ghosts and spooks and witches and werewolves. But he was considered harmless, and no one much bothered about the poor fellow. Until one summer when a new family moved to town with two naughty sons. As soon as they learnedabout jumpy Uncle Phil, those boys became obsessed with tormenting him. They snuck out to his place one night and painted hex signs over his barn. When Uncle Phil woke up the next morning, he ran all the way to the church—sure the Devil was out to steal his soul away. The old man wouldn’t leave until the minister went out and blessed his house.
A week later, the boys gathered all of the black cats in town and put them into Uncle Phil’s house. When Uncle Phil opened the door, fur flew everywhere as the black cats hissed and bit. Uncle Phil ran back to the church, and minister had to bless the house all over again.
Then one night, they snuck in Uncle Phil’s house through the parlor window, dragging a scarecrow with them. They set up the scarecrow so that it loomed over the poor sleeping man. Then they sunk out and positioned a lantern on a tree branch so that the light illuminated the scarecrow’s face. The boys started moaning and groaning and calling Uncle Phil’s name from the yard outside his bedroom window.
Uncle Phil woke with a gasp and then screamed in sheer terror. Leaping off the bed, he dove out of his bedroom window and climbed into the tree. Below him the lantern fell to the ground, setting fire to the woodpile beside the house. The boys stopped laughing and ran to the barn for something to put out the fire. Together, they managed to put it out, but the side of the house was scorched. The boys snuck into the house and removed the scarecrow before hightailing it home. In the morning Uncle Phil came down from the top of the tree and went to fetch the preacher. Uncle Phil house was sure Devil had come and tried to take away his soul. The minister had to perform a third ritual cleansing of the farm before Uncle Phil would return to his property.
The boys figured they’d better lay low for awhile after the fire, so life went back to normal for Uncle Phil. Then, about a month after the “Devil’s visit,” Uncle Phil passed away in his sleep, and the boys were sure it was their fault. They felt terrible about it, but what could they do? Uncle Phil was gone.
Two weeks after Uncle Phil’s death, the boys woke to find their bedroom full of black cats. The boys were alarmed, and could not convince their parents that they did not know how the cats got there.
Then the boys came home from school one afternoon to find hex signs painted on their barn. The boys yelled in terror and ran inside their house, completely spooked.
Later that night , the boys woke to hear a voice moaning their names. They sat up in their beds and saw the illuminated figure of a scarecrow looming in the center of the room. The boys screamed in terror.
“I have come for your soul,” it moaned, waving its arms about. The boys screamed again. Then the scarecrow started laughing. One arm reached up and snatched off the scarecrow’s head, revealing the glowing, partially transparent face of Uncle Phil.
“Gotcha!” said the ghost of Uncle Phil with a huge grin. “After all, turnabout is fairplay.”
Laughing and crying, the boys had to agree. And they never played practical jokes on anyone again.