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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Hallowe'en frights have nothing on that day in August, 2011

Published 29/10/2013 | 11:44

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Sunday: The clock had just ticked its way into the witching hour when I awoke to find a presence hovering over me. I opened my eyes and there stood the young lad, the moonlight dancing in his twinkling eyes. 'I just had a bad dream,' he said, 'they had come to suck my blood.' 'That's the end of that Scooby Doo,' I grunted, and threw back the duvet so that he could shelter from these blood-thirsty creations tormenting his mind.

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Earlier tonight, the good woman and I had chatted about Hallowe'en films that had left us hiding behind sofas, or peeking at the screen through slits in our fingers as another boiler suit-clad maniac hunted down his prey.

The good woman is the first to admit she gets nervous after watching such films, but it has been a long time since I encountered one that causes me to lose sleep. As a kid I remember the original Hallowe'en striking a nerve, and Salem's Lot. In truth, however, the last time I was 'terrified', there was no zombie, witch or werewolf in sight.

It all happened on Sunday morning, August 21, 2011, and I can still remember the fear that descended, like a dirty grey mist, on four grown men that were travelling eastwards in a Nissan Primera...

The night before had been my stag night. We had travelled to Kilkenny City to celebrate one of my last Saturday nights of singledom and it had been a fun, yet respectable enough affair.

Pints were polished off, horses were backed and moves were busted on various different dancefloors around the hotspots that the Marble City had to offer. As it should be, I was the first to call it a night.

The following morning I woke at 8am, starving, and went searching for bodies to make sure everyone within the party had made it safely back to headquarters. The host of the B&B put on a fry fit for an army and we scoffed it down while piecing the night's events together. Goodbyes were said and at 11am, we hit the road for home. Then came the moment when my stomach cartwheeled, my knees started jigging, and my mouth went dry.

When we arrived at a long stretch of motorway, I saw the long arm of the law in the distance, ordering me to a halt. As we drew closer, down went the arm, out came the tube, and I was instructed to blow. The three bodies in the car next to me fell silent. Not a word had been spoken since the garda had come into sight, and now it was up to me to pass the most important test of my life; compared to this, the Leaving Cert was a doddle. 'What kind of an idiot drives to his own stag party?' I thought.

My last receipt for a drink bought read midnight. And I had visited a chipper shortly after that. My gut instinct told me I was safe, though you never know till you know. How many innocent men have been sent to the gallows? I blew into the tube and the stony-faced garda stepped back to read the results. The song 'Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley' played over and over in my head.

A look of disbelief came over the garda's face as she turned to me and muttered the words that would stay with me forever. 'You passed,' she said, before her gaze shifted to the car behind me.

I rolled up my window and drove slowly towards the open road. Still a free man. Then one of the others spoke, 'I thought you were a goner, mate.' Cue an explosion of laughter. Before another voice came nervously from the back of the car. 'Sorry man,' he stuttered, 'I left my house keys back in the B&B...'

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