A group of my students gathered in my college math class before it was time to start, and were discussing the upcoming Halloween night.
“I have an idea,” Susan said. “Let’s each decorate our apartments like some haunted house or something, and then we can go from apartment to apartment.”
“How should we decorate them?” Janet asked.
“Oh! Oh! Oh! I know!” David said, raising his hand.
The rest of the group laughed. “You don’t have to raise your hand, David,” Susan chuckled. “Class hasn’t started yet.”
“But I have the best idea,” David said, somewhat embarrassed. “I could get my dad’s chain saw, and dress up like the chain saw murderer.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “Every haunted house and spook alley you go to does that. Besides, the gas fumes would choke everyone in the apartment. We need something new! Something different!”
“How about we decorate the apartment with spider webs,” Janet proffered. “Someone could dress up like the giant spider from Harry Potter, and when the people want to leave they could say, ‘I’m sorry, but we can’t let fresh meat get away!’”
Everyone agreed that would be something different, but they weren’t sure it would be scary enough. “Well, I’m scared to death of spiders,” Janet added.
Richard, who wasn’t my best student by any means, kept watching me as I put some of the lesson material on the board. He seemed to be gritting his teeth at the thought of another math homework assignment. He may not have been the best at math, but his homework definitely showed a major amount of creativity. It was still wrong, but he had more ways to find a wrong answer than anyone I know. Suddenly, as he sat there watching me, a spark seemed to ignite in his ever-creative brain.
“Hey everyone, I got it!”
He motioned them close, as if in a secret huddle. “What we’ll do is decorate the apartment like a classroom with desks and everything. We will have cobwebs all around the room, and desks in the center. At some of these desks, we will have skeletons handcuffed, leaning dry and bony over a stack of papers with a pencil in each dead student’s hand.”
By this time, his tell-tale voice even had me quite enthralled, making it hard to concentrate on what I was writing on the board. But the other students in his group were even more taken in, and stared wide-eyed at him as he continued.
“We will have someone dress up as a demonic teacher, risen from the dead, with their face painted white and moss dripping from them, as if they had just crawled out of their grave. As each person enters the room, the teacher-from-the-dead will slap handcuffs on them and shackle them to a desk.”
Richard leaned in closer, and everyone else followed his lead as he spoke in a dark and frightening voice. “Then the teacher will slam a piece of paper down in front of the now-imprisoned student and say, ‘You will be locked here forever unless you can answer this mathematical story problem!’”
Richard then ended with a blood curdling laugh, which made all of the girls in the group scream, and even made shivers run up and down my spine.
“Well, that’s a good idea,” David said. “But it would all depend on how scary the teacher could be. Who could we get?”
“Yeah,” Susan joined in. “He would have to be frightening.”
“That’s right,” Janet agreed. “He would have to be someone that could make it seem real and make a person tremble at the thought of math.”
“I know just the person,” Richard said. He then turned to me. “Hey, Professor Howard. Are you busy on Halloween?”