Friday, October 29, 2010

LAFFING SAL (#fridayflash)

Please click play for some mood music

To this day, I hate boardwalks.

It was Halloween weekend and the last place I wanted to be was at the shore. It was the year my folks took their sweet time closing up the beach house. Instead of hanging out with friends embarking on more tricks than treat, I was stuck wandering the cold and damp planks of a boardwalk that's seen better days.

And man, nothing creepier than a boardwalk off season. The first thing that struck me was the silence. And God, how everything was so still but the ocean raged more violent than I've ever seen it.

Looking at the amusement stands that were normally so filled with verve, I started to fill in the blanks with the echoes of the summer -- children screaming in the distance, that creepy accordion of the carousel, bells and whistles from the pier and those ding dongs of retro pinball machines.

And then someone whispered my name. It was a woman I think.

I snapped around but no one was there. Was it the wind? I put my Walkman headphones back on and cranked the Bruce that somehow seemed so apropos. Times were good to him on this wooden way but it seemed like such a long time ago.

The buildings were timeworn and weather-beaten and some cried to be condemned. The gyro stands, pizza joints, corn dog shacks and penny arcades (which was false advertising by the way) were lonely now and had to wait another long winter to wake up.

A wind whipped up from behind me and knocked over a trash can as I watched it roll in front of an arcade. Then I heard a maniacal laugh. Almost demented.

The laughing grew louder. She said, "Come in..."

I spun again and noticed this time that the arcade was open but no one was inside. Were the owners trying to drum up off season business? I wandered in and noticed all of the machines were off.

Then in the corner, she blazed on.

'Laffing Sal' taunted me with her uncontrollable and almost demonic cackle.

My blood ran cold when I saw her.

She was made of papier mache over steel coils and frame. She had a detachable head, arms, hands and legs and was held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts.

She had a wig of non-human hair with a large gap between her evil front teeth and had to be at least 6 feet, 10 inches high.

The laughing continued and truth be told, she broke me. As I ran out of the arcade, I dropped my Walkman - Bruce tape and all. I didn't turn around until I was down the ramp and on the street of my cozy shore home.

* * *
When I went inside it was warm and I smelled my mother's cooking. She smiled and asked me how my walk I was.

"Fine..." I said not letting on. "But I'm gonna need a new Walkman."

"Anyone on the boardwalk?" she asked.

"Eh, a couple people," I darted back before I went into my bedroom trying to make sense of what just happened.

I never exactly found out. But like I said, to this day, I hate boardwalks.

Photos: ksweatherford and shoregal via Flicker


  1. I've never been to a real boardwalk, but I sure wouldn't want to go to that one. The picture was enough to creep me out, but the story was classic.

  2. I'm with Pamila - no chance of going near that place!!!
    Typically atmospheric piece, Anthony - the music was an added masterstroke!

  3. Boo!!!

    Laughing Sal would have most likely done me in ..for good.. this is spooky..

  4. Left Bruce at the arcade? Noooooo!
    Honestly, I think I'd find Sal creepy on a bright sunny day in a room full of people. But the atmosphere you created here - *shiver*.

  5. I had to change my gotchies after I saw that video. Holy crap, she's a scary thing. No wonder she inspired such a great story! And Anthony, you get the BEST pictures to go with your stories. Awesome work all round.

  6. THAT is one creepy video & pic! I think it's the eyes as much as the laugh.

    As I expect, moody, atmospheric, spectacular reads in this basement. You never disappoint.

    The details! And congrats on a natural placement of "verve".

  7. Some handy crafter put the finishing touches on Laffing Sal and thought, 'Ah, perfect!'

    Closed carnivals and empty boardwalks are excellent settings for cool stories. Here's one!

  8. She would have broken me, too. Spooky freaky crazy atmosphere in this one, Anthony. I confess I couldn't even watch the whole 25 second video at the end.

  9. I've never been to a real boardwalk, off-season or not, but I'm guessing they are pretty creepy when empty. Good, creepy atmosphere in this one. Excellent story!

  10. Excellent use of descriptions, Anthony. I could hear the boardwalk sounds, the carnival smells, and that cackle! The pics went perfect with it too.

    Sometimes the best horror is not always what's there, but what isn't, and you set that up perfectly in the beginning.

  11. creepy especially the images. nice feel of dread here ant

  12. a perfect tale for this time of year. reminded me of going down to coney island in the dead of winter...obviously not halloween time but eerie all the same.

  13. You'd have to be scared out of your wits to leave a Bruce tape behind! And I can see why he did - Sal is spooky enough in season, much less off.

    Great work, per usual Ant.

  14. I live near an English seaside town and although there's no boardwalk I think you captured the off-season creepy feeling perfectly!
    Kari @ The Best Place By The Fire

  15. Shiver...I'd hate the place too. Awesome details, Ant!

  16. Very atmospheric, I've always found the manic laughter that comes from these fairground 'attractions' slightly disturbing too.

  17. wow! brrrrrr! *shiver*
    but this is good!!!

  18. Good stuff, brother. Very nice word choice. Am i picking too many nits if i say the ending felt a little rushed compared to the uneasy languor of the rest of the piece?

    BTW, nice calliope tuneage at the beginning to set the tone.

  19. She would put the fear of Sal into any boy's heart. Nice tale, Ant.

  20. Another fine write, Anthony. Yep, you've really put me off walking down those boardwalks! Thought-provoking scariness. Well done, my friend.


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