The Ghost of the White Masque

by Amy Mullis

When I was a kid, other children were forbidden to run with scissors or guzzle
strychnine. I was forbidden to watch Dark Shadows or Alfred Hitchcock movies.

My parents instituted these rules out of self-preservation. A scary commercial or two and
I would hide all the knives in the house to prevent passing marauders or random serial
killers from dropping in to decapitate me. For weeks after, nobody could make a

But it took more than a set of unsupportive parents to hold me back. I had the entire
collection of Agatha Christie murder mysteries on a bookshelf in my room. And the
folks always went out on Saturday night. It was their date night.

*Cue scary Psycho music*

One Saturday evening, after sloshing through a particularly delicious parade of Christie-wrought bodies, complete with a psychopathic grandmotherly-type poisoner, I stayed up to catch an old Alfred Hitchcock film with my sister. This particular sister was a troll when it came to sharing a bedroom, but her willingness to let me stay up to watch a forbidden flick was endearing. I was 12 and able to take care of any threatening
circumstances that should arise.

On a totally unrelated note, I’d been watching Dark Shadows every afternoon, an activity
banned by my mother, who was a coward. But just now she was off munching movie
popcorn somewhere with Dad, and Alfred Hitchcock ruled our black-and-white airwaves.
At 11:00 the movie wound down and I glanced nonchalantly under the couch cushions
for drooling monsters. I headed to my safe, comfortable bed, but was delayed by a sudden

I had to go to the bathroom. I had to go with that special urgency that could resolve itself
upon sudden contact with the undead.

There were two doors into the bathroom, and only one of them had a lock. The other lead
to the kitchen. I slunk past axe murderers peering in the kitchen windows and
disappeared into the bathroom. My sister sighed and used the kitchen sink to wash her

I didn’t know she used Noxema.

If you’ve never witnessed the Cold Cream Face, just imagine a cross between the Joker
and Ghosbuster’s Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. After the meltdown. Then throw in a
touch of Frankenstein’s finest for good measure.

I peered out of the bathroom door to make sure the path toward the bedroom was safe,
and clear of homicidal maniacs. I couldn’t help but notice that a bizarre form had
possessed my sister’s body and was staring at me from a pasty white face. To an
impressionable young girl pursued by serial killers, a female with a face full of Noxema
is as close to zombie as she’s likely to get; especially if it’s a sister who’s stingy about
sharing her room.

I screamed.

The face screamed, the horrible white skin cracking around terrible dark eyes. Luckily I
was holding my belt, a fashionable white number typical of the 1970’s, with double rows
of metal eyelets.

A weapon! Slinging the belt like a whip, I attacked the alien form. It screamed louder.
So did I. If any old deranged alien zombie swamp monster thought it could pass me on
lung power, it was mistaken.

“It’s me!” screamed the deranged alien zombie swamp monster.

“AAAAIIIIIEEEEE!” I answered, wielding the belt with ferocity and a certain amount of

There’s a little dance that generally accompanies the shrieks of a terror-stricken belt
wielder. Although it is difficult to describe without a visual demonstration, aficionados
of the horror genre or random passers by with even a brief familiarity of the work of Mr.
Hitchcock can appreciate the steps.

The monster lunged at me, hideous hands outstretched. It spoke. “It’s me. It’s ME!”

The monster had taken over my sister’s body. And it was after mine.

I did the dance. I screamed louder. I beat the air with enough fervor to split atoms.
The monster began to laugh. It called my name. I’m pretty sure it wet its pants.

At some point, it occurred to me that if a zombie was going to eat my brains, it would get
the matter over with instead of convulsing in snorting heaves on the kitchen floor. I
screamed slower, paused in the belt buckle aerobics, and studied the situation.
Sis was leaning against the kitchen sink, holding her sides while she laughed and thought
up ways to use the whole episode against me.

“It’s Noxema!” she snorted, wiping the white cream with a tissue. “You should have
seen the look on your face. I’ve never seen anyone so scared.”

There’s a moment directly following total humiliation when you try to salvage any shreds
of dignity that may be wisping by like cobwebs. Chin up, I headed toward my room.

“Too bad you can’t tell anyone.”

“And why not?” Noxema zombies don’t take direction well.

“Because Mom will know you let me watch Alfred Hitchcock. You’ll be twenty years
past the Pond’s Seven Day Beauty Plan before you’re allowed to watch television again.”

She snorted one last time and turned her back.

And that’s how I got a room of my own.

Amy Mullis hides from Things That Go Bump In The Night at her blog, Mind over Mullis.

Join her there to munch chocolate chip cookies and swap stories. The scariest stories
involve teaching the kids to drive.


  1. Now I have that strong aroma of Noxema in my nose. My grandmother used it religiously. That smell will never not be associated with her. In fact, I think I would've been more scared of the smell coming from your sister's face... ;-)

  2. Makes my eyes water just to think of it!

  3. oh, the delicious delicious revenge.... :) That was hysterical, Amy. :)

  4. Sis still doesn't trust me with a belt. . .


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