A scary story left Deb Tawna scarred for life

My family camped a lot when I was a kid.

Everyone knows it’s not really camping unless someone tells scary stories around the campfire, and storytelling duties always fell to my dad.

His version of scary stories always came with a humorous twist. A terrifying tale about a zombielike voice snarling, “I need eyes” turned out to be a camper with a burnt hand demanding “ice.” When we camped near Oregon’s Green Peter Dam, Dad’s story featured a punchline about a Martian and his “Damn Green Peter.”

(If you’ve been wondering where I got my juvenile sense of humor and fondness for risqué jokes…um, yeah. Hi, Dad).

My brother and I grew accustomed to the groan-worthy comedic twist at the end of each story. On a trip to the Oregon Coast, Dad began weaving an elaborate tale about a family being chased by something they feared was a giant, man-eating crab. I snuggled into my sleeping bag, preparing myself for the inevitable giggle at the end.

The tale culminated with the terrified family barring themselves at the top of the Astor Column while something flung itself against the door.

We waited for the punchline. A venereal disease joke about crabs, perhaps? Some pun involving butter and lemon?

“In the morning, the family eased open the door,” my father whispered. “And there on the stairs was a giant crab claw.”

My brother and I sat in stunned silence. We waited, thinking maybe Dad was taking his time with the joke.

But no, that was it.

I am not ashamed to admit, it scared the holy living pee out of me.

Later, my brother and I huddled in the tent and discussed this unexpected turn of events.

“I’m not scared,” he scoffed. “Giant man eating crabs don’t exist.”

“Duh,” I agreed. “Of course not.”

My brother was quiet for a moment. “I don’t think I want to go up the Astor Column tomorrow.”

“Do you think it’s OK to wear my hiking boots in the ocean?”

Don’t worry – after years of shock treatments and hypnotherapy, I’m over my fear of giant, man-eating crabs. My brother though – well, it’s a shame about the padded room.

Do you have a storyteller in your family? Can you remember any memorable tales from your childhood? Please share.

My local seafood restaurant is running a crab leg special. I’ve scheduled an appointment with my shrink.

19 Replies to “A scary story left Deb Tawna scarred for life”

  1. You know the story of the puzzle and the face? I don’t remember if I heard it or read it as a kid, but the quickie version is a puzzle-loving girl gets a mysterious “one of a kind” puzzle that she puts together in the dead of night. The weird thing is… the puzzle is exactly her room, including the little girl on the carpet putting together a puzzle. Only difference? In the puzzle, there’s a gruesome, hideous, bloodthirsty face in the window. The girl is petrified, but she finally looks up… “and there, in the window… was the face.”

    Scared the living crap out of me, and to this day I can visualize it and I shiver with fear.

    So what does Genius Mommy Elise do when her darling 6-y-o daughter asks for a scary story? She busts out The Face. 6-y-o scoffs at first: “That’s SO not scary.” Cut to an hour later, and a small voice saying, “Mommy… that story really freaked me out.”

    Is it possible to start a 529 for children’s therapy bills?

  2. My cousin Eddie told us ghost stories on a California trip we took when I was five. I had a huge crush on Eddie. He was tall, blond, handsome, played hockey for Harvard. I’ll never forgive him for ruining me for NECTAR for life though. I don’t remember the whole story he told, but somehow the word nectar stuck in my head as an evil, bloody drink never to pass one’s lips. Thank GOD beer is never ever referred to as nectar.

    And I might as well be the first to say it – your Dad was hot! 🙂


    1. I love Kim Stagliano, because the VERY FIRST thing I thought when I saw this post was, “Holy crap, Tawna’s dad was HOT!” I didn’t say it, Kim did, and this is one of the many reasons I adore her.

      But I will second it, especially since it makes me feel like Ted in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

      “Dude, your mom’s hot.”

      “Shut up, Ted.”

      “Remember when I asked her to the prom?”

      “Shut UP, Ted!”

  3. Tawna is 10 years younger than I am – so her Dad might be only say 13 years old than I am which made it OK to comment on his fetchiness. Sort of. At least I didn’t comment on her little brother!

    1. Elise & Kim, you guys crack me up!

      I must have been 10 in that picture, which means my dad would’ve been 33. Wow. That makes me feel really old, since I’m 3 years older than that now.

      The really funny thing is that all my friends now love to check out my brother (who turned out to be quite handsome and really doesn’t live in a padded room). Right now, he’s exactly the same age as my dad was in that photo!


  4. Did your dad ever tell the ‘bloody fingers’ joke/story? It seems in line with most of his stories. There’s a disembodied voice saying to someone “bloody fingers 10 blocks away.” The bloody fingers get closer and closer until it is “bloody fingers right at your door.” The person in the story hears a knock, decides to open the door, and there’s the paperboy with a bunch of papercut asking for bandaids.

    1. Jen, I can’t believe I’ve never heard the bloody fingers story, but you’re right — it sounds right up my dad’s alley! I think he always preferred to make up his own though. Go figure 🙂


  5. I had a dear friend in HS whose Dad was incredibly handsome and buff – now I realize that – but in HS and college on the beach seeing his six pack NEVER said anything other to me than “Meg’s Dad.”

  6. Who likes short-shorts? Mr. Tawna Fenske’s dad! Wow! 😉

    My mom tells a good scary story. Of course, she always makes it worse by saying ‘It’s true. Your great-aunt Jenny was possessed. Yeah, we had to call in her son who was a minister to perform an exorcism.’ And that was one of the milder stories we heard growing up. And people wonder why we’re all twisted.

  7. I was told a story about a girl who kept hearing noises in the night after she went to bed, but then was reassured by her dog licking her fingers. She woke up in the morning finding her dog dead, and a note that said people can lick too. I couldn’t sleep with my hands off the bed forever!

  8. My father liked to tell stories about The Mummy. Not only would he scare my sister and me with the spooky story, but he liked to get up and walk over to us, dragging one leg behind the other and looking like he really was all bandaged up!

    Then there were tales about the poltergeist that lived in his childhood home, and would fling the silverware to the floor from the drawer.

    Yes, I use throw away plastic cutlery. Why do you ask?

  9. Our dad always told us of “Julius Caesar” who did a big breezer across the coast of France, and the King of Spain who tried to do the same but did it in his pants.

    Found that one hilarious well into my teens.

  10. My grandmother told great family stories. She made them all up, but they were awesome.

    I don’t think scary stories are allowed on my camping trips – I’m always freaking out about raccoons scratching on the tent – I don’t need giant crab claws adding to the fright quotient!

  11. My sister went to pick up her daughter (then maybe age 5) from soccer once and she said “Mommy, that’s so and so’s daddy! But he doesn’t *look* like a daddy.”

    Oh wait, was I supposed to add a scary story not a hot dad story??

  12. Love the vintage pics! You were/are such a cutie Tawna. Good looks run in the family, as the other Debs so hilariously pointed out! 🙂

    My own dad was/is quite story teller. I still can’t go on an escalator without thinking of a story he told about a little girl being sucked into one and coming out “flat as a pancake”!!!

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