COLUMN: Dark halls, unwanted visitors provide Halloween frights

Farm Forum

When you’re watching a horror movie, and the young guy walks down a dark hallway, don’t you want to scream?

“Look out, stupid! There’s a crazed killer down there!”

Then you see a glint of the long blade, and clench your stomach as the scene comes to its predictably bloody conclusion. It’s a regular occurrence.

On film anyway.

In 1979, I thought that just might happen to me for real. It was a dark night. It wasn’t stormy, but as I recall 34 years later, it was indeed dark.

My girlfriend Ann and I had just arrived at the imposing old two-story house I shared with some roommates on Harvey Dunn Drive in Brookings. They were all out of town, so we went up the long, creaky staircase — seriously, it was — and went into my room and closed the door. Tight.

We had just seen the original “Halloween,” and that innovative scarefest was as terrifying as we had been told. Although we were healthy 20-year-olds, and it was the ’70s, we just wanted to get to sleep and see daylight as soon as possible. Nothing else.

But Ann soon grabbed my shoulder and said she heard someone — or something — at the front door. Nonsense, I said. Then the door, which of course was unlocked, opened and closed.


Well, perhaps one of the roommates had come home, or someone had stopped by for a beer. There were numerous rational reasons . . . until we heard the voices. Strange voices.

Double gulp.

Ann was now climbing the walls. She was terrified, and I was not far behind. Then, since she apparently recalled the movie and wanted to keep us on the script, she strongly suggested I find out who was there.

Me? Right now? Go look? Since I was the only big, brave man available, I did. Eventually.

I ventured into the blackened hallway. My bare feet inched down the hall, and I peered over the railing, not really wanting to see who — or what — was there. I wondered if the killer would charge toward me, and if I would have time to scream, panic and cry like a little girl. All three were likely.

So I gazed down and it was . . . two Iranian students. South Dakota State had several at the time. They had lived in the house the previous semester and had stopped to check for mail. They were idly chatting in their native language when they spotted me.

They apologized for the scare and departed.

I returned to my room to show Ann I was alive and well and to explain what the commotion was all about. I’d say we had a good laugh, but in fact we were both so freaked out I doubt we could have emitted a chuckle.

I haven’t seen Ann in more than 30 years. That house has long since been torn down. But when “Halloween” comes on TV, I think back on that night.

When that doomed kid walks down the dark hallway, I always hope he discovers two guys looking for mail.

Fourth-generation South Dakota native Tom Lawrence has been writing about the state since 1978. Write him at, and read his blog at His column publishes Tuesdays.