When you were young, there was probably a place that scared the bejeezus out of you. Of course, that would be the same place that your parents would use to threaten good behavior. For many of you, it was probably the dentist, or your sister’s dancing school, or horror of horrors: summer school.
In my case, the place of pure fear was Skullduggery Island.
Skullduggery Island was a mini-golf course somewhere between Jacksonville, Florida and Miami Beach. We uncovered the monstrosity when my parents stopped at a gas station somewhere on the Florida Turnpike during a family vacation. I couldn’t tell you where it was, but I can tell you that I lived in fear of the entire Sunshine State. Forget the colorful golf balls and the water-features on the turf, Skullduggery was the stuff of nightmares.
The entrance to Skullduggery was a cave, covered in skulls and skeletons. It retrospect, I think it had a bit of a pirate theme, but as a tyke, I was so distracted by the plastic dead bodies, I didn’t notice any swashbuckling references. It looked like a CSI crime scene, covered with torsos with missing limbs and skanky looking corpses. As a six year old, I couldn’t unsee it. And my parents knew it.
They played right into my fear. “Want to play a round of golf?” my dad would ask jokingly every time we drove by the exit.
I would act like a typical, even-keeled kid. I quietly locked the door with my elbow, stuck my nose back into the safety of my Archie comic book, and tried not to pee my pants with fear. “Not really,” I would mutter, trying to conceal my complete horror.
“Well, then, you should probably behave for the rest of the drive,” Dad would smirk at my mother. It was one of those disgusting moments that parents relish. (Like preschool graduations and first school dances.)
This went on for more years than I’ll admit publicly. Skullduggery Island closed long before I ever conquered my fear. I don’t think it attracted many mini-golfers, perhaps because, well, I don’t know… maybe it was too frightening for poor little scaredy cat children, and too cheesy for anybody with half-a-brain. (Not that I’m still bitter about the place thirty years later.)
But I behaved in that car for years because of my fear of psycho pirate skeletons who might kidnap me between putt-putts on green turf. And to this day, I still lock my door on the Florida Turnpike. Not because I’m still scared of psycho pirates. But rather, because there’s something scarier living in the Florida Everglades these days, and they also start with a “P.”
They call them pythons. Lock your car doors, kiddos. And hold in the pee until you reach Georgia.