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An Urban Legend Stands the Test of Time

How I accidentally terrified my child.

When I was a little girl, my older brother's favorite hobby was to terrorize me.  One dark night, he cornered me in my parent's bedroom and told me about the Donkey Lady. 

There are several versions of this harrowing tale but the version he told was from the 1950's. A woman was in a fire that her husband started in their house. The woman lost two children and was left horribly disfigured.

My brother moved in closer and his eyes grew wide as he said that the woman ran screaming from the house, fell to the ground, where her arms and legs were so badly burned that they snapped off, leaving her with blackened stumps for limbs that looked like hooves. Her face was so scorched by the flames that it melted and her skin drooped and became baggy, making her look like a donkey.

As he spoke, my mother walked in behind him and saw me cowering in the corner with my brother moving in on me. She raised her finger to her lips to tell me to be quiet and slowly crept up behind him as he continued his reign of terror.

"Disfigured and totally insane, she stayed mostly in the rural areas, living under bridges and terrorizing anyone who approached. She lurked in the dark woods near her home and pounced on unsuspecting victims. There is a phone number you can call and she picks up the phone, you can hear her saying, "Hee haw" and then she knows where you live and she comes and gets in you in your sleep." 

Just as he said the word "sleep" my mom swooped in behind him, poked him in the back, and yelled "Hee Haw!" He jumped out of his skin and screamed like a scared little girl. It was sweet justice.

The day after I was told the terrifying tale, I did what any traumatized 7-year-old would do and promptly shared the story with the kids on the school bus, spreading the horror among my friends. More than one parent complained and scolded me for telling other children about the Donkey Lady. 

Fast forward to present time. I was recently on an evening stroll with my son and my mother one fateful night. My 7-year-old must have been caught up in the Halloween spirit because he asked me to tell him a scary story.

I told him a benign tale that I made up as we walked along the road. As the story grew more intense, my mom swooped behind my son, poked his back, and yelled "BOO!" After he recovered from jumping out of his skin, he was not amused that he had been spooked.

In an effort to comfort him, I shared the story of the time that my mom made my brother scream like a little girl, that scary night when he told me the tale of the Donkey Lady.

Of course, I shortened it and made it much less graphic, but the damage had been done. My son had the same horrified look that I must have worn when I first heard the legend. I tried to soften the blow, but I knew that his little mind would wonder to the tale, late at night in the dark, just as mine had throughout my childhood.

How could have I been so careless to resurrect that terrible story?

So, my son did what any traumatized 7-year-old would do and shared the story with his friends on the playground, sending a new crop of kids home to hide under their blankets at night.

30 years later, the Donkey Lady strikes again.

Do you know any urban legends from when you were a child? Do you tell the stories to your children? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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