The Doll,
The Boogie Bass
and Me

It was, I must tell you, a rather Night Gallery moment.

Do you remember Night Gallery, Rod Serling’s follow-up to the Twilight Zone? It never reached the classic quality of the earlier program, it did manage to scare this then-preadolescent once a week for a couple of seasons.

The episode I remember most vividly involved a doll that came to life and of course, promptly terrorized everyone in sight.

I was probably about ten years old when I saw that episode, and it haunted me for – I am not kidding you – years.

Thanks to Dan McWilliams of the East Tennessee Catholic who wrote me with the details of my vague memory: The episode was, indeed, called, "The Doll," and as Dan described it "...the title character looks placid at first but has a habit of using some rather devilish facial expressions after it has done its deeds. The episode doesn't really show the doll in action so much as it shows the effects of what the doll has done." Always a more deeply terrifying technique, of course. And you can probably see from the still at the right (taken from a Night Gallery website), how this episode easily scared the bejesus out of a ten-year old me.

In my room full of dolls and stuffed animals, after Night Gallery, I had to sleep curled up in a ball with my feet tightly covered, the better to protect my extremities from being tugged and tortured by my once comforting, but now-threatening toys.

The worst was the basement.

I spent a lot of time downstairs, since both the television and a lot of my toys were down there, too.

At the risk of appearing totally insane, I’ll tell you that after that Night Gallery featuring the evil roving doll, it was pure torture for me to mount those stairs, especially at night. My always-vivid imagination could just see, waiting for me at the top of those stairs, that horrible grinning face, ready to leap up and do whatever harm its little being could muster.

Flash forward about thirty years.

I’m back in the Midwest, working in my study. The children are at school, my husband’s at his office, and I’m typing merrily away.

A voice breaks into the silence from the living room.

“Say - does anyone in the place ever dust?”

A beat.

“I do think I’m the best lookin’ thing hanging in this room!”

Another beat. Then music –

“All the fishies in the sea- they are jealous of me-

I’m the funky Boogie Bass!”

Okay, so I will admit that one of the more humiliating moments of my life was the recent afternoon in which I actually stood at a check-out counter and bought that silly singing fish as a birthday gift for my nine-year old daughter, who had been inexplicably yearning for the thing for months. All for love, right?

But you see, here’s the thing.

The Boogie Bass is motion activated.

I was all alone in the house, three rooms away from The Fish.

And it was singing to me.

Immediately, images from a decades-old Night Gallery rose from my subconscious, and my heart started to beat a little faster.

Reason kicked in pretty much immediately though, assuring me that the fish had not, indeed come to life out there, but then another, more rational concern seized me. I had to wonder – if the fish was motion-activated – what - or whose - motion could be inspiring it?

I’ll spare you the suspense. I eventually figured out that the Boogie Bass was probably being moved to song by the shadows, falling through the living room’s picture window, of trees waving in the wind.

So I shut off the motion-activation switch, checked the doors, and went back to work.

Halloween gives us good opportunity to contemplate the whole issue called fear.

There are, as my haunted Boogie Bass experience revealed, two kinds of fear: Bad and good.

Or, to put it another way, stupid and sensible.

Bad Fear confines us. It lets us be controlled by voices that tell us we’re no good, so why bother to even try?

Bad Fear encourages us live in the land of imaginary dire consequences, close our eyes, dampen our spirits and throw away the key, because it’s “safe.”

Good Fear can tell the difference between real harm and the normal risks that always come from stepping out and doing something new.

I do think that this is why Jesus’ words speak so strongly to us of freedom:

Freedom from sin, freedom from death, and freedom from the confining words of the world that try to convince us that we don’t deserve happiness, that we’re not good enough for God’s love, that we’re unforgivable and unlovable.

Real faith gives us just that kind of freedom – freedom from fearful notions just as absurd, every one of them, as plastic fish come mysteriously to life – figments of our imagination waiting for the love of Christ to replace with confidence, freedom, and peace of mind to be exactly who he, and no one else calls us to be.

Without fear.

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