of "BO COON"
by Chris Christensen BHS '61
Somewhere back about 1960,
several of the Gamboa boys were talking about the latest interesting events and someone
mentioned that he had heard that an inmate had escaped from the Corozal mental
institution. He was supposedly an older man that had been an inmate for a long period of
time. Whether this had really taken place or not I'm not certain, but the following
sequence did. We came up with the idea to tell the girls that a very dangerous mentally
disturbed man had escaped from the mental institution.
He had only one hand, was hunchbacked, had terribly distorted facial features and had murdered several teenaged girls in the past. We also hinted that the police believed that he was hiding in the bush near the Gamboa area. We made sure that all the guys were aware of the hoax and wouldn't let the cat out of the bag under penalty of death. So after the movie that Friday night we badgered a few of the girls that didn't have to go straight home into getting into the car with us and go searching for Bo Coon. By the way, I don't remember how or who came up that name.
We drove to the Bridge and the turned left on the gravel road that went along the river and up to the Ridge or on down to the Yacht Club. We choose this road because there weren't any street lights and the trees hung down over the road real spooky-like. About half way to the Ridge turn off, by the big tree right before the alligator pond, I stopped the car. When the girls asked why I was stopping I said that I thought I had spotted something moving in the bush beside the road. All of them gasped and were straining their eyes to see something. After about 30 seconds one girl said that there wasn't anything and that we should get out of there (as they were rolling up the windows). I replied..Shhh...Listen....and turned off the headlights. That did it, Screams, shrieks, someone beating the back of my head yelling "Go..Go". On went the lights and off we sped up the Ridge to the safety of street lights and houses.
Saturday it appears that all the girls got together and talked it over. Figuring that we scammed them, they said that they had known all along that there was no one there and that they had played along with our feeble attempt to scare them. Well, if this was true, they were some of the most talented actresses in the world because those screams the night before were so blood curdling that they frightened me and I knew there wasn't anyone there. Not wanting to admit our prank and seeing the opportunity to possibly really give them a scare we (guys) put our heads together and came up with "The Real Bo Coon".
This is a list of names of the people that were there at the time. Some may not have been directly involved, but all knew of Bo Coon and the sightings as they occurred since Gamboa was such a small close knit community. The following , to the best my memorycan come up with, is the cast of characters (not in any order);
|Myself||Larry McFarland||Bill McFarland||Earl Mullins|
|Chico Martin||Harvey Watkins||Bill Cofer||Dave Boostrum|
|Dennis Emery||Richard Dillon||Mitt Parsons||DwayneWillingham|
|Paul Bell||Bill Mohl||John Renner||Bill Renner|
|Tom Mallia||Joyce Herring||Charlene Morency||Nancy Morency|
|Sue Roberts||Terry Dunn||Jane Hearne||Judy Hearne|
|Anita Willingham||Brenda Rogers||Marion Howe||Shirley Howe|
|Karen Tanassy||Grace Figueroa||Eleanor Norvell||Gail Jenrich|
|Patty Waters||Betsy Bell|
I know that I've left some out but memories are fading.
A couple of the guys and
myself meet at my house to design and fabricate a flesh and blood Bo Coon. First we
took an old set of my dads coveralls, stitched a small laundry bag inside across the
shoulders and stuffed it full of rags. Presto, a hunchback. I took a 15" shark
hook that I had and pulled the sleeve down over my hand so it would appear as a
hook where a hand should be.
We were stuck for awhile on how to go about simulating distorted facial features. After severalattempts we agreed on cutting the center section out of a nylon stocking so that it could be pulled down over the face. A number of short pieces of nylon tied into knots and stuffed under the section on the face gave it a real lumpy appearance. Then with a small amount of flour dusting, the features all blurred together resulting in a very undistinguishable, distorted, one handed Bo Coon.
Now to add a little gore. I took an old shoe and drove nails through the sole into the end of a 12" length of 2x4 so that it extended from the shoe as a leg would. I covered the 2x4 with a cut-off pants leg and stuffed it with rags for filling, then added red food coloring for the blood effect. A hat would be required to conceal the color and amount of hair. We agreed on an old army fatigue hat.
Now for a plan. The guys that
didn't have access to their parents' wheels would drew straws to play the role. He would
be dropped off on the old road right before the movie let out with a flashlight and a few
cold beers. When the movie let out, we were to get some of the girls and drive down the
old road slowly with the headlights on low beams. Right before his hiding place we would
blinks the lights to hi and back to low, the signal to start the show.
Here we go driving down that dark spooky road very slowly and as we get to the pre-arranged "scene of the crime" I blink the headlights hi and back to low. Just as one of the girls was about to say something, out of the jungle steps this horrible looking man into the headlights.
He takes two or three steps across the road, stops and turns into the light, roars and swings that chunk of leg around that's attached to the hook where his hand should be. In the dark with just the headlights on him for those fleeting seconds, he was HIDIOUS !!!
First the screams and shrieks, then everyone in the backseat trying to get on the floor at one time, then wailing and crying !! Well to be completely honest, the sight of this thing made me yell and the horrible screaming and yelling sent Bo Coon running back into the bush !! Thank God, because my first spontaneous reflex was to floor the gas pedal !! It's a good thing that one of the guys was up in the front seat with me for moral support or I'm sure I'd have lost it too!!
It was just TOO REAL. Anyway I have four girls in the back seat wailing and crying, one in the front seat that has nearly beat her brains out on the dash trying to get to the floor boards. I ended up taking each girl home and dropping them off on their door step, nothing less would do. Now a couple of these girls were so frightened that they were still crying when they got home and of course their parents wanted an explanation. This is how the parents got wind of our little prank. However knowing that it was that, it seems that they assured their daughters there was no such thing as Bo Coon and that the boys must be pulling one over on them.
Since most of them were not allowed to go out very late on school nights, we laid back until the following weekend. However this gave the girls plenty of time to think about what had happened and how we could have pulled it off. By the time the weekend arrived again they had determined who had not been present, maybe 3 or 4 of the guys, and were sure that Bo Coon had to be one of them. So now it's time for the actor to change. The girls had gotten their nerve back up, mostly due to their parents assuring them that there wasn't a Bo Coon.
So Friday night the guys are almost being put through a "roll call" to see if the ones that were missing the previous week are now present, which they were. This is when everything starts to get out of hand.
We're out there again on the back road. But this time there four car loads of kids. The girls are making sure that anyone that was missing the last time is present and accounted for this time. When the girls made this demand we fidgeted a little trying to figure out how to do this and still derive the full effect. So a couple of us guys managed to get off by ourselves and rearrange the plan and the pass it on to the others. We would go to the cars but as the first one pulled out, one of the others would fake starting problems.
The other guys would go to
his aid, then one of the other cars would leave saying that the others could take care of
the problem, allowing at least a four minute spacing. After a few minutes the car
with the bogus problems would start and the other car would leave the problem car to warm
up for a few minutes until he departed. We thought it was a brilliant idea allowing Bo
Coon, a new player, to put on his show in full view of the headlights of each car
individually. This put some pressure on Old Bo Coon, what with having to dash in and out
of the bush like that.
One might think that this may leave some room for error, and you wouldn't be wrong. It seems that Bo Coon was getting pretty busy running in back and forth, roaring and growling and forgot to wait for the headlights to blink. So when Mr. & Mrs. Old Folks, who lived on the Ridge, came driving down the road on their way home, guess who popped up in their headlights ?? That's right, Bo Coon !
This is the first report that the police received about the strange creature. But we had once again pulled it off by delivering a bunch of screaming girls home to their parents. They thought that they had us nailed, but how could this be, everyone that was missing the previous week was present this time ??
Now bear in mind that at this time we didn't know that a police report had been filed. Saturday rolls around and we guys are in our glory. We had pulled it off again and the girls had no idea what to think. We are really confident, we're going to play this out to the hilt. So tonight we have a new player again and after a few shows under our belt it's a cake walk, it's old hat! Now the girls are asking us to tell them who is Bo Coon. They don't have the slightest idea, we really have got them going. This night we will put on the greatest performance ever!
As it turned out, the Bo Coon performer this night was really ready to do an outstanding job. He must have decided to himself that he would put on a stellar performance surpassing all previous ones. As I cruised down the road on my first pass of several that night, this thing drops out of an over hanging tree and lands right beside the front driver's side of the car, growling and beating the hood with that section of leg attached to his hook. I damned near had a heart attack!! I hadn't even blinked the lights yet so I wasn't expecting him. A choir of blood curdling screams tore into the night, including my own. The rear wheels of my dad's car spinning and spraying gravel as we fishtailed up the road and on to safety.
All but one of the girls wanted to be taken home which I did. The other girl was real quiet with an occasional gasp as if trying not to cry. I told her that I was going back to the Clubhouse to get a couple other people and would she like to be left there. She said "no".
I didn't know it at the time but the other cars had gone through similar experiences several minutes behind me. One car was attacked from the side and another had Bo Coon jump up from behind and climb up onto the trunk. All of these acts resulted in completely terrifying the girls as well as the drivers. I arrived at the Clubhouse and waited about 15 minutes before anyone showed up. A few of the girls had stayed rather than go home and all related their stories.
It was about time for someone to go and retrieve Bo Coon from the back road so he wouldn't be left out there all night. I asked the remaining girls to see if they could talk to the girl that was still in my car and get her to agree to go home or at least get out of the car. They said "sure"... and went out to my car while the guys laughed it up in the Clubhouse relating our individual experiences of the evening. About five minutes past and the two girls came back in and went directly to the restroom. A couple minutes after they came out and went back to the car asking us to wait. After a little while they came back in and asked if I would give them a ride to the girl's house that was still in my car. (This is really a difficult chore to describe without using names. So please bare with me). I said "sure".. and said that I would be right there.
When they went outI asked the other guys to go retrieve Bo Coon and that I would meet them back here. I took the girls home and when I returned the guys came running up to the car saying that the cops had Bo Coon. I asked what had happened and they said that when they turned to go down the road they could see the police car stopped with the red light on. They had turned around and come back. I suggested that we hang loose for awhile and then go back .
We waited about 30 minutes then everyone piled into my car to go back down there and check out the situation. After about a minute one of the guys in the back seat said that it was wet back there. Sure enough, that last gal had wet her pants in the back seat of my dads car, explaining why she didn't want to get out. So we squeezed three in the front seat and the one in the back was way over on the far side.
When we got as far as the bridge and turned, our actor came running from the Boy Scout Hut yelling "Let's get out of here fast". As we drove off he related what had taken place. He had jumped out and scared the hell out of a couple that lived on the Ridge. He figured that it was late enough now that we had probably taken the girls home so he would cool it until we came to pick him up. Shortly after that a car came down the road slowly with a spot light shining around. Knowing that this must be the cop, he backed further into the bush and hid.
The car stopped slightly past his position and a police officer got out from the drivers side and Mr. Hearne from the passenger side. They stood in the middle of the road in the beam of the headlights right at the front of the car. The police officer said, "OK son, I know your hiding in there, come on out." Well no one's that stupid and it was obvious that they weren't going to come in after him, so he just waited until they gave up and left. After that he slowly made his way up the road to the bridge.
The following day the police sergeant spoke with the parents of the guys that he'd guessed were more than likely involved and told them that Bo Coon had to go.
To this day I don't believe that anyone ever let the cat out of the bag of how we'd pulled it off and no one ever saw the outfit because I buried it. But enough time has past now, so I guess it's ok to name the Stars.
Bo Coon #1..........................Larry McFarland
Bo Coon #2 .........................Chico Martin
Bo Coon #3..........................Earl Mullins
October 26, 1998