Cindy Brady’s Magician, Meet Norman Bates

Oh, Cindy Brady, I totally get where you’re coming from, sister.

My day began watching Cindy Brady unable to sleep with the lights off because of an unfortunate encounter with a magician at her little friend’s birthday party. She saw the image of him making his assistant disappear every time she closed her eyes.

My night ended with me unable to sleep because of an unplanned encounter with the classic Hitchcock thriller, Psycho. I saw Norman Bates leering directly at me through the camera lens every time I closed my eyes.

I am a huge classic movie fan. I’ve seen a lot of movies, but I had never seen Psycho until last night. It was a day and night of Alfred Hitchcock on Turner Classic Movies. I had flipped past the channel in the middle of Shadow Of A Doubt.

Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten in Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten in Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

I own Shadow Of A Doubt on DVD. I’ve seen it dozens of times and yet, rarely am I able to turn away from it once I see it’s on television. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I was immediately sucked in. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten are two of my favorite actors and are excellent in their roles. This movie is not a thriller. It’s more of a suspenseful character study. Much more my cup of tea.

I thought I’d watch until the end and then start the movie I had cued up in my DVD player. When Shadow Of A Doubt was over I saw that Psycho was up next at 9:00pm. Psycho. Certainly not my cup of tea. But, maybe I would listen to Robert Osborne’s introduction. I always enjoy hearing him talk a bit about the upcoming movie, even if it’s not one I plan to watch. I picked up the crossword puzzle I had been working on earlier, intending to fill in a few boxes while I waited.

Psycho started and I absentmindedly began listening, still engrossed in working 18-Down. (Clue: Up to one’s ears. Answer: AWASH) By the time Janet Leigh had met Anthony Perkins at the Bates Motel I had tossed the crossword aside and was completely hooked.

I knew the basic plot points of Psycho, but not the details of how the story unfolded. I have to say, I think it made it even scarier that I knew what was coming, just not how or when. It also didn’t help that I was watching it alone, at night, with every light in the house off. There is no outright gore in Psycho, especially by today’s standards, but boy is it suspenseful. And I do believe I shouted out loud, at the television, at least twice, “THIS IS CREEPY!!!”. Anthony Perkins was absolutely perfect as the disturbed Norman Bates. Even when he was acting normal, he creeped me out. I watched with rapt attention until the last shot of the film.

Oh, that last shot. Every time I closed my eyes for the next hour this creepy image is what I saw. (I am giving you the choice to click or not, lest it haunt you as well.)

That image of Norman Bates was locked in my mind’s eye, accompanied by the unmistakeable score from the shower scene. Oh, you’ve heard it. Even if you haven’t seen the movie. That frenetic, “REET! REET! REET! REET!”. Yeah, I knew you’d recognize it.

Well, what does a girl do when she’s finishes watching Psycho for the first time in a pitch dark house on a Sunday night? She remembers she never brought her laundry up from the dryer.

You’ll recall my laundry is in the basement.

THE BASEMENT.

THE DARK BASEMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HOUSE.

I.  JUST.  WATCHED.  PSYCHO!

Granted, it’s not a root cellar in the foreboding house on the hill above the Bates Motel, but a dark basement is a dark basement. Especially after you just watched Psycho. I spent several minutes debating whether I should wait until morning to get my clothes out of the dryer. But I wasn’t willing to risk wrinkled work shirts just because my heart was pounding at the thought of crossing my own house. This was silly.

I grabbed a clothes basket, made my way to the basement stairwell, flipped on the light, and THIS is what I saw.

Not sure if it was the zoom or my shaking hand and pounding heart that made this picture fuzzy.
Not sure if it was the zoom or my shaking hand and pounding heart that made this picture fuzzy.

“Aaaahhhhh! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!” An oddly juxtaposed chorus of “The Merry Widow Waltz” from Shadow Of A Doubt and that blasted “REET, REET, REET, REET” reached a crescendo in my head as I wheeled on my heels back into the kitchen.

I don’t get out often to trim the weeds around my house…as several recent visitors to my property can attest to. (You’ll notice there was never a Flower Bed Saga: Part Two.) So, yes, I get spiders in my house. Have for years. But they are usually the garden variety, non-scary kind of tan, blend in with your surroundings, don’t cause a fuss spiders. Not big, black, thick-legged don’t mess with me types.

And this one was standing between me and my laundry. Right on the wall my head would have to pass under to get down the stairs. The absolute worse spot. If you swipe at him and miss, that’s it, he’s in your hair and you fall down the stairs in a blustering, panicking spiral of flying arms and legs (yours and his) as you try in vain to brush him out.

Nope. This would take some planning. Some calculating forethought. But first some mumbling and pacing in the kitchen. Oh, and a change to closed-toed shoes. Oh, and I should take a picture of the spider first, because this totally has blog post written all over it now.

I was tired and my heart was pounding, but he was not going to roam my house freely while I slept. Not now that I knew he existed.

I needed something with a long handle. The only suitable broom was in the basement.

On the other side of the spider.

My plan formulated, I ran down the stairs under the spider screaming “Aaaaaahhhhhh!” Making a lot of noise when you’re scared in an empty house seems to help. I even jumped the last two steps…I guess to get to the bottom faster? At this point, I’m sure the spider was laughing at me. I was laughing at myself.

I grabbed the broom and prepared to run back under the spider again. I got into position halfway up the stairs, turned, and aimed. I held my breath and jabbed the broom at the spider on the wall.

A plume of dust filled the air!

Yeah…turns out this was the broom with which I had recently swept the dirt off the garage floor.

When the dust cleared I frantically looked around. The spider was flailing around on the third step. I put my closed-toed shoe to use and put him out of his misery.

I quickly got my laundry, then closed myself in my bedroom with my lamp on while I folded my clothes and searched the television dial for a delightful comedy.

So, Cindy, I’m with you. I get it. Just because Peter showed you how the disappearing assistant trick worked, didn’t mean you were ready to sleep with the lights off.

Just because I knew this was a 53-year-old movie, that wasn’t real, didn’t mean I wasn’t going to jump every time the refrigerator made a noise or a branch bumped on the roof.

Cindy had Marcia and Jan to hang with. (Although, I must say, they were not comforting in the least. All they did was battle her for control of the light switch.)

I had cable tv with a sleep timer.

Pleasant dreams!

6 thoughts on “Cindy Brady’s Magician, Meet Norman Bates”

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