A Toastmasters Halloween

P1000494To celebrate Halloween, here’s a six-minute spooky speech I delivered last night at a Toastmasters meeting. (Yes, that’s really me, dressed as a ‘skellington’.) Imagine dramatic pauses and gestures, vocal variety and scary (ish) facial expressions. Tale Number Three will have you reaching for the smelling salts; it’s a true story…

“Mr Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, PREPARE to be scared. You will hear three blood-curdling tales this evening, each more CHILLING than the last. We will crescendo through the spookiness spectrum, culminating in the truly TERRIFYING tale of the BELARUSSIAN BALLBREAKER.

By the time I finish, you will rather stab needles in your eyes than hear another syllable.

P1000495Tale 1. We’re going back in time – to a bygone age when Blockbuster still rented videos. Wooooo. It was 1993, I was a student, and EVIL was afoot. An unseen ethereal force was at work in my kitchen. Perhaps the Devil himself.

Darkness swelled like a hushed tsunami on that fateful late October evening, as I fed bread, cheese and LETTUCE into the freezer. These were to be my sandwiches for the rest of term.  Finishing the second loaf, I sat down to watch ARACHNOPHOBIA, a chiller killer spider movie.

The kitchen door creaked ajar. Aah! Who said that? My nerves were taut as piano wire. But I thought nothing of the sound at the time. Yet the next time I went to the freezer for sandwiches, the lettuce had been turned BLACK AS PITCH.

The cucumber sandwiches had also been ruined by the same mysterious hand. As far as I know, that freezer in South London is still haunted to this day.

Tale No. 2 – the tale of Sweeney Todd, the murderous barber of Fleet Street. But did you know that he once lived…in Hastings? Number 32 High Street, now an elegant bridal shop, has a dark and murky past. This was Harris the Butcher’s shop.

P1000492As a fourteen-year-old boy, in 1762, Sweeney Todd left the dirt and grime of London and came to Hastings in search of work. Mr Harris was delighted to have found such a…willing and eager apprentice.

Sweeney Todd was also delighted. In fact, doubly delighted, as Harris had a young and beautiful daughter, whom Sweeney planned to marry. After 6 months of employment, Sweeney plucked up the courage to propose to Miss Harris…but she turned him down.

He hadn’t expected this refusal and it changed his personality FOREVER. He felt a terrible desire to slit Miss Harris’s throat, so that she could not tell anyone about his proposal. One night, he crept into the upstairs room of the butcher’s shop and found Miss Harris doing some paperwork. She was all alone as her father had gone out for the evening.

He seized his chance and, with one stroke of the knife, she was dead. He dragged her body downstairs, cut it up, and, it is said, made it into pies and sausages to sell in the shop.

But Sweeney Todd is only the Radio 3 of horror, a mere grace note. You will now hear a tale so terrible, so haunting that a shiver runs up my spine just to think of it. It’s a tale seared into my brain as though stamped with a branding iron. It was the night I was lured – LURED, I say – into a Polish hotel room by the BELARUSSIAN BALLBREAKER. Dun dun dunnn!

P1000490This 20-something from Minsk had toyed with her hair, playing the coquette in the bar. But her eyes, earlier shining bewitchingly like aquamarine in a mine, had now taken on a sinister, basilisk quality. She was the Narnian ice queen, so CHILLING that she could turn man to stone.

She was clothed in nothing but black hold-ups, her fine, coltish limbs enveloping me; her thighs assumed a vice-like grip; her talons RIPPED into the flesh on my back.

It was then that she PURRED her blood-curdling demand, a demand so horrifying that I stifled a scream. She said, ‘You give me souvenir? I want your baby.’ Agh!…Mr Toastmaster.”

Toastmasters is a fantastic way to improve your speaking skills and confidence. If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, seek out your nearest club. You can go along as a guest – a tryout, if you like – and you’ll be warmly welcomed with open arms. What have you got to lose?