“The devil came to a dance when I was a girl.” If my granny told this story once, she told it a thousand times. I’m not sure whether she actually believed it, but she certainly told it with conviction.
“I wasn’t there, but some friends told me about it,” she’d say with a nod of her head and narrowing of her eyes. “This girl named Nancy danced the night away with a handsome stranger whom nobody else knew. When the time came to go home, Nancy’s friends couldn’t find her or the stranger boy. The dance chaperones tried to help find her and asked all the kids if anyone had seen her. One boy said he thought he saw Nancy leave with the stranger and walk out to his car, which had been parked in the grassy area for overflow parking at the edge of the lot. When the chaperones went out to where the car had been parked, they found footprints in the damp ground—one set belonging to a petite woman in heels.”
Granny would then pause, maybe for dramatic effect, or maybe because the story creeped her out too. When I was a little girl, I would listen, wide-eyed, waiting for the chills that would crawl up my spine when she got to this part. “The other set were cloven hoof prints. No one ever saw Nancy again.”
It didn’t matter that I knew the story backwards and forwards. Those tingles would spark at the base of my back and scurry up to my neck until I shuddered with fear and delighted at being safely scared.
There was probably a time when I took the story seriously, but somewhere along the way, I realized it was just a story. After all, the tale had some obvious problems. First, wouldn’t someone have noticed that the boy had hooves instead of feet? Also, if the devil could disguise himself so well, why couldn’t he disguise his hooves too?
I never posed these questions to my Granny. I didn’t want to spoil her story. Besides, despite its flaws, the story had a reasonable moral: don’t accept rides from boys you don’t know. Plus, she obviously got some pleasure out of narrating the yarn. Sometimes she didn’t even have to tell the entire tale. She would just get a spooky look in her eye and say, “The devil once came to a dance when I was a girl, you know?”
And we knew.