Just a brief note this time – and I can see that you are breathing a sigh of relief as you see those words! It involves an observation about how little family myths get passed down the generations and indeed there might be a couple of readers of this particular tale who may well hang their heads when they discover just what is coming. All I shall say at this time is Devils in the loo!
I too am as guilty as anyone – for I was the family member who started this particular myth or superstition. If you want confirmation then all you have to do is look at Helen’s face when you ask her about it. I am sure that she will show all the guilt of a shared secret. You will see the mixture of laughter and guilty furtiveness – unless, of course she simply shrugs and says that “things like that happened in the old days” and quickly changes the subject.
But, dear reader, this particular myth or legend or indeed superstition has actually passed down through the generations and the same terrible tale recurred again in my own household less than 25 years ago. Worse still I was yet again the instigator, and even worse I didn’t even know that I was part of that particular dreadful story until much later on.
But I am getting ahead of myself and so will immediately take you back to a time when my younger sisters were around five and seven. I had recently been sent away to boarding school and so had started to mix with a harsh crowd of unruly and generally nasty minded young boys. Better still was the fact that we all came under the thrall of religious minded brothers of the De La Salle order.
With that dreadful combination you can already guess that all things spooky and devilish were uppermost in the selection of topics for late night conversations after lights out. And, sure enough they made their way back to the homes of the mischievous boys from St John’s College when we were allowed back to our families.
One story In particular grabbed my attention and soon it started to be repeated on a regular basis in the Finn household during holiday times. Naturally enough the perfect audience were Helen and Kate. They too had started to be indoctrinated by nuns at their convent school and so it was only natural that tales of sin, the devil and punishment were eagerly gobbled up and believed utterly. In a sense it was just like the mediaeval Christian scene, all myth and horror and, above everything, the Devil and Hell.
Eventually it became clear that Kate was the more gullible of the two girls and so she became the target of several tales, one of which in particular involved just how wicked the devil was, also where he would hide in the house, waiting his chance to grab an unsuspecting soul and take them away with him back to hell!
Where better for him to lurk than the lavatory cistern? It was clearly a wonderfully cool place to help him recover from the searing heat of Hell and there he would wait for his next soul. Now, as in all good stories, the devil cannot simply leap out and grab you that would be unfair. He had to wait until the toilet stopped flushing and then for a second or two your soul would be at his mercy. In order to save yourself all you had to do was be out of the door before the flushing had stopped, which was where the wickedness really began.
After telling this tale in several versions and making sure that the two young girls were fully taken in, the second stage of the wickedness came into play. Waiting until Kate was in the loo one day I crept up quietly outside and grabbed the door handle. Sure enough as soon as she had finished she set the flush in motion and discovered that the door wouldn’t open she started to panic.
‘Open the door’ she screamed. ‘I have to get out NOW!’ Let me out, who is there? Is it you Satan?’
I fell about in hysterics at this. Who on earth could think that Satan in all his wild wickedness would be holding onto a door handle in suburban Glasgow? Eventually I relented and Kate shot out of the loo like a cork from a bottle. There were tears and tantrums and I was duly told off roundly by Ma, who made me promise that I would not subject Kate to that sort of thing again. Of course I agreed immediately, but that didn’t stop me rattling the door handle of the lavatory if I happened to be passing it when Kate was in there.
Fast forward a couple of decades and this story was re-told one evening, possibly when we were on holiday and relaxing with a glass or two of wine. That is where the myth leapt forwards a generation. One eagle eared young boy made a note of this tale and on our return back to the UK decided to put his younger sister to the test in the same way I had done with my sister Kate all those years before.
The measure of his success is still with us. A certain young lady will, even to this day, make sure that she is fully ready to leave the loo well before she even touches the flush. Even though she is perfectly rational most of the time, there is just something in the psyche that says to her ‘Make sure you don’t ever get caught out by the devil in a door sticking loo flushing situation!’ Isn’t it amazing how these tiny myths and traditions get passed down the line? I blame the basic wickedness and mischievous spirit that inhabits all males.