A Spooky Halloween Tale

Michael McGuire

I take great pleasure in watching people squirm. It’s fun to get someone going, to tell them their biggest fears have come true, to play on their emotions, to watch the panic fill their eyes – the blood draw from their face. And just when they are about to break – you let them know it was all a joke.

I’m almost jealous that I don’t get to feel their relief when it’s over, but scrambling their brains was pretty satisfying.

So I can understand where YIRN was coming from.

YIRN (a group of four traveling brothers, Yakov, Ivan, Rostov, Nicholai), had always been a bunch of merry pranksters. They sent me fake lottery tickets a couple years ago for April Fool’s Day – “Redeem $25,000 prize at Joe Mama’s House.” The only person more hurt than me was Millie – I had promised her a new PT Cruiser.

But in time, YIRN had outgrown fake lotto’s and whoopee cushions, and had darker desires.

The boys had done pretty good betting on wildfires that summer (they picked the spread), and decided that a new challenge – a new joke was in order. A joke that would take on a life of its own.

It didn’t help that they’d been spent the final weeks of August on a steady diet of Mountain Dew and Zingers, watching “SAW” and “Trading Places” simultaneously.

“Let’s unleash a plague,” Yackov said. “It’ll be great.”

“A plague’s no good,” Nicholai responded. “It won’t be funny if they don’t live to see that it was just for fun.”

They scoured their minds, mulling over idea after idea in that cramped hotel room in Sioux City.

Finally, just when they were going to call it quits and go back to Ontario, Rostov, the smallest brother said, “I think I got it.”

“What’s the only thing we see everyday that makes people madder than spit, but they can’t do nothing about it?” the small one asked.

“George Bush?”
“Shopping Carts?”
“Dancing With the Stars?”
“OK come on we give up, what is it?”

“Power lines,” Rostov announced with pride. “Power lines are everywhere, we all use them, but everyone hates them – people will do anything to stop them.”

“How can we do that?” asked Ivan “Don’t we need steel, wires, technical plans, and land – and don’t we need…I mean we have a lot…like a billion dollars?”

“Nope, we got enough from them forest fires to cover everything we’ll be doing,” Rostov said.

“And what’s that?” the others asked.



“We have enough money to make everyone think we have all that stuff. In fact, after doing some quick math, I’m pretty sure we have enough money to make people think we have 200 miles worth of all that stuff.”

They worked out the plan right there, and to their surprise it was pretty simple. Between the 5 of them they had just over a $1 million bucks, about $200k a piece. Just enough to buy a website, a couple technical advisors, some starving off-broadway actors, some laminated handouts and booklets from Kinko’s, some expensive(but not that expensive) environmental studies and finally, an office…but where?

“I heard people in upstate New York get worked up pretty easy, let’s pick on them,” said Ivan.

“Yeah uncle Rasputin lives there,” reminded Yackov. “He says that people don’t have a lot of money, and they pay high taxes on everything. They think all their money goes to New York City, because they control everything.”

“Yeah upstate and downstate don’t like each other,” said Ivan.

“I smell a little divide and conquer boys,” Nicholai said in a shady voice. “I think these people are primed for a good joke.”

And what a joke it was. The boys had their hired hands announce “plans” for “the project” just before April Fool’s Day, their favorite day. They hired actors trained by David Spade, the star of “Dickey Roberts: Child Actor,” to hold a series of public hearings along their “power line” route, and to be as surly and rude as was humanly possible. They devised that the power line would only be for downstate benefit, but it would use all upstate land and resources. The people became enraged. The boys thought the prank could only carry on for a few more weeks and then they would have to give it up, but some unexpected events occurred that kept it alive.

This thing called the Public Service Commission said that they decided what power lines would be built in New York, and that all the boys needed to do was have their actors provide them with the fake studies and the fake plan. The boys didn’t see the harm, so they gave it a shot.

They never laughed so hard in their lives.

Thousands of citizens, along with communities, governments, politicians, and worked feverishly to raise money and spread the word to fight YIRN. The boys saw it all from a far and were impressed with how strong the people could be when they united against a common enemy. Too bad it was all a farce.

News reporters jumped on the wagon and wrote stories about the “power line” everyday. The battle got so big that property values along the fake route dropped because people began to believe it was all true, and no one wanted to live there. People spent everyday in fear because they were afraid they’d lose their homes, or get real sick because of the YIRN project, as it was known. The boys ate it up. The joke lived on, it grew stronger.

Even the Federal Government got involved. After politicians passed questionable laws against YIRN, and after the PSC said YIRN’s fake application was a fake, Washington said we needed YIRN, more than we knew, and that they would step in an approve the phony project for the benefit of National Security – they’d even give YIRN more money. It just wouldn’t die, it kept on coming back.

The boys got a little bit nervous at this point. They never expected the joke to live this long. People were abandoning their communities, and local economies plummeted. State government’s took on Washington over state’s rights, nearly going to war. It had grown to strong to control.

The boys feared that if the federal government stepped in, their identities would surely be revealed, after they had caused so much damage.

They decided they would come clean. They would tell the world they were hacks before they could be found out. They called the government and said they were ready to come clean. They would kill the joke themselves.

The voice on the other end laughed, “Come clean? Your in America.” “We don’t care who you are – as long as you have all the money,” the voice said. “You do have the money – don’t you?”

YIRN vanished not long after that. They haven’t been heard from since, and the power line has yet to be built. But some say the boys and the project are still out there…waiting…getting stronger.

There was one news story that reported a teenager said “YIRN” three times into the bathroom mirror, and a 400,000 volt direct current transmission line instantly appeared in his parent’s backyard, ruining their lawn and vinyl siding while providing cheap energy to their neighbors.

Sleep tight.