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A Psycho-ish Sleepover: A Jolebration Tale

Happy Jolebration Day!

It's time for another humorous tale about my late BFF, the unforgettable Johannah Cantrell.

Janet Leigh screaming in the infamous "get stabbed in the shower" scene from Pyscho.

Jo screaming—sometime, somewhere—probably because she saw a spider.

If you have read any of my previous posts then you know that when I was a teenager I spent at least one or two nights a week at either Sheila or Johannah's house (my two BFFs). They both lived within a short walk of our high school. Meanwhile I lived a bus ride away, so spending the night with one of them when we had high school events such as basketball games made a lot of sense. Not to their parents of course, but I digress. Sheila and I were both cheerleaders, so getting ready at her house after school and spending the night after the game was the height of convenience. (And fun!) Meanwhile Jo lived next door to my church, so spending a Saturday night at her house meant I could sleep in a little longer before Sunday School.

Honestly, I don't know why I ever bothered to ever go home because everything that mattered in my teenage years was within walking distances of my BFFs' homes.

Now I'm not sure if I have mentioned it before but Johannah's house had formerly been a funeral home. It was an old white farmhouse with basically the same interior layout as Buffalo Bill's house in Silence of the Lambs. But with a smaller foyer. And no creepy basement housing a pit holding misfortunate victims that were waiting to be skinned alive, although I'm sure Jo's mom imagined skinning us alive on more than one occasion.

What Jo's house DID have were some old sinks upstairs in a back room that had once been used for cleaning the dead bodies before they were laid out in the viewing parlor (i.e.; the living room). We tried not to think about that during sleepovers.

Buffalo Bill's House from Silence of the Lambs has become an Airbnb complete with memorabilia inspired by the film.

I'll never stay there.

(But you can. Just click HERE to visit the Airbnb page. Let me know if you do.)

Buffalo Bill's house (the Airbnb version—not the unkempt, a-serial-killer-lives-here film version) really does look a lot like Jo's house except she had a smaller foyer and a smaller living room with only a regular door for entry. Unfortunately I don't have photos of every room in Jo's house so I thought I'd whip up a couple of architectural drawings so you could see the layout of the first and second floors. My memory is a little sketchy (pun intended) but you'll get the gist.



Yes, I know that these rendering aren't great but I'm not an architect people. Just deal with it.

And those are DOORS not random crossbows, just in case you were wondering.

The bedrooms upstairs were weird because you could only get to Jo's bedroom by crossing through one or two other bedrooms—including the creepy "sink" room.

As I said, we tried not to think about her house's former occupation (or the former short-term residents). But every now and then Jo's house scared the crap out of us. One night in particular always comes to mind.

Back in the Seventies, most folks only had just one TV (yes that's scary too) and that was parked in the living room. So if Jo and I planned to stay up late at night to watch TV (which would be EVERY time the Rolling Stones were on) then Jo's mom would make us sleep downstairs in Jo's grandma's big bedroom which was weirdly situated between the kitchen and the living room. Jo's mom and grandma would sleep upstairs to be as far away from us as possible.

On that fateful night we didn't watch much TV because we both had a 20-page paper due for some class. I had already written 10 pages but Jo (a major procrastinator) hadn't even begun writing. So we wrote and wrote until late at night. After I finished my paper I began writing a Carol Burnett skit (just one of the many ways we entertained ourselves) because I loved imitating Carol as The Great Nora Desmond and Jo loved imitating her faithful butler/ex-film director Max.

Here's a clip in case you've never been privileged to witness their comic genius.

HEY! Stop watching Carol Burnett and get back to the sleepover.

So there we were, pulling an all-nighter, when we heard creepy noises from somewhere in the house.

Jo, lying across the bed scribbling, bolted upright to sitting. "SHHHH! Did you hear that?"

"YES!" I whispered back. "What was that?"

"It sounded like someone walking . . . "


"I dunno. On the stairs maybe?"

We listened. The stairs—or somewhere else—continued to emit an occasional creak. It DID sound like the creaking made by careful footfalls.

"Could your mom be coming downstairs to use the bathroom?"

"No. They never pee at night."

I filed that bit of intel away and moved on to more pressing matters.

"What about . . . "


We froze. More creaks. Major creaks. Stair creaks.

"That's definitely someone on the stairs!" Jo rasped.

"Are they going up or coming down?" I croaked.

Horror movie scenarios were racing through out brains. We were both thinking the same things:

Do we run out through the back kitchen door and leave Jo's mom and granny to fend for themselves?

But what if the killer follows us outside and kills us as we try to escape by running up Schoolhouse Hill? Schoolhouse Hill was even creepier than Jo's house. That was the last place you'd want to run to in the middle of the night. But if we tried to make our escape out the front door we'd have to pass the stairs and Norman Bates could be waiting for us on the landing.

The logical choice in my mind was to stay in the room and let Granny and Mama Frances fight him off or selflessly sacrifice themselves to save their sole offspring. (And her BFF).

"Quick! Just lock the bedroom doors Jo!" I whispered as I jumped off the bed to lock the one closest to me.

"There aren't any locks!"



"How can you NOT have locks on your doors Jo?" I squeaked in alarm.

"We just don't okay?" Jo snarled back. "But the bathroom door has a lock . . . We should hide there!"

"What if he breaks in anyway? We need weapons."

"Okay. Let's run into the kitchen, get butcher knives then run into the bathroom."


We tiptoed over to the kitchen doorway and squinted to see if anyone was hiding in the darkness.

"Hold this!" Jo whispered, shoving her papers and pen into my hands. Then she bolted over to a drawer, grabbed some butcher knives and wheezed, "RUN!"

We skittered through the kitchen and dining room and careened around the corner into the bathroom without even looking at the stairwell or landing, too afraid of what we might see there.

Jo slammed the door shut behind us and, hands shaking, latched it shut, securing us safely inside. But we were only as secure as one can be when the lock separating you from a serial killer is one of those cheap-o metal privacy hooks that are only found at a run-down gas station where the doorknob lock broke ages ago and the owner opted for the cheapest quick fix.

In case you don't frequent run-down gas stations, here is a photo of the type of lock

on Jo's bathroom door—only this one is far more substantial.

Jo's was one of those rickety, lightweight, aluminum versions.

After staring at the door hook for about a minute we looked at each other.

"We need more weapons!" we chimed in unison. Jo began foraging through the closet and I tackled the medicine cabinet.

"Listerine bottle!" Jo snorted triumphantly.

"Yeah baby! We can smash it and cut them!"

We dug out more bottles of various ointments and oils and set them up in clusters where they could be easily reached should the killer knock the butcher knives out of our hands. Then we settled in (Jo seated on the toilet lid, still writing her paper, while I perched on the side of her roll-top tub) and waited.

And we waited. And waited. And got very cold. Unfortunately the radiator was the only source of heat and it wasn't very warm and the control knob didn't seem to work so we couldn't turn it up.

An hour passed. We began to get dozy. Desperate to snooze, we pulled all the dirty sheets and towels out of the clothes hamper to make some beds.

"I call the bathtub!" I muttered as I proceeded to spread out a towel and some sheets in the tub.

"Crap." Jo whimpered. Then she began constructing her dirty-sheet-and-towel mattress on the tile floor.

We curled up in fetal positions, desperately trying to get warm, still clutching our butcher knives, surrounded by bottles. We remained there, shivering on our icy porcelain and tile beds, until about 4:30 in the morning. I was in agony because I couldn't even stretch my legs straight. Finally I snapped.


"ME TOO!" Jo whined. "They can savagely murder us for all I care.

We got to our feet and, still clutching our knives, staggered out of the bathroom, leaving the dirty sheets and towels and bottles behind. We fell into bed and passed out immediately.

Amazingly, we survived.

And so did Jo's mom and grandma.

More amazingly, we didn't accidentally stab ourselves in our sleep!

The moral of the story is . . .

Are you kidding? There is no moral to this story unless it is DON'T host sleepovers in a former funeral home unless there are REAL locks on your doors.

Happy Birthday Jo!

I will celebrate your this Jolebrtion Day with our other bestie, Sheila. We will have a sleepover in your honor at her house which is very safe because there are locks on all the bedroom doors.

Although, now that I think about it, Sheila lives in Texas which is ranked No. 3 in the nation for serial killers.

Maybe I'll just sleep in her bathroom.









PS: Jo introduced me to rock-n-roll in the 7th grade at a pajama party back when I was still listening to Bobby Sherman. I am forever grateful. I designed this little birthday card while thinking of another fateful sleepover at Jo's house when we saw the Rolling Stones on TV for the very first time. They played "Tumblin' Dice" and within the first three seconds we became raging Stoneaholics and, well, we all know how that turned out!

Rock On Jo!



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