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20th October 2000 at 01:00
Usually it's the student teacher who feels nervous but, as Michael Thorn discovered in this diary extract, it was Year 5 who were the more scared when they first met Mr Nosferatu...Photographs by Geoff Franklin


The student teacher's really scary - evil-looking with pale skin and a sinister way of speaking. When he introduced himself as Mr Nosferatu, some people thought he was joking and starteda ha-ha reaction. Brr, you should have felt the chill come over the class. On the second visit, he was sitting in this awkward bent position while taking the register - with that same white face and cold expression.

After croaking out the last name he turned, and we all gasped.

One side of his face was discoloured and there was a horrible scar on his cheek. He started to tell us how it had happened, but just as the story was becoming really frightening, he stopped, smiled and pulled off the scar so that we sussed it was just a fake one.

Then he took some tissues and wiped until the white make-up began to clear and we saw that his skin was the normal colour after all.

Mum thought it was a dangerous trick to play. "He might've given some of you serious nightmares," she said.

Come to think of it, Mrs M, our usual teacher, hadn't seemed to know how to react. But we are Year 5 now and everyone's really hyper about what we'll be doing after half-term.

Even Mum thinks the horror theme's "got potential", after reading the leaflet I brought home, describing the different things we'll be doing for each part of the curriculum. It was an OK leaflet, for a school brochure. We usually leave them in our bookbags or drop them in the cloakroom, but this one was shaped like a coffin, and Mr Nosferatu (not his real name, but that's what he wants us to call him) had decorated it with vampire and werewolf clipart.

Day 1 Mrs M had to badger us for days and days for rock samples, and even then we only got a few mouldy bits of flint and an ammonite fossil. But loads of us brought in stuff for the horror display.

Of course, it was Halloween time, so there was the usual witchy stuff and a couple of predictable pumpkins. But also books, comics, posters, fake blood, scars like the one Mr Nosferatu tricked us with, videos (most of which Mrs M took to one side), computer games, monster pencil tops, eyeballs in goo (which we made Mrs M squeeze - she seemed to quite like that), more things than I can list.

"You know what this means," Mr Nosferatu said, after we laid it all out. "It shows that all of us are fascinated by ghoulish things. Although none of us cares to be terrified out of our wits, fear is nevertheless an emotion that we like to toy with."

And as he said the word "toy", he picked up Emma's gooey eyeballs, and squeezed them in his hand, making us squirm and snigger.

In literacy we helped to fill the board with all the names of horror stories, horror films and horror characters we could think of. Mr Nosferatu added some that were new to us, and then he talked about the different styles in which horror has been presented.

His own name, he told us, comes from an early black-and-white film based on the Dracula book, which was written by a Victorian.

Modern horror movies are obviously nothing like that early film. It's the same with books, he said.

For group work we compared different styles. Our group worked with Mr N and looked at something by a man called Edgar Allan Poe (if I'm ever a teacher I'll get the class to call me Mr Poe) and an extract from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Another group, working with Mrs M, compared an early Goosebumps book with the latest R L Stine series.

But then, in what Mr N calls the five-to-midnight part of the lesson, having spent all that time finding the differences, he twisted it and got us to identify all the things that were constant in horror situations. Think about that he said, because tomorrow you write your own horror stories.

Day 2 The classroom's already looking totally horrible. As well as the display, we've hung nasty things from the ceiling, and put a scary warning message on the door. The head poked his head round (that gives me an idea for when I rewrite my story) and said he'd pluck up courage to come right on in to find out what we've been up to at the end of the week.

Day 3 Josh came round and we've worked out this great piece of background music on his keyboard. We also started making our hairy toes for the competition.

Wanted to begin a brand-new Mutant Point Horror title recommended by our librarian (who's made a selection of best scary reads), but my eyes were stinging from working on the computer all afternoon trying to morph a digital photo of Karen (the girl most of the boys fancy) into a werewolf.

Day 4 Got my story back. Mr N. read out some of the best ones. He didn't read mine. I can see why. It's all blood and squashed eyeballs. It was fun to write. But now I've got to make it fun (correction, scary) to read.

Spent much of afternoon researching Transylvania and vampires, from books and internet printouts provided by Mr N, for a group presentation.

Day 5 Mr N presented Josh and me with a vial of fake blood, first prize in the scary scene dramatisation.

It was our mini-soundtrack that did it. We both know we're rubbish at acting.

Just goes to show, as Mr N demonstrated with some clips from videos, how important atmosphere can be. I know now what's wrong with my story. All graphic action, no atmosphere.

Have to spend the weekend finishing my hairy toe. It's not likely I'll win two prizes, but the head still hasn't dared come in the classroom. When he does, I want to give him the fright of his life.


* Art 3D

Movie make-up and the use of fake cuts and scars.

Bigfoot or Hairy Toe - a home competition.

Finger in a box! (for those who prefer fingers to toes).

* Art 2D

Book cover art (stimulus: pulp horror covers).

Movie poster design.

* Literacy

GuidedShared reading using:

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Dracula - Bram Stoker

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

Cirque du Freak - Darren Shan

Dissolvers - Andrew Matthews

Goosebumps (series) - R L Stine

The Hairy Toe - Traditional

"Don't Be Scared" and "Cuddling Skeletons" by Carol Ann Duffy from The

Oldest Girl In The World (Faber)

"Fear of Ghosts" by Valerie Bloom from Let Me Touch The Sky (Macmillan)

* Guided writing

Creation of scary atmosphere without mentioning blood, monsters and so on, using a collection of words, similes or metaphors to convey fear.

* Individual writing

Children's own scary stories and poems to be published on school website (see ICT).

* ICTMedia

Create digital stills of movie make-up faces.

Using Flash, animation or specialised "morphing" software, create a short werewolf animation, showing the transformation from human face to wolf face.

Collect database information on any of the following films: King Kong, Dracula, Frankenstein, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, The Witches.

* Maths

This subject is horror-ble enough! (just joking - Mr N).

* MusicDrama

Practise expressions of fear and horror then create scene, using minimal dialogue, that involves terrifying encounter.

Compose background musicsound effects.

* HistoryGeography links

Transylvania and vampires.

Baker Street and Victorian London.

Egyptian mummies and cursed tombs.


What especially frightens you?

What helps you to be brave?

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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