When Jill Hyman Gallo pulled up to her Delray Beach townhouse Saturday afternoon, a tiny person in a black hoodie with a creepy mask was waiting beside her driver's side window. The single mother of two shrieked in terror.
The disturbing figure didn't move. It slowly tilted its head and held out a shiny eight-inch chef's knife. Gallo's 16-year-old daughter, who was sitting beside her, jumped out of the car and bolted inside. Gallo, still shaking in her car, dialed Delray Beach Police.
"This wasn't an innocent, rubbery Halloween knife. It was huge — the fattest knife you can pull out of your butcher block," Gallo says. "The kid stood there so still it was almost like a mannequin. It scared me enough that I've been at home shaking and trembling for two days."
Fortunately, the masked, knife-wielding person wasn't a deranged homicidal maniac. Delray Beach Police report that this hair-raising monster was actually a five-foot-tall, 74-pound ten-year-old playing pranks in the Colony Palms gated community. Gallo says other neighbors told officers the child stood in their driveways and garages — ominously silent, still, and clutching a sharp knife. As clowns and other pranks dominate social media, Gallo hopes pranksters will be more mindful of the fear they cause and the potential risk of scared residents defending themselves with a weapon.
"What if I had to defend myself?" Gallo says. "I don't carry guns, but that was a real knife and it still scares me."
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After her daughter rushed inside, Gallo told the masked prankster to hand her the knife and to lead her to his mother. Gallo says the child complied and took off the mask. "I was shocked to find this angelic-looking kid underneath," she says.
Gallo says the child's mother was sunbathing at the community's pool. Gallo called police and refused to return the knife. Delray Beach Police confirm they responded to a juvenile complaint on Saturday, October 22, at 5 p.m. Police stated that "all parties were advised of the dangers of Halloween pranks."
As children prepare to trick-or-treat next Monday, Gallo hopes her experience raises awareness about taking Halloween pranks too far.
"If this was a joke, it was taken too far," Gallo says. "I don't find this funny. It was freaky."