I am thinking about starting a support group for those of us who survived the terror that is “Gabora the Gorilla Girl.”

If you don’t know who Gabora the Gorilla Girl is, it is not your fault. The American educational system being what it is probably doesn’t teach this in school. Gabora is an Africa princess who turned down the advances of a witch doctor and, as punishment, he used his dark magic to curse her forever. Every night when the moon rises she transforms from a beautiful princess to a gigantic gorilla with a serious attitude problem. In fact, the gorilla is in an absolute rage.

The non-believers amongst us will, of course, scoff. They will tell us Gabora the Gorilla Girl is fake. That is it only a carnival trick. They will tell you no one can actually turn into a gorilla and, besides, how is it that a princess from Africa is white (which Gabora most definitely is)?

Let them scoff, I say. I know Gabora and her curse are real, because I, along with a tent-full of people, witnessed the transformation with my own two terror-stricken eyes.

I was nine at the time and the State Fair was in town. I spotted a house-sized banner that showed a color cartoon drawing of a blonde girl in a leopard-skinned outfit alongside a massive, angry gorilla bearing huge canines. As if the poster wasn’t enticing enough, a voice boomed out of loud speakers assuring me it was all real. “See her change from a live girl to a gorilla before your eyes!” the voice told me. “Watch her grow six to eight inches! Watch her grow long, black hair!”

I was a big fan of Tarzan at the time and the whole thing had a sort of Tarzany feel to it. I instantly begged my parents to let me go see the show. After a sufficient amount of whining (which is an unsightly thing to see two parents do), they finally gave in.

My sister did not want to go, so my mom stayed outside with her while Dad took me in. Before he took me in, he made me swear I would stand next to him for the entire show and, no matter what happened, I would not run. The ‘no matter what happened’ part caused me a little twinge of concern. Regardless, I solemnly swore an oath that I would stay by his side.

We paid our admission, then we waited and waited as people piled in. I thought the show would never begin, but eventually the lights went down and a spotlight illuminated the stage. On the stage was a cage. An announcer stepped out from a patch a darkness next to the stage. He wore a tan suite and a pith helmet like Mister Magoo wore. He took a position next to the cage and told us the story of Gabora. Next, Gabora appeared inside the cage wearing the leopard-skinned outfit in the poster. This caused a stir in the crowd, primarily from the men. Some men whistled. Things were shouted. A couple of twenty-something guys standing alongside me and Dad made a few comments regarding Gabora and her state of dress. I did not entirely understand what their comments meant, but I got the distinct impression they were big fans of Gabora’s fashion choices and they were not put off in the least by the fact she sometimes turned into a gorilla. They were more than willing to take their chances – whatever that meant.

The crowd grew quiet. Some kind of African drums came pounding through the loud speakers. My heart beat along with them.

“Watch carefully as she changes,” said the announcer then disappeared into the darkness beside the stage.

Believe me, I watched carefully and there it happened. Gabora faded away into complete darkness. She faded back into view again, only now her face looked a little like an ape. She dissolved into darkness once more, then back she came again. This time she looked even more like an ape. Her face had dark black hair on it. Same with her arms and neck. She faded away again. This time when she resolved back into view in her place was a huge gorilla.

I can only say I am glad there were no gnats buzzing around the tent, because I would have probably sucked them all in.

Not only was there a gorilla there, but it was an angry gorilla. I knew the gorilla was angry, because it beat its chest and roared. It charged from one side of the cage to the other and crashed into the bars. It grabbed the bars and shook its body violently back and forth roaring all the while. I wasn’t too panicked, because it was locked in a cage. Then, to my absolute shock and horror, it grabbed the gate of the cage and busted it wide open.

A group shriek the likes of which I never experienced before or since erupted from the crowd. People three counties away must have heard that shriek. I personally did not shriek, only because my vocals chords, along with the rest of my anatomy, was paralyzed with fright.

That only lasted a second.

Oath be damned, I wheeled around with every intent of putting as much South Carolina real estate between me and that gorilla as possible. I didn’t even consider my dad. I was in every man for himself mode. I felt my dad’s hand descend on my arm. Being a forward-thinking person, Dad had positioned us next to a massive tent pole. He stepped behind the pole and dragged me over with him as a mass of bodies moving at warp speed toward the exit came stampeding around us. I just knew one of the passersbys would be that gorilla, but I never saw it and Dad refused to move.

As long as I draw breathe, I will never forget the man who ran face first into that tent pole at full speed. The impact literally knocked him backwards to the ground. Without wasting a second he jumped up and took off running again.

“That’s why we don’t run,” Dad told me.

When the crowd was gone the gorilla was nowhere to be found. Dad and I walked out of the tent. He didn’t seem too concerned about a gorilla on the loose. I kept looking behind us to make sure it was not coming after us.

Later, Dad explained that it was all a trick. He explained how the trick worked; how they used lighting and mirrors to only make it look like the girl turned into a gorilla. He told me the gorilla was a man in a costume.

I was, of course, saddened to hear all this. Alas, my father was a non-believer.