I don't know what came over me, but the words just came out of my mouth. It was 1966 and I was in the third grade at Fenton Elementary School in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKees Rocks when my friend Diane casually told our teacher, Mrs. Shaw, that someone had tried to lure one of her brothers into his car. For whatever reason, perhaps because I noticed the attention Diane's statement generated, I blurted out that the same thing had happened to me - and suddenly the attention shifted. My mother was called as were the police. I provided a name (R. Ziegler) and a license plate number. No one thought it peculiar that a 9-year-old child was savvy enough to notice a license plate number, or that a kidnapper would reveal his last name.
In response a stakeout was organized. For a week a police officer sat in an unmarked car parked in a driveway on my block and I was instructed to walk home from school, alone, down the alley. I realized this was spiraling out of control but I was too scared to admit the truth. A few months later after it appeared my lie was dead and buried, we were in church when my mother saw the name Ziegler in the church bulletin and pointed it out to me. Thankfully, that would be the last time my fabricated story was mentioned.
My lie went undiscovered for about a dozen years. But then, as a sophomore at Penn State, my American History class was given an assignment to write a personal history. In mine I decided to come clean and reveal my fabricated kidnapping attempt. Then four years later, after I had moved to New York, my parents were going through my things as they packed them away and they came across my project. Of course, they were stunned at what they read. (They also discovered literature that suggested I was gay.)
Although my troubling fabrication didn't become a Crucible-like witch hunt, my first-hand experience made me very skeptical of accusations made by a child.