The first time it happened we were bored and wandering around the neighborhood, talking about girls. Joe mentioned a girl he had a crush on and how she, conveniently, lived only a block away at the end of a dead end street on a tall hill. I think we joked a little bit about making a prank call to her or ding dong ditching her house, but Joe one upped it and said how about we do some army surveillance in her back yard. We'd crawl around undetected in the yard, see what was going on inside, kill 15-20 minutes and be on our way. It definitely sounded weird, but what teenage boy doesn't love the idea of crawling around in the dark and playing army dude. Plus I was young, and she was supposedly an attractive female, so that probably played into it.
We got to her house and snuck around the side...lights off pretty much all the way around except for the kitchen which was off the back. The house had five windows off the back, four of the basic pane variety that were all dark and one that was more like french doors for the kitchen, so that one was pretty open. On the side there were two windows, one upstairs one downstairs, both dark. The backyard was all grass with no obstacles for a bit, but there was a back tree/grass line that provided coverage. That said it was very thin, maybe 4 feet until the yard that backed this yard, so we could be seen from either side. The side yard with the two windows was much easier to hide in...there was no house next door so this area was pitch black and between tree cover and a tree house they had, plus some bushes, it would be really hard to be detected on that side.
So we came up the side and investigated, as I said all lights were out. We go around back and we're on that "fence line" (it was fall so it was really more of a leaf line since there wasn't a fence). An older woman (Mom?) was in the kitchen so we laid on our bellies for a while watching her as she went through the daily mail. An older man (Dad?) came in and talked with her for a while before going to the right and turning on the light in that room, which turned out to be a bathroom (awkward!). As he's doing that the girl that Joe had a crush on came to talk to her Mom, so we all got to see her. She was definitely cute, but I was feeling a huge mix of feelings with us spying on these people that weirdly made her even better looking. Lee agreed...so we both felt weird about it but we also kind of both got into it. And just as we're thinking all that Joe is talking about finding other views as he crawls further into the yard to try to find an obstacle to hide behind.
We probably laid there watching the kitchen scene unfold for forty five minutes to an hour, so far longer than our 15-20 minutes we initially figured. We moved around a bit at times when people came in and out of the room to check other rooms, but nothing ever lit up besides the kitchen and the bathroom. So eventually (I think it was a school night) we decided we had been sketchy enough and walked back home.
We didn't really talk about it for a few days, because I think we all felt a lot awkward about it. That being said, the weekend came and, with more time to spare since we didn't need to get in as early to sleep, my brother's friend suggested we head back. It's amazing how much of me wanted to go back, so much so that we took my 7 year old brother Josh with us too since he was playing with us outside at the time. I want to say he was a streetwise 7 year old for our suburbs...but he was also just a 7 year old so that was a pretty terrible idea. But I was also 10...so it happened.
We get back there, and compared to the night a few days ago the place is positively lit UP. The kitchen light is on, the bathroom light is on, the top left light out back is on (but we can't see in) and both side lights were on. The top light on the side we couldn't see in, but the bottom room was actually a computer room and when we showed up the Dad was in there. We actually got really nervous at first that he saw us walk up since we always came around the side...but I guess he didn't since we were able to safely find out positions either on the fence line or behind bushes.
We waited for a while, and eventually the crush comes into the computer room and takes over the computer from Dad. Me, Lee, and Joe all immediately flock to that side, with our buddy climbing into the tree house, quoting that weird Adam Sandler song about a stalker as he did it. Lee and Joe were frozen on that spot for most of her online marathon...could've been 10 minutes could've been an hour...but eventually I wanted "more action" and went back to the tree line where Josh was hiding. Mom and a little boy were now in the kitchen chatting and having a snack. After a little bit Joe came back over, and it was at this point that he and I both majorly freaked each other out.
There was a house behind us as I mentioned before, and we swore we caught movement out of the corner of our eyes which could mean someone caught us. We both duck down and froze and waited. No one said anything...we didn't see anything, but after what felt like 15-20 minutes the back room light of the house behind us shut off. Pretty spooky since they were near us, but we figured we were in the clear...maybe we just noticed someone before they saw us or something. So we stuck around in that back leaf area, watching the kitchen and the back room alternatively, probably for another 5 minutes. This is when all hell broke loose.
As we were still lying on the ground, the back porch light of the crush's house turns on, bright as the sun, and the Dad comes out on a cordless phone. Crush stood behind him at the french doors - I think she just wanted to see what was out there. The neighbor behind us had seen us and I guess they were friends because they immediately called the Dad to let him know something was up. He had a bat in his other hand and we had no idea what to do so we all just took off in different directions. I saw Lee take off around the side yard and down the hill, which was our typical way. Since myself and Joe were both in the back yard we both got up and ran towards the house with the back porch room...we didn't know where else to go and that seemed most direct to my house even though it was through woods, so we just ran.
I lost track of him for a second but just kept booking it, and ended up finding a street that was one set of woods from my own. I ran across the street but stopped in the middle as I saw Joe with "Dad," who had grabbed the kid with both arms and was berating him in the middle of the street.
I froze like a deer. I was literally in the middle of the street, watching this interaction happen about 30 yards from me also in the middle of the street, but neither Dad nor Joe saw me. Dad seemed to have no idea what to do with Joe...Joe was just 12 after all and even though Dad had a 12 year old daughter it was still just a kid. So he told him to never do this again, next time I'll call the cops, etc., and Joe just ran. He caught up with me at my house and a short while later Lee was there too.
We then realized that Josh was not there. And seeing how he was 7, and how this man with a bat threatened police action, and how the whole thing in general was kind of sketch, we got pretty nervous. We debated going back, roaming the neighborhood (he was definitely within half a mile but that's a pretty big radius), etc. when all of a sudden Josh comes running down the hill to our yard. Turned out he was lying on his stomach to blend in before everything went nuts, and when everything did he just never...got...up. The Dad almost stepped on him but never noticed him, and after waiting for everything to die down Josh slipped out the side yard like Lee and came back home. Clever kid.
We've talked about the incident literally once since...even in the moment it was too weird to bring up again especially with us leaving Josh behind. It was 6-7 years later and I randomly thought of it and mentioned it to Lee. He said "Man...that was really fucked up." and that was the end of that conversation.
It's now 10 years later and I've never told anyone the story, including my wife.