My Night With a Muppet and Other Mishegas


September 24, 2014 by Melanie L.

When I was a young child, somewhere near the age of six, I scared the crap out of my mom.  I don’t mean that I ran into the street without looking.  That type of fear is too pedestrian.  No.  I hitched-her-breath, stopped-her-heart, and shocked-her-conscious scared her with my response to her innocent question, “what are you doing, Honey?”

“I’m picking the maggots* off my arm,” I answered casually.

While maggots on a cherub’s arm would be pretty gross, to say the least, what frightened my mom was not the presence of maggots but rather the absence thereof.  I was pinching the air just a centimeter above my left forearm, pivoting my elbow and releasing the pinched air to my right and repeating.

I’d like to tell you that I had an active imagination as well as a recent life-cycles science class, except, no.  I was not imagining the maggots.  I was hallucinating.


At age 6!

While there were no real maggots, I had indeed caught a bug.  A day or two earlier, I had contracted something from a small pool.**  While my body sent my temperature soaring to 105 degrees – yes, you read that correctly – it sent my mind tumbling down the rabbit hole of febrile delirium.

Luckily, I never had any seizures associated with my high fever but I had multiple hallucinations.  In addition to the maggots, I remember I saw a muppet-like, blue-furred monster seated in what was really an empty chair at the dinner table.  We locked eyes and it smiled at me the only way a puppet can – with a gaping mouth – and then quietly resumed eating.

As if imaginary maggots and a Muppet at the dinner table weren’t enough, I also hallucinated when my dad carried me down the stairs to get some children’s acetaminophen.  I had to tell him to slow down: the stairway was blazing past like the Enterprise at warp speed though I hadn’t yet seen the show (still haven’t) or had any introduction to even basic physics.

Although my experience with febrile delirium gave my mom a fright early on, it may have saved her from some needless parental worry later on.  I never succumbed to the lure of illicit hallucinogens as a late teen/early adult in large measure because I had already been there, done that.  I did not need a refresher.

So three weeks ago, when my precious three-year-old daughter developed a very high fever very quickly, I didn’t flinch when she woke startled and cried at the sight of “bugs in my bed laughing at me.”  I gave her some acetaminophen, called her pediatrician, and smiled at the thought that one day, when hallucinations are optional, she, too, will choose to steer clear.

Author’s Footnotes

*I remember them as maggots, however, my mom says I had told her they were spiders.

**I developed febrile delirium twice in my childhood, once in the summertime and again in a different season, but I can’t remember exactly which hallucination accompanied which instance of illness.

14 thoughts on “My Night With a Muppet and Other Mishegas

  1. Oh my goodness! My oldest daughter has had this several times. Pretty much every time she gets a high fever she hallucinates butterflies in her bedroom, or sleepwalks. It was terrifying the first time, now we’re used to it. She is a quirky little girl and pretty amazing for it. Great to hear there are others!


  2. Marcy says:

    How frightening! I haven’t heard of febrile delirium. One of my sons was hearing voices for a while. We had him talk to someone, and she believed he was really hearing them. We didn’t know where to turn next and pretty much did nothing for a while. They eventually went away. He had had a concussion around that time, so in my mind I chalked it up to being related to that.


    • Melanie L. says:

      That sounds scary! I’ve never had a concussion but I’d be willing to bet that concussions can definitely do some damage to the sensory processing mechanisms. Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about it again!


  3. Candace says:

    I haven’t heard of febrile delirium either, but I’m having fun imaging a child hallucinating! This was really well told, and I like that my (nonexistent) Yiddish vocabulary is being expanded. 🙂


  4. Meg says:

    Your story brought back memories for me, Melanie! My hallucination during a bout of Hong Kong flu was of three tall men in dark coats and hats. How ‘come we never have visions of cuddly bunnies?


  5. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I’ve had those kind of hallucinations, too! Only it was more like people appearing who weren’t there, or my parents’ faces dripping…


  6. Linda Roy says:

    I’ve never had that happen. Wow, that’s wild.


  7. Andrea says:

    I have never had to experience this for myself or my children. If I did, there would surely be an emergency room visit involved! I’m thankful to you that I will now be somewhat more prepared if my kids start hallucinating!


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Behind the Blog

Melanie L.

Melanie L.

Wanna-be writer, amateur oil painter, practicing law and motherhood with varied success.

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