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DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from "Concerned in Phoenix," about the friend whose husband scares the 2-year-old. Tell "Concerned" to lighten up! This kid isn't getting traumatized. I have been scaring my three kids since they were 6, 3 and 1. The 3-year-old was looking for me and I decided to hide and scare him. Yes, he did turn white and jump a mile -- but the laughter and hugs and kisses that followed more than made up for it. All three kids and my husband joined in the game and have spent the last 10 years scaring me back.

Everyone is happy and healthy, and we share a great sense of humor. It's all in fun. My only rules are never to do it to be evil, and don't scare anyone over 50. I don't want anyone dying of a heart attack. -- SCARED AND HAPPY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR S AND H: Scaring a young child is an act of sadism, and I couldn't disagree with you more emphatically. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My father was sadistic and did the same things to my brother, my mom and me. He also thought it was funny. When we were toddlers, he would put on masks and chase us around the house. He once held my brother out the window of a two-story apartment just to see Mom's reaction. My entire life I've had nightmares of being chased, caught and killed.

Finally, after intensive therapy, the dreams have stopped. But to this day, if my husband impulsively comes up behind me to give me a hug, I cringe and get sick to my stomach. Not only does that father need counseling, but the mother does, too. -- N.L.O. in L.A.

DEAR ABBY: My dad thought it was "fun time" when he caught mice in a trap. They would still be alive, and he'd put them on our feet while we were in bed, either sleeping or awake. To this day, I become very upset and shake like a leaf when I see a mouse.

I agree with you, Abby. That dad is sadistic. Even after all these years, my father's scare tactics have left me damaged. -- STILL TREMBLING IN FLORIDA

DEAR ABBY: My grandmother took joy in repeatedly scaring me half to death. She'd put on a scary mask and jump from behind doors or from dark corners. She thought it was funny when I shook and cried so hard I couldn't catch my breath.

Because of the emotional scars I received, I grew up afraid of my own shadow. I have a terribly strong fear of the unknown. I'm still battling those childhood demons. Abby, please print this. That child will become like me if his father doesn't stop. -- FEARFUL IN VIRGINIA

DEAR ABBY: Because my father delighted in scaring me when I was only 2 -- I am 57 now -- I am afraid of deep water, heights and also nighttime. I will not walk down an unlighted country road, let alone go into the basement of a house at night. Although the streets in my neighborhood are well lighted, I avoid walking past homes with a hedge extending to the main sidewalk. If a car is parked in the driveway, I walk near the curb. If anyone comes unannounced to my home at night, I will not answer the door.

When I was in the service, one of my roommates thought I was joking when I told him about my fear of the dark. One night he put his arm on my shoulder. I was so badly frightened, I flipped him over my head. He was 6 feet 2 inches and weighed more than 250 pounds. I'm just 6 feet tall and weighed 170. It took seven men to haul me off him. They tell me I was using his head for a football. He was hospitalized for more than two months.

I wish my dad had gotten counseling when I was 2. I wonder why he didn't -- and why he refused to grow up. -- AFRAID OF THE DARK

DEAR AFRAID: At this point, so do millions of other people -- including me.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "CAN'T STOP TALKING IN CLASS": Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your mouth is moving. Learn to button your lip and listen to your teachers. Once you master the art of listening, your grades should vastly improve.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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