Mythical Monday: The Boogeyman and Other Childhood Monsters, by Mae Clair

Childhood days are filled with fun, a time of delight and discovery. But children also have vivid imaginations for conjuring the denizens of make-believe. Like most otherworldly elements, the fantastical is inhabited with beings of light and dark.

Full moonMost of us remember the boogeyman under the bed, a malevolent creature born from the blood of midnight, dust and shadow. When darkness settled, the boogeyman left its realm, oozing to life through the floorboards beneath a child’s bed. We knew better than to dangle a hand or foot over the edge of the mattress. The temptation was a blatant invitation for the boogeyman to “get us.” Although it was never really clear what that amounted to, we knew it would be terrifying.

Trying to convince an adult of the boogeyman’s existence was pointless. Once a light switch was activated, or a parent peered under the bed to reassure us, the boogeyman retreated, seeping back through the floorboards before it could be spied. Clever and ghastly, it wasn’t the only menacing creature to haunt our bedroom.

Kindred of the boogeyman, the closet monster was every bit as sinister. Like the boogeyman it appeared at night, summoned when a closet door was left standing ajar. That crack, no matter how minuscule, summoned it with the lure of slipping into our world. Shut the closet and the monster would be trapped inside. For all its menacing presence, it was powerless to open the door on its own.

bigstock-Silhouette-of-branches-19396952With the closet monster contained and the boogeyman prowling beneath the bed, that left only the dark enchantment born from the night. Wind, moonlight and shadow had the power to turn everyday tree branches into writhing snakes and skeletal fingers. When those same grasping fingers tapped against night-blackened window panes, we knew the danger lurking outside actively sought a way indoors.

In the morning, the touch of sunlight banished all dark creatures to their shadow-draped warrens and we could almost believe the danger wouldn’t return. Almost. In the bright wash of daylight, darkness and the denizens that inhabited its realm held no power.

We rode bikes, raced across open fields, picked wild strawberries and climbed trees. When dusk fell, we danced with fireflies, told ghost stories and played hide-and-seek. Twilight was magical, nothing to fear. But night eventually settled, forcing us to crawl into bed, certain the boogeyman had returned.

Somehow, despite all the ghoulish creatures that wanted to “get us,” we emerged from childhood unscathed. In time, we reached an age where they no longer existed, and ceased to trouble our sleep.

Maybe it’s just me, but dangling my hand over the edge of the bed is something that still gives me pause. Even as logic tells me there is nothing down there, I get that shivery sensation that has me snatching my hand back to safety after a short time. Silly? Yes. But a writer’s imagination is every bit as vivid as a child’s. How about yours?

Bet honest. How comfortable are you dangling a hand or foot over the edge of the bed? What nighttime creatures frightened you in childhood?

16 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Boogeyman and Other Childhood Monsters, by Mae Clair

  1. It wasn’t the boogeyman that frightened me so much as the spiders!! Ha ha! Things that creep me out are dolls. Still can’t sleep in a room that has them. I swear they come to life at night!

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    • Hi, Stacy! Nice to see you here. And, OMG, dolls totally creeped me out. They still do, perfect for horror novels and movies. And let’s not forget clowns. They can definitely come off as sinister and menacing. I’d forgotten about both until your comment about dolls dredged them up from my memory!

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  2. I so very much enjoyed this! You, Mae, are meant to write, that is very clear from this wonderful piece of prose. I am living this childhood now, albeit through my 4 (almost 5) year old, who, like his mum, has an imagination that conjures the most interesting things. We live in a house that is over 70 years old, so it has slanted ceilings, odd shaped recesses and small closets with no latches, perfect for the closet monster. In the boys room, we now have two nightlights plus a star-light dog (projects stars on ceiling while they fall asleep) to keep these baddies away. We have another half dozen nightlights strategically placed around the house for middle-of-the-night bathroom trips. I have an awful fear of the dark still! So I honestly don’t mind the nightlights.

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    • Hi, Cd! Thanks so much for those lovely words about my post and writing 😀 As for the house you live in – – wow! – – it sounds awesome! Although with all those nooks, crannies, and slanted ceilings, I can see where it could come across as harboring frightening creatures (at night) to young boys. I love the sound of the star-light dog that projects a starfield on the ceiling.What a wonderful way to fall asleep, making night time far less frightening! Thanks for sharing such great comments!

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  3. Mae, this is awesome! It’s tough to have such vivid imaginations sometimes, but at least as writers we can put that stuff to good use. And yes, I *always* keep my hands from dangling over the edge of the bed. LOL You just never know!

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    • So glad to know I’m not the only one who still gets the willies from a hand dangling over the side of the bed, LOL. Thrilled you enjoyed the post, Donna. Yep, even as a kid, my writer’s imagination conjured all kinds of hobgoblins and spooky things from shapes in the dark. On the plus side, I dreamed up castles, unicorns and magical kingdoms in daylight-drenched fields!

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  4. Thanks… I needed something to give me the willies, Mae! LOL I typically won’t dangle a hand over the bed, though a foot doesn’t bother me. Weird? It’s funny though, how hard we, as parents now, try to alleviate those same fears from our children/grandchildren. My granddaughter doesn’t leave her closet closed–ever. We’re constantly telling her to close it, to no avail. And she isn’t afraid of things that go bump in the night–despite her ability to ‘see’ things in the dark. True story- my granddaughter was upstairs getting ready for bed one night last fall. My daughter (her mom) and I were sitting on the front porch playing with a ghost hunting app on her phone and it said there was something very low on the ground at the top of a low rise just in front of us in my yard. We were laughing and having fun guessing ‘what it was’ when my g-daughter came out and sat between us, unaware of what we were doing or had been saying. She looked around a minute, then turned to me and said “there’s a little dog on the hill by that tree.” I looked at daughter and we started asking her questions. It seems my seven yo g-daughter saw the ghost on the rise we were laughing about moments earlier… One night a few months before this she claimed to see a little boy out back in the thick brambles. My dog had been looking right where she pointed, barking, minutes earlier. Yet she’s afraid of coyotes.

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    • Oooh, now I have the willies, Calisa! What awesome stories. No wonder your granddaughter doesn’t worry about the closet monster or things that go bump in the night! I recall you have a lot of interesting stuff in your family background and history and they say ‘gifts’ are often passed down through generations. Thanks for stopping by to share. Fascinating stuff!

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  5. Yep, all those bad guys were in my room too. Still are sometimes, but only when my husband is gone lol. Funny thing is I understand when my son tells me he sees eyes in his TV set at night (last night) that I need to be creative enough to make them disappear all together or they’ll be back the minute I leave. I only know because I still remember those bad guys and how they work 😉

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    • Good for you with that creativity, L.J.! I like that you haven’t forgotten what those night time fears were like and are able to banish them for him. So sweet! And now that you mention it, if my husband is away, I still sometimes get creeped out at night too, when I turn out the lights. Odd how not having him there can resurrect those fears from childhood!

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    • Hi, Liza! So, original! Alligators are one I hadn’t thought of. I’m glad you were able to leap the distance and make it to safety, LOL. Thanks so much for checking out my post and sharing!

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  6. Fun post, Mae. It brought back many memories of childhood. I never really had a problem with the boogeyman under the bed, but that pile of dirty clothes, that never made it to the laundry basket, moved around a lot as soon as the lights went out.

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    • Hi, Stanalie. Great call on the pile of dirty clothes. They deffinitely morphed into some menacing creatures at night! It made me think of the blankets bunched up on my sister’s bed too. It was easy to see eyes in the folds! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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