Did your parents ever scare you into minding them?
When Papaw and his brothers were small they lived by a deep set of thick woods. Whenever it rained their parents told them, the man with no head walked in the woods.
Papaw said they were so scared they would shut all the windows, lock the doors, and hide under the covers every time it rained. I can see what was behind the scary story-4 boys playing in the wet woods can track in a whole lot of dirt.
The only scare tactic I can remember Pap and Granny using on me, Steve, and Paul, was a generic “don’t do that or the booger man will get you.” But it was said in such a kidding nature-we all knew it wasn’t true.
My Granny Gazzie lived beside a 4-lane highway (her house was there long before the road). I can remember her warning us not to go behind the house or Bloody Bones would get us. I’m sure she was really worried we would wander into the busy highway. Since I couldn’t fathom how bones could possibly hurt me I wasn’t scared and snuck behind the house as often as possible. (I’m the baby in the picture-wasn’t my hat cute!)
After I first published this post back in 2008, Granny Sue, storyteller extraordinaire, pointed out my Granny Gazzie’s story of bloody bones had been used to scare children since the 1600s.
In the book Faiths and Folklore, (first published in 1905 and still in print) author William Carew Hazlitt notes that William Butler referenced the term “Raw Head” or “Bloody bones” twice in his book Hudibras, which was written between 1660 and 1680, another indication of the possible Celtic origin of the tale. And in Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500-1700 (published in 2001 by Oxford University Press), Adam Fox notes that “another specter which had been a particular terror of children at least since Reginald Scot’s childhood in the 1540’s was Raw-head and bloody-bone.” He goes on to say that servants often used the term to frighten children, and that the creature was often said to inhabit ponds and to pull in children who got too close the water’s edge.
The Deer Hunter does lots of scary teasing with the girls-jumping out at them as they go down the hallway or turning the lights off when they’re in the shower. But we haven’t ever used the scare tactic on them-except where it’s totally true like-Beware of strangers.
One autumn day when the girls were small we were visiting Papaw and Nana. They live near a paper mill and you can faintly hear the whistle blow throughout the day. The girls were playing upstairs when the dinner whistle blew. They came running downstairs and Chatter said “we heard 3 ghosties one said whoo one said whooo and one said give me my shoes back.” We laughed at her story until we cried.
Several days later I figured out the part about the shoes-we had recently watched The Wizard of Oz.
So did your parents ever scare you?
Portions of this post were originally published here on the Blind Pig in October of 2008.