Appalachia Ghost Stories

Ghosties-The Booger Man-Bloody Bones


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.

Granny Jenkins and kids


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.

chatter and chitter with pumpkin


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.


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  • Reply
    Tamara Henderson
    February 18, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    I used to hear the stories of Bloody Bones and Raw Heads

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Not a ghost story, but my parents really did scare me. I do remember being about 5 and having a transistor radio. It disappeared one day from the front yard, where I’d left it. I was scared as to what had happened to the radio and what my parents would say. Confessing took a lot of courage. They said that someone probably took it because I had not put it away when done. A few months later the radio appeared. My parents had hidden it away-to teach me a lesson on responsibility. They said I’d learned my lesson(whew).

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    My Pa Bradley, he was my mean grandpa. He was as mean as my Pa Ernest was good. Anyway they had a big chest type deep freezer in their kitchen which set along the wall behind the dinner table. They kept it locked which made me want to look in it. Plus there was a little red light by the handle to open it. I thought there must be a treasure in there. After he noticed my interest he assured me “Raw Hide and Bloody Bones” were in the freezer. After that talk he always made me sit at the side of the table next to the freezer. He thought it was funny but I remember being too scared to eat or throwing up if I did eat.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    October 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Did my parents ever scare me..and how?
    Our yard was long and broad. Kudzu grew down the shallow valley below the house and made giant creepy shadows in the summer evenings. In the Fall after a hard freeze, it was a playground. The leaves turned brown and made a huge slide of dead Kudzu…We were warned not to take our cardboard sleds any further than just the bottom of the hill as there was an old cabin, with glass and debris that a child could get hurt on plus it was very snaky…and the thing would surely get us!
    I felt it grab me and sting me after breaking this rule one time…It was ferocious. It hung around in our backyard. With humps up and down that looked like they reached to the sky… It would sway to and fro like it was approaching you when the dusk fell…In the winter when leaves were off of the trees and the Kudzu was brown, this thing would hang over and made a swishing noise when the wind would blow. It sounded more intimidating than it looked…It was very large near its bottom, with brown bumps on its body…Up, up to the tops of the humps and swaying torso….
    I’ll never forget the fright I got from going to far beyond the end of the slide that fall. It was on a warm November evening after school and I was exploring!
    It got hold of me, it stung more than a bee, somehow it missed my back, but one of my hands got the bite too. I was hoppin‘ and jumpin‘ and runnin‘ back home, with one arm held high in the air!…I never returned to that place again, because the warning was true and forever more I knew my Mother didn’t tell fibs!..What was the thing that caught me, hurt me, scared me and made me a believer in warnings….
    It came off that humpy, brown bumpy, swishing and swaying, hanging thing! One of the scariest “boogers” in the world to a kids necked legs…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    They used to tell us if we didn’t behave we’d get sent to “reform school” We weren’t sure what it meant!

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    October 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    My wife’s family grew up with tales of Bloody Bones & Raw Head. I need to pass this story around her family!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    When my older brother and I was
    young and roudy, mama and daddy
    used the “raw head and bloody bones” treatment on us too, but
    we loved to pillow fight. One
    night my brother had got the best
    of me, was moving in for one last
    big swing. I ducked and he took
    out a big window, and it was
    wintertime. We got one good
    whoppin’ for that, and daddy had
    to cut a piece of pasteboard to
    keep out the cold. Layin’ in bed
    we didn’t think about no boogers,
    just when that limb was a gonna
    quit hurtin’…Ken

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Growing up in Louisiana we were threatened with the “Rougarou” a mythical being that roamed the fields and swamps. Half man and half wolf, very similar to the modern day werewolf legends : ) Just a nasty little beastie waiting to eat them bad Louisiana children.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Happily my parents didn’t scare us with the Boogie Man, Bloody Bones or the Ring-Tailed Wooly Wampas, but Dad was a practical joker like you describe with the Deer Hunter. The worst (or best) one was the night he sneaked into my room on his hands and knees, grabbed the foot posts of my bed and made the bed jump up and down. I’m not a panicky person by nature, but I let out a war-hoop and broke a land speed record getting off that bed!

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I’ve never heard of bloody bones. I knew the booger man would get you, but I lived in abject fear of the sack man. The sack man was a horrible creature who roamed the country dragging a tow sack in which he threw misbehaving little boys and dragged them off to Lord knows where. I’m sure he’s still out there, although these days it’ud take a mighty big tow sack and a very strong back.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am

    My mother, who grew up in back woods Kentucky, was often told to beware of ‘Ol’ Raw Head and Bloody Bones’. It frightened her and her sisters so much that they couldn’t muster enough courage to get past the hole on the stairs to go to bed, for fear of him reaching out and grabbing them. Mostly they were were told this by their brothers who had already made it to the top of the stairs on their way to the second floor bedrooms.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Don’t remember my folks ever trying to scare me, but did share stories with friends. Loved Stephen A’s story! Could really see him coming down that hill and clearing the fence! Always enjoy a good story teller.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 9:47 am

    My parents told lots of ghost stories and warned us about the booger man, bloody bones and the wildcat. What did they expect us to do when we had to go potty outside at night? Any one of those evil things was bound to get us when we stepped foot out the door. When I tried to use the same scare tactics on my kids, their dad put a stop to it. His parents never scared him and he didn’t understand why parents did that.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 25, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Nope, my parents didn’t try to scare me. My mother had been badly scared as a child. She wouldn’t do that to my sister and I.
    The Deer Hunter has a really playful side in his nature.
    That is not only a pretty hat that is a pretty little girl it’s on.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 7:50 am

    We lived near a river that had a popular lover’s lane and it came with the tale of the Wampas Cat. I have no idea how to spell that. It was supposedly a part cat, part human creature (sort of like a big foot deal) that would come and carry off young damsels and courting couples. It was fairly effective at keeping some lovers away, because there were Florida Panthers living down there and they would scream all night during mating season. I don’t think that it worked very well for those young ladies that were taken to the location, as I am quite sure that when the panthers screamed they probably jumped straight into their boyfriends arms. 😀

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    October 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

    As a child we had the boogey man threat, but it really wasn’t done in a scary manner. I think that the more scary thing was used in a religious threat – God was watching you. Santa Claus was a good one – we were very good from Thanksgiving until Christmas morning. Happy spooking!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Oh yes, my Mama was the worst to scare us and it was to make us mind. Until I was grown, I looked for the old red eyes & bloody bones–that old thang–the old witch woman–and that old man out behind the old bc bush!!!! Never knew what a bc bush was, let alone where an old man could be. They’s scare us so bad about bedtime, that I’d nearly pee the bed for fear of getting up to face one of those scary things. Don’t think any of their tales ever made us mind any better. By the way, cute pics.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 25, 2012 at 7:26 am

    That’s you in the elf cap and Steve in front? Who are the other two kids?

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    October 25, 2012 at 6:54 am

    When I was a child my mother and me spend a lot of time at my grandmothers house. There was a gravel road that ran by my grandmaws house and on the other side of the road was a pasture. To get to the pasture you had to climb a steep bank and crawl over or thru a barbwire fence. From there it was all uphill until you got to the woods at the top then it leveled off.
    Granny and mommy warned me to never so into those woods because that is where the booger man lived and he would get me. This worked for along time but one day my curiosity took over and I decided to see if I could get a look at that rascal. Off I went and all was going well for maybe a hundred yards into the woods. At this point I heard someone or something walking in the leaves and at that point my fear yelled for curiosity to move over cause it was time to run. Out of the woods, down thru the pasture I went at a full run. Grandmaw and mommy told me they saw me coming and when I got to the two strand barbwire fence I jumped and cleared it with room to spare ,tumbled down the bank and landed on my feet still running and never missed a step.
    I avoided those woods for years then found out the reason they didn’t want me going there was because that is where one of out neighbors had his still.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 25, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Not really, but I heard those ghost stories from friends and got just as scared. Bloody B ones is one I remember well.

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