Monday, September 22, 2008

Monsters!


This is a good time of year to consider monsters! After all, don't they lurk in the dusky shadows of long autumn evenings?


When I was young, my sisters and I all slept in one big bedroom. Getting 6 or 7 girls to go to sleep wasn't easy. We'd want to lay in bed and talk. But being the oldest, I was responsible for seeing that everyone went to sleep by the time Dad dictated (dictated being the correct word here). There were times when Dad should have been on the US most wanted list for his ruthless (okay, necessary) setting of rules.


Finally after one long evening of trying to get my sisters to be quiet so we wouldn't be in trouble with Dad, I had a brainstorm.


"He lives in the closet, you know. That long, skinny closet right over there. The one with no light in it. That dark closet. That's where he lives.
He is tall and skinny. he wears a tall black hat and a long black coat. He has a green face, green, slobbery teeth and long fingernails. His name is Mr. Skinnyhead. Do you know what he eats? Little girls who are not asleep when they should be!"


That got their attention. Some started crying, "Don't let him get us!"


"Well, go to sleep!" I replied (heartless, wasn't I?). Another voice came from the darkness.


"I'm too scared to sleep!" Was it Mary or Theresa? Or Judy? I can't remember now, but I do remember what I told them.


"Close your eyes and breathe real slow. He'll think you're asleep and won't bother you."

Instant silence. Much deep breathing. Everyone was soon asleep.


Except me.

I was wide-awake, eyes staring into the darkness in the corner of the room, waiting for the closet door to inch open and a green face peer out at me.

I might have made him up, but that didn't stop me from waiting and watching, night after night.

Many years later my youngest son, Tommy, was between two and three years old. A little guy with big brothers, and a mother who loved to tell scary stories! Somewhere in a book we read about a creature called the SnortSnoot.


Tommy was sure the "NortNoot" lived in our bathroom--he would not venture in there until one of his brothers went in first and fought off the terrible Nort Noot. This effort was usually accompanied with loud yells, much thumping and general hooroaring. Tommy would stand at the door, trying to see the action, and shouting, "Did you get him, (insert brother's name)? Did you get him?" It made potty training an interesting and longer process than it needed to be.


Tommy also had a creature he called the Bumblethunderbeast that lived outside our house. Sometimes I'd see him peeking out the window, and I'd ask, "What are you looking for, honey?"


His big blue eyes wide, his face as somber as a gravedigger's in the rain, he would say in a whisper, "The Bumblethunderbeast. He's out there!"


I would stare out into the night with him, then tell him, "It's okay now. He's gone to bed."


Children need little encouragement to be terrified--their imaginations can do a pretty credible job with no assistance from any other media. The best thing a parent can do is to play with them, make sure the child knows that it's play and not real, and help the child be the "winner" in each imaginative encounter with a scary beast.


Imaginative storytelling and make-believe is more manageable than a movie or even a book, because the child controls the outcome. The movie, video game or book controls the outcome of their story, leaving the viewer/reader the victim of the writer's choices.


Far better in my book to make up your own monsters that you can slay with a single blow!

Of course, Mr. Skinnyhead was in that closet, I'm pretty sure, until long after I grew up and moved away...
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Here is a book list I prepared a few years ago. Some good monster reads, stories and even crafts to help you go spook yourself!




Monstrously Good Books

Legendary Monsters:

Mostly Monsters By Steven Zorn



The One-Eyed Giant and Other Monsters from the Greek Myths
By Anne Rockwell


Bigfoot and Other Legendary Creatures
by Paul R. Walker

Golem
By David Wisniewski

Fabulous Monsters
By Marcia Williams

American Monsters:
The Windigo
By Gayle Ross

Wiley and the Hairy Man
By Judy Sierra

When the Chenoo Howls
By Joseph Bruchac

Sasquatch: Wild Man of the Woods
by Elaine Landau


Monsters from Other Countries:
Yeti: Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas
By Elaine Landau

The Loch Ness Monster
By Elain Landau

Iron John
retold by Eric A. Kimmel

Just for Fun:
Monster Manual by Erich Ballinger
Monster Faces edited by Shaila Awan
Make yourself a Monster! By Kathy Ross

4 comments:

Matthew Burns said...

Yes, iti s getting that time of year again. I grew up with monster and ghosts stories galore, as a matter of fact, we had our own personal ghost that lived in our house. She was woman in a purple dress, who according to stories, died during childbirth in that house. She was a kind spirit and would pull the covers up on you on cold nights, or tell you to roll over that you were about to fall out of bed. It was odd, but quite comforting to have a house ghost like that. Of course, we also had evil things too, like the Snollygaster, Old Fon, the Wampus Cat and many other monsters who came over from Germany with my ancestors, but we never had no NortNoot!! Made for an interesting childhood, though.

I'd like to make a plug for my brothers website, www.wvspectralheritage.com

It is great, and has been nominated for several awards. He loves his ghost stories.

Granny Sue said...

As do I, Matthew! Your critters sound interesting--something in the water on North Mountain, I think, that helped 'em grow?

Jason's website is a must-see for anyone interested in West Virginia's tales. He's put together a lot of good information and stories.

earth heart said...

My daughter was about that same age when she believed the boogy man lived in our bathroom, under the sink as a matter of fact. He was a small boogy man I guess,

tipper said...

No wonder you scared them into sleeping-you've scared me and I'm a grown woman sitting in a house full of daylight!

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