Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Monster Under the Bed

Everyone went through this phase and for some, they still tuck their legs up under the blanket and pull their arms from the edges of the bed when they go to sleep out of an ancient unchallenged fear.

There’s been plenty of portrayals in movies. The one above shows the kid in the movie “Poltergeist” being pulled under his bed by a feared toy in his room—the clown doll. Most people shutter when they encounter clowns, but clown dolls combine two fears into one; fear of clowns/fear of dolls.

In the 1989 movie “Little Monsters,” starring Fred Savage (our favorite little “Wonder Years” kid), had a more pleasant twist to the story. A boy meets the monster under his bed and makes friends with him, joining him and a world of monsters that exist under the beds of children.

Sometimes referred to as the Bogeyman, Wikipedia has this to say about the legend, “The bogeyman (also spelled boogyman, bogyman, boogieman, boogey monster) is a legendary ghost-like monster. The bogeyman has no specific appearance and conceptions of the monster can vary drastically even from household to household within the same community; in many cases, he simply has no set appearance in the mind of a child, but is just an amorphous embodiment of terror. Bogeyman can be used metaphorically to denote a person or thing of which someone has an irrational fear. Parents often say that if their child is naughty, the bogeyman will get them, in an effort to make them behave…The bogeyman legend may originate from Scotland, where such creatures are sometimes called bogles, boggarts, or boggers… In some places, the concept has him hiding under the bed or in the closet and tickles children when they go to sleep at night.”

The legend of the monster under the bed is also a close competitor with the “monster in the closet” syndrome. How many of you had to close your closet door to sleep at night? Think you heard things rattling in there? Watched the doorknob to see if it was jiggling? Of course, the movie “Poltergeist” also jumped on that fear of the monster in the closet syndrome when they had the little girl sucked right into the portal inside the dreaded closet.

My monster under the bed had the webbed paws of the monster from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The skin would have been leathery and the grip would have claws on the tips of his webbed fingers. The more I imagined the flick of a claw against my ankle when I was sitting up, I would eagerly dive into the covers and pull them up. The rest of the monster to me was something I never imagined because all I could concentrate on was the kinds of hands that would grip me, not where they would take me or what I would encounter below.

What protected me from the monster under the bed? Having the covers completely over me. Sometimes, a bit of air was necessary, and that was allowed from the top near the headboard. During the night, if I awakened with a hand draped over the side of the bed or a foot dangling, I’d have to bring it back up. I also lined up my stuffed animals around the edge of the bed so they looked outward and protected me all night while I slept.

Although I was over the monster fear by the time I was about seven, I had a lot of friends who held onto the monster longer. Why do children get this fear? Well, you turn out the lights and they can’t see what’s out there. To a child, they don’t have the logic to understand that what’s there in the light will be there in the dark and nothing changes. It takes some time for children to get an understanding of that concept. Admittedly, I tended to be a bit counterphobic. At the point that the monster died for me, I had become so frustrated by accepting that there was a monster down there without question, that I climbed out of bed, crawled under it and laid there waiting. Nothing happened except I found out the underneath of my bed was dusty and made me sneeze a lot. In retrospect, that might have been the first sign I would hunt ghosts and do a lot of debunking in the future.

Eventually, we get rid of the fear of the monster under the bed or in the closet, but we might just transfer that to fear of a burglar while we’re sleeping. Sleep is, after all, a very vulnerable and unconscious time.

Tell me, what did the monster look like to you?


  1. My Vaudevillian ventrilioquist great-uncle Bud Lorraine's dummy, Tommy. That's what mine looked like. He wasn't under the bed, though; he was up in the attic. Picture Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy, except instead of wearing a monocle, a top hat, and evening wear so de rigueur for men's fashion just squeaking passed the Edwardian era, except with shoulder-length hair & cowboy attire. Funnily enough, both dummies were exact likenesses of one another, having been carved by the same ventriloquist dummy maker.

    Permitted to watch monster movies on TV at an early age, I felt far more comfortable with the denizens of Universal Pictures & other, later, more sci-fi-oriented monsters than I did that dummy, Tommy, stored in the attic. My older brother, Rob, with whom I'd shared the same bedroom 'til I was 5 & he was 8, even had nightmares over the Howdy Doody puppet, which he thought wanted to drown him, that is, after it emerged from his night light, something made to look like a carousel that slowly revolved from the warmth of the dim light bulb within its center.

    What is it about dummies, puppets, and even clowns that frighten so many of us as young children? That is yet another reason that the photo of your steamer trunk dummy made me freeze up; he recalled vividly to me my own far-spanning aversion to those little homonculi. This I leave you with to ponder, Autumn.

    Off to a dummy-free day here on the mountain,
    Anadæ Quenyan Effro ~ (•8-D

  2. I apologise over the previous broken link. Here's another one, then, for Edgar Bergen. It's even got some archived dialog between him & his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, from the Golden Age of Radio. Enjoy!

  3. Oh yes, Charlie--terrifying! You know, it's weird but Jeff Dunham the comedian ventriloquist nowadays--his dolls don't freak me out--they're not too human-like as the old-fashioned ones. You should read the post I did just a while back on Dale the Doll telling about his dark past. Very enlightening. I have to admit, if I had a ventriloquist in the family and his doll stored in my house--I'd have had a very hard time sleeping at night. I could sleep with ghosts, just not creepy dolls. In fact, I didn't own one single baby doll--they freaked me out too. Ick! Plus, I thought babies were boring. I bet you guys never made visits to the attic, huh?

  4. I was afraid of Vampires as a child. They would bite my neck in the night after seeing a few Dracula movies. Now I think they're sexy so not afraid anymore. My 5 year old has a fear but not under the bead or closet. His curtain has to be shut tight no light coming through. The monsters are outside and he doesn't want them to see him sleeping.

  5. Becca;
    What a cute little boy! Very inventive. Reminds me of that scene from "Salem's Lot" when the boy opens his curtain and his dead brother is floating outside the window wanting to bite his neck. Yikes! At least curtain closing is easier for dealing with a kid's fears than under the bed ones. My son had a fear because when his door was half opened the light from the living room made the door cast a triangle-shaped shadow over his bed. He thought it was an alligator with his hungry mouth open. I sat on his bed one night and studied it and said, "well, you know this can't be an alligator--it has no teeth. It reminds me of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich triangle. Doesn't that make you hungry?" From then on, not only did he want the door open so he could see the sandwich, he wanted a little triangle sandwich before bedtime so he wouldn't get hungry. Gotta love kids!

  6. The monster for me never exposed its face. It was always the arms I saw... hands with blue-grey decaying flesh reaching... trying to grab. Not just from under the bed but also in the closet or the drains of baths, showers and sinks... I felt like I was being watched constantly once the lights were out. It was waiting to grab me and take me away. As a kid I would jump from the doorway to my room right onto my bed... approximately four feet, in addition to three feet upwards as it was a raised bed with dressers underneath.

  7. Panademona--we had bunk beds that were side by side and I remember doing the same thing to avoid touching the floor. My friends and I used to play a game where you had to get around the kitchen without touching the floor or you'd fall into quicksand. I love that stuff. Here's a funny offshoot. I was turning 15 when we moved to Arizona and I was so thrilled to have a pool. We arrived on a June day that reached 116. It was nighttime and I walked right through the front door, didn't look at the house (even though it had a bitchin plant solarium) and I walked out the back door and jumped into the pool in my shorts and tank top. I was heaven, but as I was standing in the shallow end talking to my dad, I felt something wrap around my ankle. I screamed out and my dad laughed and said, "it's just one of the snakes." I freaked and was out of the pool in seconds, examining my skin. Where I grew up, we had water mocassins. I was frantic and then my dad laughed harder when I realized I didn't know about the cleaning system on newer pools. It had hoses along the bottom that skim back and forth to clean it all the time and they call them snakes. So, it was a flashback to the old days of the monster under the bed.

  8. Thanks, Autumn Forest, for this blog (which Anadæ shared on Facebook, that's how I saw it) which transports me right back instantly to my child-mind. Wow,I hadn't thought about the "monster under the bed" in years and years. For me, the monster in the closet (just as, if not more scary) was just an extention of the same "amorphous embodiment of terror",as you put it, which is what came to mind for me, when trying to describe it. This monster was invisible but able to cross over from the other dimension that it was in, instantly, and reach me with its tentacles in any and all sorts of ways... (Also, what also came to mind for me was: THE PROWLER!!! We had a prowler once, which I pictured as monstrous, OMG, scared me to death!!!)
    Anyway, I used to leap strategically onto my bed because I didn't want the monster to be able to reach my legs as I got in. And, my feet couldn't hang over the edge at all and the blanket had to be wrapped under them too.(I like/need it that way now too,.. it stuck with me). And, of course the closet HAD to be closed!!! And the light (in the hall) had to be on all night.
    I really was TOO scared of to visualise it...I only felt the intense terror.
    But I did draw and paint the creepiest monster once as a kid which I may even still have....just it's face..lots of detail. I must find it, 'cause maybe THAT was the the monster under my bed! Thanks again, Autumn.
    Lori Baczynsky :-)

  9. Hey Lori;
    Welcome on board. You never know just where I'll take you on my wanderings. I love your description. I can see you bouncing on the bed. I had two closets in my bedroom on separate walls. Very, very creepy. The one had little steps that took you up to it (it was atop of a stairwell) and had a slanted floor. One time when I was a kid, I painted the inside with fluorescent paint and so it glowed green behind the cracks in the door when I closed it at night. I imagined all kinds of sinister gas-producing monsters in there. My mother also made ceramic statuettes and she'd place them on my dresser and I would put my bubble gum over their eyes so they couldn't watch me. This is so fun to remember those things--I had forgotten all about that.

  10. How cool!!! Well, you just reminded me of how my sister and I drew with crayon and such, THEE coolest people in our closets...the insides of the doors were covered...there was a whole 'nother world in there!!!As I got older I got away with painting and drawing on my actual bedroom walls...but that was past scary monster age. Autumn, it's really great to remember and reconnect...with... ourselves here.
    Thank you, again...more and more keeps coming to mind! Hey, this is fun! :-)Now, I'm trying to find just the right "bedtime" story.

  11. I never had one UNDER my bed, because under my bed was my little sister's bunk. I however did sometimes sleep in a fort my parents made us by leaning a old bedframe against a wall, I used to 'camp out' in there all the time untill I was 3 and a green, glowing blob of slime with red eyes tried sucking me into the wall.

  12. my monster was bony and shadowy with sharp teeth