Sunday, December 18, 2011

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?

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