When I was about 6 years old, my then 80-something grandfather would come to visit us once a year from Florida. He'd retired there after 50 years in the police force. Usually he would just sit in my dad's well worn plaid Lazy Boy and smoke gigantic cheap cigars (which pissed my mom off to no end).
And this sitting and smoking was usually accompanied by him wholly ignoring everyone around him. Age has its privileges I guess. Well this particular time, I had the nerve (and curiosity) to go up to this grizzled man whose skin looked like paper thin tree bark and who smelled perpetually of coffee.
Well I went up to him and chirped out, "Hi Grandpa!" He looked surprised that I'd spoke. The way you might look at the pet cat if it suddenly walked up and said something to you in perfect English.
So he just sat there, smoking and staring at me for the most incredibly long time, which scared the shit out of me. See, he had this "cop" way of staring at you. Like he was analyzing your every expression for signs of some guilt, be it real or imagined. In a word, "scrutinizing".
Then he did something rare. He smiled. He smiled and he picked me up and put me on his knee. And he said (honest to God), "Drew. I've been a cop all my life, and the only man I've ever been afraid of is the one I can't see." I sat there blinking blankly at him like a dog trying to comprehend a water faucet.
He then lifted me up, put me back on the floor and went back to smoking in silence.
I was like "WTF?" Now, as an adult, I can understand what he meant. What he meant was, "Don't be scared of ANYone you can see. And keep your eyes open for danger." But in my six year old mind, I was convinced from that day through the rest of my childhood that he was talking about a singular man that no one could see. Some sneaking, slinking awful "thing" that would always be in the corner of your eye, just outside your field of vision. Some ungodly, unearthly, uncanny being filled with such malevolence and hideous inhumanity that even my hard ass grandpa was scared shitless of him.
That night I had dreams of this deeply shadowed figure standing in my bedrroom, over in the corner, just staring at me. The night terrors began. Mom would ask what I was afraid of and I'd tell her it was the man that I could not see. She was perplexed, to say the least.
As the years passed, I intellectuallized him and even now, as I visuallize him, he's a gaunt, tall, boney thing that's sort of half Nosferatu or Barlow, (a la Salem's Lot) and half Captain Howdy (The Exorcist).
Recently I asked around to all my friends, "Hey, What's your boogeyman look like?" And everyone had a completely different description of "The Boogey Man".
We all use the word. We all had one. And I think the Pixar film Monsters Inc. was really onto something with the concept that each child has a different and wholly original concept of what the boogeyman looks like. An amalgam of various childhood moments of horror, all rolled into one nightmarish ball of hell, just waiting for the unwary child.
So I now ask you, "What's your Boogeyman look like? And how did you come to that incarnation?" Not an easy question to answer, but you guys are more qualified than anyone else to tap into this part of yourselves.
Go for it. Tell us about YOUR boogeyman...
Guadium Per Atrox.