The Boogeyman

Beware of The Blob!

It creeps, and leaps,
And glides and slides across the floor…
Right through the door.
And all around the wall…
A splotch, a blotch!

Be careful of The Blob.

~ The Metrolites

Those words will forever be ingrained in my memory. They are the lyrics for the opening credits of 1958’s The Blob, starring Steven McQueen (his first starring role).

For anyone who has not been fortunate enough to have their brain engrossed in this masterpiece of a horror film, let me give you a quick summary of it.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

It’s a movie about a huge ball of Jell-O taking its gooey revenge on a bunch of people in a small town one night. And, what is the reason for the vengeance it seeks? Well, because some old man pokes the blob with a stick at the beginning of the film, and watches it slowly slither down said stick, only to have it eventually grab his arm. Eh, gravity… you just never know what it’s going to do.

With each victim, the ball of Jell-O grows larger and larger, as it travels throughout the town. Who is going to save the people? Well, of course, it’s none other than 27-year-old Steve McQueen, who is already looking as if he’s in his early forties. But that’s ok, ‘cause he’s not playing a 27-year-old. Nope, he’s playing a 17-year-old. So, it is up to our hero (who also happens to be named Steve) to save the night.

However, no one believes Steve as he tries to tell them that some Jell-O killed the town doctor. His nurse was killed too. She could have escaped, but tripped over a tall lamp that was directly in front of her. She must have been great with needles. I mean, it was right in front of her… Come on!

But, you know… they needed to increase the number of deaths.

After Steve, his girlfriend, and his friends successfully wake up the entire town by blaring their car horns, the authorities finally begin to take him seriously. However, it is not until the theater showing a midnight movie special is overrun by the blob, that people realize that the gobbily goo really means business. The blob makes its way onto the street, where a little 5 or 6 year old boy is trying to kill it with his toy pistol. It’s Steve’s girlfriend’s little brother. I don’t know how he got out of the house in the middle of the night, but I think we’re supposed to just ignore that. As the kid realizes that he can’t kill the blob with fake bullets, he runs into a diner car behind him. As Steve and his girlfriend run in to get him, they realize that they are trapped. This is shown to the audience quite horrifyingly as the Jello is thrust onto a cardboard picture of the diner. Bam! Aw, it got them. Oh, but it didn’t get them! After all, Steve Mcqueen is the star and must not die. Instead he saves the day by realizing that the blob cannot stand cold.

So, the movie ends with a helicopter dropping the blob into the Antarctic, ‘cause the government figures it would be safe there. After all, the Antarctic is freezing. The last line in the film comes from McQueen, “Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.” Let’s not think about global warming.

So, that is The Blob. That is the movie that terrified me so many nights during my childhood. It is the movie that kept me awake from nightmares, and crying at all hours of the night sometimes, because I thought I saw the blob coming through the crack under the bedroom door. And, it is for that reason that I still love the movie today. I may joke about it from time-to-time, but I enjoy the film and watch it often.

The movie is cheesy and so horrible. Technically, the only great thing about it should be Steve McQueen. It’s a classic B-movie, yet that is its appeal to me. It’s not some gory movie. It’s an innocent horror flick that struck terror into my mind as a child. I have respect for it, and as more than just a classic Hollywood film. I have grown both with and beyond it, and for that reason I now have enjoyment watching it. But, I will never forget the fear I had from it as a child.

It All Has To Do With Fear

Laurie, What’s the Boogeyman?

Does that question sound familiar? It’s asked by Tommy Doyle, in the first – and in my opinion, the best – horror film ever… Halloween (1978). Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is babysitting Tommy. He is quite frightened of the boogeyman, as he has heard from kids at school that he is real and is coming for him. Laurie tells him that there is no such thing as the boogeyman. However, by the end of the film she has a change of heart after almost being killed by Michael Myers… one of the most frightening characters of horror movies past. He is the source of many nightmares for people of all ages, but is he the boogeyman?

Tommy asks an interesting question in the film, because I think it’s something that we all have asked ourselves at some point of our childhood, or maybe even into adulthood. Just what is the boogeyman?

Earlier today, I was watching a show called, Primal Fear. It was on one of the History Channels, and it discussed various primal fears that human beings have had since the dawn of man. One of those fears was the boogeyman. The primal fears discussed are those that helped our ancestors to survive in a violent and dangerous world. And, although many of our situations have changed quite dramatically from those times, we still hold on to primal fears, as they are our brain’s way of keeping us safe, alive, and/or functioning positively in society.

One of the segments of the show was on hell, and how the fear of it has kept people terrified for ages. An expert on the issue, whose name I cannot recall, was discussing the topic of hell and how it has been described over the centuries. The focus of the discussion was how it has been a way to keep civilizations in line, through the horrifying imagery that has always been illustrated. She then made a comment about societies of the past. She stated that in ages past, prior to the discovery of accurate medical descriptions and explanations, that the mentally ill were seen as demon possessed. If a mentally ill individual showed any signs of their illness, then they were essentially tortured as a way to draw the demon out of them. And, if that lead to their death, it was just the way it turned out.

Hearing such a fact was just awful. We still have a long way to go in ending the stigma of mental illness and gaining better acceptance and compassion in the world. However with that said, I am so thankful that I was not alive during the time of such primitive thinking. We have a long way to go, but we have also come a long way too. This all comes down to fear, though. People were frightened by what they did not understand, and it is the same in today’s world.

When the Fears Begin

It is during childhood that our fears begin to surface. The show talked about how by the age of 9 months, babies begin to form a general idea of what humans are supposed to look like. They know what a face and a body are supposed to look like for the most part. For this reason, they are frightened when they see something, which interferes with that knowledge and perception. If you’ve ever seen a young child burst into screams and tears at the sight of Goofy in his face at Disneyland, then you’ve witnessed this negatively affected perception first hand. It’s a life-sized monster in that child’s eyes, as they are aware of what a life-sized individual should look like. And well, a huge being that doesn’t look like a human, but doesn’t look like a normal dog either, is going to frighten a child who is still trying to understand the world around him. If that child could talk, he’d probably ask the same thing Vern did in ‘Stand By Me’. “That’s weird. What the hell is Goofy?”

So, what does this have to do with the boogeyman? Well, according to the expert on the show, a child’s mind is full of imagination. When he or she sees something that does not fit into the mold of what they know the real world to be, then the child’s mind will imagine that it must be a monster. If it doesn’t fit into what people look like, but it acts as if it’s a person, then it cannot be good in their eyes. It must be bad. And, if the child does not get an accurate explanation for what they are seeing, then it is at that point that it can become the boogeyman.

My Boogeyman

This is what makes me wonder what was going on in my head as a child. I can only remember so much from my childhood, but one thing that I do remember for certain is my boogeyman. As scared as I was of The Blob, it was surprisingly not my boogeyman. Mine was different. It was terrifying to me, and it existed in my mind all of the time. My boogeyman was nothing more than a shadow of a figure, a silhouette. Whenever I would think of the boogeyman, it was an image of a silhouette shaped like a man. It didn’t have eyes, or any other features. It was just darkness that engulfed its shape, from the inside and out. It was terrifying to me and I would think that I saw it standing in places in which I didn’t want to go alone. I remember as a child, crouching into a seated position with my arms wrapped around my legs, in which my head was buried. I would become frozen with fear when I thought I saw him.

So, as I watched the show today, I wondered why my boogeyman was not detailed. As the topic of boogeyman was discussed, it was stated that children will draw their boogeymen and they showed pictures of such drawings. I don’t recall every drawing mine as a child, although I hid many things back then, so I probably was afraid someone would see it. But, even if they would have, would anyone have noticed it was a bad guy? It would have just been a dark, shadowy shape of a man.

As a child, I was always afraid of my ‘bad’ thoughts. I always worried that I was a ‘bad’ person due to my OCD (which I didn’t even know existed yet). I saw darkness inside of me as a child, and was always too scared to talk about it, due to my fear of what people would think. Growing up within the Christian faith, I knew that my thoughts had to be evil, and would be seen as such.

Today, I have a better understanding of my OCD and how I am not evil. But as a child, I was terrified by what was going on inside of my brain.

Maybe that was my boogeyman. It was my fear of my own darkness. It was my fear of my own thoughts that I didn’t understand, and which didn’t fit into the mold of what I knew to be good Christian thoughts. My mind and its imagery haunted me since I was 5-years-old, and possibly younger. And, it still does to this day.

So, maybe that’s my answer to Tommy’s question. Maybe my boogeyman was not just a product of my mind, but rather my mind itself.

If that’s the case, then I was my own boogeyman, and I still am.

 

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