The Horror of Monkey-Man!

This being the “season” leading-in to Halloween, I thought it might be optimal to put a few minutes aside in order to discuss those things which frightened me as a child.

To begin, I need to make plain the fact that when I was a kid, I was easily terrified by ghost stories. I was hopelessly addicted to them of course, but easily terrified nonetheless*. So any famous ghost story you can name, from the one about the broken doll in the basement (“I’m on the fiiiirst step!” et cetera) to the one about the caller upstairs (not really a ghost story per se, but still) probably caused me at least one or two sleepless nights.

But the all-time champion of ruining my nights was a much less well-known ghost story; indeed, I can’t seem to find it repeated anywhere online. It was told to me by my sister when I was five years old; she had heard it from a friend of hers at a Halloween party. I expect (for reasons that will no doubt become clear momentarily) that her friend probably overheard it at a sleepover (more particularly a “sleepover of five”).

It was the Tale of Monkey-Man, and it went something like this:

There was once a mad scientist who researched the link between Humans and Monkeys**. One day (as mad scientists are want to do) he was conducting an experiment upon himself, when something went dreadfully wrong. Instead of finding whatever data it was that he was looking for, he wound up mutating into a hideous half-man, half-monkey! With suction cups on his fingers! For some reason!

In any case, now reduced to his feral state, he became preoccupied with his lack of ability to mate. So he began roaming the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, five girls were having a sleepover party; it was a fun party, involving all of those things which sleepovers allegedly have (such as pillow fights, and that thing where you peel apples in just such a way as to reveal the man that you are destined to marry). It was fun, but sooner or later the time came for the five girls in attendance to go to sleep.

Late that night, as they lay in bed, just on the cusp of sleep, they were all roused into wakefulness by a mysterious sound…namely, that of suction cups against the wall, growing ever closer…closer…

They were all too frightened to breathe a word. Their abject terror only intensified as they heard the grinding of wood on wood as the bedroom window was slowly hoisted upwards. And then there came a dull *thud!* as a hulking, hairy figure launched himself into the room. Monkey-Man had arrived.

Each girl scrunched her eyes tight, willing herself to believe that this was only a bad dream. But with a loping gait and heavy breaths, Monkey-Man proceeded to each of them in turn.

He roused the girl nearest to him so forcefully that she had no choice but to open her eyes. It was a terrible error, for upon seeing Monkey-Man’s hideous visage, she gasped and died of fright on the spot.

Monkey-Man moved-on to each of the girls in turn. Each time, upon seeing him, they found themselves completely overwhelmed by his monstrousness and so died of fear before they could even so much as utter a scream.

All of the girls that is, until Monkey-Man reached the final one. She, apparently, was made of firmer stuff than her friends, and so, when Monkey-Man approached her, she looked him straight in the eye and said: “I’m not afraid of you.”

And so Monkey-Man grabbed her under his powerful arms, whisked her back to his laboratory, and transformed her into his Monkey-Bride!

Ever since then, Monkey-Man has been wandering around, looking for new mates. And every time there’s a sleep-over of five, you can surely expect to hear the sinister sound of suction cups upon the wall.

Of course, looking back on it from a distance of two decades this story is, objectively, pretty ridiculous. But I can assure you, when you’re five years old, it is absolutely terrifying. I suppose that this fear relies not just on the monster–or on the cultural fear of science run amok***–but on some of the surprising subtleties contained in the story itself. There is, of course, the more or less standard suspense-building as Monkey-Man draws “closer…closer…” But this is compounded by the manner in which he dispatches his victims–they don’t even have a chance to fight back; the creature is so hideous that even the sight of him kills them on the spot.

And then of course, there’s the climax. Children (at least of my generation) are taught to face-up their fears–that in so doing, they will be able to conquer them. But in the story, this expectation is cruelly betrayed (and this is likely the first time that I saw such a reversal in a work of fiction as a child); by facing up to her fear of Monkey-Man, the final girl does not escape, but instead only invites a fate much worse than mere death. It concludes, as ghost stories tend to, with the creepy implication that this monster is still about, and that such a terrible fate may one day befall you. It is, in fact, pure, concentrated nightmare fuel.

Whatever the case, hearing this story had a very profound and negative effect upon me as a child. For at least a year after hearing it, I found myself incapable of sleeping without a desklamp on in my room. And I would never dare to draw aside the curtain on my bedroom window outside of daylight hours, for I knew that I would see him there waiting right outside of my window****; hulking, shaggy, and ready to pounce. In my mind’s eye, I imagined him as looking like a combination between Chewbacca and the Salt Vampire from Star Trek, only with a face that was shrouded in darkness. Mentally, I began dividing my life up into The Dark Days of Now, and that happy Eden which had existed in the days when I was still as yet ignorant of the evil of Monkey-Man.

I’m curious, though: this being Halloween and all, can any of my readers name the most frightening ghost story that they ever heard as a child?

___________________________________

*A pair of facts which, in combination, made my parents intensely frustrated with me; much like the way I loved salsa in spite of the fact that it made me throw-up every time I ate it.

**Maybe this story originated with a creationist?

***The Mad Scientist archetype, by the way, is something that I very much hope to get around to blogging about at some point

****This in spite of the fact that I’m reasonably certain that I’ve never actually been to a sleepover of five.

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About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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10 Responses to The Horror of Monkey-Man!

  1. zinemin says:

    This is really a scary story. I am glad I did not hear that as a child.

    I was extremely frightened a book that I read when I was maybe 10 years old. A girl lived with her parents in an old castle. Every year on the night before her birthday, she had a dream. It was night, and she was lying in a bed, which was standing in a long row of beds, like in an orphanage. A terrifying shadow approached a bed close to her. She was frozen in fear, but nothing happened and the dream ended. At some point she noticed that the shadow was coming closer every year. On her 11th birthday he was 2 beds away, on the 12th birthday 1 bed away. Then it was the night of her 13th birthday and she was lying in bed afraid of falling asleep. I forgot how the story ended but this image of the shadow coming closer freaked me out for years.

    Then the other book that really scared me was actually about Canada. It’s called “Cold River” by William Judson. I will never forget this book.

  2. Lindsay says:

    I didn’t hear that one, either! You’re totally right about the reversal making it extra scary. (Although I also award points for the telltale sound of suction cups: most of the stories that scared me most as a kid had some noise, or visual cue, that the monster was coming that you could easily psych yourself into seeing/hearing.)

    And scary stories were one of my obsessions as an older child, so I have lots to share with you! I read lots of cheesy short-story collections titled things like Scary Stories for Sleepovers* More Scary Stories for Sleepovers, Even More Scary Stories … etc. etc. And some of them had stories that stayed with me for A LONG TIME and made it nigh impossible to sleep! One was pretty much your standard boy-gets-dared-to-sleep-overnight-in-a-spooky-house story, but the monster it described was so creepy that I did not experience it as tired or cliched at all: the monster was HUGE, with clumsy, shuffling feet and a single glowing red eye. Whenever I had to go into the garage alone, I would be practically dead of fright because there was a red light that was part of the garage-door-opening apparatus, at JUST THE RIGHT HEIGHT to be the very tall monster’s one glowing eye.

    Another story involved a girl who was going on a sleepover with her friend, whose house she had not yet visited. But the night before the sleepover, she has a HORRIBLE dream about going to this girl’s house and meeting her mother, who turns out to be really creepy. The girl is so unsettled by this that she goes to school the next day and cancels the sleepover with her friend. But then she later gets invited to another friend’s house, and she accepts that invitation because she figures the danger has passed. And when she gets there, this girl’s mother turns out to be the woman from the dream. Dun dun DUNNNN!

    I also read the deservedly (in)famous Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which had illustrations that were nightmare-worthy in their own right.

    Great post topic.

    *Here’s the cover art on some of the books I owned: what overly imaginative kid wouldn’t be scared of THAT?

    • “*Here’s the cover art on some of the books I owned: what overly imaginative kid wouldn’t be scared of THAT?”
      This was the main reason why I liked Goosebumps books as a kid, to be honest. Even when I was very young, I recognized that the characters were mostly flat, and the stories mostly not frightening, but the cover-art always managed to viscerally seize my imagination.

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  4. “There’s a Hair in My Dirt” by Gary Larson. I read it the summer before I turned 9, and didn’t realize it was satire. It took till I was 12 to get over it. Seriously, I didn’t even dare look at that shelf in the library. Recently I read it again cause there happened to be a copy in my therapist’s office (of all places!) and wondered how I had gotten so scared. I spent 3 1/2 years scared of skeletons and the name Harriet, over a graphic novel.

    • Hahaha. I remember that one. I quite liked it, but then I had a very warped sense of humour as a child.

      • If I’d been like a year older, I probably would have liked it too (in fact, I find it quite funny now), but I guess I was a little too young. So I spent the next 3 Octobers staring at the ground so I wouldn’t have to see Halloween decorations. It’s funny now.

        • One time when I was about six or seven years old, one of my babysitters put on a cardboard skull mask and started talking to me. Although I knew that it was him, and that he was just wearing a mask, I found it impossible to suppress my “horror” reflex. Strange.

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