Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Horror Week 2016: “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King

While I'm not a huge horror or scary-movie fan, as in a fanatic, I did love watching the Nightmare in Elm Street series, American Werewolf in London, and a number of other movies back in the 80s and 90s. The scariest movie I've experienced was 1979's Alien. I watched that movie, ill-advisedly in hindsight, with my younger siblings back in 1985 in my basement bedroom. That night, after my siblings went upstairs to go to bed, I found myself alone in my room. I then realized what a stupid thing I had just done. Needless to say, I didn't sleep the whole night because of the sheer terror I experienced watching Alien. To this day I remember that night and how terrified I was and how impossible it was for me to sleep in the basement, alone, with the darkness in the room and just beyond my bedroom door. The slightest sound would jolt me from the bed so I ended up cowering in a corner of my room just praying for the sun to come up.

I haven't watched a proper horror movie in many, many years. As I've gotten older the genre just doesn't appeal to me anymore. The most recent "horror" movie I saw was Tucker & Dale vs Evil. It was just enough to remind me of the experiences I was missing out on -- watching horror movies -- but not too much to keep me awake at night. These days I need only to look at my bank account statements or bills, but I digress. Tucker & Dale vs Evil was a beautifully well-executed movie that is a perfect example of its genre, i.e., horror-comedy.

I continued to stay away from scary/horror movies and writing for many years. Very recently, as part of participating in this guest post, I decided to read a short horror story to review. Truth be told, I only did this so I could gain some fame and fortune, in hopes of curing my financial woes and stress-induced insomnia. Ha! In preparation I had to do some research to find a good horror short story to read. Searching several online forums, and after many Google searches, I repeatedly saw mentions of Stephen King’s various short stories. As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Stephen King's various works have figured prominently in my conception of great scary stories. So when I saw several people recommending his work I decided to jump on “The Boogeyman”, so to speak.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I loved “The Boogeyman”.

Stephen King begins the story in the office of a psychiatrist named Dr Harper. We are immediately introduced to the patient, Lester Billings, a twenty-eight-year-old from Waterbury, Connecticut who is employed by an industrial firm in New York, divorced, and the father of three deceased children. The “The Boogeyman” slowly builds up with Lester clearly and lucidly explaining how each of his first two children died. As Lester described it, they died of what looked like unrelated causes, alone in their bedrooms. According to authorities who investigated the deaths, one died of crib death and the second died of convulsions. Lester, however, claims that both children cried "Boogeyman!" just before he tucked them in for the night in their bedroom. In both occasions when he went back into the bedroom to answer the child’s subsequent terrified screams, he found the child dead and noticed that the closet door was open. Just a crack. Lester emphasises that the closet was shut beforehand.

By the time Lester finishes describing the death of his second child, King has established Lester as a bit of an old-school racist, chauvinist who's not beneath smacking his wife or kids at the smallest provocation. In addition, Lester comes off as being either schizophrenic or possibly clinically delusional. While reading you can't help but think that he is probably insane enough that he may just have murdered his three children himself. But then Lester begins to describe the death of the third child. (As I'm writing this, I'm getting small goosebumps forming and the hairs on the back of my neck are readying themselves to do that dance that I haven't felt in many years).

By this point King masterfully builds up the scene for the final reveal such that you have no idea what's going to happen next nor do you suspect who killed the three children. Before you read further, if I’ve piqued your interest in reading this story yourself, please stop here because I’m about to spoil the ending. I know it’s kind of lame to put this disclaimer just above the spoiler paragraph but there is no good way of finishing this review without explaining what the final reveal is. To be super helpful, I’m actually writing a really long and rambling paragraph to give you time to think about whether or not you really want to read the next paragraph, which, as I mentioned earlier, contains a spoiler. Before I continue, I actually debated with myself on how to discuss the ending without spoilers but, as you know, “The Boogeyman” is a short story so there isn’t a lot in there to review other then what I’ve already revealed.

The story’s final reveal begins with Lester finishing his tale. However, before he starts to leave, Dr Harper recommends he make an appointment with the nurse for more sessions. When he goes out to find the nurse, he sees that she is no longer at her desk. When he returns to Dr Harper's office, the room is empty but he notices that the closet door is open. Just a crack. Then, a voice comes out of the closet as the closet door swings open, revealing the Boogeyman holding the mask of Dr Harper in one "spade-clawed" hand.

One person on a Reddit post said that after all these years [since reading the story] she is still freaked out when in a room with a closet. While I don't expect to be freaked out from any closet in my house, I have a feeling I'll be looking at closets with a lot of suspicion for the next little while.

Behroze is a reluctant and untalented writer who spends his days working as a Group Benefits Consultant in Toronto. He loves to play video games, watch Game of Thrones, and read, in that order. He is also married and has a lovely cat. When he can be bothered, he will chime in on Twitter under the pseudonym @behroze.

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