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Encounter with a bogeyman

A bogeyman lived in our neighborhood, just down the street from where I was raised. He lived under a house at the corner of 7th Avenue and Saginaw Street.

The house was torn down several years ago. Reportedly, it was the oldest house in the city at that time — ideal for a bogeyman.

I don’t know where he moved to. I’ve not seen him in years. Truth be told, I never did actually see the guy.

Howard Horton was the one who told us a bogeyman lived there, and Howard should have known, as he lived in the house the bogeyman lived under. Also, Howard was one of the older kids in the neighborhood — five or six years older than my friends and me, who were 5 or 6 years of age at the time. Being a “big kid,” Howard was privy to a lot of information we weren’t.

Howard’s house was a single-story, rectangular affair built on a lot that sloped away from Saginaw Street. Its front door was right next to the sidewalk, so, when you stepped from the sidewalk, you were in the house, and, when you stepped from the house, you were on the sidewalk. They don’t build houses with that degree of convenience anymore.

Anyway, as I said, the lot sloped. So, to keep the house’s floor level without going to the expense of bringing in a lot of fill by horse-drawn wagons, they built the floor out over the slope, creating a crawl space.

This crawl space had an opening of about 3 feet by 3 feet, which was covered by a panel as old as the house — feeble enough to be moved by a light breeze.

It was there the bogeyman lived — in that crawl space — and it was through that 3-foot-by-3-foot opening, he gained access to his digs.

I never went in the bogeyman’s crawl space, nor did any of my neighborhood playmates. None of us was brave enough for that — but we had lookout spots behind bushes and in an old shed, where we kept an eye out for him.

Sometimes, in the summer, when we were still playing outside at dusk before our mothers called us home, one or the other of us would think we caught a glimpse of the bogeyman, but no such sightings were ever confirmed. He was a cagy one.

One day, after the wind had moved the crawl space panel ajar, we assumed our lookout positions, but failed to spot him. So we moved closer, then closer — closer than we had ever been before — right up to the displaced panel.

There, I took that final step and looked inside.

I couldn’t see a thing — everything was dark in there!

Which, to my mind and the equally curious and discerning minds of my friends, was confirmation that a bogeyman lived there. After all, where else would a bogeyman live but in a place where it was too dark to see him? Not seeing him verified his existence.

Plus, Howard Horton told us he lived there.

I had nightmares for days.

Lately, a person — not Howard — has been warning about bogeymen. I’ve been on the lookout — so far, I’ve not seen one.

These experiences from my youth served as foundations for lessons learned later in life: not to always trust “big kids,” and there’s no such thing as a bogeyman — only real men.

But, know this: Though bogeymen don’t exist, they still create problems.

Accurate information so necessary to our well-being? Calling it “Fake News” is an old bogeymen trick to keep you in the dark.

Reportedly, this past Wednesday, nearly 1,500 people died of COVID-19 in the U.S. alone — the most in a single day since May. Promoting dark politics over the light of science is what bogeymen do. They hide in the confusion they create using fiction, fibs, and falsehoods.

We have seen the effect of those efforts.

Which brings me to this about bogeymen — when you can’t see into a darkness, especially one contrived, it’s best to shine a light in there.

If you do — the bogeyman will go away.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.

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