Traumafessions :: Reader Ariel on The Ankle Grabber & The Flat Man

Okay, so I was a pretty sensitive child and got scared easily, so when my school librarian decided to read a couple scary stories to my elementary class during library time, it wasn’t going to end well.

The two stories that traumatized me beyond belief were “The Ankle Grabber,” and “The Flat Man,” both by Rose Impey. They are two books in a series called “Creepies” and boy are they ever. The following stories are actually supposed to make children feel better about monsters (because the children in the stories are always just imagining them and the monsters are always defeated in the end) but they had the opposite effect on me.

The Ankle Grabber was about a young child who was convinced that there was a monster under her bed. This monster was the Ankle Grabber, and he lived in a swamp that existed under the bed. If you ever looked, he could camoflague it to look like ground, but when you weren’t looking it was a horrid sticky mess of a place. The Ankle Grabber lived for one thing: to pull you under the bed and into his swamp. He’d do this by, obviously, grabbing your ankles with his long, bony fingers and pulling you under. His hands were so strong that once he got a hold of you, there was no hope.

The only good thing was that he was stuck there. He could reach up the side of you bed, but if you stayed in the middle, or pressed up against the wall (if your bed was against a wall as mine was) he couldn’t reach you. However, the Ankle Grabber was sneaky. In order to lure you closer so he could reach you, he would drag some of your toys or socks closer to the bed, so when you would go to get them – BAM! – you’d be his. This explains why missing socks are always found underneath the bed…

I didn’t take this well.

Every night for years (I did it right up into my teens) I would take a running leap into my bed, so my feet would never be susceptible to the Ankle Grabber‘s long fingers. Whenever I wanted to get into my mom’s bed – same thing. A huge running leap, and then landing with a crash onto the bed. The only bed in the house that was safe was my brother’s. At the time, he had a wooden bed with drawers for storage underneath. He had no space under his bed, and therefore, had no Ankle Grabber Swamp. How I envied him. Even to this day, I feel uncomfortable with my feet resting beside my bed.

The other story, “The Flat Man” Is about a young boy who likes to imagine that the sounds he hears in the night are a monster called the Flat Man. The tapping at the window? You think it’s tree branches, but no. It’s the Flat Man tapping, trying to get in. The chugging of a train far off? Nope. It’s the Flat Man squeezing himself through the cracks, whispering, “You can’t keep me out…” He can even get under the covers! The Flat Man is a creepy character who sneaks his way into your room and then…well I’m not sure. I suppose he “gets you”. Whatever that means. Anyway, you can defeat him by shining a light at him, and he crumples up like a ball of paper and blows away in the breeze.

He’s not quite as scary at the Ankle Grabber, but that’s when I started sleeping with a nightlight. And a flashlight. Also extra batteries in case my flashlight died.

Now you’ll excuse me as I curl up in a corner and cry.



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12 years ago

Im willing to bet at least 90% of the readers here have at some point in their lives done the Bedtime Run And Jump. I did it for years. When I “grew up” and got my own apartment I got a captains bed (bed with drawers) and that put my mind at ease for the past 15 years.But now Im married and in a house and I JUST gave my daughter my Queen size captains bed and got myself a King size bed…that has space under the bottom! Every once and awhile I wonder if someone other than my dog is hiding under there.

By the way, Run and Jumper sare not so stupid: when I was a kid I had a friend who DIDNT use the Run And Jump technique and one day her older brothers hid UNDER her bed and when she went to get in he grabbed her ankle. She freaked out  and with her ankle still in his hand turned to run…and broke her ankle! Talk about a Gag Gone Wrong!

Im 39 and to this day I have weird feelings about under the bed, in the closets (luckily my house has none) and behind-the-shower-curtains.

12 years ago

I had one of those beds with drawers – so no monster under the bed. And my closest was so full of stuff I knew no monster could live there.

However, I did think tiny little monster people lived in the space between my bed and the wall. As a child I was sure I saw one, reaching out trying to get me when I got up to go to the bathroom. But it was tangled in the bedspread and couldn’t move.

12 years ago

Nothing like being pulled under the bed by a demonic clown with razor teeth like in Poltergeist.
BTW, my favorite TV chef was Justin Wilson who would tell funny stories in his classic Louisiana drawl.  He used to tell one about a Cajun who would have nightmares about something hiding under his bed, so he couldn’t fall asleep anymore.  This Cajun went to a psychologist and told him about the nightmares; the psychologist told him it would take about 4 years of therapy with one meeting a week at $50 a meeting to sort this all out.  The Cajun said: “Thank yoo very mauch” then left the psychologist’s office and never came back.  The psychologist ran into the fellow a few months later and he looked well rested and happy.   The psychologist asked the Cajun how he was doing and he said great.  He then asked him about the dreams and the Cajun said he was cured and it didn’t cost him a damn ‘ting!  The psychologist asked him, “How in dee worl did ju’ cure yooself without spending a dime?  I just got to know!”  The cajun looked at him and said, “Wuz easy, I jus’ cut da’ legs off dat damn bed.”
Yes, it took a long time to get to the punchline, but it was funny when Justin told it…

12 years ago

BTW, if you don’t know who Justin Wilson was, he was a Louisiana chef and a classic storyteller (plus a real-life safety engineer who always wore both a belt and suspenders).  He was half Cajun and always used to tell humorous Cajun stories to make his audience laugh.  You can see his classic style here: