Thursday, September 27, 2012

Old Bloody Bones

Yesterday’s post of a remembered story told and retold in days gone by put me on a roll of recalling other stories from the past. So at the suggestion of my sister, I’m sharing this scary story from our childhood.

 It was told by our grandfather to his visiting grandchildren when we were noisy or misbehaving.

Nothing pleased my Granddaddy Trousdale more than “picking” at his grandchildren. There was one ghost-like story he told us if we became too loud or rambunctious inside the house. He would call out to us, "Quieten’ down now. I think I hear Old Bloody Bones rattling around upstairs," from his chair chair in front of the coal-burning fireplace.

Note: I might add here that going upstairs, which was not a part of the living space but where things were stored, was off limits to children. I remember being allowed there only a few times, and always accompanied by an adult. It was a place of trunks and treasures, and I so wanted to explore it but never had that opportunity.

All of us would come running to his side, our little faces fixed on his old and wrinkled face with rapt attention. Amazingly, we would settle down and not a sound would now be heard from the previously noisy crew.

“I hear Old Bloody Bones on the first step. Do you hear him?”

He had our attention, even though we had heard this story many times and knew that it was just a story and we really had nothing to fear.

“Now he’s on the second step. He’s dragging a chain behind him.”

“He’s coming on down and the blood is dripping on the steps. Can you hear it? Drip, drip, drip.”

He encouraged us to move in closer to him, sensing that we were becoming a bit scared, or at least pretending to be
“He’s on the landing now. Drip, drip, he coming on down. Now he’s in the dining room. Hear that chain rattling? He’s coming closer. Hear the door squeaking? He’s in the room with us. Now he’s behind you. BOO.”

At that point there would be squeals of both fear and delight from us, as Grandaddy pulled us near, all the while laughing like crazy.”

“Were you scared,” he would ask.

“Oh yes, Grandaddy, we were scared, but tell us the story again. Tell us about old Bloody Bones again.”

“No, that’s enough for now. Run on and play but keep that racket down or Lela will come out of the kitchen and paddle you with her big old wooden spoon.”
We would then scamper away, perhaps fearing the wrath of our maiden aunt who lived with our grandparents more than we feared Old Bloody Bones.

If parents/grandparents told such scary tales to children today, would they likely be hauled in by the authorities and accused of warping young minds? At the least, it wouldn't be deemed healthy. But as youngsters, we relished hearing these old stories, which in my father’s family were numerous!

As I was thinking about Old Bloody Bones this morning, I got to wondering if this was something “made up” by my grandfather, or did it descend from some ancient folklore passed down through the generations.

A quick Google search gave me my answer from Wikipedia:

“Bloody Bones is a boogeyman feared by children, and is sometimes called Rawhead and Bloody-Bones, Tommy Rawhead, or Rawhead. The term was used "to awe children, and keep them in subjection", as recorded by John Locke in 1693. The stories originated in Great Britain where they were particularly common in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and spread to North America, where the stories were common in the Southern USA. The Oxford English Dictionary cites 1550 as the earliest written appearance as "Hobgoblin, Rawhed, and Bloody-bone".

“ Bloody-Bones is usually said to live near ponds, but according to Ruth Tongue in Somerset Folklore, "lived in a dark cupboard, usually under the stairs. If you were heroic enough to peep through a crack you would get a glimpse of the dreadful, crouching creature, with blood running down his face, seated waiting on a pile of raw bones that had belonged to children who told lies or said bad words.”

Granny Sue's News and Review a blog, reports one source that credits Celtic folklore as the story's origin, as well as several other possibilities.

So at least now I know this was a story passed down through the generations. My grandfather's probably heard the story from his father, and so on back to the first Trousdale, John, who came to America between 1730-35, from Ulster Province (now Northern) Ireland. The family came from Scotland, and previous to that, Scarborough, England.
Benjamin and Pearly Trousdale, my grandparents. This photo was probably taken in the 1930s.


  1. I love your grandfather's version of this old folktale! It seems to be a combination of two stories, one I know as Johnny, I'm on the First Step, and Raw Heady Bloody Bones. Your version is certainly chilling, just right for Halloween.

    1. It does seem like a Halloween story! Thank you for the information I learned from your very interesting blog!

  2. I just love it! Almost makes me have the feeling we had so many years ago. Even after hearing it many times, it still scared us because as children we did forget since the last story telling sessions. If I could go back to those times, I would be more attentive and pick up more things from the story telling events. I also remember that he would pull his lower eyelid down to scare us even more.
    He was quite a character and when I take the time to think about the past, I miss him a lot. Keep remembering these things. I believe we are the last generation to remember these things as they aren't passed on anymore.

    1. It does take us back, doesn't it? I had forgotten how he would pull his bottom eyelids down to scare us! Thanks for reminding me. He definitely was a unique individual, and had a great sense of humor.

  3. Hello Sanda

    What a delightful story. You had me in suspense.

    Growing up in Ireland we were told many stories too and I wonder if they were made up or handed down through generations. Some research is needed.
    Helen xx

    1. Good luck in your search; I found there was quite a bit of information about ghost stores on the web. It's always been my opinion that the Irish are great storytellers. Perhaps you could search out some of the stories while you are in Ireland!

  4. Hi Sanda - I had never heard that story in any variation before, so it was all new to me. The scariest stuff was usually The Brothers Grimm.

    1. Storytelling was the things old folks did in the past when there wasn't much diversion otherwise, at least in rural areas. There are so many stories, and certainly not all of them scary, that I heard repeated over and over. I suppose they got changed along the way as the teller saw fit.

  5. Never heard or was told stories like that,I would have cowered under the bed clothes all night waiting for whatever to creep out of the cupboards!!!

    Both sides of my family are from Yorkshire,I was the first child born in the south of England for many generations.

    Trousdale is a very old Yorkshire name,some people call it God's county I am informed,had never heard that before.

    Like Beryl, Brothers Grimm were the most frightening stories I remember. Ida

    1. Those stories would be very frightening to a child who wasn't accustomed to hearing such things. Is Scarborough a part of Yorkshire? That's where the family roots on my father's side go back to. The story goes they were for Oliver Cromwell and against the king, so when Cromwell was turned out, the family fled to Scotland. From there they were a segment of the Protestants sent by the Crown to establish a colony in (now) Northern Ireland. Eventually, these "Scots-Irish" immigrated to the U.S. in large numbers.

    2. Sanda,it is in North Yorkshire on the coast,have never been there,use to be (maybe still is) a popular holiday place for holidays.Ida

    3. Thanks, Ida. It would be fun for me to travel to Scarborough to see if I can find old records and distant relatives. When I visited England several years ago, we drove through Yorkshire and overnighted in York. At the time, I was more interested in the BBC production of "All Creatures Great and Small" and seeing the locations where it was filmed.

  6. Oh the suspense, the tingle, the thrill. I nearly squealed with excitement right along with the kids your were describing. Never heard the story before but you will often find me with my nose poked in a good mystery/thriller.



  7. Thank you, Darla. Glad you enjoyed the story. I am fond of mystery books too!

  8. I don´t remember hearing stories like the one you told, but I do remember, that my grandmother telling me about awful things happening to me if I behaved in a not desired way.
    Those threats really scared me - as a child.

    1. I am sure those threats would scare a child. So good you are freed from all that now!

  9. Video Raw Head and Bloody Bones


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