Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Benjamin S. Jeffries
ISBN-10: 0764353071; ISBN-13: 978-0764353079
The personification of all that is most feared has been present in the form of the boogeyman for countless generations, ever since cavemen cowered in fear at seeing shadows against the wall from unknown creatures lurking in wait to pounce upon them while they slept. Benjamin S. Jeffries, author of Lost in the Darkness: Life Inside the World’s Most Haunted Prisons, Hospitals and Asylums, Grim Shadows Falling: Haunting Tales from Terrifying Places and Vile: Peeking Under the Skin of Murderers now brings us the riveting drama of Beelzebub incarnate, in a range of distorted forms stretching across the centuries, and first given literary form in the epic saga, Beowulf, in the shape of Grendel and his hideous and unremittingly evil mother. Jeffries shows how, over the ages, the concept of what was originally the Boogg, a medieval creature symbolizing both winter and death, came to be rendered in many different guises, including that of the Pied Piper of Hamlin and of flesh-eating vampires that were nothing like the glamorous Bram Stoker version.
Despite the reference to an interview in the title, most of Interview with the Boogeyman: A Monster for all Times is, in fact, written in straightforward narrative form: the interview with Tenebris, the Boogeyman, serving as an introduction to the remainder of the text. The initial interview format is not only contemporary in its approach, but it also leads into a celebration of the fully fleshed out ‘man’ himself. Jeffries’ approach is direct and startling, providing fascinating insights into how the conceptualization of the Boogeyman changed in both adults’ and children’s minds over the years. Although clearly glorying in the dark and forbidding nature of his tale, Jeffries goes far beyond the bounds of mere emotional appeal to explore the rationale behind the various guises assumed by the Boogeyman, seeing them as manifestations of cultural differences across the world. Fear is all-pervasive, even in the modern day, leading to a more technologically sophisticated version of the ancient monster, but one that is, nevertheless, still omnipresent.
Interview with the Boogeyman is clearly signposted throughout with insightful chapter titles, and numerous straightforward headings that clearly indicate the nature of the contents to be covered in the following paragraphs, with most being focused on the various apparitions involved (“The Black Annis” and “The Dullahan” being two instances of the same—with the latter being, notably, anything but ‘dull’). The text is well illustrated with black-and-white drawings and facsimiles of paintings, adding, in many cases, to the gruesomeness of the text. Jeffries revels in the written text, and had a vast body of material at his disposal. Undaunted by the need to cover such a wide field, as he delves into the subject from West to East to back again, his logical and carefully structured presentation provides an understandable, and coherent, way into the world of the macabre. Yet there is also levity in the work, as the Boogeyman is seen not only to be a fearsome creature, but one who also has a keen sense of humor, being quite capable of making a wisecrack or two. (He claims, for instance, that Stephen Spielberg owes him royalties for his purloining of the concept of gremlins from him.)
Interview with the Boogeyman: A Monster for all Times is fully capable of stirring the imagination, as well as chilling the backbone, of any reader who is drawn to unravelling the impetus behind the darker side of life. Delving into the character of the essentially unknowable and unfathomable provides a springboard for the imagination, so that all who possess a creative instinct would do well to heed the dire implications of this text.