Childhood Fears – Captain Bones

He seems a little sad here. Maybe he's embarrassed about all the fuss he's caused.

When I was 6-years-old a skeleton-pirate lived in our basement. His name was Captain Bones and he was a self-professed “slayer of children.” He first appeared on my sixth birthday when I received Story Teller tape #26. By the way, Story Teller was a magazine with companion cassette tape that featured a few ongoing tales as well as one shot stories, all illustrated and voice acted. They were fantastic! As far as #26 went, apart from a pretty scary story about a goblin rat and a damn depressing version of Thumbelina, I’d found the cassette to be pretty enjoyable. That was, until I got to the story of Captain Bones.

(If that embed doesn’t work for you, click here.)

I was terrified. Part of it was that I listened to it at night. I sobbed in my room, huddled on the bed. When my mom found me she was baffled. Up to this point Storyteller hadn’t brought about this kind of reaction from me. I told her I saw a skull looking at me in the texture of the white paint on my bedroom wall. “There’s nothing there. Go to bed.” I eventually fell asleep. Had it not been for the fact that the concrete stairs heading down to the basement bore a uncanny resemblance to the stairs in the book, I think this whole situation would have blown over.

My basement stairs were apparently the entrance to a tomb. Who knew?

My basement stairs were apparently the entrance to a tomb. Who knew?

The stairs to the basement had never been an issue before. Now they were the steps that led from Captain Bones’ crypt to the beach where Pip first encountered the fake ghost. But that was Pip’s story. My house didn’t have a smuggler’s cove. It had a basement garage. A few months earlier my dad had been working with a fiber glass mold in the basement. I’d wandered down the stairs to see what he was up to. The mold stood in the center of the garage. It looked for all the world like a coffin. “Get upstairs,” he’d yelled, not wanting me to get fiber glass in my feet or whatever. All I could thing was what was my dad doing down there with the stone coffin from the Thriller music video?

Thriller? Damn near killed her!

I’d already been having Thriller nightmares, the nature of which I can divulge another time. It didn’t take long for me to have a complete narrative: You see, the real Captain Bones lived in my basement in that coffin. At night he trudged upstairs and made his way to my room to shred me to pieces and then eat me. The only solution was to lie perfectly still underneath the covers. I’d try to squeeze my body between the wall and the bed and drape my duvet over me to make it look like the room was empty. That didn’t always work for me since I’d end up pushing the bed away from the wall. That would be a dead giveaway to a pirate skeleton. Luckily I was able to turn my duvet into rock if I concentrated hard enough. Captain Bones had razor-sharp fingers, but he couldn’t cut through duvet-rock! One night, as I was doing the countdown to Captain Bone haunting hours, I realized I needed to go to the toilet. As a general rule my bowels were about as troubled as my dreams. By the time I was done there’d be a killer skeleton in the passageway outside, waiting for me. The solution was to take my duvet and pillow with me to the toilet. That night I slept on the floor of the half bath.

I knew he was coming to get me

Yes, the story is pretty much a Scooby Doo episode. But my imagination had already linked everything together. Sure, Pip was safe, but he didn’t have the real Captain Bones living in the basement. My room was the closest to the basement stairwell. My parents wouldn’t have time to react if I screamed. In the past I’d cried myself to sleep over some hypothetical monster, but that wasn’t possible now. He’d hear me. I knew he’d hear me. Then Captain Bones would rip the duvet off of me and use my bones to pick his teeth.

It's Scooby Doo time, folks!


Storyteller is copyright Marshall Cavendish
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