Feb 28, 2011

What Form Would Your Boggart Take?

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

It was a dark and windy night. My husband was out of town on business, and I'd been having quite a time trying to get the three youngest kids to stay in bed.

"We hear noises in the other room," Brian whimpered.

"It's probably the cats or the hamsters," I tried to reassure him.

"No, REAL noises!" Elijah said, his brown eyes round with fright.

"The hamsters are awake at night, or it could be the wind blowing a branch against the window."

"But it's snapping noises."

I sighed and tried again. "The hamsters make a lot of noise on their wheel."

"LOUD snapping noises!" Anya insisted.

I threw my hands up in exasperation as I turned to find my pajamas. "Fine! It's the zombies!"

Instant silence. I looked over to see three pairs of little wide eyes staring at me. Giving up, I told them to bring in their pillows and blankets; we were going to hide from zombies in my bed. Three delighted little kids grabbed their things, and within minutes were sleeping soundly in the master bedroom.

But I stayed wide awake for an hour or two longer, jumping at every sound, inside or out. Every scrape on the window became ragged zombie fingernails trying to find a weakness in the glass. Each creak the house made as it settled meant the undead had found their way in, and were now sneaking down the hall to find me and feast on my brains.

I'll admit it: I deserved the instant karma.

In the Harry Potter books, a boggart is a Dark creature who lives in enclosed spaces, and takes on the form of whatever a person fears most. (In traditional folklore, boggarts take on more varied roles, but are generally mischievous creatures who like to scare people.)

I'm convinced if a boggart were to make its home in my closet, and if I were the unlucky person to open the closet door and release it, a zombie would come staggering out to scare me to death. Currently, they're my boogeyman of choice if I want to be scared silly by a creepy late-night movie or book. Despite having seen only three or four zombie movies in my life (I'm a scary movie wimp, plus very squeamish about gore), they get to me every time. I love them in books. Lately, I've been reading books that are a little creepier than I'd usually choose, because, being a fantasy author, I want to learn how to make my creepy villains as frightening as possible.

Of course, good frights don't extend to just the supernatural. My 17-year-old has a very different phobia. Lia's boggart would take the form of a giant, thrashing shark, or maybe some unnamed but very toothy deep-sea monstrosity. She used to get nervous just looking at pictures of sharks. It isn't so much sharks she's afraid of, but unknown creatures swimming under her if she's in a murky body of water and can't touch the bottom.

Last summer, we went swimming in the Boise River. While my mom and I sat on the beach, Lia took my niece down the current on an innertube. When they got to the bridge, I noticed a truck from the Fish & Game Department parked near the railing. A ranger was dumping buckets of something over the bridge into the water--just as Lia and her cousin drifted past.

I said to my mom, "It would be really funny if it's fish he's dumping over the side. Lia would freak out."

Sure enough, a few minutes later Lia and my niece walked back up the trail to our site, and Lia was screaming, "Fish! They were pouring buckets of FISH into the water all around my head! I almost died!"

I laughed then, but now I realize Lia has it easy. All she has to do is keep out of deep water and she'll avoid her phobia. But zombies walk on the ground. They won't relent until they claw their way into your house. They don't care if it's day or night, although they're a lot creepier to me at night. And right now, I'm writing this post in near-total darkness.

I'm just glad it's not a windy night.

What about you? If a boggart came out of your closet, what would you see? Are you immune to the fear that late-night scary books and movies can cause; do you avoid the horror genre altogether; or, like me, do you enjoy the occasional fright? Even if you might regret it at bedtime?


  1. Mine are garden variety ghosts, especially mummies. Somehow the idea of being buried alive has so haunted me, I MADE my family swear to buy me in sheets with a knife and a spoon in each hand...just in case. I do admit to watching/reading ghost stories only if I know there's going to be someone else in the house with me. Otherwise I steer clear. Scariest ghost story ever for me: Amityville Horror.

  2. I watched the original "Amityville Horror" and was left wondering whatever happened to the priest...and why the family chose to stay in the house another night after having seen the bordello of hell in their basement. I hate loose ends. The one that ended my desire to ever see another scary movie was "The Ring."

    My Boggart? I'd love to know. It could be my ex-husband, a tidal wave, or perhaps I'd be faced with myself at my heaviest weight...or worse...as an ornery teenager.

  3. My boggart is a manuscript full of "Don'ts" and I just found it when I opened up the file on my computer!!! :D

  4. I can still clearly remember being 14 or 15 and staying at a friend's house; her parents were watching Amityville Horror, and I peeked in just as the mother in the movie looked out the window and saw the red glowing pig's eyes floating outside. I ran from the room! Movie wimp, I tell ya. ;)

    Oh, and The Ring is the reason I'll pick up a creepy book rather than a creepy movie these days!

    Hee hee, Ranee'--hope you didn't run away screaming!

  5. I never made it to Amityville, the adds scared me. I think my bogart would have so many choices with me it would keep switching from fear to fear till would end up a mixed up mess half Norman Bates with a butcher knife and half ginormous black widow spider.

  6. BLACK WIDOWS!!!! I see their creepy spindly long legs reaching out toward me. I can handle snakes, cockroaches, zombies, mummies, ghosts, cyclops, monsters and most other kinds of spiders but oh . . . the chilling, horror of black widows!

  7. Cindy, you would have freaked out over something that happened at my house a few years ago. When my older son was a baby, his sister came running up to me screaming about a spider. I went over to see what she was so upset about, and Brian was crawling straight toward the biggest black widow I've ever seen! It was on the wall; I'd been cleaning out the aquarium cabinet and must have disturbed it (I later found the web). Thank goodness for Eva warning me, or Brian would have grabbed it.

    Being a bit arachnophobic myself, I couldn't squish her--she was just too big and I would have passed out or something. LOL So I trapped her in a plastic sippy cup with a lid. My other daughter happened to be learning about spiders in kindergarten that week, so I took it to her teacher, who was thrilled to be able to show the class what black widows look like and teach them that they're dangerous. I happily let her dispose of the spider for me, but I never saw the sippy cup again. Hee hee

  8. I don't think I've ever seen a horror movie. Too wimpy. I just don't like feeling scared, and I don't like what my mind comes up with after the fact.

    Maybe that would be my boggart--being trapped in a movie theater and forced to watch horror movie after horror movie.


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