I first heard the Monsters story during a lecture given by Mary Phipps at Lincoln Theological College in 1980.
I thought then, as I have throughout the years, that it was a simple story with a profound meaning.
In 1987 I included the story in a Lent course called:
Contemplative Prayer and Inner Crisis
‘In the middle of the night I call your Name’
Skinner 1987 ©
Since then, many people, including myself have benefited personally in naming our monsters, while
helping others to do the same. Monsters can literally cause ‘nightmares’ for people, families,
and communities. Unchecked they can do enormous damage.
We need to Name, Claim and Tame them and relegate them to a place in our
lives where they can no longer hurt us or other people.
It has been my privilege over the years to help many people ‘face their monsters.’ The stories here are included with permission but with names changed to protect their privacy.
John T. Skinner
Émigré: Aspects of a way for living
Availability: Accountability in Relationships
THE MONSTERS STORY
There was a little girl, who just couldn’t get to sleep at night. As soon as Dad said goodnight, put out the light, and went downstairs; Monsters would appear in her room, from under the bed, out of the cupboard and through the window.
Up she would jump! Run downstairs, “Dad! Dad! The monsters are back”. Poor Dad, he would the go through his nightly ritual. Out would come his long walking stick and off he would go, back upstairs with his little girl. “Look” he said, as he waved the stick under the bed, “There’s nothing under there.” “Look, nothing in the cupboard, and nobody could get through the window, it’s locked”. Now, the little girl would feel better, just for that moment, and jump back into bed.
But as soon as dad, put out the light, closed the door and went downstairs, guess what?! “Ah boo!” said the monster, as he jumped from behind the curtain.
Poor old Dad. He just didn’t know how to cope with these monsters. But one night, a friend had come to visit the family, and she was a monsters hunter! So that night, when the little girl came downstairs, full of fright, the monster hunter asked dad, if she could help put her back to bed.
“Now tell me,” said the woman, to the little girl, once they were in the bedroom. “What do these monsters look like?” The little girl, though afraid to talk about them, just in case they could hear, was so very pleased someone actually believed her. “Well” she said, “the one in the cupboard is over six foot tall. He is all hairy, with little red beady eyes, and a big smile that would be funny, ‘cept his teeth are as big as your fingers. The two under the bed, they are always laughing at me, ‘cos they know I get scared, and the more I get scared, the more they laugh.”
“The one who comes in the window, he’s the worst of all. He can walk through walls and keeps appearing and disappearing. Sometimes, just when I think he has gone, he jumps out of nowhere!”
“Oh,” said the woman, “Do you know what they are called?”
“No,” said the little girl.
“Well, I think we had better give them some names. What shall we call them?”
The little girl thought for a while, and then said, “The big one in the cupboard, I think he is called HAIRY HOG, ‘cos he’s hairy all over and has little piggy eyes.”
“And the two under the bed I’ll call SAD and UNHAPPY because although they laugh all the time, they are not very funny at all.”
“The one in the window, he’s GHOUSTIE MONSTER, as he keeps appearing and disappearing.
“Very good!” applauded the woman, “Now I will tell you what I think. It’s very cold in your room, and downstairs your dad has a lovely big fire on. I don’t think these monsters belong in your room, they would be better off downstairs with your dad, by the fire. What do you think?”
“Oh yes!” said the little girl, “send them downstairs.”
“Right” said the woman, “but you will have to help, because you know their names. Let us give them a shout and tell them to go off downstairs.”
“Hairy Hog” shouted the little girl and he suddenly jumped out from the cupboard. “Can you see him?” she said to the lady.
“Yes I can, I see what you mean about that smile.”
“Can you see him Dad?” “Er…yes” said Dad, just beginning to get the idea.
“Well Hairy Hog” said the lady. “Off you go downstairs and sit by the fire.”
And off he went. Sad and Unhappy came out laughing from under the bed, a right little pair of terrors they were. But off they went, when told, skipping all the way downstairs. Now Ghostie Monster was a little more difficult, as sometimes he would come into the room without appearing.
“Ah” said the little girl, as she shouted for the third time, “he is here”.
“Yes” said the woman, “he is a bit shy though, doesn’t want to come out into the open. Off you go Ghoustie Monster, go and join your friends downstairs.”
And off he floated.
“Is that it?” said the woman.
“Yes” said the little girl with a sigh of relief. “I hope you are happy with the monsters Dad” and snuggled down into her bed, ready to go fast asleep.
Dad looked downstairs, and into the living room. “No it couldn’t be…could it? Just for a moment, he thought he could see four sets of smiling faces, with shinning eyes, sitting at the fire!