Are you afraid of the hatchet man?

I couldn’t possibly sleep with an arm or leg projecting beyond the boundaries of the mattress, could you? This phobia was well entrenched in my psyche long before a childhood friend told me about the “hatchet man” who lives under the bed and chops your limbs off if you’re so careless as to let them hang off the end of the bed. I distinctly remember feeling relieved when I heard the story – I was old enough to know it wasn’t true, but it gave a name to what had been a vague sense of disquiet. I have asked a few friends, and they had heard of the “hatchet man” too. So for years I’ve wondered:

  1. Do other cultures have an equivalent myth/horror story to explain why you shouldn’t dangle your limbs off the edge of the bed, futon, sleeping bench, while you sleep?

  2. I suspect the “hatchet man phobia” is an instinctive fear of letting part of the body be vulnerable. But if that’s true, why don’t cats fear the “hatchet kitty”, or dogs fear the “hatchet doggie”? Cats in particular love love to sleep with a leg dangling off the cat tree/shelf.

I tried googling on this, but all the “hatchet man” references were to axe murderers in horror movies, or something else like that. I’m more interested in the archetypal childhood myth.

I’m reminded of the fairy tale Mr. Miacca, about a little boy’s adventure with a pair of conjugal cannibals:

“Goodnight, sweetums!”

(The linked version was set down by Joseph Jacobs in the 19th century, but of course it already had a long existence as folk tale.)

When I was a kid, there wasn’t a “Hatchet Man”. For me, it was a warty blob about two feet across with long tentacles, and macaroni and cheese oozing out of the top of the mound through a huge gash. If I let my leg dangle over the bed, the monster would grab it with a tentacle, drag me under the bed, and eat me.

In industrial US, a hatchet man is a new manager brought in to stir up fear and anger. When the real new manager is brought in after the hatchet man, his changes will look reasonable by comparison.

When I was a child I feared a skeletal hand tightly wrapping its fleshless fingers around my ankle and dragging me under the bed.

I am not afraid of the Hatchet Man, but that Muffin Man is a whole 'nother story.

There’s a Far Side cartoon featuring the “monster snorkel”, which is designed to allow you to breathe properly while keeping every part of your body safely under the blankets.

I forget exactly where, but Stephen King, writing in his own voice, said something like: “I know full well that there is no monster under my bed. And, I know that if I keep my arms and legs tucked under the covers, the monster can’t get me.”

That sort of works.

I’ve never heard of the hatchet men, and I routinely sleep with a leg dangled over the side of the bed or an arm hanging. Or at least, I DID…:: shudder::

My underbed tenant was a witch. She moved in the summer I was 7 and was gone by the time school started in the fall. I don’t know led me to believe she was there. I would take a running leap onto the bed if I had to enter the room at night. No way was she getting the chance to grab my feet. Really, that was it. A fear she would grab my feet or dangling hands. I had no idea what would happen if she did get hold of me, no fears i would be eaten or turned into a toad. It was bad enough just knowing she was there.

Wonderful, Ross! That would have come in very handy when I was a kid! I was also afraid of someone coming into the bedroom to stab me with s knife. I wasn’t as afraid of being stabbed as I was afraid of the horrible fear I would feel if I saw him coming. So if I was completely smothered in blankets, I felt quite safe.

I was always afraid someone ( like a thief or something ) would somehow sneak into my room while I was asleep and I would feel their fingers wrapping around my ankle or any other dangling or exposed part.

A shark replaced the hatchet man in my old neighbor’s dreams after she saw ‘Jaws’.

There used to be a witch under my bed. She was the typical crone of European folklore- almost skeletally thin, leathery skin, long fingers, curved claw-like nails, hungry for the flesh of children.

These days, I don’t fear the dark or monsters under the bed or in the closet. Should one appear it would be proof that either: magic is real, or that I’ve finally and irretrievably lost my mind. In either case, I would no longer need to restrain myself. Focussing my will, I would burst my old skin and emerge as a creature half man and half bat. I would then beat the crap out of the monster. Afterwards, I’d go outside, take to the air, and begin buzzing Philly’s Northeast Airfield.

When I was little, the neighbors across the street where German. And they had this book that was supposed to teach manners to German children. And it had the most gruesome illustrations. (German dopers probably know waht I’m talking about, it’s pretty famous in Germany). One of the stories was about a kid who sucked his thumbs so a guy came along and cut off all his fingers with scissors. :eek: (this was illustrated in full color. In a children’s book.) So, anyway, I was always sure if I dangled a toe or a finger over the edge of the bed, the German scissor man would come along and cut it off.

Here we go, I Googled and found out the book was called Der Struwwelpeter and the scissor story is The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb. Hmmm, it’s not as scary at age 37 as it was when I was 4…

There have been threads on that book and the horrors it inspired.

Really? I figured it was only me and little German children who had been scarred for life. I’ll have to do a search…

Until I learned that the “Sandman” was supposed to be good I was afraid of him.

I’ve never heard of the hatchet man. But I’m willing to bet that the fear of having a body part dangle off one’s bed is more complicated and interesting than a simple attachment to that body part.

Full disclosure: one of my great joys in lounging in bed is sticking one foot out from under the covers. It helps to regulate my temperature, with one foot in the warm blanket, and one foot in the cool ambient air.

Ditto. And if I had to go pee or get a drink of water, I’d stand in the middle of the bed, slowly build up my courage, and then hurl myself as far from the bed as I could and run out into the hallway.

My monster wasn’t a “hatchet man,” though (but it’s a cool phrase for the concept). It was this. —quivers—