The Crooked Man – Tessa Barnette


Tessa Barnette

As children, we all have irrational fears. Fears vary from person to person, common fears include the dark, snakes, clowns, etc. Although my biggest fear as a child was horror movies, 7 year old me really wanted to impress my older sister’s friends. This resulted in me watching the “terrifying” paranormal activity 2. Within the first five minutes of the movie, I was already pathetically hiding my face under the blanket, while being relentlessly taunted by my sister’s teenage friends. As the movie concluded with the sounds of high school girls jumping and giggling at every remotely exciting scene, I timidly uncovered my face from the blanket.

As this event took place on a humid summer night, the girls then walked onto our deck, which was an extension of our small, cozy house. I tagged along exclaiming “wait for me!” to the adolescents who were clearly too sophisticated to properly notice me. Thinking back to this event, it’s not really such a big deal. However, as you immerse yourself in the setting and think about the mind of a young child this would stick with you as well. As all of us laugh at each other’s stupid stories, one of my sister’s quieter friends was talking about how creepy a poem from her childhood was. As she told us about it we all were somewhat afraid, not to mention we were completely in the dark. She didn’t even get to finish her poem as one of the girl’s screams and points toward something in the distance.

We all jump unexpectedly as we stand to see the scream-worthy appearance, who was standing underneath the dusk to dawn light in our neighbors’ yard. The man was tall and seemed to be wearing all black. “IT’S HIM” some of the girls exclaimed. I then looked up at his head and I realized that his head seemed to look. almost crooked. The more I focus on him, I suddenly realize that he is suspended by a rope. The girls all screamed and started talking amongst one another while rushing inside. I was left staring at this confusing being as my sister grasped my hand, I was taken out of my trance-like state. When everyone crashed sometime around 3 a.m. I was left awake, thinking about what had happened hours earlier. That poem, those words, that… man? I eventually forgot about it and no longer let it distract me, although it would pop in my mind occasionally.

A few years back, I was standing on my deck one early morning… I turned my head to the dim lamp, taking in the warm summer air. I start thinking of one of the most memorable events of my childhood. The more I looked into it, the more this all started to make sense. On our half an acre of land, there was a man who hung himself. He suffered from a condition that made him look different from other people. Later I found the complete extended poem that the girl had read that night:

“There was a crooked man, who had a crooked smile, Who found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. He bought a cat who caught a crooked mouse, and they all lived together in a little crooked house… but the crooked man was sad, and once he had thought, why should he be crooked if the others are not? Everything was worthless, so he gave a great big sigh, and went and found a rope and tied it to the sky. Upon a chair he stood, his eyes were blank and dead, without another thought, he went and hung his head. For this story is not over yet, it is one mythed and old, go and hide under the covers, for there’s something not yet told. There was a crooked man who had a crooked smile, and if you lived his life, he’d put you through a trial. He lives for your torment, he makes your life full of strife, and he’s not content… until you take your life.”

To this day, I still mention that night to my sister. The night that we saw the crooked man.