The Strange and Creepy Things Children Say
Alex North, author of The Whisper Man, remains fascinated by the strange and creepy things children say—so much so that it inspired his novel. Learn more and comment below to win a copy!
When I was a kid, I watched a documentary about reincarnation. There was a little girl featured in it, and based on things she’d said, her parents were convinced she had lived past lives. I watched her visiting old houses and cemeteries, the whole time telling seemingly impossible tales of what had happened to her in these places before she was born.
Even as a child myself—and especially observing her parents—I was well aware there were explanations for the little girl’s accounts that were, shall we say, far more cynical than supernatural, but the documentary stayed with me regardless. It didn’t matter to me whether her accounts were genuine because it gave me enough of a chill to imagine they might be. And I loved the idea that there was a mysterious world under this one, a secret and unnerving world that could only ever be seen obliquely, from an angle.
In the years since, I’ve remained fascinated by the strange and creepy things children say. There are countless threads online dedicated to the subject: a little boy telling his parents about the man with the long neck in the closet; a little girl pointing to a graveyard, claiming “that’s where I used to live.”
There’s something simultaneously compelling and hair-raising about these stories. Often, it’s the matter-of-factness of the accounts. A child couldn’t make something like that up, surely? Of course, we know deep down that children make up stories all the time. They do it to make sense of their lives (and indeed, some of us never stop). But the feeling remains that children, in some imagined state of innocence, retain access to a world the rest of us have grown up from and left behind, and that they have an ability to peek behind the curtain and notice things the rest of us have forgotten how to see.
When I started writing The Whisper Man, I knew I wanted to write a thriller about fathers and sons, but I didn’t know much about the little boy in my story. Then, one afternoon after moving into a new house, I heard my son talking in the front room. This was not particularly unusual; like most children, he often did the voices for his toy figures, say. But for some reason, I went through and asked him what he was doing, and he told me he was playing with the boy in the floor.
I felt that familiar chill.
But also, undeniably, a thrill. Because I knew right then that the boy in my story would say something similar—that he would have imaginary friends, and that some of them would become sinister and threatening.
At the same time, I wanted any supernatural aspects in the book to be ultimately ambiguous. When I was younger, I would attempt to argue people out of what I saw as silly and irrational beliefs. That response feels immature now. These days, I think that if somebody told me they believed there were fairies at the bottom of the garden, and it added a little magic to their lives, then who would I be to rob them of that? So at the end of The Whisper Man, you are free to choose. You can believe whichever interpretation of events makes for the best story for you.
In real life—and to my quiet relief—the boy in the floor made no further appearances in our house. But we did have another visitor, one who lingered slightly longer. Shortly after my mother-in-law died, my son told us that a woman was coming into his room every night and hugging him. After a few days, it began to upset him, so we suggested he ask her to stop.
He did so, and the next night she was gone.
Of course, I know that was simply my son doing what children do: creating a story to help him make sense of his grief. But there are chills from it even so.
And I suppose that, depending on what you choose to believe and why, there can be comfort there too.
About The Whisper Man
After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.
But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.
Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.
And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…
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