Surviving Tall Betsy and Bloody Bones

Growing up, my dad and other respective members of the Johnson clan had a tried-and-true warning:

Straighten up and behave, or else face the wrath of Tall Betsy and Bloody Bones.

For the uninitiated, Tall Betsy and her accomplice  /lover? / prisoner Bloody Bones snatch naughty children away from their parents and - among other terrible acts that were usually left to the collective imagination of my brother and me - grind their bones to dust.

I was maybe 8 and my brother 6 when we first heard the scraping sound of fingernails along our playroom window. We'd run out of the room, hoping to find someone, only to be stopped at the front door. Instead of being greeted by our parents, we'd see a figure, tall, and scratching at the door, just out of view. We'd scream, run into the bedroom, and wait to be comforted by our parents, occasionally promising to be better and not bicker with each other.

Tall Betsy, an abnormally tall woman with white, stringy hair, dark eyes and blood-stained lips, used to haunt my dad, his siblings and cousins while they stayed at their Grandma's house. In the mid-1960s there'd be about half a dozen children playing at any given time and causing some sort of stir. My dad recalls the single light bulbs that would hang in the center of each room, carelessly tossing shadows along the high ceilings and wooden floor with gaps between the planks.

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