Today it seems that every town has a folklore tale that places claim that they are the real origin of the Boogie man story.
My town is such a town. However I have some substantial history to back up our claim.
If you have read my other stories you would know that I am from a small town south of Windsor Ontario in Canada. The town of Amherstburg is the quintessential paranormal small town representing horror movie classic attributes, but in real life. The historical Indian wars, burial grounds, the wars of 1812, underground railroad, witch burring, insane asylum, burnt down town, historical churches, moved graves...etc. It's got it all! Including the home of the Boogie Man.
I first heard the story from a history teacher in my high school and since then have done tons of research and site visits throughout the years. One of my visits created it's own horror story.
The town legend of the boogie man goes back to those early British days in the late 1700s early 1800s when the Town of Amherstburg was under protection of the military fort Malden. One of the local heroes of the 1812 wars was a man named Mathew Elliot.
Early in his life he was married to an Indian Shawnee woman and became friends with the local tribes. However after the war and the death of his Indian wife, he was said to have changed. He became a feared man and he was a cruel slave master. He moved to Amherstburg and became a fur trader, who was also the town's official Indian Superintendant in charge of representing the Indian interests in Amherstburg area. He was said to be corrupt and always battling to instill his harsh punishments into law against the opinions of government and town council. He was also said to favor the Shawnee tribe but was ruthless to other such as the Ojibwe, Blackfoot or Cree. (Not sure if they were enemies of the Shawnee or just other tribes.) He often conducted unfair trade and sly deals and then would publicly whip or punish those who did not uphold their end of the shady deals.
After a few years his bad business tactics left him financially broke and other local traders started to boycott him because of his cruelty and corruption. Elliot, falling on hard times, squeezed his way into law and became a local judge. This allowed him to conduct his shady deals and through law make his cruel actions legal. At this time his trades became sinister. He often took advantage of Indian traders, getting them drunk and smooth talking them into trades that would leave their villages deprived. When the Indian traders returned to negotiate/renegotiate their bad deals he would become very irate and threaten them with persecution under the laws (which he controlled). This typically led to late night raids on his property by the Indian traders to steal back their valuables. Elliot would then execute or punish any Indian raiders he caught, typically shooting them on sight or tying them to a tree and whipping them nearly to death. He was cruel and showed no compassion even for younger Indian children. For those that got away with the valuables he would exercise the law and grant himself legal rights to collect the valuables or compensations in due of lost profits. This was basically allowing him to go into the Indian village and steal back anything of value. He would do this under legal rights which meant he would have the local law and British soldiers protecting him. Regardless to say the local Indian villages became very poor and deprived. Soon Elliot would find nothing of value in the villages to compensate his lost profits so he would take their children and sell them as slaves.
This angered the Indian elders so much that Indian villages started to rebel against British law. The elders banned all trade with him and he became known as "Boogidi" or the Boogidi man. (An insult meaning foul breath or poisoned words.) This name warned all Indians to his nature and not to trade with him. Town council seeing an impending political problem and a very real threat of violence solicited the government to finally step in and strip Elliot of his Indian superintendant title. He worked closely with his replacement and other town superintendants to continue his business trades but the bite of his cruelty was significantly hedged by more compassionate people.
Elliot eventually returned to the military and led several successful raids against the Americans and became known as a local war hero. But few know the story of his past. He died of illness some many years later, but the legend of his cruelty haunted the Indian villages and his stories quickly spread. Traders often referred to him incorrectly as the Boogie Man and would threaten to sick him on suspected Indian traders that they were concerned with possibly conducting a raid to reclaim their valuables.
Over the years the threat has been used as a fear control story that was eventually watered down and told to children who would not listen. There are stories about school teachers threatening the Indian children in their classes with the Boogie man to control their conduct in class.
So with this long winded history lesson, I was eager to find out if it was real. Mathew Elliott's house did really exist in Amherstburg; just past the southern town limit. Across the street from the old Boblo docks (if you are familiar with the area) 20 years ago this was a small wooded area with a stone foundation set back about an 1/8 mile from the road. As a kid this was one of the number one spots I wanted to check out and we eventually found the foundation and a historical picture of the cabin in the town's library.
So at night in the fall we visited the site. The forest is on an elevated segment of ground about 12 feet above lake level and directly across from the mouth of lake Erie where it meets the tail of the Detroit river. This is a bad area for night fog and fast to roll in fog. This night was similar to many fall nights and fog was rolling in quick. This night, unlike many of my other stories, did not involve the consumption of alcohol. (surprise, surprise.) I was with my girlfriend at the time and we parked our car at the road and quickly moved into the woods to find the rock foundation. The first thing we found was the bones of a large deer, followed by several other bone piles in and around the area. I was able to identify a few: cat, raccoon, birds, even a very large snake. The bone piles were all old and had been there a long time. They were clean and white. As we moved through the trees we noticed that the bones were all in one area of the woods only and many of the trees were also dead. Many were stripped of their bark and hollowed out. So to avoid the creepiness of all the dead animals we moved back further into the woods.
Soon we were forced to take out flashlights as the fading evening light had gone and fog was moving in. At this time we still had not found the foundation of the house. I could tell my girl was getting freaked out and uncomfortable with the deteriorating visibility, so I told her we'd only stay a few minutes more. We moved back further into the woods. At this point we were very near a swamp in the back of the forest and were very near the tall elephant grass that surrounded the swamp. It was getting dark but just before I was about to call it quits my flash light passed a wooden structure buried in leaves. I moved to it and brushed it off. It was a wooden wagon wheel that was wrapped in a steel band. It was badly rotted but it made sense to me that it might be near the site of the old cabin. This discovery gave us new hopes and interest, so we continued to look. Soon we started to find all sorts of old wooden planks and broken glass and window frames, all seemingly from the 1800s era. Could this be the site where the Boogie man's house was? At that time I really believed I had found the place. It had to be it. But the dark night was making it hard to see any resemblance of a foundation. I kicked the leaves around and dragged my feet in large sweeping motions looking for a rock of significant size. But the ground was surprisingly void of any rocks. Further back long the outer edge of the long grass the swamp waters began and all signs of wood or farm/cabin debris was gone. So we moved back up past the area where we found the wood stuff and to one of the last areas of the woods that we had not yet been in.
The night cold started to set in and our hopes of finding the foundation was quickly dwindling again. I was in a state of focused concentration on the ground and in a split second the life energy jumped out of me when my girlfriend screamed. I literally phased out of consciousness for a split second and my vision fuzzed as my heart pounded in my inner ears. My throat went instantly dry and I gasped as my clamping chest struggled to get air into my lungs. By the few seconds it took me to recover from my 2x4 upside the head onset of fear, my girlfriend was rushing to my side blindly leaping through the forest and in a hysterical state. I asked what was wrong. She was white and shaking I looked around not seeing any danger. She choked back her tears and said she had seen a pale ragged little girl looking back at her from the shadows behind the trees. I flashed my flashlight around the trees and could not see anything, except the light from her flashlight that she dropped on the ground when she screamed and started running towards me. The fog made it hard to see far. And I could not see the flashlight very well as the light was still on and facing us. It backlit the fog in the air and made the area in that direction very blurry. I decided that wisdom would prevail over courage and that we would leave the woods and continue our search for the cabin another day. We moved to retrieve the flashlight and just as we were getting close to it a shadow passed through the light. We froze in spot and the shadow actually moved back into the light for a second and paused at the edge of the haze. I could tell it was not a big shadow but I immediately thought there is no way we are going to get close to the flashlight so we made a run for the car.
On the way back through the woods we were moving quickly and with only one flashlight it was hard to see. Suddenly we both tripped and fell flat into a thick layer of leaves. I shot the flashlight over to my girlfriend who was picking herself up. She looked ok, I was ok so I shot the light back to see what we had tripped over. It was a pile of rocks. I quickly realized that is was the stone foundation of the Boogieman's house. It was not very large about double the size of a modern shed. It was sitting in a little depression in the ground and in a small clearing. The leaves were thick in the center of the square and we started to brush them away to reveal more. I took a few small stones and put them into my pocket. As I picked up a few more stones I found a rusty pin. It was stuck in the mortar of the stones. It was only about 3 inches long (big for a needle) but is was very thin and I soon realized that is was hand fashioned. So I pulled it out and lifted it. Something dangled from the end of the needle. Is was a small dried crispy black cord and on the cord was several small shells and at the end was several hand tied knots and a small dried grass object. I moved it closer to get a good look at it. It was several thick blades of grass folded and tied in the shape of a person, a girl doll with a skirt.
This was freaky so I dropped the needle and looked over to my girlfriend who moments before was studying the old necklace with me, but she was now looking around the trees. Worried that the shadow had returned, I quickly shone the light around. She asked me, "Do you realize where we are?" I soon clued in. We were in the middle of the dead tree spot with all the little bone piles. We decided enough was enough and we quickly left the woods and returned to the car. We quickly got in and drove about 2-3 miles up the road and then pulled over to talk about what we had seen.
It was amazing and scary all at once and I really wanted to go back and find that necklace, but the girlfriend was not interested in returning anytime in her lifetime. She was not into this stuff and the fears weighed heavy on her.
Calming down and catching our breath we started to relax and joke about her scream and how bad it scared me and how she was leaping through the trees. Just as we started to forget our fears and get comfortable again, the windows on the car started to fog up and we continued to talk. Seconds later I found the strike of fear piercing my innards like a lightning bolt. As we were talking and fogging the windows I realized that there were dozens of little hand print smears on all the windows! Regardless to say we quickly went home and washed the car (the neighbors must have thought us nuts for washing the car in the middle of the night) as the hand prints were also all over the body of the car too. That night I realized something about the legend of the boogie man. I had gone into the woods looking to see the foundation of the boogie man's cabin worried that his ghost might be haunting it. But he is not what we have to fear. What I discovered there in the woods is that the spirits of those children he stole, and the victims that he killed were what we needed to fear. They were angry and were not ready to pass on.
It has been many years now since that night. About 15 years ago the town bulldozed the site and there is now a nice little modern house built in the exact location. An 1812 war waymarker plaque now is posted at the road side marking the spot where Col. Mathew Elliot the war hero's house once stood.
If they only knew the history of that place...
BTW I still have the rocks that I collected from that night I buried them in my parent-in-law's back yard in a mason jar. They were bringing me bad luck and they creeped me out, so I figured I'd make good use of them...ƒº