Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Things that Go Bump in the Night

photo © Mark Butkus 2007
A poem for Halloween night.

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!


— Unknown


Things that Go Bump in the Night is a well known phrase couched in a poem and wrapped in a traditional Scottish prayer if the etymology is correct. It was included in a short story in 1905 by Hugh Muro Warrand and would seem to have originated from this mid-19th century prayer:

From witches and wizards
and long-tailed buzzards,
and creeping things that run in hedge-bottoms.
Good Lord, deliver us.

It next appeared in the Bulletin of the School Oriental and African Studies published in 1918. Even then it was couched in quotation marks denoting that it was a common enough expression. The ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties were swapped out for genii, ghosts, goblins and those terrific things that 'go bump in the night.'

The prayer as it appears above was published eight years later in the Cornish and West Country Litany reflecting the exact wording found in Warrand's short story.

Famed British comedian Spike Milligan penned his own version — in limerick form — simply titled:


Bump

Things that go 'bump' in the night
Should not really give one a fright.
It's the hole in each ear
That lets in the fear,
That, and the absence of light!


—Spike Milligan




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