jump to navigation
  • Stephen King and the Source of Bye Bye Man? August 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    randall flagg

    This is thought fall out from reading Robert Damon Schneck’s Bye Bye Man a few months ago. The most fascinating chapter in the book is the eponymous ‘Bye Bye Man’: Beach described the case in great detail when he reviewed BBM but a quick recap. In 1990 three young adults (two men and a woman) conjure up a demon from a Ouija board: Bye Bye Man. Bye Bye is a serial killer vagrant who travels from town to town with a bag full of eyeballs and tongues collected from his victims. After the three make contact with Bye Bye the killer heads off to get them and two of the three have anomalistic experiences as a result. Beach doesn’t believe for a second in Bye Bye but he has no doubt that the human brain is capable of conjuring up the most extraordinary phantoms for our delectation and he suspects (say it quietly) that some of these phantoms can become (to a very small extent) real.

    Beach stands by his analysis of this story, but he wants to add a brief rider here. He thinks that he may have stumbled upon the source for this imagining.  In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand. This book has long had a reputation as the favourite fan book for ‘Kingies’. It was, meanwhile, released ‘uncut’ (good grief) in 1990 the year that the three kids made contact with Bye Bye. Beach should start by saying that he has never read a Stephen King novel, but that he did this summer read a very detailed graphic novel of The Stand brought out in 2008. Perhaps the story shrinks when drawn, but Beach was not that impressed, though there are some fascinating characters and some great turns of phrase.

    So what is the connection between The Stand and Bye Bye? Well, the evil hero at the heart of The Stand is Randall Flagg. Randall is more bogey man than human being, but some of his biography can be put together. He is a rolling stone, going from place to place, involving himself in evil wherever he finds it. Put like this the connection between Bye Bye and Randall is slight: it would be interesting to write up a literary or cinematic list of evil American wanderers. But there is another parallel. Among the more sympathetic characters there is a woman, Nadine Cross. Nadine has long been talking to Randall telepathically, after making contact with him through a Ouija board. Randall wants Nadine to be his concubine and forbids her to have sex with anyone until he can finally meet her and make her his own. Readers of the review or the book will remember that there are significant sexual tensions among the three kids who contact Bye Bye.

    Still not impressed? Well, let’s set out the three points more boldly.

    First, we have an evil vagabond travelling through America, who is human and yet not.

    Second, we have a woman who comes into contact with the vagabond through a Ouija board.

    These two are suggestive to Beach, but it is the third that for him clutches it.

    Three, the Ouija board is normally reserved for the dead, but both Randall or Bye Bye are alive.

    So what does this mean? Did the three kids sit down and concoct a story? Absolutely not. They spent time creating their own creepy universe  and their subconscious minds drew on their own private myths and experiences and readings. If in 2040 someone tells a similar supernatural story about what happened to them and their teen buddies back in 2016, you would be well advised to go back and watch Game of Thrones to see what images and ideas were circulating. In 1991 The Stand had a similar status to GoT now. Indeed, there is probably a one in three chance that a twenty year old in 1991 had read The Stand, and in a group like this interested in the paranormal, folklore and the occult, Beach’s guess would be that two or three had done so. They wanted a demon and King’s charismatic Randall was borrowed and colored for the role with Katherine (one of the three and the only girl) taking the lead. The one part of Bye Bye that is not there in Randall is Bye Bye’s magic bag Gloomsinger where he keeps the eyes and tongues of victims. If Beach was to guess he would credit this to another fantasy vagabond: Corinthian in The Doll’s House, which came out in 1990. Corinthian travels America and steals eyes: though he eats them rather than keeping them in his rucksack. The name Gloomsinger, meanwhile, sounds like very, very bad Tolkien…

    Any thought on this: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    EC, 22 Aug 2016, writes in: There is a theory that the original report of the chupcabra cryptid in Puerto Rico was a memory of a fictional creature in a contemporary science fiction film:  Seems reasonable and comparable to your BBM theory.

    Bruce, 22 Aug 2016, on another possible source: “The Stand” came out my freshman year of college. It was to horror fans what the “Illuminatus Trilogy” was to your brighter stoners who were often one and the same. Of course, many right wing stoners took Wilson and Shea’s novels much too seriously and they prattle on about the Illuminati to this day, the knotheads. Some of them are in Congress now. I read The Stand at the time, as my girlfriend had it around the apartment. It was ok, I was more impressed with the songs he quoted, Steven and I had very similar music tastes. If you were quoting Patti Smith, The Ramones and Bruce Springsteen at the time it was actually written, circa ’76/’77 you were a cutting edge guy. However, The Stand hit the shelves at just the right time, in the aftermath of the Son of Sam killings and Ted Bundy’s escapes and final capture, being caught rampaging through a women’s dorm at Florida State University, in late ’77. The Stand fit the cultural zeitgeist of the time in the States to a “T”. Bundy had even generated quite a bit of sympathy as anti-hero in his run from the law. King went from cult writer to horror star with “The Stand”. Randall Flagg is essentially Ted Bundy on steroid’s, both were cannibals and serial killers. Bundy killed girls as well as women and took trophies. Ted often carried a back pack for transporting his trophies,and he roamed from Oregon to New York to Florida in his Volkswagen. Bundy with his good looks and charm seemed to be able to lure women even in areas where they’d been warned that someone like him was on the loose. You often heard “animal magnetism ” in regards to Bundy’s charm giving him a supernatural quality. Bundy talked from jail about suing King over “The Stand”. Ted had his female groupies while in jail, using them to bring him things, Flagg’s ouija board girl is simply a mish-mash of Ted’s groupies. The Bye Bye Man is simply an urban legend likely created by it’s supposed chronicler, Robert Schenk. It’s always struck me as complete b.s. Schenk made a nice chunk of money from the story when it was bought by Hollywood. My guess is he cobbled together The Stand and the foolish, but popular belief, that a toy like a ouija board is a portal to the other side. I used to watch my sister and friends spend hours trying contact Helen Keller through a ouija board with many snide comments. Helen Keller was chosen because she was deaf, dumb , and blind. If you heard back from Helen you had turned the trick. She was a favorite of pre-teen girls conducting seances and ouija board sessions in those days. Helen never spoke. (Well she did, but the girls figured out fairly quickly it was me screwing with the pitch of my voice on an old tape recorder.)

    Hyperborean writes, 25 Sep 2016,  I have often thought that Michael Moorcock’s Elric was at least a major influence on these people, whether the result was totally imaginary or some tulpa-like creation.  Elric was an albino, dependent on the demon-sword Stormbringer that ate the souls of his opponents (and sometimes those of friends and family, Elric was pretty much screwed over).  Besides the similarity between the names of Stormbringer and Gloomsinger, the books were pretty common at stores about the time all this took place.

    Jerr writes, 25 Sep 2016, Although Dungeons and Dragons popularized the idea of a wandering monster, I can think of a couple of potential films that might have inspired this idea of a wandering boogie man. My first thought was indeed of The Stand. But, other potential films would be: Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil about a demon in human form wandering the wastes of southern Africa as a serial killer; but, collecting fingers as souvenirs. The film came out in 1992, so perhaps a bit of confabulation as to dates has happened. I’d also review this was the height of the Satanic panic that certainly featured the evil of the Ouija boards.