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The Halloween Project Day 14: Bog Man


“Try to tell me exactly.”

“I told you. I found a man in the bog.”

“A man.”

“Yes, a man. A dead man, of course. Dead at least a 1000 years. Maybe more. Maybe much more. You really can’t tell without the testing. With a noose around his neck.”

“A noose?”

“Yes, I told you. A noose. Not just a rope. Like he had been hung. Like someone hung him. And then buried him in the peat bog.

“And you found him?”

“Yes.”

“And what did you do? After you found this bog man, I mean.”

“First, you must understand I did not just stumble upon him. When I’m walking out there… I like to walk on the bog. It’s difficult, of course, you must watch your step very carefully or you could be up to your neck in muck or perhaps in an even worse condition. But there’s firm footing if you know where to look. And of course, never go at night.”

“And you know what you’re looking for… out there in the bog?”

“Oh yes. Definitely. I’ve spent quite a bit of time out there. I quite love it.”

“Go on.”

“I had my metal detector and I was searching. You have to take your time and go very slowly. Very, very slowly. You can find all sorts of things. Small swords, old metal scraps, neck rings. Imagine that, inspector, neck rings.”

“Imagine.”

“Then I found the lur and I knew I was on to something. Something unique.”

“Lure. Like a fishing lure?”

“No! Please check your notes from the last time I told you, inspector! How many times have you interviewed me? Three?”

“Four actually.”

“I feel like you’re not listening.”

“I’m listening. How do you spell that?”

“What?”

“The lure.”

“It’s spelled l-u-r. It’s a long, curved, wind instrument made of bronze.”

“Valuable?”

“Valuable?! You have no idea! Priceless, actually. Only about 50 have ever been uncovered. These are only found in Scandinavia, never in Wales. It could be over 2,000 years old, but it’s harder to determine here. Older perhaps. But very significant and I knew that I had come upon a sacred bog.”

“Sacred? In what way?”

“In ancient times many people worshipped the bog. It brought life, protected them from enemies and, they believed, contained monsters and creatures and devils and demons that they feared.

“Feared? Why?”

“They were superstitious. These were pagan religions. They worshiped just about everything. But especially the bog. It was dark and deep and powerful and old and they feared it and prayed to it. So once I found the lur I began to look for an offering.”

“An offering?”

“How many times do I have to tell you this story?”

“As many times as it takes.”

“So I began to look for a bog man.”

“A bog man…so as I understand, and just to make sure that you realize I am listening, what you mean is a human sacrifice.

“Well, yes, of course.”

“How did you know where to look?”

“I didn’t really, I just took an educated guess. The lur gave me some clues, how it was placed, in what direction it pointed. Usually the lur would be relatively close to the sacrifice but the bog is… well, alive… it shifts and moves over the centuries.”

“Why human sacrifice?”

“They believed the bog was a living creature. By sacrificing one of their own they paid the highest tribute to their god. Many ancient cultures did that. It’s not unique at all.”

“And how was that done? Exactly.”

“They would choose a young man from the village. A warrior, a strong individual. They would feed him a good meal. And then he would be hung. Upon death the person would be buried deep in the bog. Because of the high acidity, many of these bodies were preserved, almost intact. Some have lasted several thousand years. The peat and moss and earth build up, layer after layer, sediment upon sediment. This is all documented. You can read about it in any anthropology book.”

“So, you found a bog man.”

“I did.”

“And what did you do next?”

“My first reaction was awe mixed with fright. I didn’t know exactly what I had found. I mean, I knew what it was, but it’s still a startling discovery. As I said previously, these do not exist in Wales. For a moment I thought I might be rich, but I corrected that thinking very quickly. This discovery is for the ages, for science, for the advancement of knowledge. By the way, do you know where the word ‘bogeyman’ comes from?”

“Let me guess. Bog man. Correct? But tell me what did you do next?”

“Well, I ever so slowly worked around the body and excavated it with tools and tiny brooms and brushes. I was careful not to disturb anything. It was fascinating.”

“Why didn’t you call the authorities? The university?”

“This was my discovery! Probably the only one of my life. You could work in the bog for a century and never come across something like this. I wanted to enjoy it. Savor it.”

“And how long did you take to… savor it?”

“I forget exactly. A year… or more.”

“I think you told me one year and seven or eight months. Does that sound correct?”

“That’s about right. It’s slow work. You have to be extremely careful.”

“And then what happened?”

“Things began to go strange in the latter part of my work. I built a little shed, like something you might build for a well. It was to protect the bog man as he was more and more exposed to the elements. It worked very well. I also kept the site covered with a tarp and stored my tools there. I worked on him most every day. It’s very remote. No one ever goes out there. It’s far. Very, very far.”

“And then?”

“And then he spoke to me.”

“The bog man?”

“Yes.”

“It spoke to you?”

“He. Yes, he spoke to me.”

“Tell me about that.”

“It was a misty, rainy day on the bog. Most people dislike this kind of weather. It’s raw, cool, drenching to the bone. But not me. It’s perfect. Perfect for the wetness, the peat and the bog. Perhaps I had worked on the bog man for… well, more than a year. He was beautiful, majestic in his solemnity. Lying on his side. A kind of leather tendril wrapped around his wrists. Perhaps some part of the ritual sacrifice. Of course, the rope was still around his neck, looped and knotted very tightly. I was kneeling, inches away, dusting some peat between the knuckles of the left hand fingers. I remember it perfectly… and… he spoke to me.”

“Now, let me try to understand this exactly. It…he…the bog man,… it spoke to you. In words? Out loud? Wait, let me phrase it another way. If someone else were standing there with you, if I were standing there, would I have heard it too?”

“Yes! Yes! That was most amazing! His lips, cracked and dried and broken by millennia in the bog, parted just so. Then his eyes, fluttered and creviced, opened slightly and looked at me as if across a thousand years and he spoke to me.”

“What did it say?”

“He said, ‘I hunger’.

“Just like that? In English?”

“Just like that.”

“What did you make of that? Were you frightened? Buried bog men 1,000 years old just don’t start talking.”

“Well, that is the hard part.”

“How?”

“I wasn’t afraid. Remember, I had been with him for over a year. I’d been looking after him. I’d been looking for him, perhaps my entire life. And now I had found him. It just seemed natural that when I found him he’d want to talk with me.”

“And so you talked with it?”

“Yes.”

“And what did you say to it?”

“I talked about the world. And life. The changes that had come about.”

“Did you talk about yourself? Your family?”

“Certainly. I explained who I was and how I had come into his life. I was his protector. His guardian.”

“Did he speak, return your conversation?’

“No. He just watched. Watched me with deep, intent eyes. Except for a few words.”

“And they were?”

“He repeated. Over and over. ‘I hunger’.

“Oh, yes. And what happened next?”

“He watched me all the time. I cared for him. I slowly worked away the peat and the moss and the wet dark soil of 1,000 years. His dark brown eyes moved over me, observed my ministrations. And then I freed him. Freed him from his imprisonment.”

“And what did the bog man do then?”

“He said, ‘I hunger’”

“And what did you do?”

“What did you do?”

“What did you do?”

“I fed the bog.”

“How did you feed the bog?”

“One afternoon I went and gathered the children.”

“The children. You mean your grandchildren?”

“Yes.”

“That would be Rhys, and Owen and little Megan.”

“Yes, that’s right, my grandkids.”

“And you fed them to the bog?”

“Yes.”

“How? How did you exactly feed them to the bog?”

“I made believe we were playing a game. I tied them up. And…”

“And?”

“And I hung them.”

“And then?”

“Then I buried them in the bog. Just near the bog man.”

“Why?”

“It was a sacrifice. Just as he had given. The bog needed them.”

“And?”

“And after, I returned to the bog man. He opened his eyes. He looked at me for a very long time. Then very, very slowly, almost as if in slow motion, he unraveled himself from the cold ground. He stood. He looked at me again. No, he watched me for a long time. Then he turned and walked away.”