The Story of the Oogaloogaman

A tale told 'round a campfire, that your older brother heard from a friend who heard it from a cousin ...

This is the story of the Oogaloogaman. I heard it from Roger, who heard it from Shaun, who knows it’s true. If I tell it to you, you have to believe it, because if you don’t believe it, the Oogaloogaman will get you.

We don’t know if he has teeth, or an axe, or eyes that glow red in the night, because none of us has ever seen him. That’s because we believe in him.

One of the rules is, if you don’t believe in him, I can’t talk to you, cause if I do the Oogaloogaman will get me.

If you don’t want to hear, then you have to get up right now and go sit away from the fire.

So I guess all of you want to hear it. It’s better if you do anyway, because if you don’t you might do something that makes the Oogaloogaman mad, and if you make him mad, he’ll get you.

Here are the rules about knowing about the Oogaloogaman — Jeremy, what? No: first you have to know the rules. Then you can hear the story. That’s the way it has always been. If you don’t like it you can go sit in the woods. And just see if anyone wants to sit with you.

So. Here are the rules. If you believe in the Oogaloogaman, you can’t step on cracks. You can’t step on somebody else’s shadow, and if you pass a well you have to drop a rock in it, and if there’s no rocks, you have to walk in a circle around it and say, “Butter bread, butter bread, butter bread,” three times in a row, like that.

And if you cross a creek at night, you have to walk backwards.

Lewis, I said no going to the bathroom until the rules are finished. Well you can go in the woods if you have to so bad. But nobody’s going with you.

Always write on lined paper with the fat part at the top, never upside down. If you’re filling a glass from the sink, always hold it in your left hand. If the glass already has ice that’s extra luck. Don’t eat snow after dark. Don’t touch your eyes in a graveyard. Don’t — what?

If you make me forget a rule, you’ll break it and the Oogaloogaman will get you. Yes he will! And don’t even say he won’t as a joke, because he’ll get you if he even thinks you don’t believe in him.

Peter talked until the fire went out, and the moon came up bright enough to see the trees. Jeremy kept crying even after Peter showed him how you could see there were no eyes in the trees.

Jake said shut up cause the Oogaloogaman would hear the crying and then he really would get them.

I was sitting by the fire pit, where the rocks were still warm. I remember the moon was so bright I could draw in the dirt with a stick and see it.

Jason went up to Peter and said, What about holding your breath on a full moon?

What about it, said Peter.

My brother said if you do the Ooglaoogaman can come out of the moon and get you.

It’s not a full moon.

So? You still forgot.

I wasn’t holding my breath. No I wasn’t! No I wasn’t!

Peter started crying and shoved Jason, then Jim, who was the oldest, made them stop, and said, It’s not a full moon, cause he his mom said it was full yesterday, and anyway Peter was lucky, Jason said so, cause if there were extra rules, it was better if we knew them.

Peter said it wasn’t true, but Jim said Peter had to say Jason believed in the Oogaloogaman, cause if he didn’t say it the Oogaloogaman would get Peter for talking to Jason, and if Jason believed in the Oogaloogaman getting you if you held your breath on a full moon, then that had to be true, too.

And anyway even if it wasn’t true — and nobody was saying so, just if it wasn’t — what would you rather do, not hold your breath on a full moon, or let the Oogaloogaman get you.

So in the end everyone swore never to hold our breaths on a full moon, and if we saw anyone doing it we would hit him in the stomach as hard as we could so he would have to breathe out before the Oogaloogaman saw it.

Then Lewis started crying and Jim took him to pee and everyone got in their sleeping bags but I didn’t sleep all night.

Another time, I was behind the barn finding rocks with Jasper. He said if you touch left elbows with a girl you will get a wart on that elbow. He asked me to swear I believed it.

I swore.

Then his mom called and said we had play with his little brothers.

We went down to the creek.

Wanna hear a story? I said. I heard it from Peter, who heard it from Roger, who knows it’s true. If I tell you, you have to believe it…

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Josh Mulholland

Josh Mulholland

Josh Mulholland (“The Story of the Oogalooga Man” and “With Virgil”) is a writer and educator in Oakland, California.

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