Bloody Bones

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For the Laurell K. Hamilton novel, see Bloody Bones (novel).

Bloody Bones is a bogeyman feared by children, and is sometimes called Rawhead and Bloody-Bones, Tommy Rawhead, or Rawhead. The term was used "to awe children, and keep them in subjection", as recorded by John Locke in 1693.[1] The stories originated in Great Britain where they were particularly common in Lancashire and Yorkshire,[2] and spread to North America, where the stories were common in the Southern USA.[3] The Oxford English Dictionary cites approximately 1548 as the earliest written appearance of "Blooddybone".[4]

Bloody-Bones is usually said to live near ponds, but according to Ruth Tongue in Somerset Folklore, "lived in a dark cupboard, usually under the stairs. If you were heroic enough to peep through a crack you would get a glimpse of the dreadful, crouching creature, with blood running down his face, seated waiting on a pile of raw bones that had belonged to children who told lies or said bad words.” [5]

In popular culture[edit]

In the opening of "An Evening's Entertainment" (published 1925), English ghost story writer M. R. James mourns the loss of unrecorded folklore tales, citing "Rawhead and Bloody Bones" as an example of such a case where the name survives but the tale behind the name is lost. "We hear, indeed, of sheeted spectres with saucer eyes, and — still more intriguing — of ‘Rawhead and Bloody Bones’ (an expression which the Oxford Dictionary traces back to 1550), but the context of these striking images eludes us. Here, then, is a problem which has long obsessed me; but I see no means of solving it finally. The aged grandams are gone, and the collectors of folk-lore began their work in England too late to save most of the actual stories which the grandams told. Yet such things do not easily die quite out..."

In the novel Cold Days, in The Dresden Files series, a Rawhead is a creature native to the Never-Never. It appears as a large, skinless creature with a gaping many-jawed mouth. Its form is made from the discarded remains of pigs and cows, the bodies of children, and grown adults if it gets large enough to consume them.

The short story "Rawhead Rex" was first published in Clive Barker's Books of Blood Vol. 3. In the story Rawhead is accidentally awakened by the townsfolk of the rural town of Zeal, Kent. He goes on a murderous rampage killing and eating townspeople, including numerous children, and the Vicar of the town. He is a giant nine-foot-tall humanoid creature with a giant, sharp-toothed head. It is finally defeated by a talisman depicting a pregnant woman, the antithesis of the monster and the only thing it fears. The story was later turned into the movie "Rawhead Rex" (1986) which Barker has disowned.

In the television series Supernatural Season 1, Episode 12 "Faith", Dean and Sam rescue two children hiding in a cupboard in the basement of a house. Sam leaves with the children just before Dean is attacked by the Rawhead and thrown to the ground. Despite the fact that they are both in a puddle of water, Dean uses his taser to electrocute the Rawhead, killing it and severely injuring himself.

Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a song called "Rawhead and Bloodybones" on their album Peepshow, which starts out, "Bad words or bad deeds/unpunished invite grief."

Rawhead and Bloody Bones appear in a Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. story in England.

Bloody Bones, one of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels by Laurell K. Hamilton features Rawhead and Bloody Bones, a faerie that was captured and kept under a seal.


  1. ^ John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, Cambridge University Press, 1902 edition, pg 117.
  2. ^ Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, London:H. Milford, 1913, p. 199.
  3. ^ Frederic Gomes Cassidy, Joan Houston Hall, Dictionary of American regional English, Harvard University Press, 1985, p. 486.
  4. ^ "Bloody Bones, n.". OED Online (Oxford English Dictionary Third Edition, March 2012). Oxford University Press, March 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  5. ^ As quoted in Katharine M. Briggs, The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, London:Routledge, 1967, pg. 68.

External links[edit]