Monday, June 30, 2008

The Patchwork Monkey (1976, Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures)

UPDATE: Some sicko actually built this thing...
UPDATE: Post has been updated with scans of the complete text of the story. See bottom of post.
Ah, there's Ms. Welles, the nice old lady who lives down the lane. She's holding up "Patches", a toy monkey onto which she's sewn patches of clothes from all the children in her family that have played with him over the years.

That's Molly and Jason looking on. Jason loves Ms. Welles as if she were his own Grandma, but Molly suspects she might be a witch.

"Patches" lounges on a tree branch (a detail from the cover illustration).

Ms. Welles passes the doll on to Jason. Jealous, Molly frightens Jason with a story that the doll eats all the children that play with him, and this somehow keeps Ms. Welles from dying. Did she just invent this story out of thin air, or did Ms. Welles send her this information with her witchy "vibrations"?

That night the children are home alone, Jason is snuggling "Patches" in bed until the monkey gives him a bite. At least he thinks its a bite. Molly inspects the doll and finds a bent pin on its hand (visible in the illustration below).

She stuffs him in the closet, but there's a lightning storm and the power goes out. Creak....thump....jingle jingle. What's that sound? Where's Jason?

Is that Patches or Jason? Molly fumbles in the dark.

At this point, the story gets downright creepy, as "Patches" merges with Jason:

He started toward her, his smile growing wider and thinner until it was a red line of yarn across a flat face. He laughed in a silly falsetto that wasn't Jason's laugh at all. "I'm not fooling," the monkey said.

One of the things that used to disappoint me about many horror stories written for children is the obligatory happy ending. Also, it often seemed the ghost, or monster, or mysterious thing that we've been afraid of all through the story ends up being debunked with a non-supernatural explanation. This always seemed like a cop-out...leading children to the edge of terror, but afraid to make that final jump.

But you'll get no such relief from "The Patchwork Monkey".


Kathleen said...

I just discovered your blog while searching the web for anything about "The Patchwork Monkey." That story scared the wits out of me when I was a kid! The whole book did, really, though the only other story I remember in any detail is "Nightmare in a Box." Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

Brother Bill said...

My pleasure, Kathleen. If you haven't already found it, I detailed "Nightmare In a Box" in a later post.

sarliefin said...

It was made into a short film and won two awards. If you can find it on IFC it is worth your time. Susan Bell did a great job with it. I was a small part of her crew and we had a wonderful time filming it.

Jimmy said...

Kathleen! Amen! This was one of only two books that scared me as a child. I had forgotten about this collection of stories for decades! I stumbled across this based on the memory of my brother, "wasn't there something in that book about a patchwork monkey?" Thanks for the trip down memory lane

Jared said...

Thanks for posting about this story. I remember growing up in elementary school, our librarian would read us this story every Halloween. We all loved it. Looking back, I laugh that it was even told to us. She never told us the ending though because the "pages were ripped out" or something like that. Hoping to find a copy.

Brother Bill said...


I'm wondering if your librarian just TOLD the class the pages were ripped out to pacify the kids who weren't satisfied with the ambiguous ending, which doesn't really explain Molly's fate, but instead leaves it up to the reader's imagination.

FZ said...

What's wrong with happy endings? There are enough unhappy endings in real life, why add them into our fictional life (especially for children for crying out loud!) when we have the power (unlike too often in real life) not to?

Anyway, I don't understand why a happy ending is a "cop out?" Does the fact that the demon is removed at the end of The Exorcist make that movie any less scary? Hell, no! Negative endings don't make a story scarier or better, just more depressing. Unless you get off on that kind of thing, which sadly seems to be the case for far too many people these days.

ZaneX said...

I'm only 16 to start with and i heard of this story on a youtube video and I LOVE scary things so I've been searching for this book or complete scans or just someone who types out the stories word by word or scans them like you have and I'm curious do you have the page scans of any other stories? I really want to read more

Tim Tylor said...

Much thanks for posting the text. I just came across your scan of the cover, and was intrigued by the patchwork thing: it looked a little out of place among the more conventionally monstrous creatures, but its horrible makeshift "face" was the creepiest thing there. The story definitely lives up to the picture.

Durell Stouffer said...

Thank you so much for the scanned copies of "The Patchwork Monkey"!

I have been trying, unsucessfuly, to find an affordable copy of "Baleful Beasts & Eerie Creatures" for some time!! I read it as a child and it scared me so badly, I had to sleep with my parents for a night or two!!

Annie said...

OK, I used to check this book out every year on vacation at the public library on Sanibel Island in Florida when I was little, in the 70s and early 80s. It completely traumatized me. And yet I got it and reread it every year. I went back to Sanibel as a grownup, just a few years ago, and what was the first thing I did? Not walk the beaches or go birdwatching. Nope, I was back at the library, checking out the ancient tattered copy of Baleful Beasts and getting the crap scared out of me again!