Spooks Week: The Creature in the Field


My dad, as a little boy, in Poland.

This story really belongs to my lovely late dad. With a different setting and date I've used it in a novel called The Amber Heart, which is available in eBook form, and is about to be published as a paperback. It formed a very useful background to a major turning point in the book. 

But it happened to my father and my grandfather, Wladyslaw, when dad was just about the age in the picture above, so here it is. 

Dad came from what was then Eastern Poland and is now Ukraine. He was born and spent his childhood on the family estate in a place called Dziedzilow, now Didyliv. You can look at the village on Google's street view and find that it isn't much changed. It's rural, rolling agricultural countryside. Winters were hard with plenty of snow, and the family used sleighs to get about. But this story happened in late autumn, when the hard frosts had started, but the snow hadn't yet fallen in any quantity.

The two of them were coming back from a visit to a neighbouring house, in a pony trap, a 'droshky' to use the English spelling of a Polish word.  It was a very cold night, darkness had fallen, but there was a full moon. It must have been about 1933 or 34. Dad would have been seven or eight, and my grandfather, twenty nine or thirty. I never knew him, but I know that he was funny, warm, slightly autocratic, and definitely had a wild streak. I'm currently writing a new book about him called The Last Lancer.

They were passing a lonely field in which there were big heaps of manure, left there for the frosts of winter to break them up, when in the moonlight, they spotted what can only be described as a creature, on the other side of the field. It was child sized, dad said, but somehow it didn't have the look of a child. 

Not at all. 

Wladyslaw drew the trap to a halt and they watched, fascinated. The creature was leaping up onto each heap of manure and - as my dad described it - bending backwards and forwards like a coiled spring. He said it looked like an impossible contortion. Worse, as it bent backwards, it cried out 'hehee!' and as it bent forwards, it called 'hahaa!'. The sound, comical and sinister at the same time, echoed through the night. 

Wladyslaw - and this seems like exactly the kind of thing the man I have come to know and love would have done - stood up in his seat, cupped his hands, and shouted 'hehee, hahaa' in the general direction of the creature. 

It heard. It paused and turned its head in their direction. It looked, said my dad later, horribly grotesque and uncanny. Especially when it began to head rapidly towards them, leaping on manure heaps, coiling and uncoiling itself as it came.

'What happened?' I asked.

'My father sat down, whipped up the horse and we never stopped or looked back till we were safe and sound at home,' he said, with a grin. 

Nothing followed them. My dad was a scientist who didn't really believe in the supernatural. But he remembered exactly what they had seen, and could never find a wholly satisfactory explanation. Can you? 


spabbygirl said...

Crikey!!! I'd have been terrified! Great story though and more proof that there's more in the World than is recognised by science. Thanks for posting

Susan Price said...

We have something like it in British folk-lore. Can't remember the word for it now, but it's a kind of pouk or pouka(Shakespeare's Puck: a playful, trickster sort of sprite that's also sinister and scary. It follows people in the shape of a haystack! How much more sinister can you get than a menacing haystack? It also comes as a weird donkey thing, familar at first but increasingly scary if you take it as an innocent donkey.

This Polish variety does sound incredibly scary, though!

Oh, just remembered, 'Bargeist' is one name for the British thing.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Yes - we were chatting about this online, and it does sound like a Puca (think that's the Irish spelling) or Puck or whatever version you can think of, doesn't it? Somebody also suggested a boggart or a bogle. There are a whole lot of Slav creatures that sound similar - particularly a Polevik, which is a creature of fields and meadows. The one that has always intrigued me is the female version, the Poludnisa, who is literally the Noon Ghost. (I used that term as the title of a play once.) She appears as a beautiful woman in white, but she isn't always a kindly spirit!

Susan Price said...

The Noon Ghost sounds a little like the Irish ghosts who appear as handsome young men or beautiful young women. They chat up unsuspecting mortals and no good ever comes of it. I suppose they're the same myth as the succubi.

Enjoying these spooky tales very much!