Is Mum thinking up more horror stories?
Is Mum thinking up more horror stories?

Let me say at the outset that my darling mother was the most gentle, kind hearted person you could hope to meet.  However, she did have a penchant for filling our heads with the most terrifying information imaginable. We kids were both fascinated and appalled. Her stories left indelible memories, especially on me, the most impressionable and fanciful of her brood.

Egg plums

Mum was raised in the back blocks of Tasmania at a place called Reedy Marsh.  Apparently one of their neighbours (known as  Old Dolf) met a dreadful end. We were  told  with great relish that he  died after eating  too many egg plums.  According to Mum they fermented in his stomach and he exploded.  I suspect she told us this to  stop us eating  cases of fruit intended for bottling.  Needless to say we were alarmed, but  not deterred.  It was not until I was living in England years later that I actually saw egg plums.   They grow in Pershore, Worcestershire, where there is an annul plum fair. My word, that sounds dangerous.  And no, I didn’t attend…. just in case.

On the subject of bottling; we grew canning beans on our farm and  before we had a deep freezer it was very difficult to keep vegetables for an extended period.  One year Mum decided to try preserving  them, like fruit.  The  huge  cupboard on the back veranda was soon lined with preserving jars  of  rather unappealing, khaki coloured  beans.

Hmmm....not that appealing.
Hmmm….not that appealing.

Fortnately, before we sampled any she read an alarming article in the Weekly Times on BOTULISM, and tipped them all out.   I still look at  any preserved vegetables with deep suspicion


Did you know that foxgloves are deadly poisonous?  Mum told us  it was something to do with the heart.  Oh dear,  the urge to poke our fingers into the  quaint purple ‘gloves’ was irresistible,  though accompanied by  the  fear  that  we might drop dead on the spot. Thankfully the foxgloves  in my garden always turn white, which I choose to believe are less toxic.

Foxgloves; a garden hazard.
Foxgloves; a garden hazard.

My sister Robbie and I spent a lot of time playing in the bush, which according to Mum was fraught with danger.  ‘Never  pick up  rolled pieces of bark, because they often have snakes in them’ , she said.  ‘And snakes will chase you’.  Good grief! Then there was the story about the little girl who went to the toilet in the bush and was bitten on the bottom. She was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so she died.

Could be a thin snake in there! Stories of snakes were some of my mother's favourite.
Could be a very thin snake in there!


Plovers were another wildlife hazard. Long before Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds appeared, we had nightmares over swooping plovers.   ‘They have poisonous spurs and if they strike you on the head…you’re a gonner.’   Thanks Mum! The birds nested in our  paddocks and during breeding season the walk from the bus stop was fraught with fear.  It turns out they do have spurs, although it seems they are all bluff.  But we weren’t to know that, were we? 😨

Spurs exposed, ready to scare small children.
Spurs exposed, ready to tyrannize small children.

The most terrifying thing Mum told us scarred me for life. Even though I live in the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales I can never go bush walking.  This is due to something so horrible that I cannot even bring myself to type the name, let alone post a picture. Suffice to say it begins with L and rhymes with beaches. They creep up on you and suck your blood. My mother’s wicked brothers used to chase her with giant ones  at Reedy Marsh. One day she ran away and hid in a barn with the rats, until a party of searchers found her by lantern light.

Here is a photo of Mum icing Christmas biscuits with her beloved grandchildren. Such a sweet, heart warming scene.  My niece and nephew look happy enough, but it was during  just this kind of activity that those horror stories  came out!



Here is another story about the famous REEDY MARSH

  1. I guess we all had our own family version of this. I suppose they were just trying to protect us. I do remember my mum telling us not to eat apple cores because the pips would grow a tree in our stomach.

    • Pauline

      Oh yes Christine, I’d forgotten about the pips growing. And chewing gum binding up our stomachs, haha. My mother should have been more worried about us fooling around in the farm dams when we were not good swimmers!

      • Oh,so it wasn’t just my mum who thought apple trees would grow in our stomachs 🙂

        Mike – My mum’s version was “Night-night, sleep tight – and don’t let the bed bugs bite”!

  2. Hi Pauline,

    Can’t remember mum telling any horror stories but she used to put a kids programme on the radio for me to listen to and they had someone telling a story of “Lambert, the sheepish Lion”….it scared the dickens out of me and even now when I hear the theme song it gives me the creeps. However, when I see the movies that they’re showing for kids nowadays it probably was pretty tame compared to today.

    Hope you are well. 🙂

    • Pauline

      Hi Cheryl, oh yes…I remember Lambert the Sheepish Lion. I think we were really impressionable back then.. I was always terrified by Jack and the Beanstalk. Yes, I’m very well thanks; enjoying autumn in the garden. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. x

  3. When settling my son down for the night, I used to say, “Night-night, sleep tight – and don’t let the bogeyman under the bed get you.” Scarred him for life.

  4. Hi to Pauline and all her followers,
    I had a laugh at your mother’s scare tactics, Pauline. It was my Grandmother who was such a one for warning us about things out and about.
    There were the common ones…Don’t walk under a ladder; don’t open up an umbrella indoors; see a white horse, cross your fingers until you see a black cat; Tell a lie you’ll get a black streak down the middle of your tongue; Say, “Rabbits! Rabbits! Rabbits!” at the beginning of each month…or else. If someone drops a knife and you pick it up, it’ll bring good luck.( Hooray! Something good will be the outcome for a change).
    I suppose if I thought longer about it, a lot more would come flooding back.
    Thanks for the posts.

    • Pauline

      I’m sure my mother got most of hers from her own Mum, Heather. And if I had kids I would probably have filled their poor little heads with the same stuff. haha. Never heard the one about the lies…I would have had a permanent black streak!

  5. Remembering horror stories of my childhood of which there were many, a couple stood out from the rest. One from my mother was to not swallow custard apple seeds because they would germinate in my stomach and I would wake up one morning with small branches emerging from my ears.
    I loved custard apples and we had a tree out the back of our laundry, but we weren’t supposed to eat them unless we asked. One day I couldn’t resist, so picked the biggest, juiciest one and hid under the old tank stand, where I proceeded to devour it. I was being a glutton and eating it quickly before I was discovered and swallowed not one, but two seeds. Oh the horror of it all as I jumped out of bed each morning for the next few weeks and ran to the mirror looking for any tell tale signs of greenery protruding from my ears.

    My father had a wicked sense of humour, which probably explains me! Dad was fifty-four years old when I came along and we lived at the beach in Central Queensland and he often went shirtless around the house. One day while I was helping him in the garden I asked him what the large, crater like scars on his shoulders were. He said they were carbuncle scars which didn’t mean much to me at the time, but he explained them as being like really large boils.
    He was a wards man at the local hospital then and one of his tasks was to keep the furnace going. When I asked him how he got the carbuncles, he answered by saying he usually got them whenever someone in the hospital died and he had to carry the dead body over his shoulder and throw it into the furnace. I was mortified, but secretly very proud of my Dad for having such an important job!
    I remember a little while later while at school, we had story time one morning a week and we had to take turns at telling the class something about our family. Well of course we all know which story I told!
    For years I thought that people who died in hospitals were burned in the hospital furnaces and only those who died at home were buried in the local cemetery. No wonder the other kids at school thought we were weird!

    Your story of the foxgloves reminded me of the time I was ‘helping’ both Mum and Dad chop back some scrub. There were these beautiful little purple berries on one of the plants. Mum warned me not to eat them because if you chewed them they would kill you. Well she never said anything about swallowing them whole or putting one up each nostril, did she?
    So I was rushed to the hospital where the offending berries were very gently extracted from my nostrils and given a dose of very unpleasant medicine to rid my intestines of the one I swallowed. Turns out the beautiful berries were Deadly Nightshade and the doctor said if I had bitten into them I would probably have died

    • Pauline

      Oh my word Rhonda, I am still chuckling over your wonderful ‘fear fables’. I think your Dad would even exceed my mother’s talent. Good grief! He wasn’t a writer of horror books was he? We often sampled strange lumps of stuff in the ground that we called Aborigines’ bread …..goodness knows what it was. And anything green in the creek we called water cress, and ate it. How did we survive? x

  6. I can recall my mother saying, that if I pulled a face, the wind might change and my face would stay like it. I can also remember being told that if a goanna bit me, the mark would surface every year in the same spot. Good old Mum !!

    • Pauline

      Thanks for taking the trouble to share these Jeanene. Oh dear, I so love that one about the goanna!

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.