Long Lankin/Lamkin is a figure from the English ballad "Lamkin", in which he murders a woman and her child--sometimes for revenge, sometimes because he is a malevolent spirit. In the revenge versions, he is a stonemason whose employer refuses to pay him, so he kills the man's family when the man leaves town. In the the other version, he is a spirit who gets into your house when you accidentally leave a window or door open. The latter what scared me most as a child. Before I went to bed, I had a ritual of checking the locks and making sure the curtains were closed as much as they could be because if someone could even see into the house, that meant they could get in and hurt me.
I don't think my parents ever understood what I was doing. They never mention it when they tell "Remember when she was a sweet little girl?" stories. I played it off as saying goodnight to the dog at the back door or looking for the cat. Part of the ritual required me to not tell them what I was doing because the idea of danger in their heads meant they would be vulnerable. In my head it was up to me to protect the house and everyone in it.
Now that I'm thinking of it, there were rules I had to follow to keep monsters away that doubled as tactics to help me sleep. I could only open my eyes a set number of times in the dark before monsters or evil men would appear in my room. The longer I kept my eyes open, the closer they came to my door. The longer I kept my eyes closed, the farther back they were sent to whatever shadows made them.
None of this was helped by my parents telling me Dracula lived in the perpetually for sale house at the end of our street.
After reading about Long Lankin yesterday, I actually felt scared of someone coming into my house to "get me" for the first time in nearly a decade. Obviously I knew I was being irrational, but the descriptions of child murder in that ballad got to me. I dreamed I was in a house haunted by Lankin, and the people who lived there were trapped in wax statues of themselves. Just as when I was a child, it was up to me to get everyone to safety. It's a wonder what a good story can do to you.
All of this was set off by reading a review of Lindsey Barraclough's Long Lankin, a retelling of the ballad set