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Meet Strong Arm Magee

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Lighting tore open the blackening sky, dumping a torrent of rain on the houses below. The unrelenting wind moaned as if it were a stricken soul. It shook the giant oaks down to their roots as they groaned and swayed under the strain. Their bare limbs raked across the bedroom windowpanes of unsuspecting children in the neighborhood. The sound of fingernails scratching down a blackboard would’ve been more welcome. It was just a prelude for what was about to come.

Such was the calling card of Strong Arm Magee.

Last week’s winter storm had summoned him to my bedroom once again. A true-life nightmare from childhood had finally found me. Just how, I do not know.

Suddenly there was a flash of light, a thunderclap loud enough to wake the dead, and the whole house shook. I awoke, unable to breathe. His strong, hairy arms were wrapped around my neck. That’s when I saw him for the very first time.

But how I got away from his murderous grip is the end of this story. This story starts where most have their origins, way back on Flamingo Street.

Growing up, there was nothing or no one more feared than Strong Arm Magee. The old dilapidated house, tucked into the woods was where he lived. Overgrown vegetation made the gray, clapboard structure barely visible from the street. Even Down the Street Bully Brad wouldn’t venture anywhere near the first house built on Flamingo Street.

Though no one actually saw him, we all still knew he was in there. He slept during the day. He walked the neighborhood at night.

Bubba Hanks thought Magee was the strong man from the traveling circus that came around each spring. Goofy Steve believed him to be an escaped prisoner from the jail two counties over. Finally, we all agreed. Magee was much bigger and stronger than any strong man and meaner than any prisoner.

When questioned, our parents wouldn’t admit nor deny the existence of Strong Arm Magee. Such non-denial just helped to convince us he was real. After all, parents wouldn’t lie.

Whenever there was a thunderstorm and high winds, Magee always came around. He’d scratch on bedroom windows just waiting to see if anyone was awake. Then he’d scare the life out of you.

The Boogey Man was nothing compared to Magee. I never looked out the windows at night — hard to see when you pull covers over your head. Not that I ever did that mind you, but Twin Brother Mark sure did.

A flash of lightning, then a clap of thunder that shook the very windowpanes of our bedroom pulled me out of a childhood nightmare, instantly awake and unable to breathe.

Desperately I struggled, caught in the clutches of Strong Arm Magee, his hairy arms wrapped tightly around my neck. Finally, with one last desperate attempt, I thrust off my attacker as his fingernails scratched deep into my skin. Even the gray and black one let out a scream.

She sailed into the air, landed on her feet, and scampered out of the bedroom. The Wife woke just in time to see her beloved being catapulted across the room. She rolled over and sleepily said again, “Honey, go make sure the cat’s OK.”

After pulling on my robe, I grabbed a flashlight and Big Orange that’s always beside the bed. Big Orange was a gift from her dad. In 30 years, he’s hit more home runs with that bat than any other. Should put a rather big dent upside the head of Strong Arm Magee.

Alas, after searching the entire house nothing was found except one very upset black and gray one huddled in a corner.

The lesson learned? Don’t leave your bedroom door open at night if there are thunderstorms. Cats love to cuddle around your neck and can easily be mistaken for Strong Arm Magee.

Who, I’m sure, is still out there somewhere.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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