Gasman of Kiev

I first heard about the Bogeyman when I was five. My parents used to treat him like a ghost story.

“If you don’t be good and finish all your supper, the Bogeyman is going to come and take you away from us.”

In retrospect, that was probably one of the most frightening things you could’ve ever told a five-year-old. That a strange man will kidnap you away from your friends and family and everyone you love just because you weren’t behaving. Parents can be cruel, but now that I think about it, it worked. So, what can I say? They must’ve known what they were doing.

Now I tell my children the same thing. “The Bogeyman is coming if you don’t eat your peas!” My daughter hates it. My son, on the other hand, wants to meet the Bogeyman.

“Daddy, daddy! What does he look like?” he asks. That’s the funny thing about it all – my parents never told me. They didn’t have to. I was too afraid at the simple mention of his name that I didn’t even want to know what he looked like. So, I made it up.

“Well,” I said. “He’s… tall. Really tall. And he wears a big, black gas mask that covers his whole face. And it has big, round eyes – like a bug. He wears a shiny black uniform – as black as you can imagine. And a long, black cape.”

“Like a superhero?” my son asks.

“No. Like a super-villain. Underneath that mask and all that armor, the Bogeyman is full of burns and scars. They say he can simply walk through fire and feel no pain, but that his body can still be burned.”

“Where did he come from?”

“Nobody knows. All we know is, he only shows up to little boys and girls who don’t listen to their mommies and daddies and takes them away.”

“Did he ever take you?” my son asked.

“Almost,” I said. I had to spice up the conversation somehow.

“I was a very naughty boy, so one night when I was sleeping the Bogeyman showed up and tried to take me away. But grandma and grandpa rushed into my room and begged the Bogeyman not to take me from them.”

“What did he do?”

“What he always does. He told them, 'I have come for your child, he who has disobeyed you. He will be mine for eternity.' And grandma cried and begged and told the Bogeyman to give me one more chance. And the Bogeyman looked at her and said, 'He has but one chance left, and then he is mine.' And the next thing I know, I wake up the next morning, and ever since then I’ve tried to be the best that I can be.”

“I don’t want the Bogeyman to take me, Daddy!” he said to me.

In fairness, I shouldn't joke. What I, and many others, use to keep our children obedient isn't a joke or some kind of scary bedtime story. It's real, and when I got older, I realized this. But I would also realize that this "Bogeyman" would come to be known by many names; moreover, that my plucked-out-of-thin-air description of him was eerily accurate. Or at least, I thought I had made it up. It wasn't until sometime later when I realized that I had actually seen the "Bogeyman" before. Only at that time, I knew him by another name.

I was ten, maybe twelve. To be honest I try not to think about that time any more than I have to. The Vietnam War had just ended, and my father had come back home. When I say he told some of the most horrific stories I have ever heard, you have to believe me. But there was one he told me that I’ll never forget. There’s no way I ever could. He saw the Gasman - that's what he called it. Right there on the battlefield, just a week before. I remember my father as he was telling it: the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice. I’d never seen him so terrified.

The Gasman, he was just… just standing there in the fires. Watching. My father was in the trenches with other soldiers. No one else saw it, but my father…he swears. And if you had seen his eyes, I’m telling you, he was not lying. So my father, he watched the Gasman. He couldn’t look away, like an accident, or a crime scene. There’s something about destruction and terror that’s just so…hypnotic. The Gasman wasn’t moving, wasn’t saying anything. Right then my father looked away, looked down. And he was alone. Everyone was gone. The noise was gone. His unit vanished. The enemy nowhere in sight. My father swears that in that moment he thought he had died and gone to heaven. That somehow, when sticking his head up out of those trenches to look at the goddamned Gasman, a bullet had gone right through his skull. But before he knew it, he was lying in a hospital bed a couple of days later, and the war was over. Those other men in the trench with him? No one found them. No bodies, no dog tags. They were just gone. And of course, no other reports of the Gasman. What my father saw, he swears by, and I believe him. But those four men? They were real, they damn sure existed. But one day they were here, and the next…

You might be asking, "What was he doing on the battlefield? Isn't it a child's story?"

The Gasman doesn’t just care about children. People tell stories to make themselves feel better. People embellish. People romanticize, fantasize, lie. The Gasman has been around for longer than you know. That very night after my father told me his story, I was in my bed, right there on the edge of sleep, when I saw him. The Gasman appeared right before my eyes; more peculiar still, he was accompanied by four other men in uniform. I told my father the next day about this, and he was sure – those were his men. The soldiers that went missing.

So why did they all appear to me? Why did the Gasman come to visit me?

To warn me. Despite what your parents made you fear about the Gasman, the Bogeyman, the things that go bump in the night - he is not a threat.

Don’t misunderstand me. The Gasman is a terrible omen. You do not want to see him. But he, himself, is not the threat. What the Gasman represents is a sign of things to come. He is a deliverance. When you see him, it is the calm before the storm.

Two weeks later, my father died of respiratory failure. Carbon monoxide leak, they said. He tested positive for lethal amounts. But they checked the house, nothing. Not a trace.

But you think the Gasman is a petty nightmare? A poor-man's ghost story?

On March 16th of 1988, the genocide of up to five thousand Kurdish people took place at the behest of Saddam Hussein on the city of Halabja in Southern Kurdistan. A mix of different chemicals and compounds were used in the bombings. Following the events, one of the participants willingly came forward and gave himself up. He was babbling incessantly, asking to speak to a reporter. He gave a rather blunt account of the events from his own perspective.

"I was one of the pilots. I remember receiving the order. I remember the takeoff. I remember dropping the bombs. And I remember landing. But when we were sent off at the start of our mission, there were five people with me. When we landed, there were six. I don’t know who that sixth person was. I had never seen him in my life, and after that day, I never saw him again. He dressed liked us, but never said a word. He wore a gasmask like I’d never seen before – more classical in design. Very primitive, very basic. The strangest part? All the other pilots had the exact same story: five men entered, six came off. We weren’t all going crazy, were we?”

People called local police stations saying they saw the “Gasman” in their backyard. It was the next big thing. People wanted the attention, wanted in on the craze, to be a part of a world-wide phenomenon in the making. Nobody really knew what they were talking about. Legends of the Gasman date far back before most of our recollections, but that’s the funny thing about myths. Over time, they change, they adapt to the trends. It’s like a game of telephone. You start with a message on one end and by the time you get to the opposite, the person thinks you’re insulting them.

Reports of mysterious "gasmasked" figures date back as early as the 1600's in Rome, when Plague Doctors would come around to treat those afflicted. They wore bizarre beak-like masks and carried with them an assortment of antidotes and potions. Perhaps they took their inspirations from the Gasman, or perhaps art imitates life. Further still, the concept of the "miasma" was given to us by ancient Greece, which is described as "a contagious power... that has an independent life of its own. Until purged by the sacrificial death of the wrongdoer, society would be chronically infected by catastrophe."

Is this the birth of the Gasman? Or just cause and effect? No one will ever really know. Throughout history, sightings of the Gasman have been reported all over the world: In Italy, they call him Il Fantasma; in Japan, he is thought to be one of the Tengu, a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion. Even one of the most devastating periods in human history has been attributed to him: the Black Death that spread all across Europe throughout the mid-14th century.

Even recently, the Gasman has been spotted.

In February 2014, the Ukranian revolution took place after many violent riots in the capital city of Kiev. You've seen the news, you know the story. I won't educate you on the details. But throughout this tumultuous time, there was one constant and recurring question: "Who is the Gasman?" Pictures of a shrouded, masked figure spread like wildfire across the internet. Stories were created about this mystery man, often seen standing before burning buildings or amidst plumes of smoke. Why here? Why now? Why ever?

Well, it's as I've told you before. The Gasman is a harbinger. He is not a threat, he only warns of one. Quite frankly, I have no idea what's about to happen. I can’t exactly explain the feeling one gets when you see the Gasman for yourself, which is what makes this all the more insane. But I promise you, the Gasman is real. And if he ever comes to visit you or your family, well… I don’t believe in God, but I will pray for you. Because nothing good ever comes from a visit from the Gasman.

Original author unknown