What are some stories that were told about Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird?

The stories and rumors that are spread about Boo Radley include him having stabbed his father in the leg, bitten off his mother's finger, and tried to poison Walter Jr. It seems that if anything goes wrong in the Finches' neighborhood, someone finds a way to blame it on Boo Radley.

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In Maycomb lore, Boo Radley has taken on the role of local bogeyman. Most of this is the result of the reclusive and unfriendly nature of the Radley family as well as the shabby condition of their house. Scout describes it as looking very much like an archetypical haunted house. We are told that anything that goes wrong in the town is attributed to Boo.

Jem frightens Scout with exaggerated stories of Boo as a scar-faced monster who eats small animals raw. Jem also opines that Boo's father kept him chained to his bed at night, a story that Atticus says is unlikely. Atticus states that there are other ways to turn a person into a ghost.

Miss Stephanie Crawford reveals that the 33-year-old Boo stabbed his father:

As Mr. Radley passed by, Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activities.

Miss Maudie offers a more rational narrative than the town lore, telling Scout that Boo is more sinned against than sinning, the product of a man who became the wrong kind of harsh, judgmental Christian, breaking Boo's spirit.

All of the stories swirling around Boo encourage Scout in her prejudice against him. In the same way that many whites pre-judge Tom Robinson as guilty just because he is black, Scout believes all sorts of fantastic stories about Boo, even having never laid eyes on him. Because of her prejudice, even when Boo does kind things for the children, Scout persists in being frightened of him.

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To put it in colloquial terms, Boo Radley is grossly misunderstood, and he is seen as the weird guy in the Finches' neighborhood. In this neighborhood, telling "Boo Radley" stories becomes the equivalent of telling ghost stories in other places. They are designed to frighten the listener. The analogy of ghost stories is particularly applicable since Boo is referred to as a "malevolent phantom".

First off, there's a town legend that Boo stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors. This story, while never actually verified to be true, has put the fear of Boo into all the neighborhood kids, to the point that they run, rather than walk, past the Radley household. Speaking of hurting his family members, Boo is also rumored to have bitten off his mother's finger.

Then there's the account Jem Finch gives anyone who will listen of what Boo looks like. If you take Jem's word for it, Boo's hands are bloodstained as a result of his diet of raw squirrel and cat meat, and he is an eye-popping drooling monster with rotten teeth and a scar that takes over most of his face.

Other crazy rumors about Boo is that he killed his neighbors' pets, and if that wasn't enough, Walter Jr will tell anyone who'll listen that Boo tried to poison him.

In a nutshell, if anything gets stolen or anyone is hurt mysteriously around the neighborhood, the blame lands at the feet of the kind, innocent Boo Radley.

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In Chapter 1, Scout recounts some of the stories that are told about her reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley. She comments that citizens of Maycomb claim that he sneaks out during night and peeps into people's windows. Boo also gets the blame for whenever people's azaleas freeze because they say that he breathes on them. Scout mentions that pretty much any small crime committed in Maycomb is blamed on Boo Radley. Scout also tells the story of when Boo was younger, and he got into trouble with the Cunningham family by locking Mr. Conner in an outhouse. Instead of being sent to the state industrial school as punishment, Boo's father told the judge that Boo wouldn't cause further trouble and was released into his custody. Miss Stephanie Crawford also told Jem that Boo stabbed his father in the leg with scissors while he was cutting out items from The Maycomb Tribune for his scrapbook. Following the incident, the Radley's refused to send Boo to an asylum and instead chose to lock him in the courthouse basement before he eventually returned home.

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Jem and Scout got most of their stories from from Miss Stephanie Crawford. Among them:

  • Boo peeped in windows at night.
  • He breathed on azaleas during cold snaps, causing them to die.
  • He was accused of killing and mutilating animals.
  • He poisoned the pecans that grew in his back yard but fell in the schoolyard.
  • He was accused of unsolved "stealthy" crimes.
  • He joined other boys in stealing Mr. Conner's "flivver," and locking him in the courthouse outhouse.
  • He was charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the police, assault and battery, and using abusive language in the presence of a female.
  • He stabbed his father in the leg with scissors.
  • He mended Jem's pants after he lost them on the Radley fence.
  • He put a blanket around Scout's shoulders on the night of Miss Maudie's house fire.
  • He left presents for Jem and Scout in the knothole of the tree.
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