What are rumors regarding the Radley family in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most of the rampant rumors about the Radley family concern Arthur Radley Jr.--known to most of the town as "Boo." Arthur Sr. had taken the extreme measure of confining his son within the walls of the family home after Boo had been arrested as a youth, "and Mr. Radley's boy was not seen again for fifteen years." Neighbors could only speculate about what had happened to Arthur Jr. It was said that Boo only came out at night, and Miss Stephanie Crawford--who spread most of the rumors herself--claimed that he often peeked in her bedroom window while she was sleeping. His "head was like a skull lookin' at her," and it was said that he could be heard "scratching on the back screen..." It was Boo's breath that caused "people's azaleas to freeze in a cold snap," and he was blamed for "Any small stealthy crimes committed in Maycomb..." It was said that he "mutilated... chickens and household pets," though another local character, Crazy Addie, was the true "culprit." Rumor had it that Boo poisoned the pecans from the Radley tree that fell into the adjacent schoolyard. Jem's imagination perceived Boo as a 6'6" giant who "dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch." He had bloodstained hands, rotten teeth, pop eyes and a scarred face. And later, Jem and Scout decided that it must be Boo who continued to leave presents for them in the knothole of the Radley oak.

Rumor also had it that Mr. Radley and his son, Nathan, "bought cotton" for a living, and that Mr. Radley chained Boo to his bed in order to restrain him, although Atticus assured Jem

... that there were other ways of making people into ghosts.  (Chapter 1) 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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