When I first knew Chris Woodhead in the 1960s he told me about the “Thievelers”, but it was only recently that I thought about their origins. It started with a chance remark during an exchange on Facebook.
19 May 2011 at 15:32
Happy Birthday Coops. Hope you have a good day!
John Edward Cooper
19 May 2011 at 15:43
Many thanks, Chris. Hope the Thievelers don't get you!
I remembered that Chris had described his childhood bogeymen as black with spikes sticking out of their hair, and figuring that they were based on some Rupert-character I did an internet search. I found some very un-“PC” references, e.g. to Rupert on “Coon Island”. I copied one of the images and uploaded it to Facebook.
19 May 2011 at 15:51
Thanks, I've just arrived home safely, after being out and about since this morning. I didn't see any around the city [Berlin], but now I'm just keeping a low profile here.
John Edward Cooper
19 May 2011 at 16:55
Are Thievelers something like what I've posted here?
Later, there was an exchange of emails, the relevant bits of which I have copied below:
19 May 2011 at 18:07
My goodness, yes, that's exactly what they are like!
From: John E Cooper
Sent: 30 May 2011 14:20
To: Chris Woodhead
Subject: New thread, 30 May 2011
Did you tell me, when you first told me about Thievelers, that they had their origin in the "coons" in Rupert Bear stories, or have I just surmised that, based on your description of them?
Sent: 03 June 2011 22:34
To: John E Cooper
Subject: Re: New thread, 30 May 2011
Concerning the Thievelers, I think you could be right. I was quite an avid reader of Rupert Bear stories as a child, so it seems likely that I decided the "coons" were the nearest thing I had seen to what I imagined the Thievelers would look like. As they never actually "got me", I didn't meet them face-to-face. :-)
The person who first introduced me to the phenomenon of the Thievelers was J— C—, formerly of 39 Veal Street, Grimsby. She was the one who would warn me that they might get me. The last sighting of her was around ten years ago, after Uncle Gordon had his stroke. He was admitted into hospital for a while where they tried to improve his condition with physiotherapy. Strangely enough, it was this J— C— who was the physiotherapist. Apparently, she recognised him immediately, and said something like, "Do you remember me, Mr Hall? I'm J—." And he did. So I guess she may be the only living person who would be able to say whether my mental picture of the Thievelers bears any relation to their awful reality.