I've had the phrase "you swore on a dead cat?" bouncing around in my head for years, and I think I can trace it back to a short scary story anthology book I read in the third grade, around 2010. I think the book was fairly old at the time, so I'm not sure how much information the year I read it provides. The story involved two kids who snuck into the house of a fat man with a moon shaped scar after swearing on a dead cat on the side of the road that they'd be brave and do it. The story ended with the man cornering them and laughing at them having sworn on a dead cat.

I remember there being other stories in the book, one of them involving a boy being dragged under his bed by hands and then replacing the entity that did the bed dragging.

I don't remember much more than that. I've tried googling the phrase "swore on a dead cat" and found no results. I don't think it was a part of any of the major series of children's horror anthologies, like "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" or "Haunted Canada" or whatever. I remember the stories in it being a bit more abstract and scary than other scary stories I'd read at the time.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Are there any fantasy elements in this story? It honestly sounds more like psychological horror rather than supernatural horror.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 29 at 20:12
  • 1
    I recall there being supernatural elements: there was something spooky about the fat man. And there were several other stories in the anthology I found it in that certainly had supernatural elements (such as the boy being dragged under his bed by the arms of a monster) Commented May 29 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


This is The Fat Man by Joe R. Lansdale. It's appeared in several anthologies from 1987 to 2021. If you read this in 2010 you most likely read the collection titled: Bumper Crop.

It involves a fat man, and the phrase "swore on a dead cat" is repeated a few times:

"I swore on the dead cat I was going to find out about the Fat Man, and that's what I'm going to do."


"You swore on a dead cat," the voice in the belly said, and a little wizened, oily head with bugged-out eyes poked out of the belly and looked up at Harold and smiled with lots and lots of teeth.

"You swore on a dead cat," the voice repeated, only this time it was a perfect mockery of Joe.

The moon-shaped scar could perhaps be a moon-shaped tattoo (that's actually a mouth):

Harold shrieked, turned. There at the foot of the stairs stood the Fat Man. And the half-moon tattoo was not a half-moon at all, it was a mouth, and it was speaking to them in the gut-level voice they had heard the Fat Man use to sing.


"Now that's not nice," said the half-moon tattoo, and this time it opened so wide the boys thought they saw something moving in there. "That's my collection."

  • That's definitely the story! But I don't think that's the right anthology, it's too new looking. The book I read was more reminiscent of an old goosebumps-type book. Commented May 29 at 20:34
  • @user2506833 Is any of these covers the one you remember? isfdb.org/cgi-bin/titlecovers.cgi?77442
    – user14111
    Commented May 29 at 20:37
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    Yes! I think it's this one!. Checking a PDF of it online I was also able to find the story about the boy being dragged under the bed. Thank you guys! Commented May 29 at 20:39

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