Why Believing in Monsters Is a Rite of Passage

Creatures of the Night Give Shape to Fears and Put Our Moxie to the Test

Ours was a safe neighborhood. Postwar cinderblock cottages stood unlocked in the shade of date palms that in summer cluttered our yards with vinegary, fermenting medjools and at trimming time offered their branches to boys for secret forts and clubhouses. Older children ran wild until evening dinner call, extending their explorations far afield to distant canals and vacant lots, disobeying their parents by ditching their toddler siblings who, somehow, always found their way home.

When the sun went down, the world changed: Elongated shadows trembled on concrete sidewalks, inchoate …