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The bogeyman

Updated on December 23, 2012

Who is the bogeyman or boogeyman?

Every child growing up has heard the threat at one time or another "The bogeyman will come and get you." This scare tactic was often used by parents or elders as a way of controlling their children, by frightening them to believe that the imaginary monster is real. Children's bedtime stories often tell of the bogeyman hiding in the closet or under the bed who will come and take them away if they are disobedient or naughty. The tales of the bogeyman vary from region to region and the imaginary figure take many forms in different countries of the world.

Who or what is the bogeyman and where did the word come from?

What is a bogeyman?

Every child's nightmare

A bogeyman (also spelt bogieman, boogeyman or boogieman) is a monstrous imaginary figure children often believe is real. The boogeyman has no specific appearance. It is said that the boogeyman takes the shape and form of a child's worst fear in order to feed on them. Oftentimes, a parent will use this fear as a way to control their misbehaving children by telling them made-up stories about the boogeyman hiding in the walls.

The boogeyman is sometimes said to be neither woman nor man, and is in the form of a shadowy figure. The term bogeyman is also used metaphorically to mean a person or thing of which someone has an irrational fear.

The commonest childhood fears that the boogeyman's associated with is that of someone (usually a monster) hiding in one's room (such as behind the door or under the bed). The boogeyman is said to lurk like this and then attack the sleepers (though usually only in order to scare them and is harmless otherwise).

The etymology of the word "bogeyman" is uncertain, as is when it first appeared in the English language. Some sources date it to the 16th century, while others to around 1836, as a term for the Devil.

The roots of the word might ultimately derive from the Middle English bugge, meaning a "frightening spectre". Similar derivations include boggart, bogy, bugbear, the Welsh bwg and the German bögge, all referring to goblins or frightening creatures. "Bogey" may also come from the Scottish bogle, meaning "ghost", dating to around 1505 and popularised in English literature around the 19th century through the works of Scottish poets like Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

Source: The Mystical Myth

Photo Credit: Flickr Roninkengo

"Bart, I don't want to alarm you, but there may be a boogeyman in the house!"

Let's hear it from you.

Did your parents frighten you with bogeyman stories to make you behave? Or did you use the same tactic on your own children?

Were you ever scared of the bogeyman when you were a child?

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Henry Hall sings the 1920's song

HENRY HALL - "Here Comes The Bogey Man" lyrics

Children have You ever met the Bogeyman before

No, of course You haven't for You're much too good, I'm sure;

Don't You be afraid of him if he should visit You,

He's a great big coward, so I'll tell You what to do

Hush, hush, hush, here comes the Bogeyman,

Don't let him come too close to You, he'll catch you if he can.

Just pretend that you're a crocodile

And you will find that Bogeyman will run away a mile.

Say Shoo shoo and stick him with a pin

Bogeyman will very nearly jump out of his skin

Say buzz buzz just like the wasps that sting

Bogeyman will think you are an elephant with wings

Hush, hush, hush, here comes the Bogeyman

Tell him you've got soldiers in your bed

For he will never guess that they are only made of lead

Say Hush hush, he'll think that you're asleep

If you make a lovely snore away he'll softly creep

Sing this tune you children one and all

Bogeyman will run away, he'll think it's Henry Hall!

When the shadows of the evening creep across the sky

And your Mummy comes upstairs to sing a lullaby

Tell her that the bogeyman no longer frightens you

Uncle Henry's very kindly told you what to do

Hush, hush, hush, here comes the Bogeyman

Don't let him come too close to you, He'll catch you if he can.

Just pretend your teddy bear's a dog

Then shout out, 'Fetch him, Teddy!' and he'll hop off like a frog.

Say Meoow, pretend that you're a cat

He'll think you may scratch him that make him fall down flat

Just pretend he isn't really there

You will find that Bogey man will vanish in thin air

Here's one way to catch him without fail

Just keep a little salt with you

and put it on his tail

The bogeyman in other parts of the world.

Source: Wikipedia

There is an equivalent of the bogeyman in every culture of the world. They come in different shapes and forms in children's stories and lullabies often used to scare children who did not behave. Some warn children not to be lazy or cry, to go to sleep when they are told to, to come in when called, and basically obey their parents. Some of the bogeymen do not harm the children but just lock them up in the basement if they refused to go to sleep.

  • Azerbaijan - A bogeyman-like creature parents refer to make children behave is called khokhan ("xoxan").

  • Bahamas - "Small man" is the name given to a man who rides in a cart drawn by itself and picks up any child seen outside after sundown, the term "rollin' cart" was used to scare children who didn't behave. Anyone taken by the small man becomes a small person and has to ride on the back of his cart with him forever.

  • Belgium - A faceless bogeyman called "Oude Rode Ogen" (Old Red Eyes) was known throughout the Flanders region and said to originate in Mechelen. It is said to have been a cannibalistic shapeshifter that was able to change between human form to that of a black dog. It later became a children's story in the early 1900s called "The Nikker", known to devour young children that stayed up past their bedtime.

  • Brazil and Portugal - A monster more akin to the Bogeyman is called Bicho Papão (Eating Beast). A notable difference between it and the homem do saco is that the latter is a diurnal menace and "Bicho Papão" is a bed-time nocturnal menace.

    Bulgaria- In some villages, people used to believe that a hairy, dark, ghost-like creature called a talasam (Tal-ah-SUHM) lived in the shadows of the barn or in the attic and came out at night to scare little children.

  • Cherokee - During the Corn Festival, young Cherokee males wearing phallic-laden masks would make fun of politicians, frighten children into being good, and moreover seduce young women by shaking their masks at them and chasing them around. Male participants in this Booger Dance were referred to as the Booger Man.

  • Denmark and Norway - The equivalent of the Bogeyman in Danish is bussemanden or "Bøhmanden" (meaning "The Buhman"). It hides under the bed and grabs children who will not sleep. Like the English, it is also a slang term for nasal mucus. In Norway, he is referred to as Busemannen

  • Egypt - The "Abu Rigl Maslukha" which translates to the "Man With Burnt Leg". It is a very scary story that parents tell their children when they misbehave. The "Abu Rigl Maslukha" is a monster that got burnt when he was a child because he did not listen to his parents. He grabs naughty children to cook and eat them. The same as al-Bu'bu',who is more popular and relevant to this topic. He is often depicted as a night creature that is dressed in black, who haunts children that misbehave.

  • Finland - The equivalent of the Bogeyman in Finland is mörkö. The most famous usage of the word these days takes place in Moomin-stories (originally written in Swedish) in which mörkö (the Groke) is a frightening, dark blue, big, ghost-looking creature.

  • France - The French equivalent of the Bogeyman is le croque-mitaine ("the mitten-biter" or rather "the hand-cruncher", mitaine means mitt in an informal way).

  • Germany - in Germany, the Bogeyman is known as Der schwarze Mann (the black man), the "Buhmann" or the Butzemann. "Schwarz" does not refer to the colour of his skin (most Germans had never met a real black person during the time these legends developed) but to his preference for hiding in dark places, like the closet, under the bed of children or in forests at night. There is also an active game for little children which is called Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann? (Who is afraid of the black man?) or an old traditional folk song Es tanzt ein Bi-Ba-Butzemann in unserm Haus herum (A Bi-Ba-Bogeyman dances around in our house). In the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, used in those areas of Pennsylvania colonized by Swiss and Germanic peoples during the eighteenth century, "der Butzemann" is the term for a male scarecrow. A female scarecrow is a "Butzefraa."

  • Greece and Cyprus - in the Greek-speaking world, the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as Baboulas.Typically, he is said to be hiding under the bed, although the details of his story is adapted by the parents in a variety of ways.

    Iceland - The Icelandic equivalent of the Bogeyman is Grýla, a female troll who would take misbehaving children and eat them. However, as the story goes, she has been dead for some time. She is also the mother of the Yule Lads, the Icelandic equivalent of Santa.

  • India - In India, the entity is known by different names.

    North India - Children are sometimes threatened with the Chownki Daar, a night shift security guard who takes children who refuse to go to sleep.

    South India -In Karnataka the demon "Goggayya"(roughly meaning 'terrible man') can be treated as counterpart of Bogeyman. In the state of Tamil Nadu, children are often mock-threatened with the Rettai Kannan (the two-eyed one) or Poochaandi, a monster or fearsome man that children are sometimes threatened with if they are not obedient or refuse to eat. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the equivalent of bogeyman is Boochodu. In central Kerala, Bogeyman is referred to as 'Kokkayi' who will 'take away' children for disobeying their parents or misbehave in any manner. Children are then at freedom to conjure up what terrible things might happen to them, once taken away by Kokkayi.

  • Iran - In Persian culture, children who misbehave may be told by their parents to be afraid of lulu who eats up the naughty children. Lulu is usually called lulu-khorkhore (bogeyman who eats everything up). The threat is generally used to make small children eat their meals.

  • Italy - The Italian equivalent of the Bogeyman is l'uomo nero or Babau, portrayed as a tall man wearing a heavy black coat, with a black hood or hat which hides his face. Sometimes, parents will knock loudly under the table, pretending that someone is knocking at the door, and saying: "Here comes l'uomo nero ("the black man")! He must know that there's a child here who doesn't want to drink his soup!" L'uomo nero is not supposed to eat or harm children, just take them away to a mysterious and frightening place. A popular lullaby says that he would keep a child with him "for a whole year".

  • Japan - Namahage are demons that warn children not to be lazy or cry, during the Namahage Sedo Matsuri, or "Demon Mask Festival", when villagers don demon masks and pretend to be these spirits.

  • Korea - In Gyungsang province, Dokebi is understood as a monster that appears to get misbehaving children. The word kokemi, however, is derived from a word Kotgahm, dried persimmon. According to Korean folklore, a woman, in an attempt to soothe her crying child, said "Here comes a tiger to come and get you. I'll let him in unless you stop crying." Accidentally, a tiger passed by, overheard her and decided to wait for his free meal. Instead of opening the door of the house, to the tiger's disappointment, the mother offered her child a dried persimon saying "Here's a kotgahm." Of course, the child, busy eating, stopped crying. The tiger, not knowing what a Kotgahm is, ran away thinking "this must be a scary monster for whom even I am no match." (Tigers are revered by Koreans as most powerful and fearsome creatures.) Other variations include mangtae younggam an oldman (younggam) who carries a mesh sack (mahngtae) to put his kidnapped children in. In some regions, mangtae younggam is replaced by mangtae halmum, an old woman with a mesh sack.

  • Myanmar - Children are threatened with Pashu Gaung Phyat, meaning Malayu Headhunter. In Burmese, Malays were called "Pashu", which may come from Bajau or Bugis. Even Peninsular Malaysia was called Pashu Peninsula. It is common knowledge that some ethnic groups in Eastern Malaysia, Iban and Dayak were notorious headhunters. Although the Wa tribe of Burma was famous previously until the 1970s, ferocious headhunters,[10] it is a mystery why Burmese use the faraway Pashus as bogeymen.

  • Norway - "nøkken", the Norwegian bogeyman, is portrayed as a monster in the lake. He was said to come and take children who did not come in when they were told to.

  • Netherlands - Boeman, The Dutch Bogeyman is portrayed as a creature that resembles a man, dressed completely black, with sharp claws and fangs. He hides under the bed or in the closet. The Bogeyman takes bad children or those that refuse to sleep and locks them in his basement for a period of time.

  • Pakistan - A bogeyman-like creature parents refer to make children behave is called Allah Baba or Jin Baba.

  • Philippines - Pugot (only in most Ilocano regions), Sipay, Mamu and Mumu. In Kapampangan culture it is known as the Mánguang Anak or the Child-Snatcher.

  • Poland - In Poland, parents scare their children by telling a story about gypsies that come at night and kidnap kids. Also the kids are threatened to be abducted by the "black Volga" (car) - a reference to the secret police vehicles and extrajudicial killings in the 1940s and 1950s.

  • Quebec - in this French-speaking province, the Bonhomme Sept-Heures (7 o'clock man) is said to visit houses around 7 o'clock to take misbehaving children who will not go to bed back to his cave where he feasts on them.

  • Romania - in Romania, the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as bau-bau (pronounced "bow-bow"). Bau-bau stories are used by parents to scare children who misbehave. The babau (babao or barabao) also appears in Italy and Egypt. bau-bau is know also as omul negru , meaning the black man.

  • In Croatia and Serbia, the Bogeyman is called Babaroga, baba meaning old lady and rogovi meaning horns. Literally meaning old lady with horns. The details vary from one household to another. In one household, babaroga takes children, puts them in a sack and then, when it comes to its cave, eats them. In another household, it takes children and pulls them up through tiny holes in the ceiling.

  • Slovenia - The Slovenian Bogeyman is called Bavbav. It does not have a particular shape or form. Often, it is not even defined as a man or anything human. It can be thought of as a kind of sprite.

  • Spain- El ogro (the Spanish word for ogre) is a shapeless figure, sometimes a hairy monster, that hides in closets or under beds and eats children that misbehave when they are told to go to bed.

  • Sweden - in Sweden, the Bogeyman is sometimes referred to as Monstret under sängen, which essentially means "the monster under the bed".

  • Switzerland - in Switzerland, the Bogeyman is called Böllima or Böögg and has an important role in the springtime ceremonies. The figure is the symbol of winter and death, so in the Sechseläuten ceremony in the City of Zürich, where a figure of the Böögg is burnt.

  • Trinidad and Tobago - Most Trinbagonians (rural demographic mostly) refer to folklore to scare disobedient children. The most common word that is used is Jumbie. Some "jumbies" are the Soucouyant, Lagahoo, La Diabless, Papa Bois, etc. "Bogeyman" is also used in the same context as its origin but by mostly urbanised citizens, and it can also can be called "The Babooman".

  • USA - The Jersey Devil, which originated in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, is believed by many to be an old time Bogeyman created by residents to scare off travellers from coming onto their land. Bloody Bones, also known as Rawhead or Tommy Rawhead, is a boogeyman of the U.S. South. Bloody Bones tales originated in Britain. The Bogeyman may be pronounced Boogerman or Boogermonster in rural areas of the U.S. South. Southern Boogerman was most often used to keep young children from playing outside past dark, or wandering off in the forest. "The boogerman'll getcha" is a phrase many young southerner's heard.

  • DR Congo - In Lingala language the world "Dongola Miso" or "Creature with Scary Eyes" is used to discourage children from staying up beyond bedtime. It is also used to warn children or even adults about the potential danger in speaking to or dealing with strangers.

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The bogeyman is El Cuco or Coco

In Spanish-speaking countries

El Cuco (or Coco; Cuco; Coca; Cuca; Cucuy) is a mythical ghost-monster; equivalent to the boogeyman, found in many Spanish-speaking countries, although the myth of the coco originated in Portugal and Galicia. In Spain, parents will sing lullabies or tell rhymes to the children warning them that if they do not sleep, El Coco will come and get them. Coconuts (Spanish: coco) received that name because its brownish hairy surface reminded Portuguese explorers of coco, a ghost with a pumpkin head.

In Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, where there is a large Hispanic population, el cuco is referred to with its anglicized name, the Coco Man. But in Brazilian folklore, the typical monster sung in children rhymes is Cuca, pictured as a female humanoid alligator from Portuguese coca, a dragon.

More from Wikipedia

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Legend of El Coco

Que Viene el Coco, (1799) which shows a cloaked, menacing figure, was painted by Goya.

Parents in Spain and Latin America invoke the name of Cuco to frighten their children to abide by their wishes, like going to bed when they are supposed to, eating and finishing their dinner, not wander off to prohibited places. It is not the way the cuco looks but what he does that scares most children out of their wits. The cuco is on the lookout for disobedient children, whisks them away, devours them and leaves no traces behind.

17th century lullaby

Duérmete mi niño, duérmete ya...

Que viene el Coco y te comerá.

Which translates as:

" Sleep my child, sleep now...

Or else the Coco will come and eat you.

In Japan, Namahage is the bogeyman.

Namahage are demons that warn children not to be lazy or cry, during the Namahage Sedo Matsuri, or "Demon Mask Festival", when villagers don demon masks and pretend to be these spirits. Dozens of young men and women march around the village dressed as the eerie demon will go door to door with their loud roars, threatening to drag any spoiled disobedient children to the snow-covered mountains away from their parents. Typically, the kids scream with fear and terror and as a result make a promise to behave and study hard as part of their New Year's resolution.

Le croque-mitaine is the bogeyman in France. - The hand cruncher

Bogeyman or boogeyman abound at Amazon

Everything you want to know about the boogeyman or bogeyman

This book by Katie Boyd tells about her own terrifying experiences with the boogeyman she calls "Fire Face." She goes to tell about Rawhead and Bloody Bones, Bonhomme Sept-Heures (the Seven o'Clock Man), the Bag Man, Baba Yaga, Bicho Papao, El Cuco, the Namahage, and others. She has done a great job researching into a little-known subject. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to get rid of that thing under the bed, the monster in the closet, or are just curious.

No fear of the dark

I personally never believed in telling my son scary stories to frighten him to behave. He was never afraid of the dark even as a child. When he was two years old, he would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, turn on the light, do his business, turn the lights off and go back to bed.

Do not let the bogeyman chase you away. - Let me know you stopped by.

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I enjoyed my visit, learning so much about bogeyman. It used to scare me, not anymore

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great thinking

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great thinking

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Never realized that instilling fear was such a widespread parenting practice!

    • rootadesigns lm profile image

      rootadesigns lm 5 years ago

      cool lens!

    • iandrzej lm profile image

      iandrzej lm 6 years ago

      Awww... you really made a freaky frightening lens for sure... one must go through and imagine if never heard a story of Bogeyman.... lol Many thanks for sharing.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Now I won't be able to go to sleep after reading about all these scary creatures. Fascinating that so many cultures have a version of it.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      Hey! Thanks for this interesting lens.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      I loved this, what a great lens. I was never scared of the bogeyman but my father always said there were alligators under the bed and to this day, I wake up if even a toe is over the side. Angel blessed.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      Great lens on something that hopefully will fade into the distance. One thing I made sure of was my children never heard of this or anyhing that would frighten them. Feature this on Child Abuse and Murder

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      The bogeyman wears Chuck Norris pajamas at night, and checks under the bed every night before going to bed. ~ Cool lens, I like this!

    • splendidbaker lm profile image

      splendidbaker lm 6 years ago

      Wow, what a well-researched and informative lens, almost like a National Geographic special on the Bogeyman. Looks like the Bogeyman is a global phenomenon! Thanks for sharing:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This lens is interesting and very informative. I did not know that almost every country and culture has a legend about the "bogeyman". A great job putting this together.