Monday, October 24, 2011

Watch Out For the Boogeyman!

At last it's time for Monsterfest! Here's an entry close to my heart and shuddering in the dark recesses of my inner child's mind:

The Boogeyman

The Boogeyman is a character of mythic proportions in nursery stories, the most feared of any other childhood monster. He hides in our closets, under our beds, even in our dreams. He embodies our fear of the dark, our fear of strangers, and our fear of things grabbing our ankles when we get out of bed at night. And just because we don't see him doesn't mean he isn't there.

The term 'boogeyman' is derived from bogeyman or bogey. They are monsters created by adults to frighten children into behaving, and all cultures have them. Sometimes they are male, and sometimes they are female, but they are always nasty. The manner in which the bogey behaves changes depending on the story and the culture telling it. Sometimes he tickles children while they sleep, and other times he scratches at windows or doors to frighten them. In all stories, the Boogeyman is a malicious creature bent on punishing children who disobey their parents or refuse to sleep.

The Boogeyman is known by different names all over the world, including Sack Man, Bag Man, Uncle Gunnysack, Bubak, Cuco, Babau, and Butzemann. The list of bogey-like creatures is long and can be found here.

The Boogeyman has no specific appearance, but the strongest representation is a hooded man who carries a sack on his back in which to stuff misbehaving children. What he does with the children after he stuffs them in his bag varies. Some stories say he eats them, and others say he simply locks them away.

"Here comes the Bogeyman" by Francisco de Goya

Appearances of The Boogeyman in popular American culture.

One of the scariest depictions of the Boogeyman in film (at least in animated terms) appeared in the episodes of The Real Ghostbusters entitled "The Boogieman Cometh" and "The Boogieman Is Back". (This episode freaked me out) This version of the Boogeyman looked like a goblin Steven Tyler with pale blue skin, a horribly oversized head, spiky blue hair, ruby lips, sharp teeth, a stubbly chin, pointy ears, yellow eyes and goat legs. He wore a bowtie and a coat with long tails.

In "The Boogieman Cometh" Egon revealed that being frightened by the Boogieman as a child was the reason he began studying the paranormal. Since the Boogieman wasn't a ghost, the ghostbusters couldn't capture him, and had to increase the power of their beams to drive him back to his realm. In order to defeat the Boogieman for good (or for now) the ghostbusters lay a trap for him in a bedroom with Ray as bait. They set a ghost bomb which exploded, sealing him in his realm.

A more recent Boogeyman concept we all recognize is Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, a 1993 stop-motion film by Tim Burton (and one of my favorites). The character of Oogie Boogie is a singing, dancing boogeyman who lives in Halloween Town. With the help of his ghoulish trick-or-treaters Lock, Shock and Barrel, Oogie kidnaps Santa Claus and proceeds to torture him in this song. This movie couldn't have had a better villain than the boogeyman, even if Oogie Boogie is actually just a potato sack filled with creepy crawlies, animated by magic.

Sony Pictures produced the movie Boogeyman in 2005 about a young man who is plagued by the Boogeyman even into adulthood. He eventually faces up to his childhood fears in order to save those he loves. There are some creepy scenes where the Boogeyman snatches people by way of closets, underneath beds, and other dark places, but all in all, the movie isn't very scary.

Boogeyman gave rise to two sequels which I haven't seen: Boogeyman 2 in 2008, and Boogeyman 3 in 2009. These went straight to video, but had a short theater run in some countries.

Possibly my favorite literary and film representation of a Boogeyman are the Boggarts from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. In familiar Boogeyman fashion, these creatures have no form of their own, but take the form of what their beholder fears the most. In the stories, Hogwarts students faced Boggarts as a training exercise in Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Their key to defeating them was the Riddikulus charm which would make the Boggart look ridiculous instead of frightening.

Boggarts are said to live in small, dark places like wardrobes, closets, cupboards or under beds.

A WWE wrestler (Martin Wright) with the ringname The Boogeyman terrorized other wrestlers in horror movie style from 2005 (during the same year as Boogeyman the movie) to the present. He wears red demonic face paint, chants nursery rhymes, and carries a heavy staff and an oversized clock which he smashes over his own head. Probably his most disgusting tactic in the ring is a mouthful of nightcrawlers which he spits at, or into the mouths of, other wrestlers. His catchphrase is "I'm the Boogeyman and I'm coming to getcha!"

I've been fascinated with, and frightened by, the Boogeyman concept ever since I was a child. So, I wrote a novel with a different kind of Boogeyman. In my story, Boogeymen is the title given to a race of invisible guardians of children. Invisible friends. Most Boogeymen are protective, gentle beings, but once in awhile you get one who goes rogue. These are the Boogeymen of old nursery rhymes, jumping out of closets, lurking under beds, and frightening children and adults alike. They're the reason Boogeymen are called Boogeymen.

This is a concept sketch of my main character Lividia's own Boogeyman.

Hope everyone had as much fun with Monsterfest as I did! I'm looking forward to more spooky blogfests in the future! (I fully intend to visit your blogs once this hectic weekend is over. There are a ton of great monsters I haven't gotten to read about yet.)


  1. Oh my gosh...crazy good post and images!! I am glad I looked in the light of day. There would be no sleep tonight, otherwise.

  2. Thanks, Deb! I had fun looking all this stuff up. I got to learn new things myself! Enjoy the rest of Monsterfest!

  3. Lots of info here. Thanks for posting.

  4. Wonderful entry! I got behind on visiting, but am so glad I came back to it. That first picture is freaky!


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