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A bogeyman (also spelled bogieman, or boogeyman) is a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into compliant behaviour. The monster has no specific appearance, and conceptions about it can vary drastically from household to household within the same community; in many cases, he has no set appearance in the mind of an adult or child, but is simply a non-specific embodiment of terror. Parents may tell their children that if they misbehave, the bogeyman will get them. Bogeymen may target a specific mischief—for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who suck their thumbs—or general misbehaviour, depending on what purpose needs serving. In some cases, the bogeyman is a nickname for the Devil.
Bogeyman tales vary by region. The bogeyman is usually a masculine entity but can be any gender or simply androgynous.
The word bogey is derived from the Middle English bogge/bugge (also the origin of the word bug), and so is generally thought to be a cognate of the German bögge, böggel-mann (English "Bogeyman"). The word could also be linked to many similar words in other European languages: bogle (Scots), boeman (Dutch), Butzemann (German), busemann (Norwegian), bøhmand (Danish), bòcan, púca, pooka or pookha (Irish), pwca, bwga or bwgan (Welsh), puki (Old Norse), pixie or piskie (Cornish), puck (English), lidérc or mumus (Hungarian), bogu (Slavonic), buka (Russian, бука), bauk (Serbian), baubas (Lithuanian), baubau (Romanian), babau (Italian), bida (Polish), papão or sarronco (Portuguese), torbalan (Bulgarian), Μπαμπούλας (Greek).
Other putative origins
In Southeast Asia, the term is commonly accepted to refer to Bugis or Buganese pirates, ruthless seafarers of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia's third largest island. These pirates often plagued early English or Dutch trading ships, namely those of the British East India Company or Dutch East India Company. It is popularly believed that this resulted in the European sailors' bringing their fear of the "bugi men" back to their home countries. However, etymologists disagree with this, because words relating to bogeyman were in common use centuries before European colonization of Southeast Asia and it is therefore unlikely that the Bugis would have been commonly known to westerners during that time.
Analogies in other cultures
Bogeyman-like beings are nearly universal; common to folklore in many disparate countries.
In many countries, a bogeyman variant is portrayed as a man with a sack on his back who carries naughty children away. This is true for many Latin countries, such as Brazil, Portugal, Spain, and the countries of Spanish America, where it referred to as el "Hombre del costal", el "hombre del saco", or in Portuguese, o "homem do saco" (all of which mean "the sack/bag man"). Similar legends are also very common in Eastern Europe, as well as Haiti and some countries in Asia.
El Coco (also El Cuco and Cucuy, sometimes called El Bolo) is a monster common to many Spanish-speaking countries.
In Spain, parents will sing lullabies or tell rhymes to children, warning them that if they do not sleep, El Coco will come and get them. The rhyme originated in the 17th century has evolved over the years, but still retains its original meaning. Coconuts (Spanish: coco) received that name because their brownish hairy surface reminded Portuguese explorers of coco, a ghost with a pumpkin head. Latin America also has El Coco, although its folklore is usually quite different, commonly mixed with native beliefs, and, because of cultural contacts, sometimes more related to the bogeyman of the United States. However, the term El Coco is also used in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, although there it is more usually called El Cuco, as in Puerto Rico, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. In Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, El Cucuy is portrayed as an evil monster that hides under children's bed at night and kidnaps or eats the child that does not obey his/her parents or go to sleep when it is time to do so. However, the Spanish American bogeyman does not resemble the shapeless or hairy monster of Spain: social sciences professor Manuel Medrano says popular legend describes El cucuy as a small humanoid with glowing red eyes that hides in closets or under the bed. 'Some lore has him as a kid who was the victim of violence ... and now he’s alive, but he’s not,' Medrano said, citing Xavier Garza's 2004 book Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys."
In Brazilian folklore, a similar character called Cuca is depicted as a female humanoid alligator. There's a famous lullaby sung by most parents to their children that says that the Cuca will come and get them if they do not sleep, just as in Spain. The Cuca is also a character of Monteiro Lobato's Sítio do Picapau Amarelo, a series of short novels written for children, which contain a large number of characters from Brazilian folklore.
In the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, children who misbehave are threatened with a creature known as "babau" (or "baubau", "baobao", "bavbav" or similar). In Italy and Romania, the Babau (in Romania, Bau-bau) is also called the l'uomo nero (Romanian: omul negru) or "black man". In Italy, he is 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! 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". In Slovenia, the "Bavbav" is described as a formless spirit. In Greece and Cyprus the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as Baboulas (Greek: Μπαμπούλας). 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. In Egypt "al-Bu'bu'" (البعبع) is often depicted as a night creature that is dressed in black, who haunts children that misbehave.
In Germanic countries, the bogeyman is called the butzemann, busseman, buhman or boeman. In Germany the bogeyman is known as the "Buhmann" or the Butzemann. The common German expression is "der schwarze Mann" (engl. the black man), which refers directly to some inhuman or rather paranormal creature, which carries children away and hides in the dark corners under the bed or in the closet. The figure is part of the children game "Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann" (Who is afraid of the boggie-man).
In Denmark it is known as the busseman or Bøhman. 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 the Busemann. In the Netherlands, the Boeman 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.
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 "Butzefrau".
- Afghanistan - Bala or Newanay Mama, which means "The Monster or Crazy person", is used to scare children when they don't want to sleep or when they don't want to take their medicine.
- Albania - There are two similar creatures that are used to frighten children. In the South (Vlore area) there is Katallani, that means "the Catalan." This is a collective memory of the Catalan occupation many centuries ago, from South Italy. Then in the whole country there is Gogoli, that indeed means "the Mongol" and is a collective memory of the Golden horde.
- Algeria- A monster made up of various animal parts called H'awouahoua. It has eyes that are blobs of flaming spit and a coat made of the clothes of the children it eats.
- 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.
- In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia the Bogeyman is called Babaroga, baba meaning old woman and rogovi meaning horns. Literally meaning old woman 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.
- Brazil and Portugal - A monster more akin to the Bogeyman is called Bicho Papão (Eating Beast) or Sarronco (Deep-Voiced Man). 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 (Ta-lah-SUMM) lived in the shadows of the barn or in the attic and came out at night to scare little children. In addition, there is a city-folklor creature called Torbalan (the Bag-man) who raids during the night kidnapping children that have misbehaved.
- Congo - In the Lingala language the 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.
- China - "Ou-wu" is usually described as a witch or a scary woman who kidnaps children who misbehave. It is popular among southern regions of China and places like Hong Kong. The origin of the term is a pronoun for "monster" and it is widely used as a synonym for "ugly" or "hideous" even until today.
- Cyprus - In the Cypriot dialect Bogeyman is called Kkullas (Κκουλλάς).
- Egypt - The "Abu Rigl Maslukha" (ابو رجل مسلوخة), which translates to the "Man With Burnt/Skinned 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.
- 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).
- Georgia - In addition to a "Bag Man" much similar to its namesakes from other cultures, in Georgia a fictional creature called "Bua" is sometimes used by parents to (lightly) scare little children (up to preschool age) when misbehaving; e.g., "if you don't eat well now, Bua will come", or "do you hear Bua knocking? It asks why you don't want to go to bed". It's usually not specified what Bua looks like or what it does to children; Nevertheless, Bua can "bite you", or "take you away". It also can "steal" something: "You can't have more candys now — Bua took it". There may be an etymological link to "bu" — Georgian word for owl, which makes night sounds scary for children.
- Germany - The Bogeyman is known as Der schwarze Mann (the black man). "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)
- Guyana- In Guyana, the "Bogeyman" is known as a "Jumbi". It is a popular belief that he only lives in the dark. It is said that he lives in the closet and under the bed. It is used to scare children to eat their food, so they can defend themselves against him. "Jumbies" eat little boys and girls, starting with the leg, to the brains.
- Haiti - In Haiti there is a popular belief that a tall man, with legs 2 floors high, walks around the towns at midnight to catch and eat the people that stay outside. He is called Mètminwi, which seems to be a contraction of mèt (from French "maître" English "master" and minwi from French "minuit" englsh "midnight", hence meaning the "master of midnight").
- Tonton Macoute or Uncle gunnysack was a Haitian bogeyman who would snare misbehaving children and eat them for breakfast. The MVSN, a secret police force of Haiti used this myth as a tool for control as many Tonton Macoutes were Voodoo adherents.
- Papa Doc an alter-ego of Former Haitian President Francois Duvalier. He parlayed Haitian mythology and presented himself as Baron Samedi the Voodoo Loa of Death. His fashion was designed to enforce the mystique of his personality cult as he dressed like Baron Samdi and hid his eyes with sunglasses.
- Hejaz, Saudi Arabia - أمنا الغولة والدوجيرة or ‘Dojairah and Umna al Ghola , which means “Our mother the Monster ", is used to scare children when they misbehave or walk alone outside
- Hungary - The Hungarian equivalent of the Bogeyman is the Mumus which is a monster-like creature, and the Zsákos Ember, a man with a sack, and this is the literal meaning of his name. A third creature is the Rézfaszú bagoly ("Copperpenis Owl"), a giant owl with a copper penis.
- Iceland - The Icelandic equivalent of the Bogeyman is Grýla, a female troll who would take misbehaving children and eat them during Christmas Eve. 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 Claus.
- India - In India, the entity is known by different names.
- Bihar Parents use the demon name Bhakolwa for the same purpose.
- 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 (பூச்சாண்டி), 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. In South Kerala, it is called 'Oochandi'. Among Konkani speaking people of the Western Coast of India, 'Gongo' is the Bogeyman equivalent.
- Among Marathi language speaking people (predominantly of Maharashtra), parents threaten the misbehaving children with a male ghost called 'Buva' (बुवा). In general the 'Buva' is supposed to kidnap children when they misbehave or do not sleep. A lot of times, the name 'Bagul Buva' is also used.
- Assamese parents ask children to go to sleep otherwise Kaan khowa would eat their ears.
- Indonesia In Indonesia, Wewe Gombel is a ghost that kidnaps children mistreated by their parents. She keeps the children in her nest atop an Arenga pinnata palm tree and does not harm them. She takes care of the children as a grandmother until the parents become aware of what they had done. If the parents decide to mend their ways and truly want their children back, Wewe Gombel will return them unharmed. This ghost is named Wewe Gombel because it originated in and event that took place in Bukit Gombel, Semarang.
- Iran - In Persian culture, children who misbehave may be told by their parents to be afraid of lulu (لولو) 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.
- Iraq's ancient folklore has the saalua, a half-witch half-demon ghoul that "is used by parents to scare naughty children". She is briefly mentioned in a tale of the 1001 Nights, and is known in some other Gulf countries as well.
- Italy - In Italy "L'uomo nero" (meaning 'the black man') is a daemon that can appear as black man or black ghost without legs, often used by adults for scaring their children when they don't want to sleep. In different places of the country it's known also as "babau".[better source needed]
- 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 - Dokebi (도깨비) is understood as a monster that appears to get misbehaving children. Other variations include mangtae younggam (망태 영감) 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 (망태 할멈), an old woman with a mesh sack.
- Myanmar - Children are threatened with Pashu Gaung Phyat (ပသျှူးခေါင်းဖြတ်), 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, it is a mystery why Burmese use the faraway Pashus as bogeymen.
- Nepal - In Nepali, a popular bogeyman character is the 'hau-guji'. Among the Newars, the 'Gurumapa' is a mythological ape-like creature who was supposed to enjoy devouring children. Itum Bahal of inner Kathmandu and Tinkhya open space in front of Bhadrakali temple in the centre of Kathmandu are associated with the fable of Gurumapa.
- Pakistan - A bogeyman-like creature parents refer to make children behave is called Bhoot or Jin Baba, which mean ghost and Djinn respectively.
- 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.
- Quebec - in this French-speaking province of Canada, 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.
- Russia - Children are warned that Babayka will come for them at nights if they behave badly.
- Serbia - Bauk is an animal-like mythical creature in Serbian mythology. Bauk is described as hiding in dark places, holes or abandoned houses, waiting to grab, carry away and devour its victim; but it can be scared away by light and noise. It has clumsy gait (bauljanje), and its onomatopoeia is bau (Serbian pronunciation: [bau]).
- Singapore - The locals have a similar reference to the Bogeyman, typically told to young children as "Ah Bu Neh Neh", or in some cases, "Matah", catching them when they are guilty of naughty acts. Although "Matah" actually stands for "Mata-Mata" in Malay, which means a spy or spies.
- 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 (pron.ˈbøk) 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. In Southern Switzerland people have the same traditions as in Italy.
- 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".
- Turkey - Gulyabani is a gigantic, strange creature that frightens children and adults alike.
- United States - 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 travelers from coming into the area. Bloody Bones, also known as Rawhead or Tommy Rawhead, is a boogeyman of the U.S. South. Bloody Bones tales originated in Britain. Bogeyman may be called "Boogerman" or "Boogermonster" in rural areas of the American South, and was most often used to keep young children from playing outside past dark, or wandering off in the forest. 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. In some Midwestern states of the United States, the bogeyman scratches at the window. In the Pacific Northwest, he may manifest in "green fog". In other places, he hides or appears from under the bed or in the closet and tickles children when they go to sleep at night, while in others, he is a tall figure in a black hooded cloak who puts children in a sack. It is said that a wart can be transmitted to someone by the bogeyman.
In modern culture
As with many ancient legends, the Bogeyman sees a rekindled popularity in modern media, including those aimed at children. Such revisited modern versions, contributing to the constant evolution of the myth, include (in chronological order):
- A 1973 short story by Stephen King.
- Fungus the Bogeyman, a 1977 graphic novel for children.
- Several horror movies since 1980.
- The Boogeyman was a main antagonist in two episodes of the animated series The Real Ghostbusters. In the show, he was powered by the fear of children. The Bogeyman could only cross into the real world through specific closets from his home dimension. As a child, Egon was tormented by the Bogeyman, which lead to him investigating the paranormal and becoming a Ghostbuster.
- Michael Myers from the 1978 film Halloween was referenced through the film as a "Boogeyman" of sorts.
- Oogie Boogie, the antagonist of Tim Burton's 1993 animated movie The Nightmare Before Christmas, is the Bogeyman of folklore in the town of Halloween. He is also literally a burlap sack-man later to be revealed as a mere earwig controlling a colossal mass of insects and snakes. Faithful to his pun name, he loves to boogie in classic musical comedy style and in some of the tie-in videogames.
- Bogeymen appear in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series as anthropomorphic personifications of children's fears. The 1995 Discworld video game has a bogeyman at the heart of one of the quest missions. He is only ever shown as green scraggly acromegalic arms and legs appearing behind the door where he lurks.
- The antagonist of the isometric 2D platformer video game Swagman is a scraggly scarecrow-like bogeyman, lord of the Nightmare Realm, who's attempting to become master of both dreams and the real world by keeping all living creatures imprisoned in sleep. The player characters are children and gameplay comprises common juvenile misbehavior: staying up past bedtime, throwing cherry bombs indoors, collecting insects in jars, etc.
- Another parodic "Boogie Man" appears in the 1998 Powerpuff Girls episode Boogie Frights. He's a mix of monster, disco dancer and caricatural jive talking pimp.
- The traditional Boggart is notably revisited in the Harry Potter series. This shapeshifting bogeyman first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999.
- The antagonist of the 2012 DreamWorks Animation film Rise of the Guardians is a dark spirit named Pitch Black, who describes himself as the Bogeyman, and derives his power from giving children nightmares.
- One of the major villains of Silent Hill: Downpour is a being simply referred to as the "Bogeyman", a humanoid being who wears a raincoat and a gas mask, and carries around a pole with a cinder block attached at the end. The face of the Bogeyman appears to be whatever it is the person viewing him sees as their personal fear.
Notes and references
- Cooper, Brian. "Lexical reflections inspired by Slavonic *bogǔ: English bogey from a Slavonic root?" Transactions of the Philological Society, Volume 103, Number 1, April 2005, pp. 73-97(25)
- Harper, Douglas. "bugbear". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- Harper, Douglas. "bugaboo". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- Auchard, John (2007-01-28). "In Indonesia". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- "The Buginese of Sulawesi". Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- "El cucuy has roots deep in border folklore"[dead link]
- Edouard Brasey, L'encyclopédie du merveilleux, T3 : Des peuples de l'ombre, Le Pré aux Clercs, 2006, pp. 14-16.
- Makra, Sándor (1988). A mágia. Magvető.
- Wewe Gombel
- ‘Ghoul’ re-emerges in Iraq. Sep 5, 2013 news article.
- Tidona, Carmelo Massimo. "L'Uomo Nero (Boogeyman)". Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Yamamoto Yoshiko: The Namahage: a festival in the northeast of Japan. Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Philadelphia 1978, ISBN 0-915980-66-5
- Soldiers of Fortune, TIME Asia
- Slusser, Mary Shepherd (1982). Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691031282, 9780691031286. Page 364.
- Frederic Gomes Cassidy, Joan Houston Hall, Dictionary of American Regional English, Harvard University Press, 1985.
- Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, London:H. Milford, 1913.
- McNab, Chris(Chris McNab). Ancient Legends/Folklore. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2007. (ISBN 0-439-85479-2)
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