Around the world, millions of children are terrified each year by the idea of the Bogeyman (also spelled Boogeyman). Any bump in the night or scratch on their window pane sends them running in terror to their parents. The boogeyman terrifies children around the world into good behavior – or else.

Who is the Bogeyman?

The bogeyman is a mythical monster whose impact can be traced around the world. One of the first references to this legendary creature was found in the 1500’s, though it is suspected that the boogeyman has existed much longer than this.

It is thought that the boogeyman was originally a reference for mischievous creatures called hobgoblins. Throughout much of Europe, hobgoblins are actually quite friendly or limited to light-hearted pranks, but there are tales of hobgoblins who were much more vile in nature. These creatures were said to torment humans – sometimes to the point of frightening a person to death.

Regardless of how the bogeyman came to be, he exists as one of the most well known and feared creatures of all time. There are hundreds of names for the bogeyman around the world – each with their own interesting twist. Because the boogeyman has such a large global impact, it is difficult to determine which country told the first tales of this monster. One thing is for certain – the boogeyman loves to lurk in the shadows of the night and its main victims are disobedient children who don’t listen to their parents.

Characteristics

Physical Description

Descriptions of the bogeyman vary from country to country, though there are a few similarities. The majority of boogeymen are some sort of spirit or entity that terrorize naughty children in the night. The boogeyman could strike for any number of reasons – ranging from anger towards children who leave things dirty to hunger for children who stayed up past their bedtime.

Many boogeymen are said to have long nails or claws that they use to scratch against window panes in the middle of the night. There are also tales of bogeymen who have terrifying eyes that haunt children who venture outside after dark. Some boogeymen are said to have horns or look very animal-like, while others are told to be evil humanoids or witches.

In the United Kingdom, it is thought that the boogeyman could have originally been a description of a ‘buggy man’ like creature. The ‘buggy men’ were responsible for picking up the dead – especially when the black plague was devastating Europe. Because of their contact with the dead, they were often very sick themselves and had skeleton-like figures with sunken eyes.

Other boogeymen have no appearance are said to have no figure or the ability to shapeshift. They can appear as the tree limb scratching against your window, or simply present themselves as a terrifying shadow lurking underneath the bed.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of the boogeyman is its ability to exist in the folklore of hundreds of countries while having very few physical similarities. The bogeyman’s ability to blend and adapt to many cultures leads many to think of the bogeyman as a type of spirit.

Personality

The bogeyman, while mysterious, is best understood through its motivations. The boogeyman is primarily fixated on children, though there are myths in some countries that suggest the boogeyman will seek out anyone who is guilty of wrong-doing. Regardless of what age group a particular boogeyman goes after, it seems to be a common theme that the boogeyman will not attack those who are considered to be ‘good.’

There are many variations on why the bogeyman preys on its victims. Most versions of the boogeyman will come after children if they’ve been naughty and disobeyed their parents in some way. These boogeymen have a wide range of punishments that they choose from. Some boogeymen will only give children terrifying reminders like scratching on their window panes at night, appearing as a shadow that lurks in their bedroom, or chasing them when they’ve wandered away from home in the middle of the night.

Other boogeymen are more sinister, making it even more important for children to mind their parent’s instructions. These bogeymen have a taste for naughty children and will often sneak into their rooms to carry them away into the night. These children are often never found and are said to be eaten by the bogeyman.

There is also a strange category of bogeymen who do not come after children simply for being naughty. These bogeymen often serve as a strange sort of protector even though they tend to have terrifying appearances. There are also boogeymen who don’t discriminate with the age of their target. They simply attack the guilty.

Bogeyman Around the World

Wewe Gombel

In the Semarang area of central Java, there lurks a bogeyman who strikes fear into the hearts of children and parents alike – the Wewe Gombel. This strange boogeyman is said to be a spirit that seeks both vengeance and acceptance. Although the Wewe Gombel spirit is evil in nature, it does not harm children. Instead, she kidnaps children that are being neglected or abused and hides them from their parents until she feels the parents have learned their lesson.

Even though she takes her vengeance out on the parents, she is feared by children as well for her strange habits. It is said that any child unfortunate enough to be kidnapped by the Wewe Gombel is forced to eat feces until they are allowed to return home.

El Coco

El Coco (also known as the Coco Man) is known to strike fear into the hearts of many Hispanic and Latino children. This strange beast is not known to have a specific appearance, but is instead thought to be a shapeshifter that is ‘terrible to look at.’ In some regions, the Coco Man is thought to have the power to transform into the thing a child fears most.

El Coco climbs onto the roofs of children who disobey their parents and waits until they fall asleep. It is then that El Coco sneaks into the room of the naughty child and kidnaps them for its next meal.

Babaroga

Babaroga is a Croatian boogeyman that has a deep hunger for disobedient children. This boogey is said to be an ugly old woman with horns atop her head. She stalks her prey at night and takes them back to her dark hiding place where she devours them.

Babaroga is thought to carry a bag that she uses to drag children away into her lair (which is often a cave). Sometimes she preys on children who venture out too late at night, while other times she is said to reach down through the cracks in the ceiling to grab her prey.

Tata Duende

Tata Duende comes to us from Latin America and is most prominent in Mayan and Mestizo folklore. This bogeyman has backwards feet and is missing his thumbs, which gives him an odd fixation on the thumbs of humans – especially human children.

It is said that the Tata Duende (which translates roughly to Grandfather Goblin) is the protector of the jungle. However, he can also be very mischievous at times. If Tata Duende finds a naughty child, he will lure them into the jungle and try to bite off their thumbs.

The Namahage

The Namahage is a Japanese demon who preys on children who are disobedient, lazy, or prone to crying. The Namahage is known to steal crops and disobedient children during the New Year. They are known to roam city streets during the night and calling out, “Are there any cry babies?”

L’uomo Nero

L’uomo Nero is typically portrayed as a man dressed in all black that haunts disobedient children in the Eastern Mediterranean area. The bogeyman is often said to also wear a hood or hat that hides his face. The L’uomo Nero comes to kidnap children who disobey their parents, though unlike other boogeymen he doesn’t eat them. Instead, he takes them to a frightening place to live with him for a year.

Oude Rode Ogen

Oude Rode Ogen (also known as ‘Old Red Eyes’) is thought to be a shapeshifting cannibal who preys on young children. It is thought that the form this beast was most likely to appear in was that of a black dog with red eyes.

The Night Hag

The night hag is an evil spirit thought to cause sleep paralysis and nightmares. This spirit is an old woman who preys on fear and nightmares of her victims. She sits on the chests of her victims while they sleep, causing them to have difficulty sleeping and enter into a disturbing dream state.

The Jumbie

The Jumbie is an evil human spirit that comes back to haunt the living in Caribbean folklore. While similar to ghosts, Jumbies differ in that they cast a dark black shadow instead of appearing as a wispy figure. These spirits are malevolent and will target anyone.

Real Life Bogeymen

Though many bogeymen are believed to be fictional characters created by parents who wanted to scare their children into behaving. However, there are a few accounts of bogeymen who turned out to be real, and perhaps more terrifying than any urban legend could have suggested.

Albert Fish

Hamilton Howard ‘Albert’ Fish was born on May 19, 1870 to an extremely dysfunctional family. His family had a history of mental illness, which many like to blame for his terrifying behavior.

Fish claims to have begun molesting young boys at the age of 20 and grew to incorporate sadist practices later on. As he aged, he also began assaulting young girls. He targeted children who were either intellectually handicapped or African American. He later claimed this was because he assumed they wouldn’t be missed.

He wasn’t caught until 1934 when he sent a letter to one of his victim’s parents. In it, he detailed the brutal killing of his victim (Grace Budd) and how he cut her into pieces in order to cannibalize her. After he was found and arrested by the police, he was confirmed to have murdered at least two other children, though he claimed to have murdered over 100 children before he was caught.

He is thought to be one of the most brutal serial killers in history.

Cropsey

The children of Staten Island are probably familiar with the legend of ‘Cropsey’, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the story was discovered to be real.

Cropsey was a well known bogeyman in the Staten Island area. In fact, he was so popular that parents often told the story of Cropsey to children at night before they went to bed to ensure that they didn’t try to sneak out a night.

Cropsey was supposedly a homicidal man who had escaped an insane asylum. He hunted for children at night and supposedly had a claw for a hand that he used to drag children back to the ruins of the old Seaview Hospital. On other occasions, he simply appeared while holding a bloody axe.

For years, this urban legend of the Staten Island boogeyman was thought to be nothing more than a tale, but in 1987 the real Cropsey emerged. Cropsey’s real name was found to be Andre Rand.

It was a shock that Rand wasn’t caught sooner. He had a history of violence toward children. In 1969 he was arrested for trying to sexually assault a young child. In 1983 he kidnapped a bus full of young children. Additionally, he was suspected in the disappearances of four children between 1972 and 1984.

Despite his record and local police suspicions, Rand wasn’t captured until 1987 when he kidnapped Jenifer Schweiger – a young girl with Down Syndrome. Her corpse was found in a grave outside of the Willowbrook State School (a school for the mentally challenged that Jenifer used to attend). Rand had been the janitor at this school despite his long history of violence towards children.

Explanation of the Myth

Though there are some that believe the bogeyman myths are inspired by real creatures, the majority of people believe that the bogeyman is nothing more than a tale told by parents who wanted to scare their children into behaving.

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