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The Bogeyman (Feminine: Bogeywoman), also spelled boogeyman, bogyman, bogieman, boogie monster, boogie man, Bogeyperson, Boogieperson, Boogeyperson, Bogieperson, or boogie woogie is a creature in English folklore that is often told to scare misbehaving children. Also known as Dream Devils which were opposed by Sandmen, the Dream benevolent Spirits.

Myths & legends

The Bogeyman is most easily divided into three categories; the kind that punishes misbehaved children, the kind that are more violence prone, and the kind that protect the innocent. They all relate to each other in the same way, being that they all exist to teach young children lessons. The large majority of Bogeyman are there to just frighten children with punishments, and not actually inflict much damage. The more vicious Bogeyman is said to steal the children at night, and even eat them. The last category is the Bogeyman who protect people and only punish those guilty, regardless of age.


This creature's description varies from person to person, as it has no definite appearance and is simply the embodiement of terror. Although usually depicted as a masculine entity, it can be female or genderless.

While the description of the Bogeyman differs on a cultural level, there are often some shared similarities between depictions. Many variations of the Bogeyman are depicted as having claws, talons, and sharp teeth. Along with that, the majority of Bogeyman depictions are of the spirit variety, while the minority are demons, witches, and other mythical creatures. Some are even described to have certain animal features such as horns, hooves, and bug like appearances.


Because of such a global impact, it makes it difficult to find the original source of the legends. The first reference to the Bogeyman would be considered the hobgoblins described in England, in the 1500's. Many believed that they were made to torment humans, and while some only played simple pranks, others were more foul in nature.

Similar Creatures in other Regions

Bogeyman-like beings are almost universal, common to the folklore of many countries. All of these have a similar concept, a mysterious being who punishes kids for being naughty.


  • 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. [31]
  • South Africa – The Tokoloshe or Tikoloshe is a dwarfish creature of Xhosa and Zulu mythology conjured up by sangomas (traditional healers). It wanders around causing mischief and frightening children.[67] It is also described as a small, muscular, hairy witch-familiar with an unusually large penis. It may visit women in their dreams and sexually assault them.


  • Albania:
    • The Buba is a serpentine monster. Mothers would tell their children to be quiet or the Buba would get them.[21]
    • The Lubia is a female demon with an insatiable appetite for the flesh of children, especially girls. She has many heads, from seven to a hundred, and like the Greek hydra if one head is severed then others will grow in its place.[23]
  • Germany – The Bogeyman is known as Der schwarze Mann ("the black man"). "Schwarz" does not refer to the color 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 beds of children, or in forests at night.[45] 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?"), and an old traditional folk song Es tanzt ein Bi-Ba-Butzemann in unserm Haus herum ("A Bi-Ba-Bogeyman Dances Around in Our House"). [46]
  • Greece – In Greek, the common translation of "Bogeyman" is "Baboulas" (Μπαμπούλας), which is pronounced babʊlas. It's used by the parents to scare their children so they won't misbehave, probably. This creature is supposed to be some kind of cannibal that eats the children. That's why the most used phrase about the creature is "Ο Μπαμπούλας θα έρθει και θα σε φάει", which means "The Bogeyman will come and eat you".
  • Italy – In Italy, "L'uomo nero" (meaning "the black man") is a demon that can appear as a black man or black ghost without legs, often used by adults for scaring their children when they don't want to sleep. In some parts of the country, it's known also as "babau".
  • 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, which is the literal meaning of his name. A third creature is the Rézfaszú bagoly ("Copperpenis Owl"), a giant owl with a copper penis. [47]
  • 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).[44 Edouard Brasey, L'encyclopédie du merveilleux, T3 : Des peuples de l'ombre, Le Pré aux Clercs, 2006, pp. 14–16.]
  • Cyprus – In the Cypriot dialect, the Bogeyman is called Kkullas (Κκουλλάς); [30] a man (vaguely described as hooded and/or deformed) who will put misbehaving children in a bag and take them away from their homes.
  • Czech Republic – The equivalent of the Bogeyman in the Czech Republic is bubák or strašidlo.
  • England:
    • In East Yorkshire, children were warned that if they stole from orchards they might be eaten by a goblin or demon called Awd Goggie.[32][33]
    • Yorkshire children were also warned that if they were naughty the Great Black Bird would come and carry them away.[34][35]
    • The Gooseberry Wife was said to guard gooseberry bushes on the Isle of Wight and took the form of a large hairy caterpillar.[33 Wright, Elizabeth Mary (1913). Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore. Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press. p. 198.]
    • Churnmilk Peg in West Yorkshire was a female goblin who guarded nut thickets until they could be harvested and would always be seen smoking a pipe. Melsh Dick was her male counterpart and performed the same function.[33]
    • Other nursery bogies include Mumpoker, Tankerabogus who drags children into his deep, dark pit and Tom-Poker who lives in dark closets and holes under stairs.[33]
  • Malta – Kaw Kaw or Gaw Gaw, was a grey, slimy creature that roamed the streets at night. It could smell a person's guilt and enter their homes, through cracks and fissures, by extending and contracting its snail-like body. Once it was inside their rooms, it would flash them a ghastly grin, with its huge, toothless mouth, scaring them witless. [58]
  • Scotland:
    • Misbehaving children were warned that a goblin or demon known as the bodach would come down the chimney and take them.[33][64]
    • The each-uisge is the Scottish version of the water horse, a monster that lives in seas and lochs and usually takes the form of a horse. A cautionary tale tells how the each-uisge persuaded seven little girls to get on its back before carrying them into the water to be devoured.[65]
  • 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; it can be scared away by light and noise.
  • 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, it is generally used by the locals as a nickname for the police.
  • 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, a figure of the Böögg is burnt. In Southern Switzerland, people have the same traditions as in Italy.
  • Trinidad and Tobago – Most Trinbagonians (mostly in the rural demographic) use 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".

Far North

  • 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 large, frightening, dark blue, ghost-like creature. The children's game "Kuka pelkää Mustaa Pekkaa?" ("Who's Afraid of Black Peter?") was also commonly played among children through to the 1960s and '70s, especially in urban settings, as a backyard game (see Germany's "Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann?"). [43]
  • Children are warned in Russia that Babayka (or Baba Yaga) will come for them at night if they behave badly.
  • In Inuit Mythology there is the Qalupalik, which are human-like creatures with long fingernails, green skin, and long hair that live in the sea. They carry babies and children away in their Amauti, if they disobey their parents and wander off alone. The Qalupalik adopt the children and bring them to live with them underwater.

Far East

  • 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.
  • Taiwan – Among Minnan Taiwanese, Grandmother Tiger (虎姑婆 / Hóo-koo-pô) is a figure used to scare disobedient children.
  • 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 have 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 an event that took place in Bukit Gombel, Semarang.[51]
  • 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 the Tinkhya open space in front of the Bhadrakali temple in the centre of Kathmandu are associated with the fable of Gurumapa.[59].

Middle East

  • Afghanistan – The Madar-i-Al is a nocturnal hag that kills infants in their cribs and invoked to frighten children into obedience. Burning the seeds of the wild rue and fumigating the area around the baby will offer protection against her.[20]
  • India – In India, the entity is known by different names. Urdu speaking population refer to the bogeyman-like creature by names such as Shaitan/ShaytaanBhootJin Baba, which mean satan, ghost, Djinn respectively. Hindi speaking population refer to the bogeyman-like creature as Baba and Bhoot. Bihar – Parents use the demon name Bhakolwa for this purpose. The terms Petona and Kaatu are also used. [49] South India – In Karnataka, the demon "Goggayya" (roughly meaning 'terrible man') can be treated as counterpart of the 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 the bogeyman is Boochodu. In central Kerala, the bogeyman is referred to as "Kokkachi", who will "take away" children for disobeying their parents or misbehaving in any manner; and in South Kerala, the bogeyman 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 "Bāgul Buā" (बागुल बुवा). In general, the "Buā" is supposed to kidnap children when they misbehave or do not sleep. [50]
  • Pakistan – The Mamma is a large apelike creature that lives in the mountains and ventures forth to kidnap young girls. He will carry them back to his cave where he licks their palms and the soles of their feet which makes them permanently unable to flee.[60]
  • Saudi Arabia – Abu Shalawlaw (أبو شلولو) is a Bogeyman-like creature said by parents to come to eat children who are disobedient, e.g. by not going to sleep on time or not completing their homework.
  • 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.

North America

United States – The Bogeyman may be called "Boogerman" or "Boogermonster" in rural areas of the American South ("booger" being the American English equivalent of the British English "bogey"), 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 caricature masks would make fun of politicians, frighten children into being good, and shake their masks at young women and chase them around. Male participants in this "Booger Dance" were referred to as the "Booger Men".[74] In some Midwestern states, the boogeyman scratches at the window. In Eastern Iowa he is called the Korn Stalker [75] 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 boogeyman.[76]

  • Bloody Bones, also known as Rawhead or Tommy Rawhead, is a boogeyman of the American South.[78] Rawhead and Bloody Bones are sometimes regarded as two individual creatures or two separate parts of the same monster. One is a bare skull that bites its victims and its companion is a dancing headless skeleton.[79] Bloody Bones tales originated in Britain.[80]
  • The Nalusa Falaya ("Long Black Being") is a ghost being of Choctaw mythology described as a tall spindly humanoid that can slither like a snake or become a shadow. It may frighten children from staying out too late and can bewitch hunters.[81]
  • Cipelahq (or Chebelakw) is a dangerous bird spirit of Wabanaki folklore, used in stories to scare children into obeying their parents. Chebelakw has an unearthly cry and resembles a large diving owl, with only its head and talons visible. Similar monsters called Stinkini and Big Owl were found in Seminole and Apache mythologies, respectively.

South America

  • In many Latin countries, there is a "Sack man" who carries off children in his sack. 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 daytime menace and "Bicho-papão" is a nighttime menace. Another important difference is that "Homem do Saco" ("Sack Man") usually kidnaps children who go to places without parents authorization, while "Bicho-papão" scares naughty children and hides under their beds, closets or roofs.
  • Belize – Tata Duende is a mythical goblin described as being of small stature, with a beard, wrinkles, backwards feet, a large brimmed hat, and lacking thumbs. It is a protector of the forests and animals and was used to scare children from going out to play at night or going into the jungle. [25]
  • Panama – In Panama, children are warned that if they are naughty, La Tulivieja will come to get them. She was a spirit who was cursed by God for drowning her child, and transformed into a hideous monster with a pockmarked face, long and bristly hair, clawed hands, a cat's body and hooved feet. She was also cursed to forever look for her drowned child.[61]


The word bogey is believed to be derived from the Middle English bogge / bugge ("something frightening", "scarecrow"). Theories on its origin include a root meaning "goat", or a cognate of the German böggeböggel-mann ("goblin"). It could be influenced in meaning by Old English -budda used in compounds for "beetle". [4] A related word, bugbear, from bug, meaning goblin or scarecrow, and bear, was imagined as a demon in the form of a bear that eats small children, and was also used to mean a general object of dread.[5] The word bugaboo, with a similar pair of meanings, may have arisen as an alteration of bugbear.

The word could also be linked to many similar words in other Indo-European: bogle (Scots), bûzeman (Western Frisian), boeman (Dutch), Butzemann (German), busemann (Norwegian), bøhmand / bussemand (Danish), bòcanpúcapooka or pookha (Irish), pwcabwga or bwgan (Welsh), puki (Old Norse), pixie or piskie (Cornish), puck (English), bogu (Slavonic), buka or babay/babayka (Russian, бука), bauk (Serbian), bubulis (Latvian), baubas (Lithuanian), bobo (Polish), bubák (Czech), bubák (Slovak), bebok (Silesian), papão (Portuguese), торбалан (Bulgarian), Μπαμπούλας (Greek), ბუა), babau (Italian), бабай (Ukrainian), baubau (Romanian), and papu (Catalan).

In Southeast Asia, the term is popularly supposed to refer to Bugis or Buganese pirates, ruthless seafarers of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia's third-largest island. These pirates often plagued early English and Dutch trading ships of the British East India Company and 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.

In Luo dialects in Eastern Africa the term 'bwogo' (with pronunciation sound like 'booga') means to scare. This correlation is most likely spurious as Nilotic language roots predate the modern concept of civilization itself. [10]

Modern Depictions


Television Shows

  • The Boogie Man was the main antagonist of the Powerpuff Girls episode Boogie Frights. He is depicted a disco-loving monster who wants to plunge Townsville into eternal darkness.
  • The Boogeyman (real name; Martin Wright) is an American WWE wrestler.


  • Pitch Black is the main antagonist of the movie The Rise of the Guardians, and is the movie's interpretation of the Bogeyman.
  • The Boogeyman (released in the UK as The Bogey Man) is a 1980 horror film.
  • The Disney film Don't Look Under the Bed features the Boogetman as the main villain.
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