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The True Origins of The Boogeyman

posted: 03/14/17
by: Kelly McClure

A post shared by roo (@fronkfronkfronksinatra) on

Most of us can easily recall being told scary stories as a child of a mysterious creepy figure called the Boogeyman that hides in the closet, or under the bed. During our formative years any bump in the night was attributed to this ghoul that seemed to lurk around every corner, but what are the true origins of the Boogeyman? Where did this universal tale come from?

Sometimes also spelled Bogeyman, or Bogieman, the word originates from the Middle English "bogge" which means hobgoblin. Another early origin can be traced back to the word "bugbear" which was once used to describe a goblin/scarecrow/bear mashup that hunted and ate small children. Almost every culture seems to have their own version of the creature with many different varieties of spelling but one tie that binds is the use of the story behind it as a tool to scare children into behaving.

Goya - Duendecitos (Hobgoblins).jpg
By Francisco Goya - National Gallery of Art

One of the most interesting things about the widely spread notion of the Boogeyman is that there's no one firmly established notion of what it's supposed to look like. The Boogeyman could even be a Boogeywoman for all we know. What's carried along from culture to culture is not the physical appearance of the creature but what it can do. In America it's mainly thought of as a dark presence that hides in closets and under beds, and in other places such as Europe, the Caribbean, and parts of India and Asia it's taken a bit further and believed to not only lurk around and scare kids, but kidnap them and carry them off in a sack to chomp up and eat for dinner.

Albert Fish 1903.JPG
Photo: Mugshot of Hamilton Howard "Albert" Fish, Link

In the 1800s the term "Boogeyman" was linked to an actual person named Albert Fish who was born in 1870 in Washington D.C. and grew up to be one of the most horrific killers to date. From the early age of 20 Fish gained a reputation for kidnapping young boys and doing terrible things to them that we'd rather not list in full here, but that - the least of which - included eating them. When asked about his evil habits he once replied with "I never ate any roast turkey that tasted half as good." On January 16, 1936 Fish was executed for his crimes which put an end to the physical manifestation of the Boogeyman, but the myth and legend of it remains strong to this day.

More from Kelly McClure

[via: First to Know; Mother Nature Network]

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