Bogeyman, wandering dark streets looking for missing children

It is an ordinary day, in an ordinary place. On the streets of this nameless place, which could be Madrid, León or a lost village in Jaén, night falls with the certainty that in this life one comes to die. But, although night falls, some children resist the evidence of the end of the day. They want to continue playing. That is what has happened to Lucas, who returns an hour later than agreed through the empty streets of this place.

The atmosphere is tainted by a strange stillness that whips up the rhythm of the child’s footsteps. Suddenly, the child hears other footsteps that are not his own, accelerating along with his short legs. Beads of sweat run down his forehead. Lucas, brave, decides to look back to face whoever it is. A quick glimpse, the last one: a tall, gangly man carrying a huge sack on his shoulders. The boy has disappeared forever in the fearsome clutches of the Bogeyman, the most terrifying crew member of the monsters.


Scared girl in front of a shadow. | Shutterstock

An unemployed teacher

The Bogeyman is the name that has shaken the minds of so many children since time immemorial. He is, after Coco (also a member of this dysfunctional team) the most famous child scarer and shares with him the same profession: educating children through fear. More concretely, the mention of the Bogeyman has the function of making children not to trust strangers if they do not want the feared being to take them away and kill them.

Unlike the Coco, monster will most likely not be hired by the parents, since in the case of the Coco the children do not end up kidnapped or with their guts out, as the poor victims of the Bogeyman do. That is why we say that he is the cruelest member of the team, since the Coco does nothing more than scare, a monster called Guaja only drinks a few sips of blood and the martinicos, even less dangerous, only do nothing but tease.

So what does this sinister gentleman do for a living? Well, we will say that he is an unemployed man, not a beggar. The bogeyman does not ask for handouts. He is an enterprising guy and, as such, has his own children’s business. Does he eat them? Does he sell them? We will never know.

Birthplace: a myth with a scientific ground

The origins of this gentleman are a bit unclear and not easy to establish. He has a lot in common with other childhood monsters such as Tío Saín, from the Murcian tradition, or the Butter-Sucker. In fact, the latter is probably the vintage version of the modern Bogeyman, as stories of him have been heard since the Middle Ages.

The Sacamantecas was a character of Hispanic folklore, who killed children and women to trade their fat. This has to be understood in a context in which it was thought that the body fat of young and healthy people had healing powers.

But, in addition, both the bogeyman and the Butter Sacker have their own scientific basis. In other words, they are based on real facts. In the case of the Sacamantecas, there were several crimes that took place in the 19th century that reminded both the perfidious character and Jack the Ripper, because their murders had similar components. The murderers Manuel Blanco, Juan Díaz and Enriqueta Martí (individual cases) were dedicated to extracting the entrails of their victims, whether children or women, to make supposedly curative ointments.

Already in the 20th century, specifically in 1910, a crime took place that shared characteristics with both the Hombre del Saco and the Sacamantecas. In fact, some place in this crime the origin of the figure of the Bogeyman and not the other way around. It is the crime known as the crime of Gádor, a murder perpetrated in this town of Almería that shocked the society of the time. This crime had all the elements: a child, a sack and extraction of guts.

Power: in fact he is a loser


Illustration of the bogeyman. | Paula Garvi

It could be said that the power of the Bogeyman is to gain the trust of the kids, but the truth is that it would be paying him a compliment he doesn’t even deserve. The Bogeyman, despite being the cruelest of the whole team, is the only one of the monsters that doesn’t have any kind of supernatural power, like Batman but bad. In other words, he’s a punk who makes use of children’s innocence to perpetrate his crimes.

The other bogeymen

Like the Coco, the Bogeyman has an international fame. His fearsome figure is widespread. Thus, in some areas of Latin America the bogeyman takes the form of a woman known as the Tata Duende. This lady, who is said to be the protector of the jungle, has her feet backwards and is missing her thumbs, so she tries to steal them from children.


Man dressed up as Namahage, the Japanese version of the Bogeyman. | Shutterstock

In Central Java our evil character becomes a savior, the Wewe Gombel. Although this being is said to be evil by nature, he only kidnaps abused or neglected children with the intention that parents learn to love them. In Japan, the Namahage takes advantage of the New Year to kidnap and eat disobedient children. In the Eastern Mediterranean, it is the L’uomo Nero who is in charge of kidnapping children who have misbehaved. And so we could go on forever.

The bogeyman today

Since no good parent wants his or her son or daughter to be kidnapped by this terrifying character, the Bogeyman is only invoked, not hired. For children, he remains a kind of Voldemort, whose name instills terror in them. Over time, the figure of the Bogeyman has ended up dethroning that of the Butterman and still remains, unchanged, in the collective imagination of many.

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