USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘boogeyman’
Folk Beliefs
Legends

El Cucuy

My friend Rudy, who is Mexican-American, shared the following description of a supernatural figure they learned about from their mom:

“El Cucuy was a monster that my mom told me was in my closet, and I had to close my door–my closet door–at night or else he would get me. And so, every single night- well I was- I would always leave my closet door open because I would forget and she’d be like, ‘el Cucuy is gonna come get you!’ She would like, slam the door shut and like, that was that. And um, I actually like- that was all that we talked about, about el Cucuy. Like that was the only interaction I had…it was very mysterious.”

Variants of a monster or ghost that hides in a child’s closet appear across various cultures and locations. Much of the folklore that children learn from their parents consists of vaguely threatening or scary legends that may or may not serve to teach children not to misbehave. For example, Rudy’s mother may have talked about el Cucuy partly to get Rudy to close the closet door and keep their bedroom neat.

A description of this figure, known alternatively as “el Coco,” can be found in the book Chicano Folklore: A Guide to the Folktales, Traditions, Rituals and Religious Practices of Mexican Americans by Rafaela G. Castro (Oxford University Press, 2001) on page 57.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Jasy Jatere

My friend grew up in Paraguay and has a lot of myths and legends that stem from the Guarani tradition.

Friend: “The Jasy Jatere is the God of the siesta. I heard about him from my grandmother. Apparently he would steal kids who snuck off during the siesta, which is a nap most people take during the day. I think the story was told to keep kids from leaving their houses while their parents were sleeping. Like don’t go away or the Jasy Jatere will get you!”

Me: What did he look like?

Friend: “He was supposed to look like a kid. He has blonde hair and is pretty small-framed. But he’s actually a full-grown man. Kids are supposed to think he’s their friend, he plays with them and feeds them fruit and honey, and then, according to my grandmother, he imprisons the kids and pokes out their eyes so that they cannot see to find their way home.”

Me:Did it scare you into napping during the siesta?

Friend: “Yeah I was pretty freaked out by Jasy Jatere. I definitely thought he would come and get me if I wasn’t napping. He’s sort of like the boogeyman of Paraguay.”

Analysis:The Jasy Jatere being a “Paraguyayan Boogeyman” is interesting. In some ways, it is creepy that parents would try to scare their children into staying at home and trying to sleep. Most of the time, these fears dissolve without much consequence. A child grows up and learns not to fear the Jatere, or the Boogeyman. Another connection that could be made to the Jasy Jatere is Peter Pan. It is the same archetype: a boyish creature who seems to be immortal, coming when children are without their parents, to take them away to a far off place– usually never to return home. Many cultures have these types of stories, and I think they play into our fear (and curiosity) of being taken from a loving home  with one of our kind who has learned to survive without the support of parents. transcoder

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

The Devil will pull you under the bed by your feet

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

 

Transcript:

“M: Cuando nosotros uh… youngers, uh…. younger? Okay and we lied, my mom said to us when you go to sleep tonight… that was scary… the devil is coming and grab you from your feet and taking you with him. Usually we went to sleep and we covered our feet very well, and wore socks, and the next day sometimes we lost one of ours socks. She would say the devil took the socks but didn’t grab us from our feet.

Me: So what this supposed to happen when you were in bed?

Yeah, because we was wearing socks and took our socks instead.

Me: Did he like stay or live under the bed?

M: Yeah! I believe he did, he was under the bed or under old blankets. Later we’d find the socks lost sometimes and believe “oh god the devil was here”. We’d later find the socks sometimes.

Me: So she said that only happened when you lied?

M: It’s only when we lied, ‘’I know you’re lying tonight and the devil will come get you from you feet’’ [imitation of mother].

Me: Was there any way to stop him, like could you confess that you lied or pray to stop the devil?

(Did not address question as I interrupted)

M: That was like 40 something years ago, I believe that was similar in the United States in the 50s. I don’t think it a very funny way to teach to behave.”

 

Analysis:

The monster pulling you under the bed by your feet piece of Folklore appears to exist in the United States, as was noted by “M”, often tied to the boogeyman. There are multiple references to the ‘under the bed monster’ and in American popular studies journals being cited in one article as “…so universal that we no longer stop to think about their origins. “(Shimabukuro, 2014). As identified by “M” at the end of the transcript, it was used as a method to convince her, by her mother, to tell her if she had been lying. This could be used to scare the truth out of a child, or if the child would not tell no matter what, as a way to negatively reinforce such behavior.

“M”s use of socks to protect her from the devil living under the bed appears to be used as a protection charm from the devil, similar to when children hide their heads under the blanket. It was also used as an indicator of the devil’s presence, as the disappearance of the socks may have indicated to “M” that the devil had tried to grab her and grabbed her sock instead.

Work Cited

Shimabukuro, K. (2014). The Bogeyman of Your Nightmares: Freddy Krueger’s Folkloric Roots. STUDIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.

Legends
Narrative

Le Bonhomme Sept-heures (The French Canadian Boogeyman)

Informant: “The French Canadian boogeyman, they call him, up there they say, le bonhomme sept-heures. Now, le bonhomme is like a guy and sept-heures is seven o’clock. So, you know, the best translation probably for that is the boogeyman of seven o’clock. Now um it’s a story that goes back a long ways, I don’t know how far back, but it goes back to trying to get kids to come in the house at night when the sun went down. So, they would talk about how le bonhomme sept-heures would come out there, and the legend is that he was this old man that had like a big hat and like a big coat cause its cold up there, and he’d carry a sack. Sometimes little kids would end up in the sack apparently is how it went, but the legend goes back to very old times, I don’t know exactly when probably sometime in the 1800s or before, when French Canadian French speakers were second class citizens. They were laborers and trades-people, and the moneyed class of course was English, so doctors and magistrates and local politicians and whatnot were all English speaking, so the higher class was English and the lower class was French. And so, the doctor would come to set broken bones and of course that was usually accompanied by lots of screaming and you know uh crying and whatnot because setting broken bones is really painful. So, the bonesetter as they say in English became loosely translated to le bonhomme sept-heures.”

 

Interviewer: “Because he would come at 7:00?”

 

Informant: “No not necessarily because he would come at seven o’clock , its just the parents would say the bonesetter is coming, that’s a bad thing, cause its gonna be pain and suffering and just sort of morphed into le bonhomme sept-heures, and now the legend is beware of le bonhomme sept-heures, so you need to be inside doing your homework at 7:00 so that you don’t have to fear for le bonhomme sept-heures.”

 

Interviewer: “Why was it important that the French speakers were of a lower class versus upper class?”

 

Informant: “Well because the lower class weren’t educated so when the doctor came, cause there are French words for doctor and French words for, you know, but these are not educated people so they would tend to use the Anglicized words. So, that’s where the legend of the “bone setteur,” or le bonhomme sept-heures comes from. Its not a play on words, its just a bad translation.”

 

The informant is a middle-aged man, who lived in France for about a year and then in Montreal for about two years. He speaks French fluently and has French Canadian heritage, as his family traveled from French Canada in the 40s and 50s to Maine and Connecticut. He appreciates and enjoys learning about history and French Canadian culture.

The informant heard this lore from a French-Canadian friend while he lived in Montreal when they were travelling home from work, “there, I learned all kinds of neat things about the French Canadian culture and that was one of them.” As the sun was setting, the friend jokingly warned the informant that he should make sure he was inside before seven o’clock lest le bonhomme sept-heures take him away. The friend then explained the story of le bonhomme sept-heures to the informant.

The informant stated that in French-Canada le bonhomme sept-heures is still used, “Apparently they still use it, but it’s basically the boogeyman. The legend of the boogeyman in English culture or well American culture is that the boogeyman comes at night, after dark, so you need to go in the house, so you don’t get taken by the boogeyman.”

When asked what the informant liked about the story and why he remembered it, the informant said he liked the story and thought is was interesting, especially because “a lot has happened in Quebec since the 1800s,” “I mean it wasn’t before the 60s that there was a French speaking college, so you couldn’t even go to college.” The informant found additional meaning in the legend because its background is representative of a very different period of Quebec history and culture than is seen in Quebec today. In addition, this legend is popular in French-Canada which is part of the informant’s heritage.

While researching the tale, I found that there are children’s books, horror-movie adaptations, and even clocks which feature le bonhomme sept-heure (See below). I think this is an intriguing legend because it has a historical past, which is based on an misinterpretation of an English word, and was transformed into a legend to make sure that children would behave and come home before it was dark. This is also an age-graded legend and children stop believing in it as they get older.

Apparently, in the legend of the le bonhomme sept-heure, he would steal children away forever, eat them in his lair, or various other frights depending on the version heard.

Picture of someone dressed as Le bonhomme sept-heure

Children's Book concerning Le Bonhomme Sept-heure

Latulippe, Martine. Julie et le Bonhomme Sept Heures. Québec: Québec Amérique, 2010. Print.

English Movie translation of a French Canadian film about Le Bonhomme Sept-heure

The Bonesetter. Dir. Brett Kelly. Perf. Brett Kelly, Sherry Thurig, and Anne-Marie Frigon. Dudez Productions, 2003. Film.

Le Bonhomme Sept-heure in the form of a clock

general

The Boh Boh

The boh boh is the Syrian equivalent of the “boogeyman” it’s some vague scary figure that parents scare their kids with and friends tell stories about. “watch out for the boh boh”

My informant does not remember any particular stories, but his parents did tell him a number of stories to scare him into behaving as he was growing up.

[geolocation]