The following was transcribed from an interview between the informant and the interviewer. “A” represents the informant and “B” represents the interviewer.
A: “To keep us in line, he [the informant’s cousin] had something called, um, it was like a really bad, like a boogeyman, the boogeyman would get you if you misbehaved, but this person was called the snagglebug. And, um, sometimes he would be Mr. Snagglebug, he was this fictional, fictious character that would um, if you misbehaved, he’s the one that’s going to come and get you. So anytime that we were starting to get out of line, my cousin, my older cousin, he was probably about fourteen years older than us, he would just say the Snagglebug is gonna get you. You better get yourself together. And then he had a description that he was scary. He had claws. He would come and get bad kids. So that was something that he would use to keep us in line.”
B:”Were there any other descriptions that he would give?
A: “I can’t remember. He was like a scary monster. Long claws. I think he had horns. Um, big, you know, big googly eyes. Something like that. Scaly skin. So, he was scary and we never wanted to see him. But sometimes, he would call on the phone and say, ‘are they acting up?’ and [the cousin would say] ‘the snaggle bug is on the phone’ ‘no!’ we were like. And so he was sort of like the boogeyman to help you behave.”
I collected this piece of folklore from an African American, my mother, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I collected this during an interview at the informant’s house. This monster story was effective for my informant to keep her in line while she was a child which is why she still remembers it, but she has not told anyone else a similar story.
Monsters in order to keep children in line are a rich category in our culture’s folklore. As my informant stated, the boogeyman is one of the most well-known monsters, and the Snaggle bug monster is most likely just a variation from the boogeyman. My informant told me that she did not know anyone else outside of her family that was aware of the Snaggle bug, but since the boogeyman has no distinct description the Snaggle bug could easily just be the boogeyman with a different name. The name Snaggle bug could have been derived from Snuggle bug. The name takes a relatively common phrase for children and gives it a darker meaning that would be especially potent for young children. The Snaggle Bug is just meant to make children behave like the boogeyman.