The informant was my childhood babysitter (referred to as JC) who is from Mexico. She moved to the United States about 25 years ago and would frequently go back to Mexico, bringing me dolls and candies. Every year for Christmas she would make homemade tamales. When I was little and misbehaving she would always tell me El Cucuy will get me. Recently I asked her to tell me more about El Cucuy.
JC: “Behave or El Cucuy will come and find you… We say that to the children to make them behave.El Cucuy is kind of a boogeyman. He gets children who have misbehaved to their parents and can show up to steal you in the night. He hides in your closet or under your bed and will come to eat your spirit and take you. It is a way for the children to listen.”
Growing up and hearing this, I was never really scared because I think that folklore about things coming to get you or haunt you can only really work if it is a widespread tale that most people have talked about. As I didn’t grow up in Mexico, the only time I had to hear of El Cucuy was from my babysitter and so it seemed made up and unreasonable to me. However, I do think that if more people were talking about this I would have believed it and been more intimidated. I think culturally it is interesting because El Cucuy seems to be the equivalent to the boogeyman, which is also a way for parents to get their children to behave.
For another version of this story see “Boogeyman,” 2005 film by Stephen Kay.