Tag Archives: boogeyman

The Ragman

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 49
Occupation: N/A
Residence: Kansas City, MO
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main piece:

“So when I was growing up, I was raised by a single mother and my grandmother, my mom’s mom, stepped in to help raise me while my mom was working so I spent a lot of time with her in her house in her neighborhood and she was much older for a grandmother, she was born in 1911 and she didn’t have my mom until she was almost forty so she came from another generation and mostly spoke German at home where she grew up on a farm in Arkansas. I don’t know if this is where the story comes from, but I have no idea where it comes from. But she was a great grandmother and would never use violence or anything to keep us in line but if we were misbehaving, the most ominous threat was that if we didn’t get back in line and start doing what we were supposed to do, that the next time the Ragman came by, she would leave us out and tell him that he could take us away. So my sister and I were terrified that there was this- there also was this man that wondered occasionally in the neighborhood at twilight and I think he was probably, if not homeless then verging something on that, but it was back in the day when I don’t think i’d ever seen a homeless person in my small town. So he was always pushing some small cart and I think when she was first living in that home there was a man who came by to take pots and pans and whatever little knick knacks were broken so he was known as the Ragman and he’d take trash or whatever and take it away. So that’s really it, is that- I think in my sisters and I’s mind we associated it with this specific man but it was this nebulous threat really of this Ragman that was gonna come and- we we’re going to be taken out with the trash if we didn’t get back in line and we did not want to be taken away by the Ragman so we got back on the straight and narrow.”

Background:

My informant is originally from Joplin, Missouri and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s lived all across the United States but lives there currently with her husband and three kids. Her mother lived in the Ozarks in southern Missouri for most of her life and so the entire family has ties to that specific area. Her grandmother, who told her the story of the Ragman, was born in Northern Arkansas but spoke primarily German in her household as both her parents had emigrated here.

Context:

This piece was brought to my attention through research into legends from Missouri which I used to approach my informant. She has told me about this phenomenon several times but this specific conversation occurred in the living room of her house in Kansas City when I asked her about using the story for the archives.

Thoughts:

This piece seems to be a variant on the classic archetype of the boogeyman. The goal of the monster in this case is to scare children and teach them to stay in line. The parts I find most interesting about this iteration of the boogeyman-like creature are the name and the legend’s relationship to the grandmother of the informant. First, the term Ragman is usually tied to a street vagrant or another unsavory type individual. As such, this would make sense on why the informant and her young sister might be afraid of the Ragman as he seemed to be a dangerous man. Another common use of the name Ragman is when in association with the devil. This would further emphasize the role of the Ragman as an evil doer. The other major component of the Ragman story is the role of the informant’s grandmother. While it cannot be said for certain, her upbringing was heavily entrenched in German folklore and traditions which might result in the Ragman having ties back to German folklore. This shows the ability for folklore to transfer and adapt to new locations, with this example showing German folklore adopting to the cultural landscape of the Ozarks and Southern Missouri culture.

El Cucuy – “Boogeyman” Creature in Mexican Folklore

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA/ Georgia
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

The Cucuy, I’m not really quite sure what it is, um, but, usually, uh, when like children are acting like- out of like the norm, like when they’re misbehaving uh parents will be like “oi, there comes the cucuy!” Like he’s gonna come eat you if you don’t stop being a bad person, um…and it’s sorta like similar to like the boogeyman like if you- if you put your child to sleep, and like they don’t go to sleep, you’ll be like the cuc- if you don’t close your eyes, the cucuy’s gonna come get you…so yeah.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friends with KF. This story followed two of KF’s previously about La Llorona and the devil appearing on people’s horses at night.

 

Analysis: This performance demonstrates the phenomenon of children being more inclined to follow instructions based on the threat of a supernatural creature or element rather than their own parents. Likewise, the parents utilize this tactic because the effect is so immediate. It is also interesting to note that the comparison to the boogeyman is drawn because I have only known the American version of that bedtime creature: bedtime and a fear of the dark seems to conjure similar fears and potential monsters across cultures.

El Cucuy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Southern California (Huntington Beach & Los Angeles)
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/9/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

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.

Jasy Jatere

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Paraguayan
Age: 23
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 20, 2017
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s):

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

The Devil will pull you under the bed by your feet

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Colombian
Age: 52
Occupation: Spanish Teacher
Residence: Davenport, Florida
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/2015
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

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.

Le Bonhomme Sept-heures (The French Canadian Boogeyman)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French Canadian, Lithuanian
Age: 50
Occupation: Vice President of Marketing and Product Planning
Residence: Tarzana, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 31, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French, Spanish

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

The Boh Boh

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Orange, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/12
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic

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.