Tag Archives: boogeyman

Boogeyman in the Basement (Legend)

Original Text: “Have you heard people be like ‘Oh watch out for the Boogeyman!’ or whatever? Yeah, I feel like that is a very common legend, but on my dad’s side of the family, they live in like Nowheresville, Michigan [informant made a joke but the actual place is Utica, Michigan] they were always like ‘Oh don’t go down in the basement, the Boogeyman is there right now!’ like, ‘Go down there tomorrow’. And they would do this with just about anything. They have a farm so they would be like ‘Don’t go in the barn, the Boogeyman is there!’ or something. It’s something I took very seriously, and if someone told me about the Boogeyman in the context of my hometown in Florida I would be like ‘Oh that’s not real’ but then there in Michigan I was like ‘Oh this is real, it exists here, in my uncle’s basement’. I feel like in my head I had a whole visualization of what this guy looked like and what he was doing, and when people would tell me the Boogeyman was around I would sit there for like an hour in my seat and be like ‘Oh my Lord the Boogeyman is coming! He’s gonna get us!’. And I think this was around when I was like 4ish years old, but it went on for a while until I got to the point where I was like ‘Nah there ain’t no Boogeyman, why can’t I go down in the basement?’ The narrative my family sold me around it was like ‘He’s gonna get you cuz he knows who we are and we are friends, but he doesn’t know you so’.”

Context: The informant is a college student at the University of Southern California. The informant is from Florida but has family in Michigan. She describes that the Boogeyman was used by her uncle’s family to deter her from something or not allow her to be in a space the adults did not want her in. All the adults were in on the story.

Analysis: As the informant stated, the Boogeyman was a figure used by the adults in her family to keep her out of spaces she wasn’t allowed in, like the basement. Because the story of the Boogeyman was coming from an adult audience that the informant trusted, it’s likely that the story carried more legitimacy, pointing as to why it had such an effect on her. The informant also reveals how she was convinced the Boogeyman could only exist on her farm in Michigan and not in her larger hometown in Florida. A rural area with lots of open space and a lack of population compared to her hometown in Florida potentially was a strange shift for the informant and caused her to be wary of the unknown she faced. In this case, it would be plausible for a creature like the Boogeyman to be hiding in a place not familiar to her. The separation between the knowledge of the Boogeyman between the informant as a child and her adult family also indicates the hierarchy and age politics that exist between the two groups. Only adults would understand the subtext behind the “Boogeyman”, including them in that folk group.

El Cucuy is Everywhere

Background: The informant is a 26 year old female who lives in a suburb of Chicago. She was born and raised around the city with her grandparents, mother, and younger brother. Her grandparents, immigrants from Mexico, imparted most of their knowledge to the informant.

Context: The context was watching a horror movie and being reminded of a legend she was constantly told as a child.


VA: So, in Mexican folklore, there’s El Cucuy. It’s like the boogeyman. Mexicans threaten their children with El Cucuy coming and taking them away.

Me: Oh my. How does El Cucuy come?

VA: El Cucuy is everywhere, everywhere around you.

Me: Would you mom tell you this to scare you?

VA: Well, it was my whole family. My mom, my grandparents, all of them. It was how they scared children into behaving. Oh also, just anyone of Latin American culture like my babysitter from Central America. Basically, if you speak Spanish, chances are you know El Cucuy.

Me: What does he do to children?

VA: He eats children once they’re taken. Basically, if you don’t behave, you’re getting eaten. 


Informant: Her voice was extremely solemn when speaking about El Cucuy, likely still remnants of how childrenhood fears can continue to affect someone. Even at 26, she didn’t want to take any chances.

Mine: The boogeyman is a very common theme across cultures as a way to scare children into behaving. While it may not be scary to everyone, it seemed to hit something deeper for the informant. She told the story more calmly than her other ones, not making any humorous jokes, or pausing often. While it likely is still childhood fears sticking with her to some extent, it may also be because the informant has a younger brother and would have to tell him the story as well. In this case, the informant has been both the receiver of the tradition and has passed on the tradition. It brings up the interesting placement of the older sibling, in that they may become active bearers of their traditions much earlier than the younger siblings. 

The Curse Cast on Salt Creek Elementary

Context: Z is a 21 year old Filipino American man. Growing up with a close community of Filipino friends and family. Z went to an elementary school within California. This story was collected over a Discord audio call.

Z: “So near the back of my school, a lot of people would go through there for quick entry to school. There was this bridge nearby and underneath it went this pretty deep valley, and what every kid in that elementary school always noticed all the time, whether they were walking there or driving there, you could always see down into the valley and what you could see was this worn out mattress down at the bottom. Every time. So what we thought every single time was that there was this homeless man, but what we thought was he was actually down there casting some sort of dangerous spell or something like that beneath the school. Cause we found out, and I think it was just a funny coincidence, but you’d find around our school an abundance of holes in the grass area, and we thought that these holes are usually from snakes. We always thought you had to be careful because there were a lot of snakes there because of the old man, like he had something to do with it. It was our little story but we really always believed he was casting some spells.” 

Intv: “And what elementary school was this located at?”

Z: “This was at Salt Creek Elementary, and like every kid at the school knew about it.” 

Intv: “Do you think there was any sort of cultural significance to it being a curse? Thinking back on my time in elementary school in a very western upbringing, I don’t think I was particularly aware of curses as much as I was ghosts or spirits.”

Z: “I think, because among my friends a lot of them at the time were Filipino, so what kind of relation there would be culturally, I definitely think it could be related to this monster my mom always told us about in the dark. She would call it the mumu, or that’s what we called it as kids, I think that’s kinda the relation there, as we never saw him in the morning. So we thought maybe he was only there at night when it’s dark. Cause in the day every time we’d pass the mattress we’d never see anyone, and at the time as kids we just ended up putting it all together.”

Intv: “Can I ask you a little more about the mumu?” 

Z: “Yeah, I think it literally translates to monster in Tagalog, I think it’s like your equivalent to a boogeyman. You know? The whole, like, ‘look out or the mumu is gonna getcha!’ thing. At least that’s how I saw it.”

Analysis: After looking up a translation I can confirm that mumu translates to either ghost or boogeyman. This story speaks heavily on how our folk and specifically our more sinister folklore tends to reside in the dark. Across cultures, as growing up as a child in America I was aware of the mumu, just of a different name. It makes one wonder where the mumu or boogeyman originated or how it transcends cultures. A shadowy figure who targets children is seen often in folklore across the world. 

The Ragman

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.”


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.


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.


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

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.



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.