CREEPY CORNER: What's Hiding Under Your Bed? The Boogeyman

Or the closet. Don't forget to shut the closet.
Publish date:
January 8, 2015

Does this happen to you, too?

I'll be lying in bed at night, with my reading light on, feeling just a little bit uneasy. Maybe it's because I watched a scary movie, or spent too long feeding at the Creepypasta buffet, or had to read everything in Scary For Kids' "Bedtime Stories" section (don't let the name fool you, SFK is one of my favorite creepy story sites).

Whatever it is, I can't help but listen a little harder to every crack, creak or tap in my home that night. I try to read my book, but I keep thinking I see something in my peripheral vision.

"Oh, my GOD," I say out loud to myself, just to have some noise in the room. "Stop being such a weenie, Louise."

I try again to concentrate on a book, but my mind keeps drifting to: Wouldn't it be horrible if I glanced up and there was a pale, bony creature in a three piece suit grinning at me from my doorway? Wouldn't it be horrible if someone tapped on my second floor window right now and called my name in a high-pitched voice? Wouldn't it be horrible if when I put my book down there was a face sticking out of the closet door staring at me?

Wait. I closed the closet door, right?

I put down my book and look at the closet door. It's shut.

Rolling my eyes, I look at the clock and calculate that I have six hours before I have to be a functioning human being. I've got to sleep.

So I bookmark my book, settle into bed, and just for a second hesitate about turning off the light. Should I sleep with the light on? Is that ridiculous? No it's not, but I know sleep better with it off. I click off my reading lamp.

The problem is GETTING to sleep when you're feeling a little spooked.

I clamp my eyes shut and attempt to drift off into dreams of giant squirrels working for the CIA (a real dream I had the other night — the squirrels recruited me as an operative). But as much as I try to relax, my brain is still spinning out of control imagining all the creatures creeping out of hiding now that the lights are off and my eyes are closed. Now and again, my eyes pop open to glance around the room, hoping/not hoping to catch my tormentor.

It's the closet that always gets me. I'm convinced that even though I make sure it's shut before bed, when my eyes fly open in the dark it will be open a crack. And someone or some THING will be watching me, waiting...

I'm talking about "the Boogeyman."

The Boogeyman is that dangerous creature, horrific in appearance, that hides in the shadows — under your bed, inside your closet, crouched in the corner — WAITING to punish you for your transgressions. Or just cuz.

Despite almost every culture having a version of the Boogeyman, he (or she) remains relatively amorphous. And to me that's why the Boogeyman is so scary. What are YOU afraid is going to steal you away in the dead of night? The Boogeyman, is the worst your imagination can conjure.

Knowing you creeps, your Boogeymen are the stuff of Creepy Corner legends.

But in case you're having a little trouble dreaming (nightmaring?) up a Boogeyman, here are some Boogeyman figures from around the world to inspire you.

El Coco

Duérmete niño, duérmete ya... Que viene el Coco y te comerá.

Sleep child, sleep now...Or else the Coco will come and eat you

In Spain, Latin America, and Brazil, "El Coco," "El Cuco," "El Cucuy," or "Cuca," among other names, will get you if you misbehave at bedtime.

Though there are many variations, the basic idea is that El Coco hides under a child's bed or closet, and will come and eat them if they don't go to sleep. Some versions compare El Coco to the Devil, saying that children who venture out at night will be stolen away to a limbo of sorts, never to be seen again.

Still other tellings say that El Coco is a creature with glowing red eyes that is not dead, not living, but something in between.

You don't want to find out, so SLEEP CHILD, SLEEP.


"Blisters healed yet?"

That's the Namahage's delightfully cheeky way of saying, "You're lazy. Stop lounging by the fire and burning your lazy skin. LAZY."

This demonic-looking Boogeyman from Japan, often with a bright red or blue face, comes around every year to encourage peace and productivity amongst families. Obviously.

To further "encourage" kids to be good, adults in the Akita Prefecture of Japan will dress up as Namahage on New Year's Eve night. They then go door to door shouting, "ANY CHILDREN CRYING? ANY CHILDREN MISBEHAVING?"

Can you IMAGINE if some creature pounded on your door in the dark of night demanding to know if you're misbehaving, then your parents INVITED IT IN? Did I mention they often carry knives?

Once the Namahage is satisfied that the children are behaving and nobody's being a lazy crybaby, they leave, blessing the family for another year.

But if the parents tell the Namahage that a child has been bad, guess who has to leave with the Namahage?

La Mano Peluda

Children in Latin American countries, or of Latin American descent, know what's under their bed: The disembodied hairy hand of a man killed during the Spanish Inquisition.

According to legend, the man in question was killed during the Inquisition, chopped up, and buried in an "Indian cemetery" (this is the only description I could find, I suspect it's a "Native American" cemetery or burial ground). The lone hairy hand now roams around looking for revenge.

Apparently revenge comes in the form of young children who don't want to go to bed.

If a child misbehaves before going to bed, they run the risk that La Mano Peluda will crawl out from under the bed and grab them in their sleep.


Also known as Der Schwarze Mann ("the black man," referring to where he likes to hide, not the color of his skin), Butzemann lurks under beds, in closets, and in dark corners waiting for German children to be naughty.

Once Der Butzemann catches a child misbehaving, typically refusing to sleep, he snatches them up and carries them away.

In the Netherlands, if a child encounters the "Boeman," they are grabbed from their bed and locked in the basement. The Boeman has long claws and fangs, and like Der Butzemann, wears all black, dirty clothes.

Hiding in the shadows and snatching children out of bed is spooky and stuff, but what I find most unnerving is this popular children's song about Der Butzemann:

It dances, a be-ba-boogeyman,Around our house, diddle-dum,It dances, a be-ba-boogeyman,Around our house.It shakes, it shimmies, It throws its little bag behind its back.It dances, a be-ba-boogeyman,Around our house.

I don't want Der Butzemann shaking and shimmying around my house, thank you very much.

Bloody Bones

Raw Head and Bloody BonesSteals naughty children from their homes,Takes them to his dirty den,And they are never seen again

Bloody Bones, and his pal Tommy Raw Head (or just "Raw Head"), have been all over the world, reaching as far as the American Appalachians.

Originating in Great Britain as early as the 1600s, Bloody Bones was another catch-all monster for children who lied, swore, or were generally disobedient. Historically preferring to live around ponds, streams, or lakes, Bloody Bones became domesticated at some point.

Dwelling under the stairs, a naughty child could peek through boards and "get a glimpse of the dreadful, crouching creature, with blood running down his face, seated waiting on a pile of raw bones that had belonged to children who told lies or said bad words."

Don't forget to check under the bed before you go to sleep. And close the closet door. And be nice to your parents. And don't misbehave.

You never know what's waiting for you after you turn off the lights.