The boogeyman, also spelled bogeyman, is an imaginary monster often believed in by children. Adults have traditionally used the boogeyman to threaten children into going to sleep on time, although this practice seems counter-intuitive. The boogeyman may also be used as a threat to induce children to finish their meal or to behave in general. Versions of the boogeyman exist almost universally, and some psychologists believe that the monster may stem from an evolutionary need in prehistoric times to discourage children from wandering away from the safety of the group.
The boogeyman has a nearly endless number of incarnations, as anything frightening or repulsive will suffice. The monster is usually said to live under a child's bed or in the closet and to appear at night, although in some regions of the United States, he scratches on the window of a child's room. Usually, the boogeyman is more or less humanoid, although he may be much larger or smaller than regular people. He is often dressed in black and may carry a sack or basket with which to kidnap children. Some cultures believe in a female, witch-like equivalent of the boogeyman.
The word boogeyman is first attested as bogeyman in the 16th century. It is probably related to the earlier bogle, first appearing in print in 1505 with the sense of "ghost." By extension, boogeyman is now used to describe any imaginary or irrational fear, while retaining its original meaning of a monster that terrorizes children.
There are a few well-known boogeyman figures in the English-speaking world, including the Irish creature Rawhead and Bloodybones and the character Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films. The boogeyman has also been variously portrayed in children's entertainment, from Oogie Boogie in the film The Nightmare Before Christmas to the Boogie Man in the Powerpuff Girls cartoon show. The Disney film Monsters, Inc. postulates a world of closet monsters who make their living by scaring children at night and collecting their screams.