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  • The Death of the Bogeyman August 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    The bogeyman was the monster conjured up by parents in times gone by to terrify their children. Here is a paragraph published in Britain in 1887 by some frightful progressive. Boggard is a local Yorkshire version of the same and the writer gives a good sense of how bogey was deployed.

    It was a common practice of parents when their little ones were naughty to tell them there was a black boggard up the chimney, or coming down to fetch them; also for them to make noises in secret, or knocks, said to be ‘Tom knocker’, to intimate the presence of boggards; or to shut up their children in cellars and other dark places for the black boggards to take them. No one can tell the sufferings from fright experienced by thousands of little ones under the impression that they were going to be fetched by some ugly monster or malicious ghost. It is possible that some remnants of this worse than barbarous custom may still be practised by some parents; if so, they little know the dangerous effects and the demoralising influence of such, as it is a species of falsehood which their children, sooner or later, will discover, when less reliance will be placed on their parents’ words, after finding out how they have been imposed upon by bogus boggards.

    The bogeyman certainly survived late Victorian parents, at least in the British Empire. Children were still trembling about him in Newfoundland after the Second World War when John Widdowson recorded parents keeping their kids in line with recourse to Jack the Ripper and Springheel Jack. However, poor old Bogey’s days were numbered. Here is another troublemaker, Dr. Spock, who all but legislated on bringing up children in postwar America.

    Naturally you should never threaten a child with bogeymen or policeman or the devil. Avoid films and frightening T.V. programmes and cruel fairy stories. The child is scared enough of his own creations.

    And, boom, he was gone. Bogey, the shadow at the door, ‘the destroyer of (nursery) worlds’, hobbled off to a cut price pension, his supernatural dignity in tatters. But when exactly was he removed from circulation? Well,  we have some stats to blind you with. In 1970 John and Elizabeth Newson published their Four Year Olds in an Urban Community. Only about one percent of the parents they had talked to in Nottingham, in the English Midlands, used bogeymen to scare their children. A tradition going back to the Savannah was disintegrating.

    Or was it?

    In the same year A. E. Green gave a paper in which he claimed that about half of grammar school boys he had interviewed in nearby Leeds had been scared by bogeymen as young children. As Sandy Hobbs and David Cornwell point out (in their excellent ‘Hunting the Monster with Iron Teeth’. Monsters with Iron Teeth: Perspectives on Contemporary Legend 3, 1980, 115-137) the discrepancy is easily explained. Parents did not want to admit to outsiders that they still beat their children with bogey. He had a subterranean existence then, but that shame the parents felt was the sign that it really was all over. Like smacking and smoking at kids’ birthday parties, bogey was on his way out.

    Other dates for the death of bogey: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com