What makes a good bogeyman? by Ginger K King

Merriam-Webster defines bogeyman as : a monstrous imaginary figure used in threatening children.  Wikipedia explains the various manifestations as : a non-specific embodiment of terror.   Have you encountered a good bogeyman in the books you have read, or the movies you have seen?  Is your favorite the expressionless face of the masked man, the ever extending, razor tipped fingers of the monster plaguing Elm Street, or the sewer dwelling end to George Denbrough in Stephen Kings IT?

The notion of a bogeyman has many context, historically as the figure used to threaten children, and more contemporarily the face of terror, in the next chiller-thriller film or book.  I am thinking about those characters that we ourselves draw up from the authors descriptions, or those we see on the big screen.   Some horror movies speak directly of the existence of him, and a movie [quality debated]  was even named for him.  In John Carpenters Halloween, [the night He came home] the characters explain the evil they think they have destroyed; [after Michael falls off the balcony] Laurie: Was that the boogeyman?  Dr. Sam Loomis: As a matter of fact… it was!  As a fan of the original film, I must say that the delivery of the line by Donald Pleasance, makes it even more chilling.

For me what defines a good bogeyman has a lot to do with his character.  Yes bogeymen have character.  Some are intelligent, some are witty, and some are just plain weird.  I prefer the intelligent and witty over the weird.  That moment when he nearly outsmarts the female lead [I like a smart female lead even more], or when he plays his own personal brand of practical joke makes or breaks the character for me.

The level of suspense that a bogeyman is able to achieve is his chief selling point.  Does he show up in a shadowy back yard and stare up at the window and then with the sway of a sheet in the wind disappear?   Where did he go, is he coming back?  Draw out the terror will you… Or does he show up as a pair of yellow eyes in a storm drain holding balloons?  I have been afraid of clowns ever since Pennywise made an appearance.

On a cold October night that fear was busted.  When some friends convinced me to go through the worst haunted house in our area, I was the last in our group, and no I didn’t like that at all.  We started out by a large shrub with a man seated in a chair opposite the shrub.  While we were trying to figure out if the man was real, or fake… the real scary people came from behind the shrub.  When I turned to face the house, Michael Meyers was just to my right.  I admit I was startled a little, but the guy playing him was too short.  I know about Michael Meyers, and this was not Him.  So I casually ask him how he is to disarm him.  You know when you are in these places, if you act scared, they try to scare you even more.  Almost half way through I was finally terrified because we were in a very large or long room/hall with absolutely no lights, no sounds.  The anticipation of the next scare was worse than… oh wait… no it cannot be.  A room full of Pennywise clowns.  Three to be exact.  Flashing lights extremely loud, and chainsaws…..Oh my goodness, and I am the last in the pack…when all of a sudden, maybe to disarm his own fears, my friend who was the lead in our pack does something so strange.  I am laughing as I write this.  He starts to dance, yes I said dance.  Unbelievably, they stop, they don’t know what to make of him.  They pulled up their masks and laughed saying.  Thanks dude… this is tiring.  Then we went on and finished the terrors, as there were a few more chainsaws and masked men…  Three Jason Voorhees at the very end chasing us out of the barn with chainsaws.  To this day my favorite part of that haunted house was the clowns.  I am not nearly as afraid of them as I once was.  At least until I read IT again…

What is it for you that makes a bogeyman, a good bogeyman?

5 Comments

Filed under fiction, writing

5 responses to “What makes a good bogeyman? by Ginger K King

  1. This is a wonderful post, Ginger. I’m glad it wasn’t me going through that house!

    I don’t write bogeymen, and don’t particularly enjoy seeing their movies — for me, life itself makes a good bogeyman.

  2. Ginger

    I agree Pat, maybe that is why the ones who are scariest to me are those that are feasible to this world. There is enough bad out there!
    Hope you are doing well.

  3. I grew up reading Stephen King and I can definitely say he created some iconic bogeymen. King himself counts H.P. Lovecraft’s nameless, ancient horrors as a major influence on his writing. Lovecraft, in turn, tips his hat to Poe’s writings.

    So I must ask myself…who has or will King influenced in this next generation of writers?

  4. Lovely post. I’ve never been to a haunted house but I love the image of those clowns when your friend started dancing.

  5. That would be a scary experience. I was in the London Wax Museum years ago in the Chamber of Horrors, and one of the guards (who people assumed was one of the wax figures) would move slightly from time to time, making people gasp, jump, and scream a bit. He thought he was pretty funny, which of course he was, unless you were the one being startled.

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