Tell me about the Boogie Man...

What does the Boogie Man look like?

When I was a kid, I always imagined him as an overly tall man with a top hat, long, lanky body and in an old suit, almost like your generic mortician from the old western movies. I can’t tell you why I thought of him that way; no one explained what the Boogie Man looked like, only the vague things children hear, and over-hear, “he was big, and mean, and awful” that he would eat children, or carry us away if we were bad, that he was very, very bad!

Photo from, cropped by me; original here
I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I found that my childhood Boogie Man found life, at least a pixelated one, in The Secret World, and The Park, two fun horror games by Funcom. (See above, isn't he amazing! I love, love, loved seeing him come to life!) While he's not exactly what I imagined, he's close enough that I wondered if the artists who designed him read my mind!

We are taught that the Boogie Man is green, a goblin perhaps. That he sleeps under your bed, or in your closet. That he will get you if you don't listen to your parents, if you leave your room after bedtime, that he is always waiting, right out of sight, to snatch you away!

I think every child, everywhere in the world, probably hears stories about the Boogie Man. Whether he's called Boogie Man, or El Coco or the Sack Man, or just "Bala"*

No one can tell us who he really is, or what he really looks like. He might be a man, or woman, or neither. Might be ugly, or plain, scary or not. We just don't know!

What do we know about the Boogie Man, bane to children the world over, and keeper of bedtimes?

We know he's everywhere.
We know he's evil, and kidnaps children for nefarious purposes.
We know he eat children.
We know he listens to parents, and so he knows who is good, and who sneaks out at night, or doesn't go to bed on time.
We know that he can't be escaped-- once he knows you're naughty, you're marked somehow and he'll get you.

We also know that he's real.

Wait, you say, hold up. Boogie Man isn't real! He's a story, otherwise every child over the age of 8 would have been carried off to somewhere bad. No one would ever live long enough to have children.
How is he real?

Think about it. Our childhood fear of Boogie morphs into something else. Every adult has a boogie man (notice the little "b", it's important); one separate from the one we were told about when we were kids. This boogie man is just as nebulous, just as amorphous, just as difficult to describe, and looks different to all of us. Let me back up a little, and explain where I'm coming from.

It's October, my favourite month, and time, of year. It always has been. I love Hallowe'en, and the one thing I miss, living in Tucson, is the way the world turns from emerald green to golden yellow, ruby red and sunrise orange when the leaves change. I have always loved seeing the colours change on the trees, the way the leaves smell when they fall, and the crisp way the air smells in autumn.

It's also the time of ghost stories, a dark time of the year, as we race toward Solstice, and the earth (in the Northern Hemisphere) heads toward winter. The night gains strength against the light of the day, and a little part of every human hopes that the darkness won't continue forever-- even though we know how, and why we have seasons. I often wonder if this is an atavistic trait, left over but still rolling around in our heads. Maybe it's just me... but I'm used to that.

Adults and children have fears; it's part of the human experience. Whether it's fear of the dark, or heights, or snakes, or clowns, we have them. We're afraid of failure, of disappointing our families, of letting someone down. We're afraid of jail, or breaking the law; we're afraid of losing our jobs, or losing our families. Some of us are afraid of god, and hell, of some afterlife of punishment. Some of us are afraid of death altogether, because we don't know what it will be like.

To be human, is to have fears.

Most of the time, as adults, we have what we consider, "sensible fears". Fears of not being able to take care of our families, or of losing our jobs. Children have "nonsense fears", fear of the dark, or witches, or Boogie Man.

Even adults who are afraid of the dark; and I know some, consider that to be more sensible than a child being afraid. See, they've lived a long time and know that bad things happen. In the dark you can't see the bad man coming to hurt you. So, they live their lives in as much light as they can. Adults like me, who are afraid of clowns think it's a sensible fear-- I can't see the face of that person, and I don't know if they're really friendly or if they aren't. Doesn't mean it is sensible, just that we use our more mature minds and cognitive skills, to convince ourselves that it's more sensible.

I think that the reason the Boogie Man is so ubiquitous is that he's real, and we carry him inside all of us, all the time.

I think that some version of Boogie Man, the icon, the archetype, is within all of us. Some humans, for reasons we don't understand, do truly want to hurt others. Whether it's through manipulation or outright murder, they need that pain in order to feel alive, or to feel better about themselves. This statement of facts isn't an excuse, and I don't believe for one second that anyone who lives this way thinks it's OK, or acceptable; it's just something they do. This is why one version of the Boogie Man is the stealer or eater of children.

I've put a lot of thought into this, as I've fought my way back through the thick blackness of depression. This one has been much worse than any episode since around 2003, and it's not over-- which is why I have been pondering the idea of Boogie Man so hard. It's giving me a face for my illness, and if something has a face, it's easier to fight. To be honest, the only research I did for this blog entry was to find a screenshot of Funcom's Boogie, and to get a couple names of Boogie Man world-wide. So really, this is just me talking, and while I might be talking out my ass, it makes sense to me, and I hope, somewhat, to you, my readers.

Your Boogie Man might be your fear that you're never going to be good enough. Or it might be your chronic illness, or pain. Chronic illnesses and chronic pain make excellent Boogie Men-- they're always there, lurking, waiting for the moment to pounce, making your life hell, especially so-called hidden diseases like fibro or Crone's Disease, or any mental illness. If our arm fell off regularly and we had to screw it back on, then it would be obvious that there was something very wrong-- but if you're depressed, or have fibro, things go smashingly until suddenly you're tits up and have no idea what the fuck just happened. It's like hitting a wall at 30mph, a wall that literally wasn't there two seconds ago. It's Boogie Man, jumping out of the closet, or climbing out from under the bed, and now he's trying to drag you into the darkness where he came from.

When you're a kid, the darkness in a closet, or under your bed are terrifically dark places. You can't see anything past your sneakers, sitting there, ready for school tomorrow, or your clothes on hangers, looking like dancing children caught in a photograph. When you're an adult, the darkness in your own head takes on the same mythical status of the "realm under the bed"... and it's just as hard to look into, fully, with wide-open eyes.

I don't know how much time I've spent, over the years, staring into my own darkness. I don't know how much time you've spent doing the same. I do know it's hard as fuck to do it; to see the parts of myself that I wish weren't there, and that I'm not sure I can ever do anything about. Everyone carries the darkness in us, and everyone carries the light.

The thing is, how much light do we have left over to shine on our dark, to root out our Boogie Men?

That's the hardest question to answer, and for some people (some I've met, know and care about, same as you) never will do this. Some adults absolutely cannot look into their own darkness; they can't bear to shine even the smallest candle of light into the recesses of their minds and personality. Others of us (and in this I count myself wholly), spend the bulk of our lives reaching for the light, centred in our own dark, trying to find the goodness in ourselves-- or trying to accept the goodness that others around us see every day.

Right now, I have the Boogie Man of depression hiding under my bed. He's insidious, the fucker, and pretends to be gone away, but I can hear him, shifting around, getting comfortable, and waiting for me to let my guard down. When I do, see, he'll reach out and grab me, carrying me off, deeper into the black than I've ever been before; deep enough that I might not come back. Even when he's quiet, sleeping or shrunk to a tiny little thing, he's always there. I would almost say this Boogie Man is a friend of sorts-- because I've known him for so many years. If not a friend, then a known quality at least-- someone that I can negotiate with, bargain with-- and sometimes we even cooperate.

But there are other kinds of Boogie Men.

I have another Boogie Man, a new one, one I can't bargain with, one I can't speak of right now, because this isn't just my Boogie Man-- he belongs to a handful of people, and I can't tell their story without permission. This Boogie Man is worse than my normal one, because I don't know how to fight him at all. He's gaining strength, biding his time, and one day he's going to jump out, and devour us all. Or at least, that's what I'm afraid of. If he does eat us, he'll cause so much damage, and so I'm biding my own time, watching and waiting, trying to fight dark with light. I think every adult has a Boogie Man like this-- a community Boogie Man, so I know I'm not alone.**

So, who, or what, is the Boogie Man?

He's all of us, all the time. That darkness we can't face; that situation we're trying to get through; that problem that won't go away; that family or work or school thing that is all consuming.

We are the Boogie Man. And it's no wonder he scares the shit out of the children of the world. He scares us adults, too...

*El Coco is the Boogie Man in many Spanish-speaking regions. The Sack Man hails from Brazil, Portugal and Spain, and Bala (The Monster) is in Afghanistan. These were the first three names I found when I Googled "boogie man"; there were, literally, hundreds of names for this person, all across the world.

 **Before you make assumptions, I'm not referring in any way to political candidates, the GOP or the 2016 Presidential race-- although I know that Trump is a Boogie Man of sorts, and I tremble to think what he and his VP choice, Pence would do to women, health care and education should they be elected. I hope for a Democratic landslide, and I'm not ashamed to say I voted straight ticket Dem last week when I filled out my mail ballot. If you must put a name to this Boogie, call it an addiction you know some one is fighting, or a family member who has to be excised because they are toxic, that should be a good enough metaphor.


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