I can remember being a kid and hearing stories of the bogeyman (who lived in the closet or under the bed) and tales of Bloody Mary and Candyman (who would attack you through a bathroom mirror if you dared to say their name three times). I heard most of these stories from my friends at late night sleepovers. But did you know that tales of nursery bogies (monsters who threaten to “get” children who misbehave) have been told by parents for hundreds of years?
The most well known Bogeyman (or Boogerman) hails from Great Britain. A scary monster that, before it became a nursery bogey, used to frighten travelers on dark lonely roads.
Jenny Greenteeth is a terrifying monster from English folklore who resides in slimy, murky waters waiting to capture unattended children and drag them to the murky depths where she devours them. Fretful parents used the tales of Jenny to keep their children away from dangerous waters. The Grindylow is another nursery bogey of English folklore who resides in murky waters, and was also used to frighten children into staying away from water.
Pontarf is another water monster from the tales of medieval Europe. A giant fish, it waited for unattended children so that it could drag them into the water and eat them.
Boo Bagger is another monster from English folklore, and was most popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. A giant ogre, the Boo Bagger carries a sack in which to carry off children who have wandered away from their parents. Parents told tales of the Boo Bagger in order to frighten their children into staying where they are told.
The Lamia is a monster of Roman and Greek folklore. Once a beautiful woman, her children were taken from her and she was transformed into a hideous monster by an angry goddess Hera. Sometimes compared with a vampire, she seeks to devour children. Most likely she was a monster used to control the behavior of children.
Père Fouettard is an ogre (who dressed as a countryman) from French folklore of the 18th century. Also known as “Father Spanker,” Père Fouettard carries off misbehaving children to punish them with a flogging.
The Lammikin, probably one of the most horrifying of nursery bogies, is actually a demonic monster from Scottish folklore. The Lammikin sneaks into the child’s room at night. When the mother responds to the cries of her frightened child the Lammikin slices the mother and drains her blood. Most likely this tale was used to keep children from calling to their parents throughout the night.
In Mexico there is La Llorona, the white lady, or crying woman, who drowned her children in a moment of insanity. Parents tell their children tales of La Llorona searching for her own children, so when she hears a crying child she comes to take them away, thinking they are her own lost children.
As a parent I could never condone the use of nursery bogies to control my children. But our ancestors lived difficult (and sometimes dangerous) lives. As day to day dangers were so great, it was imperative that parents keep their children safe, so desperate measures were sometimes taken. Nowadays we ground our children, or take away their favorite toys (which is a far cry from threats of a visit from an attacking Lammikin) and this surely is better for the mental health of both parent and child.