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|“|| Dr Harper: Who killed the children?|
Lester: The Boogeyman, the Boogeyman killed them all. Just came out of the closet and killed them. He twisted around and grinned. You think I'm crazy, all right. It's written all over you. But I don't care. All I want to do is tell you and then get lost.
|~ Lester talking about the Boogeyman to his doctor.|
The Boogeyman is the titular main antagonist of the short story of the same name, written by Stephen King, first published in the March 1973 issue of the magazine Cavalier, and later collected in King's 1978 collection Night Shift.
It is a horrific monster that sadistically tortures and kills children, it aims next to the protagonist Lester and his family.
There are no precise descriptions in the story about the physical aspect of the Boogeyman. On the first occasion in which Lester Billings, the protagonist of the story, manages to catch a glimpse of him, he is described as a creature with a head similar to that of a scarecrow, with sloping shoulders and hands armed with sharp claws. It gives off a disgusting smell, similar to that of putrefied meat and is assumed to be alive in damp places since, when it moves, it emits clammy noises and leaves a trail of damp dirt when it moves. Lester Billings speculates that it could also move into the sewers.
Equally vague is the personality of this creature: the Boogeyman takes aim at Lester Billings and his family for no apparent reason, hiding in their home, in the closet of the children's bedroom, killing the eldest son Danny, the second-born daughter Shirl and even going chasing Billings and his family after their move, finding them after a year and killing their third-born son Andy. Demonstrates traits of strong sadism, mainly drawing pleasure from the terror he instills in his victims: this is demonstrated in the passages of the story in which he makes Shirl convulsions for fear, or when, taking advantage of the absence of Rita, the wife of Billings (moved away from home to assist the sick mother) to venture out of the closet and walk around the house making sure to wake Billings and make him go out of horror by making him hear the sounds of his movement. Usually he prefers to wait before proceeding with the killings, having fun terrorizing his victims several times for several nights and then attacking and killing them.
As mentioned earlier, the Boogeyman targets Lester Billings, his wife Rita and their children Danny and Shirl. Nothing is known about the Boogeyman: where it comes from, what it is exactly, and why it takes action against Billings. His first victim is Danny, the couple's firstborn son, who is persecuted for a few nights and then killed (it is not explained how he kills him, but the child is found in his cradle in a lake of blood). Then he kills the second daughter Shirl, frightening her until she gets a brain convulsion during which the girl suffocates with her own tongue (shortly before his death, Lester sees the creature move in the dark of the room, near the closet).
Then when Lester and Rita have a third child, Andy, and move to another city to rebuild their lives after the bereavements suffered, the Boogeyman decides to look for them, succeeding, after a year-long hunt, in finding them, and restores himself in the their closet. Then when Rita leaves home to assist the sick mother, the Boogeyman begins to act more boldly and sadistically, leaving the closet and wandering around the house, making enough noise to wake Lester up and terrorize him. Then when the man, scared to death, decides to move Andy - who until then had slept in his parents' room - to another room, the creature goes to his room, first terrifying him and then grabbing him and shaking him enough strong enough to break the neck bone, under Lester's terrified and impotent eyes.
Time after these events, the Boogeyman has not yet given up persecuting Lester. Then he disguises himself as a man, taking on the appearance of Dr. Harper, a psychologist to whom Lester, divorced from Rita and now completely mad with grief and terror, asked for advice (it is not clear if the Boogeyman killed Dr. Harper and replaced to him or if Dr. Harper never existed and is simply a fictitious identity created by the Boogeyman). At the end of Lester's delusional account of the whole affair, the Boogeyman reveals himself to Lester for who he really is, sadistically showing him the human mask he wore all the time of the interview. Whether he killed Lester or not is not specified.
- The Boogeyman's pleasure in instilling fear in his victims before killing them recalls Pennywise/IT's similar pleasure in terrorizing his prey. It is not known, however, whether the modus operandi of the two monsters are somehow connected.