The Boogeyman – Analysis | shortsonline (2024)

Point of View

The Boogeyman is told in both the third and first person. The third person narrator is omniscient to the extent that he/she can tell us the thoughts and feelings of both the protagonist (Lester Billings) and his psychologist (Dr. Harper). Much of the story contains Lester’s first person recollection of events. As with all first person narratives, we should regard this account as biased and incomplete.

Plot Analysis

In most cultures, a boogeyman (also bogeyman) is a mythical creature used by adults to frighten children into good behavior. There is little evidence of Lester’s children being guilty of really bad behavior, although they did cry regularly at night and Denny was wetting the bed in the few weeks before he died. What is interesting is that, according to Lester, all three children cried out the word “boogeyman” when frightened in their bedroom. Someone (presumably Lester or Rita) must have introduced the term to them, most likely as part of some kind of threat.

Who or what is the boogeyman in this story? Anyone who jumps to the conclusion that it was Dr. Harper all along based on Lester’s probable hallucination at the end of the story doesn’t appreciate Stephen King’s mastery of the horror / psychological thriller genres.

It is tempting to believe that Lester is the boogeyman, and that the real person he wants to punish is Rita. Most of the evidence seems to point to Lester having serious mental issues which lead him to either commit or contribute to the deaths of his children. He makes it clear that he did not want children in the first place and feels tied down by them. He may well feel betrayed by Rita and her so-called failed attempts at birth-control: Children tie a man down, you know. Women like that, especially when the man is brighter than they.

Contributing factors here could be the pressure of fatherhood and Lester’s fear of failure in the role. Lester bears scars from his own childhood, as evidenced by his recount of family trips to the beach. Because of this, he is paranoid about being overprotective of his children: But you can’t get overprotective. You make a kid a cripple that way. or spoiling them: You get permissive with them, spoil them. Then they break your heart.

As an alternative to Lester being the boogeyman, the true horror fan might suggest that Lester was able to summon up some sort of supernatural creature from his childhood world which he subsequently lost control of. It is interesting to note in this regard that Lester’s version of the boogeyman is similar to the monster he came across in the comic book as a child, with rotting skin and seaweed in his mouth and hair.

Having said all this, another potential ‘boogeyman’ presents itself in the story. If small children go to bed in fear of dark forces that may be hiding in their room, imagine the thoughts of parents all over the world in relation to the night-time dangers their young children may face. The conditions that the doctors and police believe killed Denny (crib death / SIDS), Shirl (convulsions / seizures) and Andy (an accidental fall from his crib) would have been more common at the time the story was written. Could Lester therefore have been an innocent victim, drawn into madness because of an overactive imagination and feelings of guilt due to the natural and accidental deaths of his three children over such a short period of time?

Like all good horror stories, the tension builds up gradually and we see several examples of foreshadowing on the way through. Some of these arise from Lester’s verbal and physical responses to questions from the doctor: Billings twitched around and stared balefully at Harper.; ‘Bulish*t!’ Billings spat out violently.; He rolled his eyes at Harper and bared his teeth in a savage grin. When talking about Denny, Lester twice offers a rubbery, frightening grin and most tellingly, when talking about Shirl he comments: Christ, kids drive you crazy sometimes. You could kill them.

Character Analysis

Lester: As first person narrator for much of the story, Lester reveals himself to be a very unpleasant man. As mentioned previously, it is probable that Lester has serious mental issues. Just some of the other adjectives that could describe Lester are:

  • alcoholic: His eyes held all the miserable secrets of whisky.
  • cowardly: So I moved him (Andy). I knew it (the boogeyman) would go for him, see. Because he was weaker. And it did.
  • hom*ophobic: Can you imagine waking up some morning and finding your kid – your son – is a sissy?
  • misogynistic: She (Rita) still wanted to do what I told her. That’s the wife’s place, right? This women’s lib only makes sick people.
  • racist: Like pictures you see of those gook kids over in Nam.
  • violent: And if he (Denny) didn’t stop crying I’d give him a whack.; I was tempted to slap her (Rita) around a little, but I didn’t.

Dr. Harper: The only other character physically present in the plot is Dr. Harper, a psychologist whom Lester chooses to share his story with. Harper appears professional throughout, playing a passive role and responding to Lester’s version of events with comments or questions designed to keep him talking.

The Boogeyman – Analysis | shortsonline (2024)


What is the main idea of the boogeyman? ›

Analysis: “The Boogeyman”

Woven around central themes such as The Nature of Fear and Guilt as Self-Punishment, “The Boogeyman” tells the story of a man who must grapple with monsters both within and outside of himself.

What does the boogeyman symbolize? ›

Tales of the bogeyman and various analogues have been used for centuries all across the world to influence children to behave as their parents command and to exercise caution in dangerous situations or areas. The term is also sometimes used more generally to describe any fearsome or dreaded thing.

What was in the closet at the end of The Boogeyman? ›

Billings then hears a creepy voice from the closet say "so nice" before the door swings open and the Boogeyman comes out. And if that doesn't get you, King's final line of the story certainly will: "It still held its Dr Harper mask in one rotted, spade-claw hand."

What is the monster in The Boogeyman? ›

The Boogeyman is the titular main antagonist of the 2023 horror film The Boogeyman, based off the Stephen King short story of the same name. It is a monster of unknown origin that targets and murders entire families, usually ones that have experienced a loss of a family member. For its literary counterpart, see here.

What is the main conflict in The Boogeyman? ›

The main conflict in "The Boogeyman" is the internal struggle within Lester Billings. He battles with his own guilt and fear, trying to come to terms with the deaths of his children.

What does the end of the boogeyman mean? ›

The Boogeyman's Ending Real Meaning Explained

Despite Sadie and her family getting to a much better place, with Will openly talking about the loss of his wife and The Boogeyman seemingly dying in physical form, the film suggests that grief will continue to be prevalent in one's life no matter how much time has passed.

What is the real meaning of Boogeyman? ›

1. : a monstrous imaginary figure used in threatening children. 2. : a terrifying or dreaded person or thing : bugbear.

What is the real story of The Boogeyman? ›

The boogeyman is not real, but most cultures have some version of the boogeyman myth, although they go by many, many different names. The actual "boogeyman" name most likely originated sometime in the 19th century, but the mythology of these kinds of "monsters" have been around for much longer than that.

What is the point of view of The Boogeyman? ›

The story “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King is told from the point of view of a third-person narrator. The point of view switches to the first-person when Lester Billings recounts the past events in his dialogue with Dr Harper, which makes up the majority of the story.

Were the worms real in Boogeyman? ›

Marty Wright, who plays the Boogeyman, has said so himself in an interview. Yes he ate real worms he was also not afraid to eat other insects. I've eaten crickets and an earthworm or two to see what they taste like and if you buy them in the package with salt and vinegar they're not bad.

What happened to the mom in The Boogeyman? ›

Plot. Therapist Will Harper is struggling to overcome the death of his wife, who died suddenly in a car crash. His daughters, Sadie and Sawyer, are likewise struggling to deal with their mother's passing. One day, a disturbed man called Lester Billings visits Will's office.

What happened to Jessica in The Boogeyman? ›

Jessica, his girlfriend, abruptly shows up and she takes Tim out of the house for a night in a quiet hotel, where she is murdered by the Boogeyman, who spies at her through the closet in the bathroom before dragging her into the bath.

What happened to the baby at the beginning of The Boogeyman? ›

And in The Boogeyman, the other monster is grief. We hear that the monster is attracted to families dealing with unimaginable loss: The first of Lester's children died from sudden infant death syndrome, which left the rest of the family open to attack.

What is the slang meaning of boogeyman? ›

countable noun [usu with supp] A bogeyman is someone whose ideas or actions are disapproved of by some people, and who is described by them as evil or unpleasant in order to make other people afraid.

What is the lore of The Boogeyman? ›

Facts about the Boogeyman Legend

The term bogey in the middle of the 19th century was a word for devil or demon. The Boogeyman's personality and appearance can vary greatly depending on the culture and country. Most of the time, the Boogeyman is depicted in a story as a creature who punishes misbehaving children.

What is The Boogeyman movie about? ›

What short story is The Boogeyman based on? ›

“The Boogeyman” carries on that unfortunate tradition. It's a pretty bad movie — not particularly scary, not easy to follow, not a bit of fun. But it's also weird. It is, we learn in the credits, indeed based on the King story of the same name, from his 1978 collection “Night Shift.” Sort of.


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