The Boogeyman (short story)

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"The Boogeyman"
AuthorStephen King
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Horror short story
Published inNight Shift
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Publication date1978

"The Boogeyman" is a short story by Stephen King, first published in the March 1973 issue of the magazine Cavalier, and later collected in King's 1978 collection Night Shift.

Plot summary[edit]

The majority of the story occurs in the office of Dr. Harper, a psychiatrist, where a man named Lester Billings talks to the doctor about the "murders" of his three young children. Billings seems paranoid and possibly schizophrenic as he describes the circumstances of the death of his children, his first two children died mysteriously of apparently unrelated causes (diagnosed as crib death and convulsions, respectively) when left alone in their bedrooms. The only commonalities were that the children cried "Boogeyman!" before being left alone, and the closet door was open slightly after finding their corpses, even though Billings was certain the door was shut.

We are told that Billings' wife Rita became pregnant approximately a year after their second child's death, at which time the family was living in a different house far away from the location of the original deaths, their first year in the new house was without incident, though Billings was still uneasy, and let his son sleep in the master bedroom with him and his wife. In the second year, it became apparent that whatever had killed the first two children had managed to track down Billings and his family, lingering in the closets and slithering around the house at night. Not long after, Rita left to care for her ill mother, and Billings and his son were left alone in the house.

Feeling the malevolent presence growing bolder in his wife's absence, Billings panics, and moves his son to a separate bedroom in the hope that the thing haunting him will go for the weaker prey; that night, the child cries "Boogeyman" while being put to bed, and an hour later, he begins to scream. Billings' love for his son briefly overcomes his terror, and he runs into his son's room to find an inhuman creature attacking the boy. Billings, broken by fear, flees to a local 24-hour diner, he returns home at dawn to find the boy on the floor with a broken neck and the closet door slightly open. Billings lies to the police, convincing them that the death must have been accidental from the boy trying to climb out of his crib.

As Billings finishes his story and starts to leave, Harper recommends he make an appointment with the nurse for further discussion; when he gets to the lobby, the nurse is gone, and Billings returns to the psychiatrist's office finding it empty as well, with the closet door just slightly open. Billings hears a voice from the closet as the door swings open, and he finds himself face to face with the Boogeyman, as it casts off the disguise it had been wearing when it posed as Doctor Harper.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

It was adapted into a movie by Jeff C. Schiro in 1982, it has also been performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a full length theatrical play, directed by television actor David Oakes. In 2010, Irish film-maker Gerard Lough adapted it into a 27-minute movie.

In 2018, writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods announced that they would be adapting the story.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]