I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, the part of the world where the Boogie Man ACTUALLY came from. The Bugis (pronounced “boogees”) sailors (read: pirates) have throught history sailed the Java Sea and Sulawesi. They were notorious throughout the area for being barbaric sea wanderers on the prowl in their large schooners for vessels passing through waters without permission. Even today when travelling through that area you are told to beware of the Bugis man.
Maids of western families during the big European colonialization of the “Spice Islands” told tales of these sailors to the children as bedtime stories, presumably to get them to behave ( I would assume that these ghost stories were highly exaggerated to to keep little Johnny from “running amok” all night). “Beware of the Bugis Man” transformed, quite easily, to “Beware of the Boogie Man”.
Today the Bugis and thier large schooners mainly do cargo shipping from Sulawesi to other islands but thier legend is still alive. Walking the ports in Jakarta and seeing the massive Bugis Schooners was amazing.
Although the Boogie Man may not be hiding in your closet, he is, in fact, real…and not Bulgarian, or black, but Indonesian.
There are many websites that speak of the Boogie man’s Bugis roots. I did not READ about “Maids of western families”…our family had maids when we lived there, as did almost every single other western family. The Boogie Man is not something people out there are taught in school, read about, or spend any real length of time worrying about. Everyone just knows it. That makes it difficult to find information on it other than articles that just state it as a fact without any references. But I found one that helps explain it:
Here is one message on a board that cites a source:
“Every tourist guide to South Sulawesi will tell you that ‘Bogeyman’ comes from Bugis, because they were so fearsome and piratical. I always thought this sounded like a crock, but actually looking at the OED it doesn’t seem so farfetched (the first reference for the ‘goblin’ type meaning is 1857 S. OSBORN Quedah ii. 17 Malay pirates…those bogies of the Archipelago.)
I should add though, that I have always found Bugis people to be perfectly honourable, and certainly they have never hidden under my bed with the intention of frightening me.” http://www.languagehat.com/archives/001124.php
While the cite from 1857 discusses Malay pirates, the earlier cites in the OED from the late 1830’s-early 1840’s indicate that the term “Bogey” was already well established, and probably as a “quasi-proper name” to quote the OED.
While the source of the term could still be from the pirates, there’s really no supporting evidence.
Tourist guides, websites, and 20th century maids aren’t evidence.
What pronunciations does the OED give for “bogey”? I’ve read of “bogey” being pronounced as both [boe-ghee] and [boo-ghee]. (Around here, we’ve always been afraid of the “boogie man”.) Does anyone know when people began pronouncing “bogey” as [boo-ghee]? Could it not be possible that “bogey” and “boogie” share different origins that happen to have similar connotations? And, consequently, have led many to believe they come from the same word?
Actually, the way I always heard it as a mythologist, is that the bogey words used to describe devils and scary spirits came from old words meaning spirits in general and, originally, gods. Of course I can’t for the life of me remember which books I got it from. I’l have to go looking.
The whole pirate thing sounds way too late in the process to be the actual derivation of the word. There are lots of things like that where certain people using a similarly sounding word sweartheirs wasthe origin of the other. I would be very surprised in this case to hear it was true.
\Bo"gle, n. [Scot. and North Eng. bogle, bogill, bugill, specter; as a verb, to terrify, fr. W. bwgwl threatening, fear, bwg, bwgan, specter, hobgoblin. Cf. Bug.] A goblin; a specter; a frightful phantom; a bogy; a bugbear. [Written also boggle.]