The Boogeyman

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blunthead

Well-Known Member
Aug 2, 2006
80,755
195,461
Atlanta GA
So was that thing real or in his head? I couldn't tell from the story itself.

Kelly
I think the Boogeyman in this story is real.
Someone or some thing killed the first of the children, identified by each of them as "Boogeyman". The dad finally saw the thing before he ran away, and then again in the (so-called) doc's office. If the Boogeyman isn't real, then the identity of the killer remains an unnecessary mystery, since we otherwise must assume it's the dad. But there's not enough written to direct us thusly, imho.
 

Sunlight Gardener

Well-Known Member
Jul 22, 2013
375
1,273
I think it was real. That story scared the bejeebers out of me.
Likewise! My brain wouldn't let that one go for a long time after. I mentioned in another thread that there are about 3 short stories SK has written that disturbed the ever loving hell out of me and stayed with me a long time. I believe all of them are in Graveyard Shift. This is one.
 

Connor B

Well-Known Member
May 24, 2015
766
4,219
26
Was the Boogeyman real? Was it a delusion? I don't think it really matters. I love psychological horror stories like these. Definitely one of the best in this collection.
 
Mar 11, 2016
13
50
21
This is one of my favourite short stories by King, first of all it scared the sh!t out of me when I read it by myself at the middle of the night, and second, it made me think. my favourite part was when he said something like "If a person keeps thinking or believing in something lone enough, that thing can become real" this made the story worse because, as the story scared me so much, I kept thinking about it and that made me more scared.
Gotta love King
 
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Luke Holmes

Member
May 13, 2016
9
53
33
Oxford
I'm inclined to believe that it's real. I think that if the story had ended when he went back into the psychiatrist's office and saw the closet door open (just a crack), then there would be a better argument for the whole thing being in his head but because the reader "saw" the creature it feels harder to dispute.
 

César Hernández-Meraz

Wants to be Nick, ends up as Larry
May 19, 2015
605
4,416
40
Aguascalientes, Mexico
Real.

The protagonist was a very unlikeable person who thought he knew best and would use violence to enforce discipline while still convinced he is a very good man, but some things make me believe the monster was not him:

He let go of his own rules to protect the kids he says he really loved.
The deaths were listed as "accidents" (I am sure he would have left something incriminating if he had been the killer).
The closet door. He barely notices it first, but then he knows it is important.

Of course, he could still do all of those things unconsciously, having his own stress make him kill his children because they are weak and fear the darkness, use his own fear to increase his insanity and keep killing, convince his conscious mind there is a monster in the house (that's not himself), and then flat out confess he killed them while on therapy. All of that would be very interesting. But then why would the Boogeyman follow him at the end? I prefer to think of that as a surprise reveal. Having us think he might be the monster during the whole story only to discover the truth at the end.
 

phlegmatic

New Member
Mar 19, 2017
1
2
38
I posted this years ago but it seems to have been purged. I think the story is written as to be deliberately ambiguous, but there are definite hints that most people don't seem to pick up on. There's actually a lot of backstory and character development for Billings that no one seems to remember, people only remember the boogeyman.
The fact he sees the monster doesn't mean anything if he's crazy.

I think there are enough clues to conclude that Billings is nuts, (possibly schizophrenic) and killed the children himself. The boogeyman is a paranoid delusion.

Billings is unlikable. His views on women, black people, asians, children, homosexuals. He's basically a bigot. He discusses times when he felt like smacking his wife because she deserved it. In short, he's a bad guy.
He mentions in passing about how he got so fed up of his baby and wife crying he felt like throwing them both out a window. For most people that would be considered a figure of speech. In my opinion, its one of many subtle clues.

His backstory is one of a man forced into marriage by an unplanned pregnancy, he said he had to sacrifice his studies to do so. So immediately we know he's a man whose bright future is sabotaged by unwanted children with a woman he has no real interest in, and he felt she slept with him too quickly, so he has no respect for her. All these subtle details about Lester's attitude and his backstory are woven in seamlessly by King, but the big picture he paints is not a pretty one.

The 2nd and third children were also unplanned and he believed his wife deliberately didn't use birth control in order to tie him down. More resentment towards the wife and unwanted future child.

He tells of how he would hit his child if he didn't stop crying at bedtime. Clearly he's an abusive man already.

Billings tells of his fears of mollycoddling the child, his fear of the kid growing up bad and 'knocking some girl up' (mirroring his own life).
He tells a story about how his mother warned him of the sea and now to this day he is terrified to go in the water. This small detail is actually critical - he is a man who cannot face his fears.
There seems to be a paranoia about his children not growing up to his satisfaction "can you imagine your son? A sissy?". And a fear of them repeating his own mistakes.
Maybe a fear that could be allayed by them not growing up at all?
A lot of fear, and resentment towards his own family for a simple monster story.

"When they're that little you don't get too attached to them," this shows possible fear of attachment, another example of callousness, and another suggestion that he dispatches them young for a reason.

He has no respect for his wife, feeling that she slept with him to easily. She was not strict enough with the children, he talks with disgust at how pleased she was with the 3rd pregnancy. Perhaps killing the children was the best way to hurt her.

One particular line just seems way too obvious not to be deliberate:

"Christ, kids drive you crazy sometimes. You could kill them." - verbatim quote

The third child is a little different, he is happy, he loves the baby who resembles him. But again he suspects Rita of deliberately tampering with her birth control. They moved and then he began asking his wife if she has any fears.. she says 'no', but fear starts to creep in to his psyche nevertheless. First he says the house "feels different," his wife suggest stress at work, but his paranoia grows. He starts to hear noises and can't wait to get out of the house. This sounds like paranoid schizophrenia. There was a remission of sorts. A spell of time that seemed too good to be true, but then all his old fears began to creep back in and his madness takes over. It's not until he sees muddy stains in the house that there is any evidence of the boogeyman again. But is this real? Did he make the mess himself? Did he imagine it?

The line:
"Accidental, like the others. But Rita knew. Rita. finally. . . knew."

Knew, perhaps, that he was responsible for the deaths? Certainly she had little cause to believe a monster was responsible. Having never seen the boogeyman or any evidence of it. The other explanation; that she finally knew that Lester Billings had killed his own children is far more logical.

TLDR- Lester Billings is an abusive father, who resents and even hates his wife, his children are unwanted, he feels no attachment to them. He is plagued by fears of them growing up wrong, growing up to be like him.
He is a man who is incapable of facing his fears of raising children, so he puts an end to his fear by becoming the boogeyman and putting an end to his children.
 
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GNTLGNT

The idiot is IN
Jun 15, 2007
87,651
358,754
58
Cambridge, Ohio
I posted this years ago but it seems to have been purged. I think the story is written as to be deliberately ambiguous, but there are definite hints that most people don't seem to pick up on. There's actually a lot of backstory and character development for Billings that no one seems to remember, people only remember the boogeyman.
The fact he sees the monster doesn't mean anything if he's crazy.

I think there are enough clues to conclude that Billings is nuts, (possibly schizophrenic) and killed the children himself. The boogeyman is a paranoid delusion.

Billings is unlikable. His views on women, black people, asians, children, homosexuals. He's basically a bigot. He discusses times when he felt like smacking his wife because she deserved it. In short, he's a bad guy.
He mentions in passing about how he got so fed up of his baby and wife crying he felt like throwing them both out a window. For most people that would be considered a figure of speech. In my opinion, its one of many subtle clues.

His backstory is one of a man forced into marriage by an unplanned pregnancy, he said he had to sacrifice his studies to do so. So immediately we know he's a man whose bright future is sabotaged by unwanted children with a woman he has no real interest in, and he felt she slept with him too quickly, so he has no respect for her. All these subtle details about Lester's attitude and his backstory are woven in seamlessly by King, but the big picture he paints is not a pretty one.

The 2nd and third children were also unplanned and he believed his wife deliberately didn't use birth control in order to tie him down. More resentment towards the wife and unwanted future child.

He tells of how he would hit his child if he didn't stop crying at bedtime. Clearly he's an abusive man already.

Billings tells of his fears of mollycoddling the child, his fear of the kid growing up bad and 'knocking some girl up' (mirroring his own life).
He tells a story about how his mother warned him of the sea and now to this day he is terrified to go in the water. This small detail is actually critical - he is a man who cannot face his fears.
There seems to be a paranoia about his children not growing up to his satisfaction "can you imagine your son? A sissy?". And a fear of them repeating his own mistakes.
Maybe a fear that could be allayed by them not growing up at all?
A lot of fear, and resentment towards his own family for a simple monster story.

"When they're that little you don't get too attached to them," this shows possible fear of attachment, another example of callousness, and another suggestion that he dispatches them young for a reason.

He has no respect for his wife, feeling that she slept with him to easily. She was not strict enough with the children, he talks with disgust at how pleased she was with the 3rd pregnancy. Perhaps killing the children was the best way to hurt her.

One particular line just seems way too obvious not to be deliberate:

"Christ, kids drive you crazy sometimes. You could kill them." - verbatim quote

The third child is a little different, he is happy, he loves the baby who resembles him. But again he suspects Rita of deliberately tampering with her birth control. They moved and then he began asking his wife if she has any fears.. she says 'no', but fear starts to creep in to his psyche nevertheless. First he says the house "feels different," his wife suggest stress at work, but his paranoia grows. He starts to hear noises and can't wait to get out of the house. This sounds like paranoid schizophrenia. There was a remission of sorts. A spell of time that seemed too good to be true, but then all his old fears began to creep back in and his madness takes over. It's not until he sees muddy stains in the house that there is any evidence of the boogeyman again. But is this real? Did he make the mess himself? Did he imagine it?

The line:
"Accidental, like the others. But Rita knew. Rita. finally. . . knew."

Knew, perhaps, that he was responsible for the deaths? Certainly she had little cause to believe a monster was responsible. Having never seen the boogeyman or any evidence of it. The other explanation; that she finally knew that Lester Billings had killed his own children is far more logical.

TLDR- Lester Billings is an abusive father, who resents and even hates his wife, his children are unwanted, he feels no attachment to them. He is plagued by fears of them growing up wrong, growing up to be like him.
He is a man who is incapable of facing his fears of raising children, so he puts an end to his fear by becoming the boogeyman and putting an end to his children.
...Welcome!...
 
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BelleArboreus

New Member
Sep 28, 2017
2
13
fantasticlr.blogspot.com
I really enjoyed this story and there is a certain amount of ambiguity to it. There are a few ways that this story can be interpreted. There's the straightforward way of reading the ending, where Billings has been talking to the boogeyman disguised as Dr. Harper. There is some evidence in the story to support this. This means that the boogeyman is real and that Lester Billings was not crazy but indeed telling the truth.

But there is an argument to be made that perhaps Mr. Billings is actually the boogeyman. Maybe he has developed a split personality or is schizophrenic like he claims not to be. In the story a lot of his has some eerie expressions such as smiling when talking about horrific things. Are these brief smiles a result of his inner boogeyman coming out when talking about the kids deaths? Not to mention his thought about slapping his wife and seeming to have a short temper.

The last interpretation is that Billings was talking to the real Dr. Harper, but because he was talking about believing in the boogeyman and how that makes him more real, the boogeyman then shows up in the end, killing Dr. Harper. This is less likely the case, but still an interesting idea to explore. In the end the boogeyman takes off a mask of Dr. Harper. But what happened to the real Dr. Harper? Did the boogeyman simply eat him and use his skin asa disguise? The story is open to a few interpretations and depending on what kind of person you are, you chose to believe a different one. People who have hope and believe in the good in people will choose to believe the first choice. Whereas someone who sees the darkness in people, but believe that Billings is the monster.

I wrote up a review on my blog if anyone wants to read it. Fantastic! Literary Review
 

Notaro

Stark Raving Normal
Mar 23, 2007
1,135
7,320
54
Dublin/Ireland
I think being a parent this story gets under my skin more than his others, probably the most terrifying thing any parent can contemplate is something happening to one of their kids. In the story I don't think Lester is crazy, I think the thing in the closet killed his kids.