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  • Writer's pictureDanni Petrilak

The Bubák: The Slovakian Bogeyman


A creepy scarecrow in a field during a foggy night
Image from Unsplash by Robin Mikalsen

I’m sure you’ve heard of “The Bogeyman.” There are hundreds of stories and differing depictions of this creature. No matter how far across the globe they originate, they all have one thing in common: every tale that features a Bogeyman was designed to frighten children.


The earliest documented narratives of these Bogeymen came from the 15th century, but verbal stories existed long before they were written down. Parents would tell cautionary tales to their kids with the overarching themes generally revolving around avoiding danger and instilling fear of what could happen if they misbehaved. This was done to more easily…persuade them to obey their commands and caution them while navigating the world.


No matter where across the globe these tales were being woven, they completed what they were created to do: frighten. Instead of a misbehaving child being sent to bed without dinner, threats that the bogeyman will get them forced a dreadful spout of uncertainty to flower in their minds. What was it the bogeyman was capable of doing? The best example of this is from a quote written by Alison Eldridge in a Britannica Article,

“In this way, the bogeyman may serve as a shorthand for the various dangers to lone children in the woods. Instead of explaining that they may fall into a ravine, be attacked by an animal, touch something poisonous, and so on, a parent may more easily say “If you go into the woods at night, the bogeyman will get you (Bogeyman).”

Because of its global variety, the Bogeymen have taken a multitude of forms over different cultures and religions. The one I based my creature from The Shadows in the Fields on happened to originate from the regions of Slovakia and the Czech Republic by a group of peoples known as The Wends. The Wends were a group of Slavic tribes that settled between the Elbe and Saale Rivers on the western side of what is now Germany in the 5th century AD. They were documented by Slav historians as the founders of the cathedral city of Salisbury, and are believed to be the distant ancestors of the North German population (Wend).


While browsing the stacks, I stumbled across a plethora of information in a book titled Odd Bits of History written by Henry W. Wolff, and this book outlined their culture. After compiling their listed beliefs within this text, I drew from their inspirations. The protection stone Austin refers to as a gift from his mother in the story is known as a kamushki. These lucky stones played a huge role in the Wend's beliefs and family heritage. A quote from Wolff's text reads, “They have a belief that stones went on growing, like plants, till the time of our Saviour's temptation… They are handed on as precious heirlooms from parent to child and often put down at a high value in the inventory of an estate (Wolff, 152).” There were all sorts of different types of these stones—for instance, “fright stones” and “devil stones” since the supernatural world they believed in was densely populated.


Another supernatural belief was a creature known as a Bubák, their version of the bogeyman, although there is no documented evidence of its existence. The Bubȧk has been described as something akin to a sack-man. If you are familiar with Spain’s “sack-man,” you’ll find many parallels between these two creatures. They are both known for luring and capturing bad children in large magical sacks.


While few articles are written about this creature, many fan-based sources such as fandom and creepypasta seeped into those known articles circling the web. It is hard to determine what it actually looked like according to the Wend’s beliefs, but I did uncover a wonderful, insanely detailed resource. In a book titled The Encyclopedia Of Beasts And Monsters In Myth, Legend, And Folklore by Theresa Bane, the Bubák is described as more of a goblin-type creature than its scarecrow counterpart based on a compilation of research and historical documents. Over the years, as more and more creatives got their hands on the folklore of this creature, its form shifted to what I used as a basis for the creature in my story (Bane, 200).


The Bubák is described as a scarecrow-like creature made of a skeletal, bony frame covered by a black jacket with a cart pulled by giant cats. It was believed to lure its victims into night’s darkness by mimicking the sound of crying children, but kids weren’t their only prey. If its cries were answered by worried parents, they would have no qualms to snatch them and add them to the cart. Once someone is placed into the sack, they are transported to a place of null; they are aware of their surroundings but are unconscious and alive until the Bubák is ready for them.


The purpose of the cart and the sack is where it gets interesting. A few documented articles surmised that on the nights of full moons, the Bubȧk would use the bodies of its victims and sew their souls into a new piece of clothing for itself. On nights not graced by the brightly lit skies, the cart would ferry the Bubák and its victims between the veil of life and death, waiting for the moon (C, Narendran and Shepard).


They don’t only come out at night, however, and they can choose where they search for their prey. Rivers, forests, fields, anywhere was potentially somewhere you could stumble across the Bubák if the shadows played right.


Please be sure to check out this creature’s companion piece, A Shadow in the Field, if you haven’t already. This story is both available on Spotify, or as a written piece on my website.


 

Sources:


Bane, Theresa. “Encyclopedia.” Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC, 2016.


C, Narendran. “Bubak.” Horror, 2022, vocal.media/horror/bubak.


Editors, Britannica. “Wend.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 7 June 2015, www.britannica.com/topic/Wend.


Eldridge, Alison. “Bogeyman.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 2 Nov. 2023, www.britannica.com/topic/bogeyman.


Shepard, Traci. “Bubák.” The Compendium of Arcane Beasts and Critters, 18 May 2018, arcanebeastsandcritters.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/bubak/.


Unknown. “Bubák.” The Catalogue Of Creatures, 26 Mar. 2017, www.mythicalcreaturescatalogue.com/post/2018/03/12/bub%C3%A1k.


Wolff, Henry W. “V-The Remnants of a Great Race.” Odd Bits of History, Good Press, 2019.

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