The Boughan or Bocan.


Art by Closter Art (The Demon II) closely resembles some of the descriptions of the Bocan

Always malevolent, the household bocan will follow its family wherever they flee. It is said that the bocan crawls into people’s beds at night and puts a clammy hand on their faces. Sometimes he strips the bedsheets off them. Sometimes a bocan will also pull on a person’s ears. Hanging a horseshoe on the door of a house and leaving a pile of salt outside your bedroom are said to keep a bocan away.

In some areas, Northumberland for example, it was believed that helpful household sprites, “silkies” or “brownies”, could turn into malevolent bocans if offended or ill-treated.

In Northern England, at least, there was the belief that the bocan should never be named, for when the bocan was given a name, it would not be reasoned with nor persuaded, but would become uncontrollable and destructive. Within the folklore of North-West England, bocans can cause mischief in homes but tend to live outdoors, in marshland, holes in the ground, under bridges and on dangerous sharp bends on roads. The book Lancashire Folklore of 1867, makes a distinction between “House bocans” and other types. In Lancashire a skittish or runaway horse was said to have “took bocans” – that is been frightened by a, usually invisible, bocan. When a person got lost in a marsh and was never seen again, the people were sure that a bocan had caught the poor unfortunate and devoured him. The name of at least one Lancashire bocan was recorded, “Nut-Nan”, who flitted with a shrill scream among hazel bushes in Moston near Manchester. In Yorkshire bocans also inhabit outdoor locations, one is said to haunt Cave Ha, a limestone cavern at Giggleswick near Settle.

The Scots variant is the Boughan.

The recorded folklore of Bocans is remarkably varied as to their appearance and size. Many are described as relatively human-like in form, though usually uncouth, very ugly and often with bestial attributes. One such bocan was, “… a squat hairy man, strong as a six year old horse, and with arms almost as long as tacklepoles…” Other accounts give a more completely beast-like form. The “Bocan of Longar Hede” from Yorkshire was said to be a fearsome creature the size of a calf, with long shaggy hair and eyes like saucers. It trailed a long chain after itself, which made a noise like the baying of hounds. The “Bocan of Hackensall Hall” in Lancashire had the appearance of a huge horse. At least one Lancashire bocan could take the form of various animals, or indeed more fearful creatures.

The bocans of Lancashire were said to have a leader, or master, called ‘Owd Hob’, who had the form of a satyr or archetypical devil: horns, cloven hooves and a tail.

Though the Boughan can take any form, it is most often seen at first as a greyish cat, with nothing appearing remarkable about it, save the glowing hue to its eye, instead of reflecting the light as most cats’ eyes will do at night, the boughan’s eyes glow red, blue or green.

When the boughan desires to blend among the people of the village it will assume the form of a human. Any mortal unlucky enough to discover the boughan’s identity will more than likely, disappear.

Main source of the article is from




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