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The Peek-a-Bogeyman is one level more harmless than the Harmless Villain. He's (almost always) a cartoon monster who is more of a jerk than "evil". He takes advantage of the frightening image for which other more industrious of his kind have labored, and uses his existence to frighten people.

"Boo!" And then he laughs when they run away. This is all he does. Sometimes it's his designated job. He probably wouldn't know what to do if someone wasn't frightened of him, which is often An Aesop.

Characters should be careful about what genre they are in, because true horror movie ghosts often pretend to be this to lull their so-called "Genre Savvy" prey into a false sense of security. Alternately, all it takes is one good scare to trigger a Fright Deathtrap.

Sometimes overlaps with Things That Go "Bump" in the Night, but not always. Often the foil of the Reluctant Monster. Compare to the Noble Demon, who is a more serious version of this. Shouldn't be confused with the real Bogeyman. Not to be confused with the actually scary Peek-a-Boo Corpse. See also Face of a Thug, when a character is (usually unwillingly) frightening-looking but is otherwise non-malicious.


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  • The Hamburglar in the McDonald's commercials once fit the Harmless Villain Trope, but sometime around the mid-80s they made him cuter, funnier, and friendlier, placing him in this Trope. The Goblins (later renamed the Fry Guys) were the same.

    Comic Books 
  • A decidedly adult spin is put on this trope in the XXXenophile story "The Monster Under the Bed".

    Films — Animated 
  • Monsters, Inc. is about a society of monsters who did this to gather power from the screams of frightened children.
  • The citizens of Halloween Town in The Nightmare Before Christmas scare people for fun; it's a tradition. The scale of meanness in the scaring varies between the citizens from harmless (Jack Skellington) to sadistic (Oogie Boogie).
  • This is what Shrek was in the beginning of the film, scaring others as a device to maintain his privacy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Stuart, Cyrus, and Judge in The Frighteners.
  • This is what the Harvesters in The Deaths of Ian Stone used to be, with a side order of Physical GodEmotion Eaters by nature, they instilled fear of themselves in humanity so they'd always have a ready supply of food. By the film's beginning, they've mostly abandoned this (having discovered the addictiveness of the fear humans feel in the moments before death), but Gray is still at it, keeping his conscience pure.

  • Discworld:
    • Schleppel the bogeyman in Reaper Man doesn't even do that. Other bogeymen hide under beds or in wardrobes and then leap out to scare people. Schleppel just stays there... at first.
    • In Hogfather, we meet the original bogeyman, who apparently used to be legitimately terrifying, but has had his power sapped by old age and younger pretenders sapping the amount of belief available for him to subsist on. As he grew old, he took the job of the Tooth Fairy, collecting children's teeth and keeping them safe so those teeth won't be used by someone trying Sympathetic Magic, which Archancellor Ridcully describes as "Magic so old it's barely magic".
    • The bogeymen who are around these days are banished when their prey hides under bedclothes. As Feet of Clay demonstrates, the City Watch have a protocol of dealing with belligerent bogeymen by putting a blanket over the bogeyman's own head, thus giving it a brief existential crisis.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Trailer Park Boys: The Bottle Kids. Children who randomly show up, throw bottles at people and run off. The other characters treat them as simply a fact of life and just duck, then continue whatever they were doing afterwards.

    Video Games 
  • Luigi's Mansion:
    • Luigi's Mansion: The normal species of ghosts that hang from the ceiling. All they do is drop down to scare Luigi, and then vanish (however, there is a subspecies that attacks with bombs). Blue ghosts also act like this; they pop out to scare Luigi, then run.
    • Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon: Gold Greenies are like the Blue ghosts in the first game, except the two that come out of the hockey goal in the fourth mansion, which do attack.
    • Luigi's Mansion 3 continues the trend with not one, but two Money Spider ghost species — the Gold Goob, and the Crystal Goob. The former, like its aforementioned counterparts, drops money if you chase it down, whereas the latter will drop one of the respective floor's Gems, which are a collectible set of unique pieces.
  • Tatara Kogasa from Touhou Project is probably the most harmless non-human in the whole franchise. She's a karakasa that eats surprise, and she always try to surprise people. However, she's actually pretty bad at it, and will sulk if she fails. Akyuu even suggested to the townspeople to pretend to be surprised just so they won't feel bad seeing her sulking. Other than harmless surprises, she doesn't actually attack any humans at all.
  • The Lurking Tempest from the Vortex Pinnacle dungeon in World of Warcraft It pretends to be dead when you're facing it, then pops up and flings lightning bolts when you're not.
  • Spend too long in the Krypt in Mortal Kombat 9, and the Krypt Monster will appear; he's an ugly looking guy, but all he does is scare the player and run away. He sometimes even leaves a few Koins.

  • Squidge the Bogey from Tales of the Questor. It's implied that his people have an entire culture/economy based around scaring children and extorting food and trinkets out of them.

    Web Original 
  • SCP-650 of the SCP Foundation. It uses Offscreen Teleportation to teleport behind its victim, then waits for the person to turn around and freak out upon seeing it. And if you've gotten used to that, it'll start getting creative; it's been reported it has been acting innocuously to people that got used to it, and in one instance it popped into a visible corner, looking terrified of a nonexistant something right behind the person it was trying to scare.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • A Real Life example would be any dressed-up worker at a haunted house, mostly because of the fact that they aren't allowed to touch people, for obvious reasons.