Saturday, September 17, 2016

WENDIGO SIGHTINGS WANTED!

To all of my readers,

If you have seen, encountered, or even been attacked by anything that you have reason to believe may have been the Wendigo in any way, please email me at KPG1986@msn.com. Any sightings or encounters will be revealed in my revised research on the creature. Thank You!! Below is a description of the beast, based on my recent research.

After consulting twenty-one slightly-differing sources, I think that I've managed to form a basic idea of what the Wendigo looks like. Bear with me, as this will be sort of lengthy. The monster is bipedal and humanlike in shape, having a gaunt, emaciated body covered in matted hair or desiccated ash-gray skin pulled tightly over its starving flesh. It ranges from eight feet to over thirty feet in ...height.

The Wendigo has long arms, ending in enormous clawed hands. The hands and limbs may have chunks of flesh gnawed away, due to the Wendigo's voracious hunger for human flesh. The monster has huge feet with long, pointed heels and clawed toes. In some accounts, some of the toes are missing due to frostbite. Sometimes, its footprints are said to be filled with blood.

The Wendigo's eyes are owl-like, with accounts differing as to whether the eyes are pushed deep into the sockets or they protrude from the skull. The eyes are said to glow a fiery red or an eerie yellow in the dark. The creature has a large mouth full of long, jagged yellowed fangs and a disgusting dark-blue tongue. The beast most often has no lips, due to the monster's own unending hunger or frostbite. Sometimes, what's left of the lips are shredded and bloody, due to the monster's constant chewing. In some of the stories, the Wendigo is said to have antlers like those of an elk or a deer protruding from its head. According to some accounts, the beast's visage is so utterly horrifying that it actually paralyzes people who gaze upon the creature, which prevents them from escaping the monster's ravenous hunger. The monster is said to smell horrible, like a putrid rotting corpse or rancid meat. It can oftentimes be smelled before it is actually seen.

In all accounts, the Wendigo's heart is said to be made of solid ice. This renders the beast devoid of mercy, love, compassion, or any other positive human emotions. This trait also renders the monster incapable of empathizing or feeling even the slightest measure of kinship with humans. The Wendigo is dead inside, feeling only the constant, never-ending hunger for human flesh gnawing at its mind and its perpetually-empty stomach.

Because the beast is thought to be a shapeshifter by most (if not all) Algonquian tribes, these traits may change from one tribe's views to another's. One can never be sure exactly how the Wendigo will appear.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Review: The Bigfoot Book (Nick Redfern, 2016)

About a year ago, I received another book from my buddy Nick Redfern for review. The book in question is titled The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch, Yeti, and Cryptid Primates (Visible Ink Press, 2016). I’ve been looking for the definitive guide to the Sasquatch and his kind for ears now, and when I got this book in the mail, I thought to myself, “This could be one of them”. This book is the first-ever encyclopedia of unknown hominids, and it may very well become a classic someday. But for now, let’s move on to the review.

The Bigfoot Book is an encyclopedia in every sense, and it contains nearly two hundred entries that cover everything Bigfoot-related. Written in A-Z format, the book covers topics related to history, mythology, popular culture, folklore, and science…and it all applies to Bigfoot in one way or another. The book’s contents consist of entries on specific creatures, theories, encounters, books and literature, movies and television, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, the supernatural, people, places, and specific events from history, all of which have links to these mysterious beasts. The book features some incredibly diverse topics like Ape Canyon, the Brassknocker Hill Monster, Car-Chasing Sasquatch, Duende of Belize, Eskimo Legends of Mighty Man-Beasts, Flying Saucers and Bigfoot, the Glamis Castle Ghoul, Hairy Hands on the Highway, Inter-dimensional Bigfoot, Japan’s Enigmatic Apes, Kushtaka of Alaska, the Lake Worth Monster, Man-Monkey of the Shropshire Union Canal (Nick’s personal nemesis), Nyalmo, Orang-pendek of Sumatra, Philippines’ Hairy Dwarfs, Researchers of Bigfoot, Suicide, Sasquatch, and the Restless Dead, Telepathy, Underground Wild Man, Varmint of Mine Hill, the Wendigo, Yeti of the Himalayas, Zoo Escapees, and much, much more. In only three hundred and eighty-one pages, this book covers four hundred years of Bigfoot lore, and that’s a lot of information!

Overall, The Bigfoot Book is well-written, entertaining, thought-provoking, and highly informative. With an index for finding entries quickly and a nearly fifteen-page bibliography for further reading, this book will make you reconsider everything that you thought you knew about Bigfoot. And furthermore, cited in the bibliography is my article, “The Hairy Hands of Dartmoor”, which Nick was instrumental in helping me write and research, and which is featured on this blog!! That is truly an honor for me, and I heartily recommend this book to all of my friends and this blog’s followers. Now I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Nick, not only for kindly sending me a copy of this book, but also for his friendship and for honoring me by using my article in his research for his book. Thank you so much, Nick, and I am greatly looking forward to your next books!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book Review: Chupacabra Road Trip (Nick Redfern, 2015)

Almost a year ago, I received another book from my good friend Nick Redfern for review. The book in question is called Chupacabra Road Trip: In Search of the Elusive Beast (Llewellyn Publications, 2015). This book is all about Nick’s decade-long pursuit of the elusive vampire beast known as El Chupacabra, the Goatsucker. The beast first came to the attention of the general public in 1995 on the island of Puerto Rico, when an unknown predator slaughtered hundreds of animals, leaving the corpses completely drained of blood with savage bite wounds in their necks. This created mass hysteria of epic proportions that still continues to some extent today, which has since spread to Mexico, Texas, Florida, Russia, and even Australia. This book is a complete chronicle of Nick’s travels, interviews with eyewitnesses, strange experiences, and his personal thoughts and theories regarding the beast. For that reason, this review will be somewhat longer than the others.

The first eleven chapters of the book focus on the Chupacabra in Puerto Rico and Nick’s hunt for the monster there. He begins with recounting his 2004 adventure on the island, with his close friend Jonathan Downes and the crew of the SyFy Channel’s show, Proof Positive. The full story of Nick and Jon’s 2004 adventures can be found in Nick’s book Memoirs of a Monster Hunter (New Page Books, 2007). The first nine chapters detail Nick’s week-long expedition in July 2004, where he does a lot of driving around in a Jeep, interviewing eyewitnesses with some very compelling stories, trekking through damp caves and steaming jungles, drinking frozen margaritas (a favorite of mine as well, I must admit), hunting vampires, having some good-natured fun at the expense of his friend Jon, and he even manages to make it out of a deadly situation alive. During this time, Nick brings up the theory that the Chupacabra could be some kind of giant vampire bat, which is a fascinating possibility. Chapters ten and eleven focus on Nick’s 2005 return trip to the island, where he comes into contact with the occult, theories about wild dogs and killer monkeys, a stuffed toy duck named Admiral Zorgrot, more animal mutilations, an eyewitness account of a “huge, feathery beast”, stories of Men in Black, and tales of relict dinosaurs on the island. Needless to say, Nick has had his hands full, and we’re not even halfway through the book yet!

Chapters twelve through fifteen (as well as chapter sixteen in Part 3) are all about the Chupacabra and its bloody exploits in the United States and Mexico. The creature in the U.S. and Mexico takes the form of a hairless, bluish-gray dog with elongated fangs and claws, with longer hind legs than are typical for canines. Otherwise, this creature shares the same modus operandi as the Puerto Rican monster: killing livestock and draining their blood in the dead of the night. In these chapters, Nick investigates the beasts found in the towns of Elmendorf and Cuero (both in Texas), theories of mangy coyotes, the frozen severed head of the Chupacabra, and DNA testing. In Mexico, he finds stories of living pterosaurs, the 2008 DeWitt County Chupacabra (and the viral video that followed), Chupacabra skulls, strange photos, and shapeshifting tricksters. Some truly weird stuff happens in Texas and Mexico, that’s for sure.

Chapters sixteen through twenty covers the various conspiracies surrounding the Chupacabra. Conspiracy theories are one of Nick’s specialties, and he covers all of them. These range from underground labs, genetic experimentation, mutant monkeys, HIV and AIDS research, vampires in underground tunnels, more monkeys, vampires in Moca, primate research (and some disturbing similarities to the 2002 horror film, 28 Days Later), mango margaritas, and crashed UFOs, to American military and government interference, the Chupacabra in Russia and Australia, surviving thylacines, secret defense labs, and mysterious emails. He covers all of these in great detail, leaving no stone unturned. High strangeness, indeed.

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four are all about vampires of a more conventional nature. Here, Nick talks more about the Moca Vampire, animal sacrifices, vampire attacks in Wales, the vampiric Aswang and its involvement in quelling a rebel uprising in the 1950s in the Philippines, another quest to Puerto Rico in search of an isolated village believed to be inhabited entirely by the Undead, and the dark side of the Palo Mayombe religion. Chapters twenty-five through twenty-eight deal with the various hoaxes and cases of mistaken identity that Nick has come across during his search for the Goatsucker. This includes one man’s pathetic attempt to pass off a captured possum with mange as the vampire beast, a mangy raccoon named Chupie, out-of-place big black cats, Nick’s brief skirmish with the San Juan Police Department, a Puerto Rican shapeshifter that could be both Bigfoot and the Chupacabra at the same time, and a hoax involving a photograph of an airplane that had allegedly crash-landed in the El Yunque rainforest. Hang on, folks: we’re almost done.

Chapters twenty-nine and thirty contain Nick’s final thoughts and theories regarding the elusive Chupacabra. For this, Nick turns to bad movies and cases of truth being stranger than fiction. He touches briefly on two awful SyFy original movies, respectively titled Chupacabra: Dark Seas (2005) and Chupacabra vs. the Alamo (2013). He also talks about goatsucker activity in the USSR, as well as a confusing attack wrongfully attributed to a werewolf. But it is in the final chapter that Nick makes his most compelling arguments. Here, he turns to our mutual friend and fellow monster hunter, Ken Gerhard. Ken has been investigating the Texas Chupacabra for years, and has developed some intriguing theories of his own. In the now-classic horror movie Prophecy (1979), animals mutate into grotesque monsters as a result of exposure to extremely high levels of mercury in the Androscoggin River and begin to kill people. Nick believes that this could very well be what happened with the Texas Chupacabra, although Ken doesn’t rule out other pollutants. In addition, Nick also discusses blood-drinking animals and how they relate to the beast’s feeding habits. You’ll have to read the book’s conclusion to find out what the truth could be.

Overall, Chupacabra Road Trip is a fantastic book. It’s well-written, informative, witty, funny, and highly entertaining. This is one of the best books on the elusive vampire beast out there, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all of my friends and this blog’s followers. I would like to take this opportunity to give my sincerest thanks to Nick, who I am honored to call my friend and who was kind enough to send me this book for reviewing free of charge. Thank You, Nick!! I’m deeply looking forward to reviewing more of your books soon!

Friday, July 29, 2016

100TH ENTRY: The Alp

This is the first entry in my "Night Visitors" series, a series of blog entries that focus on monsters and entities that prey and feed upon humans while they sleep.

Nightmares have haunted the sleep of men and women since the beginning. These kinds of dreams can cause people to awaken very suddenly in the night, sometimes accompanied by screams of terror. In cultures all over the world, people have long believed that there are supernatural entities that are responsible for these horrifying dreams. In Germany and Austria, these beliefs have coalesced into a very frightening and very confusing entity that feeds upon the blood of unsuspecting women while they sleep. The German people know this vampiric spirit as the Alp, and it is one of the most dangerous of all supernatural predators.

Nobody seems to be quite sure as to what the Alp actually is, since the spirit is perceived differently in different areas. Generally speaking, the spirit is almost always male, although in some accounts it is portrayed as being female (Bane 10), and it is believed to have only one eye. In some areas of Germany, it is believed to be an elemental, much like a gnome or a tomtin. In parts of Austria, it is said to be a malicious spirit of the dead. Other people believed that the Alp could appear as a small elderly man, while others thought the spirit was a shapeshifting wizard of great power that would roam the countryside in the form of a bird or a cat (Curran 18). And that’s not all: some legends say that the Alp is the returned spirit of a man who died a horrible death, while others say that the entity is the vengeful ghost of a child that died before it could be baptized (Maberry 14). And still others say that it is a male child who died as a result of a particularly long and agonizing childbirth (Bane 10). Then again, the Alp could be a voracious bloodsucking demon from the deepest pits of Hell. To reiterate, nobody is really sure. And in that same vein, nobody seems to know exactly what the Alp looks like, either. This may be because the Alp is usually invisible, and because it is capable of assuming a number of different forms, and may thus have no true form (Bane 10). However, what is known of the Alp is that it is a predatory entity that feeds on the blood and the breast milk of sleeping women, glutting itself on those fluids while weakening the victim and depriving her baby of the food it needs to survive and grow at the same time (Maberry 14).

The Alp has a variety of supernatural powers at its disposal. When it takes on a physical form, the Alp possesses unnatural strength and speed, and is able to fly in any of its myriad forms (Bane 10). The Alp is a notorious shapeshifter, able to assume a wide variety of different forms. It can become any sort of animal that it wants, although the entity seems to prefer the form of a dog, a cat, a bird, a pig, a snake, a vole, a wolf, a moth, a white butterfly, a monstrous black dog with lecherous tendencies, and even an icy mist (Bane 10; Curran 18-19; Maberry 15). For this reason, the Alp is often linked to stories of werewolves in folklore, especially in Cologne, Germany (Bane 10). Interestingly, the Alp is always said to wear a hat called a tarnkappe, which literally means “cap of concealment”. This hat gives the spirit the power of invisibility and some other unspecified magical powers (Bane 10). This is usually a soft, old wide-brimmed hat, but it could also be a simple cap made of cloth or a veil, designed to hide the entity’s face from its victims (Curran 18). But the spirit becomes even more formidable when wielding the power of its Evil Eye, a sinister spiritual ability that is feared all over the world. The Evil Eye allows a person to curse or inflict misfortune and even death upon others with a glance or an intense stare. In the Alp’s case, the Evil Eye allows the spirit to manipulate the wills and especially the dreams of sleeping victims. With this power, the entity is capable of creating horrible nightmares that frighten its victims nearly to death and can also cause bouts of sleepwalking, seizures, and fits while they’re sleeping (Maberry 14; Curran 19). This, in turn, can lead to severe insomnia, and if this goes untreated for long enough, it will cause insanity and eventual death. The Alp must take great care to protect its eye from any kind of damage. Without it, the spirit cannot torment its victims with nightmares (Bunson 5).

The Alp is nocturnal by nature, detesting sunlight and only preying upon humans while they’re asleep. It feeds primarily on women, although on very rare occasions it will attack men and young boys (Bane 10; Maberry 14). The entity is able to attack in a few different ways, but all of them lead to the same outcome. The Alp’s primary method of attack is to sit on its victim’s chest, becoming heavier and heavier until it literally begins to crush its victim (“Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia). The Alp may choose to turn into a cold mist and force itself down the victim’s throat (although it may also use its tongue or turn into a snake for this purpose). Either of these actions will compress the victim’s lungs, making it very difficult to breathe or scream for help. Once its victim is immobilized, the Alp begins sucking milk or blood from the nipples, sometimes taking both at the same time (Bane 10; Bunson 5). In other cases, the Alp appears in the victim’s dreams before it actually attacks, and then it drains the blood and the milk from the victim’s breasts. The Alp derives power from feeding in this way, but it also leaves the victim severely weakened and prone to disease, bouts of despair, and depression (Maberry 14). Furthermore, the Alp is known for sexually assaulting its prey before or during its feedings. In parts of Austria, it is believed that the spirit will literally pounce on women and young girls while they’re lying in bed, ravishing them as they sleep. It may also suck the semen from men and teenage boys (Curran 22). These attacks can not only give the victim nightmares, but it will also cause erotic dreams (Bane 10). Because of this and its penchant for feeding almost entirely on women, the Alp has been compared to the Incubus. Paradoxically, some women seem to actually enjoy having sex with the entity, and if a woman calls out to the spirit to take it on as a lover, the Alp will be gentle and chivalrous towards her. Some say that this gallant attitude extends to all of its victims, and that the Alp rarely forces itself upon its prey. Not everyone agrees with this, however. But in most cases, the victim will feel absolutely horrible about having had sex with this vile spirit. In any case, being attacked by the Alp in any way is known as Alpdrücke, meaning “elf pressure” (Curran 18; Bane 10; Bunson 5; Maberry 14).

Sometimes, the Alp isn’t content with only tormenting and feeding upon humans. If it so desires, the spirit will also attack livestock like cows, horses, rabbits, and geese. One of the Alp’s favorite activities is to ride a horse all night long, leaving the poor animal utterly exhausted and likely to die the next day. The entity may also feed upon the milk and the blood of livestock as well. One thing that the Alp is very fond of is literally crushing the animals to death with its sheer strength and weight (Bane 10; Franklin 12). The spirit is also known for mischief, and has been known to play with the hair of its victims by sucking on it and tying it into knots, which are known as “mare braids” (Franklin 12). It can also cause milk to go sour, pull out nose hairs, and is known for its tendency to put already-soiled diapers back on babies. The mother must make the Sign of the Cross over the diaper before putting on a clean one to prevent this (“Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia).

There are a number of different ways in which a person may become an Alp. Some of them have already been mentioned, but they will be repeated here for the sake of convenience. There are some who say that the Alp is the ghost of man who died horribly as a result of being murdered or having committed suicide, while others say that it is the vengeful spirit of a baby boy who died before his baptism (Maberry 14). In that same vein, some beliefs hold that a child born with a caul (a thin piece of amniotic membrane) over their face could be predisposed to vampirism or lycanthropy of one form or another, while other cultures believed that being born with a caul was extremely lucky and that such a person could never die from drowning. If the baby was born with hairy palms, then the child was bound to become either a vampire or a werewolf at some point in his life (Curran 18-19). If a man somehow becomes an Alp during his lifetime, then it is always considered to be his mother’s fault. If the man’s mother had sinned during her pregnancy and hadn’t sought forgiveness, then her child’s transformation into a vampire was inevitable. If the woman ate something that was considered to be unclean or had been spat on by malicious dwarves (dwarves are common in German folklore), then her son was certain to become a monster. Women are thought to be particularly vulnerable during pregnancy to supernatural attack, and childbirth was fraught with peril as well. If the mother-to-be took any “inappropriate measures” during her baby’s birth, then her son could become an Alp as a result (although exactly what those “measures” are remains unspecified). If she were to bite down on a horse’s collar to ease her pain during childbirth, it could result in vampirism. If the mother was frightened by an animal (especially a horse or a dog) during her pregnancy, her child is destined to become an Alp (Curran 18-19; Bunson 4; “Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia). If the child died after its mother suffered through a particularly long and agonizing childbirth, then the baby may return as an Alp (Bane 10). If any of these particular conditions come to pass, then that man is doomed in life or death to an awful, godforsaken existence as a shapeshifting, blood-drinking spirit.

Most of the monsters that are spoken of in folklore from around the world can be killed or otherwise destroyed by specific methods. This is not the case with the Alp. This particular entity is virtually impossible to destroy by any known means, and weapons are useless against it. However, people have devised a number of different methods down through the centuries to deter or otherwise keep the spirit away. But be warned: this list is long and can be somewhat complicated or even strange, but it is necessary if a person wants any chance of surviving an encounter with this vampiric spirit. Be courageous, and follow the instructions.

One of the most effective means of ridding oneself of the Alp’s attentions is to simply steal its tarnkappe. However, this method is fraught with danger, and should only be considered as a last resort. This can be done by seeking out the spirit’s resting place during the day and stealing it. Either that, or one may knock it off during an attack (if one can muster the strength to move). It is said that the hat is always visible, whether the Alp is or not, which makes things a bit easier (“Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia). In other words, if a person sees a floating, disembodied hat or a cap, then it's bound to be an Alp. The tarnkappe is precious to the Alp, and the spirit is very protective of it. Without its tarnkappe, the Alp loses much of its power, not to mention its powers of strength and invisibility. This hat is so valuable to the Alp that the spirit will generously reward anyone that returns the hat (Bane 10; Bunson 5; Maberry 14). Once sufficiently weakened, the entity can then be driven off with prayers or incantations (Maberry 14). The Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 91, Psalm 23, Psalm 25, Psalm 61, and Psalm 121 are all recommended.

There is a wide variety of methods that can be used to keep the Alp from entering one’s home and attacking the occupants. Some people say that iron will keep the spirit at bay (Franklin 12). In a similar vein, it is said that a pair of scissors, placed under the pillow with the points aligned towards the front end of the bed, will also work (Maberry 15). One of the stranger methods of repelling the Alp is for a woman to go to sleep with her shoes at the bedside, with the toes pointed towards the bedroom door. This method, along with the scissors-under-the-pillow bit, is thought to confuse the Alp for some reason, and will force the entity to turn towards the door and leave (Maberry 15). Oddly enough, some sources recommend that if a person finds the Alp sitting on their chest (it will most likely be invisible), they should put one of their thumbs into the palm of the other hand. For some reason, this is thought to frighten the spirit and will cause it to flee immediately (Bane 10-11). And to prevent the Alp from attacking one’s cattle and horses, a pair of crossed measuring sticks should be placed in the barn or a broom should be placed in the animals’ pen to protect the livestock from being ridden to death (Bane 10). One may also hang iron horseshoes from the bedpost. Since the Alp is capable of shapeshifting, it is recommended that any holes (especially keyholes) be plugged up. Doing this before going to bed will keep the Alp out of the room, while doing so during a visitation will trap the spirit inside the room. Doing so will undoubtedly make the spirit angry, as it is said that the Alp can only leave the way it originally came into the room. Keeping a light on all night (whether a candle or a nightlight) is considered to be effective, as is a person standing guard over the would-be victim all night (“Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia).

One of the more complicated methods for keeping one of these malevolent night visitors away (there’s more than one) is to bargain with it or to promise it something. If a person finds a small, pale-white butterfly sitting on their chest after awakening in the middle of the night, he or she must say, “Trud, come tomorrow and I will lend you something!” The bug will immediately buzz off, but it will come back the next day in the form of a human with bushy eyebrows that meet in the middle above the nose, wanting to borrow something (i.e. a cup of flour, milk, or sugar, like most annoying neighbors). At this point, one has to say, “Come back tomorrow and drink with me.” The Alp will leave, but on the next day, the witch who sent the spirit to harass the household will be compelled to show up at the front door, but this may only apply if it was witchcraft or dark magic that summoned the Alp to begin with. At this point, the would-be victim has the witch at their mercy, and may confront or otherwise deal with the witch as they see fit, although outright murder in public isn’t recommended (Bane 10; “Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia).

There are a number of other ways to ward off the Alp. In his book Vampires (New Page Books, 2005), Dr. Bob Curran suggests that, in some parts of Austria, flashing a crucifix, the sight of a holy relic, and wearing holy medals or a scapular will drive the spirit off. Protestants in other parts of Germany disagreed, saying that it sounded way too Catholic and reeked of superstition to boot. Furthermore, the Protestants argued that these spirits predated Christianity, saying that they had once been the servants of very old deities that had once dwelled deep within the ancient forests and high in the lonely mountains. In other words, the Alp and its kind aren’t likely to be affected by the power of the Church. However, Dr. Curran does recommend sprinkling salt across the front doorstep (and perhaps on all of the windowsills in the house), which will keep the Alp out (Curran 21). A line of salt (which must be free of impurities) in front of a room's door may also work, but only as long as the line remains unbroken.

It should be known that, like some other vampire species, the Alp suffers from arithmomania – an obsessive-compulsive desire to count. This spirit’s case of supernatural OCD can be turned into a great advantage by taking a large bag of seed to the nearest crossroads. Once there, a small pile should be poured in the direct center of the crossroads. And since the crossroads goes off in four different directions, one must also pour a small trail of the seed from the larger pile in the middle of the crossroads along the center of each of the four roads. Once the Alp comes along, it will see the seed and feel an irresistible urge to start counting. And because the seed trails branch off in four different directions, the Alp will become completely and utterly confused! The Alp will just sit there on the crossroads, crying in utter frustration until dawn comes. At this point, the Alp must flee and quickly find a resting place for the day. Sunlight weakens the power of the Alp’s tarnkappe, negating its invisibility and reducing its strength (Maberry 15). The Alp must find a place to hide and quickly, or the spirit risks being exposed to human eyes. The Alp doesn’t like to be seen, and seeing one of these spirits in this state is akin to a death sentence.

Some ways of warding off the Alp involve the use of magic, and it must be very potent magic indeed. One prescribed method is to draw a mystic hexagram on the front door of the house or one’s bedroom door with a piece of chalk. Afterwards, the hexagram must be imbued with the names of the Three Magi Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar, the Three Kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus after His birth. In addition, all of this must be done during the Festival of the Three Kings (which falls on Epiphany, on the twelfth day of Christmas). Another such charm says that one must draw a pentagram (again, with chalk) on a door with the names of Elias and Enoch inside of it. Furthermore, this must be done by the head of the household (Bane 11).

In addition to the methods described above, people have invented some truly strange and questionable ways of defending themselves against the Alp. Once upon a time, there was a song that could be used to frighten the spirit away. This melody would be sung by the fire every night before the last person in the house went to sleep. However, the lyrics and even the song’s name have been lost to the passage of time and the depths of history. Another recommended remedy is to sleep with a mirror on one’s chest. One particularly morbid (not to mention disturbing) method is to bury a stillborn child under one’s front door. But the most bizarre way to ward off one of these spirits by far is to use one’s own urine. A person that is suffering from nightmares brought on by the Alp’s attacks should pee into a clean, brand-new glass bottle and then hang the bottle from a tree or another convenient spot for three whole days. On the fourth day, the bottle should be taken down and, without uttering a single word at all, carried to a running stream or a creek and tossed overhead into the flowing water (Bane 11). Easy, unless one is given to arbitrarily talking to himself aloud for no reason.

One thing that the Alp truly hates is lemons. Exactly why this might be isn’t certain, but this fruit’s apotropaic properties seem to only be effective against some of Germany’s indigenous vampire species. On very rare occasions, the Alp can be caught while it is sleeping during the daytime, or even more rarely, cornered by armed monster hunters. In such situations, a brave individual can (very carefully) try to force the entity’s mouth open and fill it with lemon slices. This undertaking is extremely dangerous and, if done incorrectly, could have deadly consequences. But if the hunters succeed, it will be well worth the risk. The lemons won’t kill the entity, but it will become so weak that the Alp won’t be able to start hunting and feed itself again for several months, perhaps even years. But be warned: the Alp will eventually return, ravenous with hunger and starving for revenge. It will relentlessly stalk and kill those who so thoroughly defeated and humiliated it, and it will most likely seek out their families as well (Maberry 15). Blood will flow like rivers, and nothing short of intervention from God Himself will stop it. In other words, be afraid…be very afraid.

Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to destroy the Alp or, at the very least, permanently destroy its powers. But keep in mind that these measures are dependent upon the Alp’s origins, and that while these tactics may work on one spirit, it may not be useful on another. If a community believed that the Alp was the ghost of someone who had recently died, then what followed was more or less a typical vampire hunt. The deceased’s grave would be dug up, the corpse removed, and then the body was burned in full view of the public until nothing but ashes and cinders remained. Presumably, the ashes would then be scattered or poured back into the person’s grave. In some instances, the Alp could be a living person who might not necessarily be aware of their nighttime activities. If this was the case, then they had to be found and restrained before the next attack could occur. Once this was done, a cut was made just above the person’s right eye. Drawing the person’s blood in this way is believed to take the Alp’s dark powers away, rendering the individual harmless. This practice is known as “blooding”. In the same vein (pun intended), the same thing could be done to a witch who had summoned the Alp. Whether this could actually destroy the entity or not is unknown, but it would most definitely rid the Alp of its powers (Curran 21; “Alp (folklore)”, Wikipedia). But other than what is mentioned above, it is virtually impossible to destroy the Alp.

As recently as the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, panics have arisen due to attacks by the Alp. In parts of Austria, between the years of 1725 and 1732, graveyards were desecrated by frightened locals hunting for vampires. Some blamed a tuberculosis epidemic, but that didn’t stop the people from unearthing bodies and burning them. In 1755, people living in the town of Olmutz experienced the same troubles. In 1790, an Alp appeared in the town of Cologne, Germany, taking the form of “a massive and lascivious dog” with pitch-black fur, glowing red eyes, and sparks that dripped from the corners of its mouth. This creature terrorized the townsfolk, until a certain corpse was disinterred from the local cemetery and burned to ashes. After that, the beast was never seen again. And finally, in the early 1800s, a number of these vile spirits were said to be roaming about the Brocken Mountains in Germany. Here, the entities were sucking blood from the nipples of men as they slept, supposedly under the direction of witches. Livestock like sheep and cows were also attacked, but there are no records of how these incidents were dealt with (Curran 21-22).

Today, the legends and the lore surrounding the Alp have been all but forgotten. Science has explained these attacks as sleep paralysis, hypnogogia, vivid nightmares, and in some extreme cases, SUNDS (Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome). According to author Jonathan Maberry, the Alp was once one of the most common and the most feared of all the unnatural predators in Europe (Maberry 14). Now, it is thought to be only a myth, a superstition from a bygone age. But is there something truly evil behind these legends? History and folklore would seem to indicate as much. And while attacks from this evil spirit seem to be few and far between in modern times, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t something out there. And who knows? In Europe's more rural areas, the Alp might still be active, flying about invisibly in the darkness of the night, always searching for its next meal of warm human blood…

Acknowledgements

I would like to take this time to thank my good friends Bob Curran, Jonathan Maberry, and Theresa Bane for allowing me to use their books in my research. Without their help, this would've been a very short 100th entry. Thank you!!

Sources

Bane, Theresa. Actual Factual Dracula: A Compendium of Vampires. Randleman, North Carolina: NeDeo Press, 2007.

Bunson, Matthew. The Vampire Encyclopedia. New York: Gramercy Books, 2000.

Curran, Dr. Bob. Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night. Franklin Lakes, New Jersey: New Page Books, 2005.

Franklin, Anna. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies. London, England: Anova Books Company Ltd, 2004.

Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us. New York: Citadel Press Books, 2006.

“Alp (folklore)”. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. July 6, 2016. Accessed on July 26, 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alp_(folklore)>

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Encyclopedia of Spirits and Ghosts in World Mythology (Theresa Bane, 2016)

A few months ago, I received a book from McFarland & Company, Inc. for review, courtesy of the book’s author and my good friend, Theresa Bane. Theresa and I have been corresponding for a few years now, and she is an absolute delight to speak to and interact with. In addition, Theresa is a renowned vampirologist and an expert on the Undead. She has written two books about vampires and a number of others about demons, giants, faeries, monsters, haunted places, folklore, and ghosts. It is the last one that the book in question covers, and it is entitled Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits in World Mythology (McFarland & Company, 2016).

Like most of Theresa’s books, the encyclopedia is an academic work, and every type of ghost and spirit gets an entry of its own in an A-Z format. Theresa’s research is painstakingly thorough, and the bibliography is one of the longest and the most extensive that I’ve ever seen. Some of the book’s entries are long and very detailed, while others consist of only a single sentence and only give a brief description. However, most of the entries fall somewhere in between the two. And after each entry, Theresa gives her sources. And for a book of only 169 pages, that’s a lot of information!

As for the book’s entries, they contain information on every conceivable type of ghost and spirit, including appearance, habits, powers, what part of the world they’re found in, how to protect oneself and, in some instances, how to destroy them. This book contains a number of different spirit types, including spirits of the dead (ghosts), nature spirits, faeries, yōkai, demonic spirits, household spirits, elementals, ancestral spirits, vampiric spirits, genii loci (spirits attached to a place), guardian spirits, monsters, different types of djinn, and a great deal more. The entries feature all kinds of entities, from the Banshee (and all variations thereof) to the Ghoul, from the Acheri to the Grey Lady, and a host of others in alphabetical order, from the Aatxe to the Zuzeca. And since this book deals with ghosts and spirits that are found in cultures all over the world, you won’t find any information pertaining to haunted places of any kind. There are literally thousands of books on that subject available for your perusal.

Overall, Theresa’s book is well-written, neatly organized, free of flaws, and a veritable treasure trove of information. Her research is incredibly thorough and detailed, with an index for quickly locating specific entries and an extensive bibliography for further reading and research. Whether you’re a serious researcher or just curious, this book is an incredible read. I am truly thankful that McFarland & Company and Theresa have given me the opportunity to review this title, and I hope to review more of their titles in the near future. I heartily recommend this title to all of my friends.

Publisher: McFarland – www.mcfarlandpub.com – 800-253-2187 (Order Line)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Book Review: Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? (J. Nathan Couch, 2014)

Who hasn't heard of the Goatman? According to legend, the Goatman is a half-man, half-goat monstrosity that has a man's body and the head of a goat. It stands over seven feet tall and walks on two legs like a man, and its muscular body is covered in course hair. The beast is sometimes said to have red glowing eyes, and hooves in the place of feet. The monster is frequently said to carry a woodcutter’s axe, which it uses to slaughter its victims (which are most often horny teenagers). But is the legend true?

In his book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?, (CreateSpace, 2014), writer and paranormal investigator J. Nathan Couch investigates a wide variety of Goatman legends and sightings. He takes his time analyzing and discussing them, making references to classical Greek mythology, comic books, urban legends, news articles, television shows, books containing relevant material (and there are quite a few), horror films, and Internet blogs. In short, the man’s research and his diligence are nothing short of incredible! His investigation covers the entire country, from the Maryland Goatman to the Lake Worth Monster, the Pope Lick Monster to the Beast of Billiwhack, and the Sheepman to the now-notorious Sheepsquatch. Not only that, but Nathan also tackles legends of lesser-known monsters, unsolved murders, and a few non-Goatman legends as well. He even discusses satyrs from ancient Greek mythology in-depth! And he doesn’t shy away from the gory and juicy details, either. To make a long story short, this book will tell you everything that you could possibly want to know about the Goatman!

As great as this book is, there are some flaws. There are some spelling and grammar errors, but they are few and far between. And given the sheer volume of information within this book, it’s to be expected. And such errors do not detract from this book’s value as the first work of its kind, not in the slightest. Nathan traveled all over the United States for two years, digging up hard-to-find and obscure materials for his research, and writing all the while, sparing no details in his pursuit of the truth. And he was kind enough to send me a copy, free of charge, to read and review for myself. Friends like this are hard to find, and I am eternally grateful for his generosity.

All in all, Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? Is a fantastic book, and one that I highly recommend to this blog’s readers. It is both witty and intelligent in its treatment of the Goatman legend. This book is the first to ever fully explore the various legends associated with the Goatman, and it does a remarkable job of it. I honestly cannot recommend it more!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Nuckelavee

Off of the northernmost coast of Scotland lies the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of seventy islands that has been continuously inhabited by humans for the last 8,500 years. The islands have been inhabited by a number of peoples: Old and Middle Stone Age tribesmen, the Picts, the Vikings, and the Norwegians. The islands themselves were given to Scotland in the year 1472 A.D. by Denmark. The land is a captive in that it is surrounded by water, both from the ocean and deep freshwater lakes further inland. Monsters and mysteries hide in these murky waters, and one of the most horrifying and the most vile of these creatures calls the seas surrounding the Orkneys home. At night, the beast emerges from the sea to hunt, and its only purpose is to torment and kill humans. The monster is greatly feared throughout the islands, and the people will never speak its name without uttering a prayer afterwards. The Orcadians know this monster as the Nuckelavee, the Devil of the Sea.

According to Orcadian legend, the Nuckelavee (pronounced nuh-kel-ah-vee) is a horrible sea faery or a demon that comes out of the sea when darkness falls to bring sickness and death to humans, animals, and the very land itself. The beast then feeds upon the lifeforce of everything it has killed (Bane 220). The Nuckelavee is thought to be a member of the Unseelie Court, which is a court of evil faeries in Scottish folklore. These faeries are said to be the evil souls of the damned, and actively seek to do as much harm as they possibly can to humans, rather than just causing random mischief like other faeries (Franklin 260; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). The beast is also thought to belong to the Fuath, a collective term for a wide variety of malevolent water faeries in Scottish and Irish folklore (Franklin 102). The name nuckelavee is thought to be derived from a corruption of the Orcadian word knoggelvi which, according to Orkney resident and folklorist Walter Traill Dennison, means “Devil of the Sea” (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia; “The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX). In Shetland, the same creature is known as a mukkelevi (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). The word itself may very well be a variation of the Norse word nokk or the Icelandic word nykur (“The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX). But wherever the name comes from, they all more or less describe the same terrible creature.

The Nuckelavee has been described as looking more or less like a centaur, but there are some significant differences. The monster’s main body is essentially that of a horse. However, growing out of the horse’s back is the head, the torso, and the arms of a man. This “man” is said to be large in stature and appears to be riding the horse, but in actuality he has no legs and is in fact part of the horse (“Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). In other descriptions of the monster, the head, the torso, and the arms of a man are said to be growing out from where the horse’s head should be. In both descriptions, the head is said to be huge – about three feet in diameter – and has a very large mouth, filled with sharp, jagged teeth. The head rolls back and forth, as if the beast’s neck is too weak to support the weight (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). On that same head is a protruding, piglike nose and a single large eye, which is bloodshot and glows a fiery red color in the dark. The manlike portion of the monster has very long arms that nearly touch the ground. The beast has large hands, and its fingers are tipped with very sharp, rending claws. But the one thing that makes the Nuckelavee so unique is the fact that the monster has no skin whatsoever! Thick black blood can be seen coursing through sickly yellow veins and arteries, which stand out amid the beast’s blood-red muscles and white sinews (Bane 220; Mack and Mack 57; Franklin 194; “Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). Some people say that the creature has fins or flippers, and that the horrid thing smells like putrid, decomposing fish and a pile of rotten eggs (Franklin 194). In other words, the Nuckelavee is terrifying to behold, and smells even worse!

Although many monsters have a dual purpose, this is not the case with the Nuckelavee. The monster is pure, unrestrained evil that only seeks to plague the inhabitants of the Orkneys with sickness and death, a task from which it rarely (if ever) rests (“Nuckelavee”, Orkneyjar). Although the monster is more than capable of wreaking all kinds of death and destruction with its sheer size and strength alone, the beast prefers to use its deadly breath for that purpose. The creature absorbs and feeds upon the lifeforce of anything that dies from its vile breath (Bane 220). But judging from the only recorded encounter with the Nuckelavee, one can surmise that the monster wouldn’t be adverse to slaughtering and eating livestock and humans as well (“Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). Tearing its prey apart with its vicious claws or trampling them to pieces with its hooves wouldn’t be out of the question, either.

The Nuckelavee is said to be one of the most fearsome of all faeries, and its powers are formidable. The monster has enormous strength, and can gallop faster than any human can run (or any other horse, for that matter). Nobody seems to be sure if the Nuckelavee takes on another form when it enter the sea, or if indeed it changes form at all (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia), so shapeshifting may or may not be out of the question. But it is the Nuckelavee’s breath that is its most formidable weapon. It has been described as a “foul, black reek” that spews forth from the beast’s mouth (“Nuckelavee”, Orkneyjar) and causes plants and crops to wither, animals to sicken and die on the spot, and infects humans with a deadly wasting disease, which is known as Mortasheen. The Nuckelavee’s breath is so deadly that it can ruin crops, create epidemics in both humans and animals, and can cause long periods of little to no rainfall. This leads to drought, which in turn makes for poor harvests and eventually leads to famine. However, this could be more readily attributed to the Nuckelavee itself, rather than the creature’s breath. The dreadful smell can also drive entire herds of animals off of cliffs and to their deaths in the sea below (Bane 220; Mack and Mack 58; “Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). Unfortunately, the beast’s horrible breath isn’t something that can be fought with Tic-Tacs® or a pack of Mentos®. It must be killed or driven away to stop the devastation.

Despite the Nuckelavee’s notoriety, there is only one recorded encounter with the monster. It appears that there isn’t any given date or year to indicate when the event took place, but it is still regarded as being a true story by some Orkney natives. But please bear in mind that the story given here has been cobbled together from half a dozen different sources, and is retold here from this blogger’s point of view. It was originally told by Orkney folklorist Walter Traill Dennison, who lived on Sanday in the 1800s and claimed to have actually met the man that encountered the beast. The man was extremely reluctant to speak of it, and it was only after a lot of cajoling and persuasion on Dennison’s part (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia) that this man agreed to tell his tale.

On one moonless, starlit night, a man by the name of Tammas Taylor was walking home (perhaps from work or a tavern). The road he was walking on was close to the seashore, and as he moved forward, he came to a narrow section of road “that was hemmed in on one side by the sea, and on the other by a deep freshwater loch”, of which there are many on Sanday (“Tammas and the Nuckelavee”, Orkneyjar; Fleming 125). Then, it suddenly dawned on Tammas that there was something huge on the road in front of him. And worse yet, it was moving towards him. What was he to do?

Tammas immediately knew that the lumbering thing in front of him was no earthly beast. He couldn’t leap to either side, but could only go forward or turn back. Tammas had been taught that a person should never turn their back on any supernatural beast, and that to do so was to invite immediate destruction (“The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX; Fleming 125). But then again, Tammas had always been regarded as being “rough and foolhardy” by others (“Tammas and the Nuckelavee”, Orkneyjar). With nothing to lose, Tammas said to himself, “The Lord be aboot me, an’ take care o’ me, as I am oot on no evil intent this night!” He knew what he had to do…

Determined to face his foe, as the lesser of two evils, Tammas began to slowly walk forward. Yet as he drew closer, the man realized that it wasn’t just any monster that he was facing: it was the dreaded Nuckelavee, the Devil of the Sea. He saw just how gruesome the creature was up close: the lower part of the body was that of “a great horse with flappers like fins about his legs, with a mouth as wide as a whale’s, from whence came breath like steam from a brewing-kettle” (Fleming 125; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). The creature had a single eye, which burned like hot coals in a fire (Fleming 125). “On the monster’s back was what looked to him like a huge man, though to Tammas he seemed as if he might be part of the ‘horse’, for he appeared to have no legs. He did though have long arms stretching nearly to the ground. His head lolled about on his shoulders as if at any moment it might topple to the ground” (Fleming 125). In addition, the man’s head had “a mouth projected like that of a pig” (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). However, what terrified Tammas the most about the creature “was that the monster was skinless; this utter want of skin adding much to the terrific appearance of the creature’s naked body, the whole surface of it showing only red raw flesh, in which Tammas saw blood as black as tar, running through yellow veins, and great white sinews thick as horse tethers, twisting, stretching, and contracting as the monster moved” (Fleming 125; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). But in spite of his horror, Tammas kept moving forward.

If Tammas had been frightened before, he was utterly terrified now. His hair was standing on end, which he described as “a cold sensation like a film of ice between his scalp and his skull”, and he was breaking into cold sweats on top of that (“Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). But Tammas knew that it was useless trying to run away, and if it was his fate to die that night, he would rather face his enemy head-on than die with his back to the creature. But despite how scared he was, something came to Tammas, and he suddenly remembered that the Nuckelavee absolutely hated fresh water. He now knew that he had only one chance to escape, or else he would die in the monster’s enormous jaws.

Slowly, Tammas began to move to the edge of the road closest to the loch. But then the monster’s horselike lower head caught on to what the man was doing, and it moved itself accordingly. The beast opened its mouth, and inside was a bottomless, teeth-filled abyss. Tammas could feel the Nuckelavee’s disgusting breath on his face, which was hot like a fire (“Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). The beast raised its long arms and reached out to grab the poor man, but Tammas narrowly managed to duck and evaded the attack! In the process, however, the man momentarily lost his footing, and one of his feet accidentally slipped into the loch. This made a splash of water, some of which hit one of the monster’s forelegs. The Nuckelavee reared up on its hind legs and let out “a thunderous snort” (Fleming 125). Tammas saw his chance, and began to run as fast as he could! And it was a good thing he did, because the Nuckelavee was right behind him, bellowing with anger (“Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia; Fleming 125).

Tammas had never run so fast or so hard before, nor had he ever been so scared. But then again, he hadn’t ever encountered a monster before, either. But then he saw the rivulet, a small stream through which excess water from the loch made its way into the ocean. He knew that a great many supernatural beings were afraid of or otherwise despised running water, and the Nuckelavee was no exception. If he could get across the stream, he would be safe from the beast’s grasp. As he closed in on the bank, the monster extended its arms again to grab its prey. Tammas made one last desperate leap and landed on the opposite bank, leaving only his bonnet in the monster’s clawed hands. The Nuckelavee let out “a wild unearthly yell of disappointed rage”, and disappeared into the night. Utterly exhausted, Tammas collapsed on the other side of the bank, unconscious but safe (Fleming 125-126; “Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia; Mack and Mack 58; “The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX; “Tammas and the Nuckelavee”, Orkneyjar).

As powerful as the Nuckelavee is, the beast is not without its weaknesses. As the story above states, the Nuckelavee is deathly afraid of fresh water, nor is it able to wade across running water. Furthermore, the beast will never come ashore during a rainstorm (“Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). Exactly why the Nuckelavee despises fresh water so much is something of a mystery, but what’s important is that it works. In their book A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits (Arcade Publishing, 2011), Carol and Dinah Mack state that anyone who takes it upon themselves to go traveling through the Scottish Isles (i.e. on a backpacking trip) should, as a general rule, pack a number of bottles of fresh spring water with them (Mack and Mack 59). Not only is water essential for staying hydrated and alive, but it will also keep the Nuckelavee at bay (Mack and Mack 59). And like most faeries (there are some exceptions), the Nuckelavee is vulnerable to iron and steel, and can be wounded or even slain by these metals (Bane 220; Mack and Mack 59). If a physical confrontation becomes necessary, use the bottled water to repeatedly splash the monster, while simultaneously slashing at it with a steel blade or beating the beast with a rusty metal rod. If this assault doesn’t drive the Nuckelavee away, then nothing will.

Another thing that the Nuckelavee hates is the old Orkney practice of burning gathered seaweed, which is known as kelp-burning. The smell is extremely offensive to the Nuckelavee, but it doesn’t actually have any apotropaic qualities. Instead, the pungent smoke sends the beast into a foaming, extremely violent rage that can cause plagues, the destruction of private property, the ruination of crops, and widespread livestock slaughter (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). Furthermore, the Nuckelavee would “visit” the island of Stronsay and strike down all of the horses on the entire island with a fatal disease, which again is known as Mortasheen. Stronsay was the first island in the Orkneys to adopt the practice of kelp-burning in the early 1700s, where seaweed was gathered up from the beaches, dried, and burned in large stone-lined pits for up to eight hours. During this time, dried seaweed would be added to the pits continuously. The ash that remained was rich in potash and soda, which was initially used for treating acidic soil, but was eventually sought after by glass and soap manufacturers. Eventually, this practice spread across the Orkneys, but went into decline in the early 1800s, when deposits of the needed minerals were found in Germany. This made kelp-burning both unnecessary and obsolete (“Kelp-Burning”, Orkneyjar; “Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). In this regard, it’s no wonder that the Nuckelavee targets this island in its rage.

In Orcadian folklore, it is believed that there is only one other supernatural force that is capable of stopping the Nuckelavee, and the people of the Orkneys call her the Mither o’ the Sea (Mother of the Sea), or Sea Mither for short. It is thought to be her great power that controls the beast and keeps it restrained during the dryer summer months, while the monster’s fear of fresh water and rainstorms ensures that it stays under the sea during the wet winter months (“Nuckelavee”, Orkneyjar). The Sea Mither is the benevolent personification of the sea, granting the gift of life to every single living thing and dispelling the frightful storms that plague the Orkney natives so frequently. In other words, she is a kind, loving goddess that fiercely protects the inhabitants of the Orkneys, as a mother does for her children. She is one of the oldest surviving traditions from Orcadian folklore to date (“Mither o’ the Sea”, Orkneyjar).

The Mither o’ the Sea is not without enemies of her own. As well as having to deal with the dreadful Nuckelavee, her rival is the spirit of the winter, Teran. This spirit is believed to be very powerful and extremely hostile, and it is said that Teran’s awful voice could be heard “in the fury of the winter gales and his anger seen in the mountainous waves that crashed against the coastline” (“The Mither o’ the Sea”, Orkneyjar). Every spring during the vernal equinox, the Sea Mither would come back to the Orkneys to settle into her summer home. But in order to claim the seas for herself, she had to defeat and imprison Teran first. The Orcadian people called this event the Vore Tullye, the Spring Struggle. This is believed to be a fearsome battle that could last for several weeks and resulted in devastating storms which “churned the sea into a boiling froth”. And yet the Sea Mither was always victorious, her powers and strength fully restored by her winter’s rest. In other words, it was no contest. Teran would be imprisoned and bound in chains to the ocean floor, and the Mither o’ the Sea would immediately go about undoing any damage that Teran had caused during the winter, calming the angry sea and dispelling the storms. And except for an occasional storm (caused by Teran’s struggling at the bottom of the sea), the Sea Mither ruled her domain uncontested (“The Mither o’ the Sea”, Orkneyjar). During this time, the Sea Mither kept her eyes on and restrained the Nuckelavee.

But the Sea Mither isn’t able to rule forever. As the months went by and summer turned into fall, the Mither o’ the Sea grew weak and tired from her exertions during the warmer months. And as her powers waned, the magical shackles that held Teran to the ocean floor weakened as well. Eventually, Teran broke free and ascended to the surface, ready to do battle once again. This battle is known as the Gore Vellye, the Autumn Tumult. And this time, Teran would be triumphant, and the islands would tremble at his power and his tyrannical rule. The Mither o’ the Sea would retreat, beaten but not defeated. It is said that the Sea Mither is able to hear the desperate cries of every man, woman, and child that drowns, and she weeps for them. But she is able to comfort herself in the knowledge that, when spring finally comes, she will be refreshed and stronger than ever before, with her powers fully restored. And she will once again send Teran to the bottom of the sea, and the Mither o’ the Sea will once again resume her throne as the rightful ruler of the seas (“The Mither o’ the Sea”, Orkneyjar).

Although keeping the Nuckelavee away is a fairly simple matter (although it is still far easier said than done), killing the beast is a far more complicated task. To make matters worse, none of the resources consulted for this entry give any clues as to how this can be accomplished, if indeed it is even remotely possible. Since no real details are given, speculation comes into play. One idea that comes to mind involves literally pushing the beast into a lake. Since the Nuckelavee hates fresh water so much, immersing the monster may actually kill it, if only from sheer shock or drowning. And since no mere mortal can actually push such a heavy creature into a loch, a resourceful hunter must trick the beast into the water. Exactly how this can be done is up to the hunter, although being reckless or stupid about it is not recommended.

If immersing the Nuckelavee in fresh water doesn’t kill the beast, there are other methods that a resourceful monster hunter can fall back on. Piercing the heart with an iron blade or a stake and cutting off the head should prove to be highly effective. However, the fact that the Nuckelavee has two heads and (presumably) two hearts presents a unique problem. For the decapitation, an extremely sharp blade that is long enough to put some distance between oneself and the monster and also to take off both heads cleanly is recommended. To pierce the hearts, a little digging into horse anatomy is needed. But one should try to pierce both of the hearts simultaneously for maximum effect, or otherwise the beast may not fall right away. But once the creature is dead, the body should be dismembered and burned. It will require a few hundred pounds of wood and at least twenty (or more) gallons of gasoline or oil to burn the corpse to cinders. Furthermore, it will require several hours or even a few days of work and burning to reduce the body to ashes. About twelve people should take shifts of watching and adding fuel to the fire until there’s nothing left of the Nuckelavee but cinders and ashes. In this way, the Nuckelavee cannot regenerate and resurrect itself. If such a thing were to happen, the beast would undoubtedly be quick to wreak its horrible, bloody revenge on its would-be killers.

Today, the Nuckelavee has been all but forgotten. Legends say that the beast hasn’t been seen since Tammas Taylor encountered the beast so long ago. Has it simply disappeared due to its humiliation? Nobody knows for sure. But despite this, the Nuckelavee is remembered through its many appearances in popular culture, having appeared in a number of video games and in literature. But is the Nuckelavee truly gone? The people of the Orkneys don’t seem to think so, and they have every reason to believe that the Nuckelavee is still out there, emerging from the sea at night to hunt on dry land in search of a meal of human flesh…

Sources

Bane, Theresa. Actual Factual Dracula: A Compendium of Vampires. Randleman, North Carolina: NeDeo Press, 2007.

Fleming, Maurice. Not of This World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland. Edinburgh, Scotland: Mercat Press Ltd., 2002.

Franklin, Anna. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies. London, England: Anova Books Company Ltd., 2004.

Mack, Carol K. & Dinah. A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2011.

“Nuckelavee”. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last updated January 17, 2016. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuckelavee>

“Nuckelavee”. Monstropedia. Last updated May 23, 2011. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <http://www.monstropedia.org/index.php?title=Nuckelavee>

Towrie, Sigurd. “Nuckelavee – Devil o’ the Sea”. Orkneyjar, the Heritage of the Orkney Islands. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/nuckle.htm>

Towrie, Sigurd. “Tammas and the Nuckelavee”. Orkneyjar, the Heritage of the Orkney Islands. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/nuckenc.htm>

Towrie, Sigurd. “Kelp Burning in Orkney”. Orkneyjar, the Heritage of the Orkney Islands. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <http://www.orkneyjar.com/tradition/kelpburning.htm>

Towrie, Sigurd. “The Mither o’ the Sea”. Orkneyjar, the Heritage of the Orkney Islands. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/mither.htm>

“The Nightmarish Nuckelavee: A Homicidal Orkney Unseelie”. EsoterX ~ If Monsters Don’t Exist,Why Are They Out To Get Me? April 25, 2013. Accessed on December 29, 2015. <http://esoterx.com/2013/04/25/the-nightmarish-nuckelavee-a-homicidal-orkney-unseelie/>

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jorōgumo (The Whore Spider)

In this day and age, it would be fair to say that most people hate spiders, although fans of the ever-amazing Spider-Man will beg to differ. The very sight of these eight-legged arachnids makes women (and some men) scream in terror, followed by the inevitable shouting of “Kill it! Kill it!” And while some spiders are dangerous to humans, most of them are fairly harmless and are actually quite helpful in that they feed on pests and harmful insects. In Japan, however, spiders are viewed, at best, with suspicion or, at worst, with fear. And in this country, some spiders are believed to possess supernatural powers. One of these is the golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavata), which is found all over Japan (with the exception of Hokkaido) and can grow large enough to capture and feed on small birds. The Japanese, however, have given the arachnid another name: Jorōgumo, the Whore Spider. This shapeshifting monster lures young men into her parlor with promises of love and passionate sex, and those men are never seen again.

The Jorōgumo is thought to be one of many different kinds of yōkai, a term that can be applied to a very wide variety of monsters, ghouls, goblins, demons, and spirits that are found in the folklore and mythology of Japan. According to Japanese legend, the Jorōgumo is a golden orb-weaver that has survived long enough to reach four hundred years of age. At this point, the spider gains supernatural powers, human intelligence, grows to huge proportions, and becomes hungry enough to view humans as food. Attaining great age and gaining magical powers as a result is a common theme in yōkai lore, and the Jorōgumo is only one example. According to legend, the spider-woman is believed to nest in dense forests, dark caves, or abandoned houses in busy towns (Meyer 42). These places give her the seclusion she needs, while still giving her access to her preferred prey. The name jorōgumo itself can have a couple of different meanings, which depends on how the kanji is written. It was originally written as “女郎蜘蛛”, which means “whore spider”. However, those characters were modified and added to fairly recently to read as “絡新婦”, which changes the meaning to “entangling bride”. This was done to take away the sexual connotations and make it sound more appropriate. But in spite of those sexual connotations, the original name gives a very accurate description of the creature’s modus operandi.

Pinning down exactly what the Jorōgumo looks like is a difficult task, since she is both a shapeshifter and a deceiver. While in her natural form, she has a fairly large body, a large legspan, and her body is covered in bright, beautiful colors. However, the Whore Spider prefers to spend most of her time in the form of a gorgeous young woman (Meyer 42). But she can still manifest some spiderlike traits in her human form, such as fangs (or fanged mandibles), clawed fingers, and multiple long legs extending from her back. She may also exhibit such traits when she attacks her prey or when provoked into defending herself. It might not be out of the question for the Jorōgumo to transform herself into a gigantic, monstrous variation of her natural form if she becomes angry enough.

The Jorōgumo is said to be both cunning and intelligent, a patient predator that is as skilled in the ways of deception as she is in seduction. She leads a solitary and reclusive life, staying well away from others of her kind both before and after her transformation into a yōkai (Meyer 42). In her natural form, she feeds on insects and small birds. But in human form, however, the Whore Spider seeks out young men as her prey. When she has spotted a man that she wants, she invites him back to her place with promises of good food, drinks, and a night of passionate lovemaking. Once the man has arrived at her home, she quickly immobilizes him with her webbing and then incapacitates him with her venomous bite. The Jorōgumo’s venom is deadly, but it kills very slowly, presumably by liquefying her victim’s insides. This allows the monster to savor her victim’s agony as he grows weaker and weaker over a period of days, before finally dying in excruciating pain (Meyer 42). Afterwards, the Jorōgumo begins to feed on the corpse, sucking out the now-liquefied organs and the tissues through her hollow fangs, much like her lesser kin would do.

In some stories (which seem to date back to the Edo Period), the Jorōgumo is portrayed in much the same way as the description above states. She uses her beauty and her other feminine attributes (i.e. her cleavage and her luscious legs) to entice the man that she desires into an abandoned, secluded shack. Once he has entered the shack, she begins to play the biwa (a type of Japanese lute). The Jorōgumo is very skilled in the use of this instrument, although nobody knows for sure exactly where those skills came from. This either lulls the man to sleep or causes him to completely lower his guard. The Jorōgumo then seizes the opportunity to bind the man from head to toe in her webbing, while toying with the notion of saving him for later. She may also appear to a young man as a young woman with a baby in her arms (which most often turns out to be the spider-woman’s eggsack), claiming that the baby is his child (“Jorōgumo”, Wikipedia). The monster must’ve learned this trick from human women, since it never fails to shock any man and throws him completely off his guard. This leaves her victim completely vulnerable to attack, and she then commences with her attack.

Alternatively, the Jorōgumo may take the appealing form of a beautiful woman in order to ask a samurai to marry her (“Jorōgumo”, Wikipedia). It would not be unreasonable for the Jorōgumo to have sex with her prey before she kills him, just for the sheer enjoyment of the act. Seduction is just one of many weapons in her arsenal, after all. And the amazing thing is that the Whore Spider can maintain her charade for years, even right in the middle of a modern-day city or a town (although a town might be more comfortable for her). And unbeknownst to the people who walk by her house and interact with her on a daily basis, the bones of her victims just continue to pile up inside and around her house (Meyer 42). And the thing is, nobody actually suspects her of such atrocities. Only the skulls of her victims bear any kind of testimony to the horrors that she has committed, and death has forever silenced them.

The Jorōgumo has a variety of supernatural powers at her command, which are the result of a mere spider’s transformation into a yōkai. As stated earlier, the Whore Spider is a shapeshifter that can take the form of an exceedingly beautiful woman, a seemingly ordinary spider, a half woman, half spider creature, and a huge spider-monster. She is possessed of unnatural strength, speed, and agility, all of which are necessary while she’s hunting and for self-defense. Furthermore, she retains her spider abilities in her human form. She is able to adhere to and climb sheer surfaces (i.e. walls and ceilings), which enables her to hide on shadowy ceilings and in trees. She has the ability to spin webs that are incredibly strong and very sticky, which are nigh-impossible to break, cut, or escape from (although fire may weaken the sticky threads enough to break free from them). The Jorōgumo’s bite is deadly, carrying a potent venom that incapacitates her prey and kills them very slowly over a period of days. She is completely immune to all kinds of poisons. In addition, she can project magical illusions and is able to control her lesser kin and make them do anything that she desires. This includes using Japanese fire-breathing spiders to burn down the houses of anyone who has grown suspicious of her and her activities (Meyer 42).

Many stories have been written and told of the Jorōgumo, and very few of them end well. One of the most famous of these tales is that of the Jorōgumo of Jōren Falls, which takes place in Izu, Shizuoka. One day, according to the legend, a man was relaxing at the foot of the waterfall. Suddenly, his feet were seized by a great number of sticky white threads! Thinking quickly, the man severed the threads and tied them to a nearby tree stump. The stump was suddenly yanked out of the ground and was pulled into the water. Then the man heard a voice, which said “How clever, how clever” (which is found in a variant of the story from Kashikobuchi, Sendai). More than a little frightened, the man quickly ran back home.

After hearing about the incident at Jōren Falls, the villagers became frightened and decided that it might be best if everyone just stayed away from the waterfall from that point on. One day, a woodcutter from a neighboring village came to the woods around the waterfall to ply his trade, completely unaware of the legend. The man began to cut down a tree within the vicinity of the water, but then the axe slipped out of his grip! It flew through the air, and finally landed in the deep pool at the base of the waterfall. Panicking, the man dove in after his axe! He searched and searched for as long as he could hold his breath, but he couldn’t find it anywhere. The man dragged himself out of the pool, wondering what to do. What good was a woodcutter without his axe?

As the woodcutter started to turn away from the pool, a gorgeous woman appeared with the axe in her hands. The woman approached the woodcutter and handed the axe to him. In return, the mysterious woman told the man that he could never tell anyone about her (another common theme in yōkai lore). Thankful, the woodcutter promised that he would never tell another soul about having seen her that day. With that, the beautiful stranger disappeared.

Initially, the woodcutter kept his promise. Soon after the encounter, however, the man began to feel anxious about what he had seen that day. However, he still kept it to himself, out of fear of what might happen if he didn’t. One day, the woodcutter had become drunk on saké, loosening his tongue and weakening his inhibitions. He couldn’t take it anymore, and the woodcutter finally broke down and told everyone that he was with all about his encounter with the gorgeous stranger. Afterwards, the man felt greatly relieved. A sense of lethargy overtook his mind and his body, and the woodcutter fell into a deep sleep. He would never reawaken (“Jorōgumo”, Wikipedia; LeBlond 2013).

In another version of the story, the woodcutter actually falls in love with the mysterious beauty, and he began visiting the Jōren Falls every day so that he could spend time with her. But as time went by, the woodcutter grew weaker and weaker from each visit (the two were undoubtedly making love). A monk from a nearby temple took notice of this, suspecting that the Jorōgumo had ensnared the man, envenomating the woodcutter with her bite while they made love. To be sure, the monk and the woodcutter went down to the falls together to investigate. Once there, the monk pulled out a scroll inscribed with Buddhist scriptures, and he began to read.

As the monk read his sūtra, strands of webbing appeared from the pool and attempted to ensnare the woodcutter! But the monk shouted his sūtras, and the silken threads disappeared. The woodcutter now knew that the woman was a Jorōgumo (there’s more than one of these creatures), but he still loved her. The woodcutter turned to a Tengu (a powerful birdlike demon) for help. Although the Tengu was the master of the mountain’s yōkai, the bird-demon forbade their love. The woodcutter, however, couldn’t bear the thought of throwing away his feelings for the Jorōgumo. While running back to the waterfall, he was caught in the creature’s webbing and was pulled into the pool to be with his beloved forever. The woodcutter was never seen again after that (“Jorōgumo”, Wikipedia; LeBlond 2013).

Another story about the Jorōgumo can be found in Richard Freeman’s exhaustive work, The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia (CFZ Press, 2010). Once, a traveling samurai decided to spend the night at an old shrine. He spread his bedding out on the floor, put his swords aside, and laid himself down to sleep. Later that night, the samurai awoke with a start to find a gorgeous woman with a baby in her arms. The mysterious beauty held out the baby towards the warrior, and she insisted that he was the child’s father. The samurai wasn’t even remotely convinced of the lady’s claims, having never met or even seen her before. He suspected that she was some sort of supernatural being that was trying to deceive him, and decided to wait for an opportunity to strike. The woman began moving closer, still holding out her baby. Suddenly, in the flash of a moment, the samurai drew his katana and cut the woman! The woman gave out a shriek, and quickly scaled the wall and hid herself amongst the shadows on the ceiling. Now wide awake, the samurai decided to sit down and wait for dawn. Several hours later, as the sun began to shine, the samurai looked up at the ceiling and saw the corpse of a gigantic spider, lying dead in its own web. The monster was surrounded by the desiccated corpses of its previous victims. On the floor lay a small stone idol, which had been disguised as a baby by the spider-woman’s power of illusion. If the samurai had struck the idol, it would’ve shattered his sword. Needless to say, the samurai left the shrine in a hurry (Freeman 140).

As dangerous as she is, the Jorōgumo has a couple of weaknesses. No matter what form she takes, a mirror (or any other reflective surface) will reveal her true form: a monstrous spider. Once her true nature is known, the Jorōgumo will most likely attack in order to keep her true identity a secret. It’s probably best to make a hasty retreat at this point, unless one is armed and thus prepared for this sort of situation. She may also be vulnerable to Buddhist scriptures and sūtras, as seen in the previous story. Such scriptures may have power over her and could thus be used to send her away. It’s probably best to get a Buddhist priest for such purposes. But other than these two vulnerabilities, one must use common sense and rely on instinct when confronting the Jorōgumo in her human form.

Killing the Jorōgumo isn’t particularly difficult. As seen in the tale of the samurai and the spider-woman, it is made fairly clear that the Whore Spider can be harmed by cold, sharpened steel. One may assume that bullets may also work against this creature as well. But the best way to permanently rid oneself of one of these monsters (or any other supernatural beast, for that matter) is through the use of decapitation, and then burning the corpse to ashes afterwards. These two methods are pretty much foolproof, and should always be a part of any monster hunter’s back-up plan.

One doesn’t hear too much about the Jorōgumo anymore these days, unless one reads books about yōkai, plays video games, or watches anime (this blogger does all three!). It could be that, like most monsters, people simply don’t believe in her anymore. But people haven’t completely forgotten about the Whore Spider. Anyone who does a little digging (or reads the Wikipedia page) will find a great deal of information about the monster’s portrayal in popular culture. The Jorōgumo has appeared in literature, movies, television, video games, and roleplaying games in one form or another. The Whore Spider has made appearances in a number of short stories, such as “The Spider” (1919) by Hanns Heinz Ewers, Illona Andrews’ “Magic Dreams” (2012), and Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s Shisei (“The Tattooer”, 1910). Surprisingly, she has made only a few appearances in movies and television, namely in the fantastic movie Hellboy: Sword of Storms (2006), Grimm (S1/Ep11, “Tarantella”), the awesome anime Rosario + Vampire (S2/Ep01, “New Term and a Vampire”), the anime/manga xxxHolic, and the anime series Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation (2013) (which Wikipedia gave as Hyperdimension Neptunia: Monstrous Rising, so really not sure what’s accurate and what isn’t here). However, the Whore Spider’s strongest impact has been made in the video game and roleplaying game industries. The Jorōgumo (or something based off of her) can be found in the Clover Studio/Capcom action-adventure game Ōkami (2006), the character Juri Han in Super Street Fighter IV (2010), the computer game Diablo III (2012) in the form of Cydaea, the Maiden of Lust, and in the Pathfinder RPG’s Bestiary 3 (2012), which is a great read.

But despite her portrayal in television, literature, and video games, one must remember that the Jorōgumo was once considered to be very real to the people of Japan, and one must respect their beliefs and traditions. But does the Jorōgumo really exist? One must remember that the deep forests and the dark caves of Japan have remained largely unexplored, and that dozens of people go missing each year. While many of these disappearances can be explained away as accidents or suicides (especially in the regions around Mount Fuji and the Aokigahara Forest), there are still a number of disappearances that remain unexplained. Could some of those people have fallen victim to the wiles of the Jorōgumo? One is inclined to think so, and only a fool would deny the possibility. And who knows? Maybe the Jorōgumo is waiting for a man to fall for her right now. And little does he know that, once he accepts her invitation into her home, he will never be seen again by his family or his friends. Such is the fate of those men who fall for the seductive charms of the Whore Spider.

Acknowledgements

I couldn’t have done this without the help of my good friends Matthew Meyer and Richard Freeman, who allowed me to use their books in my research. Without their help, this would have been a very short entry. Thank you so much, you two! I'm so lucky to have great friends like you, and I hope that this does you proud!

Sources

Freeman, Richard. The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia: The A-Z of Japanese Monsters. Bideford, North Devon: CFZ Press, 2010.

Meyer, Matthew. The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai. N.P. Self-Published, 2012.

LeBlond, Gerard. “Before Spider-Man; There Was Jorogumo, and She Didn’t Play Nice.” The Daily Orbit. April 30, 2013. Accessed on January 7, 2016. <http://thedailyorbit.com/before-spider-man-there-was-jorogumo-and-she-didnt-play-nice/>

“Jorōgumo”. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last updated November 25, 2015. Accessed on January 7, 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jor%C5%8Dgumo>