Friday, December 28, 2012

Camazotz (The Death Bat)

Also known as the Death Bat and Sudden Bloodletter, Camazotz was the bat god of the ancient Mayan people. This vampiric winged demon was the god of darkness, violence, and sacrifice (especially blood sacrifice). The name Camazotz itself is derived from two words in the K'iche' language: kame, which means "death," and sotz', meaning "bat." Camazotz was said to inhabit Xibalba, the Mayan version of Hell. This nightmarish creature reveled in the slaughter of innocent people, and was said to be especially fond of drinking human blood. Those who devoted themselves to this deity would open a vein, fill a wooden or ceramic bowl with their blood, and would offer it up to the Death Bat. He is depicted as being a sacred vampire.

Originally, Camazotz was an anthropomorphic bat-monster worshipped by the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, and was later adopted by the Mayans as a vampire god that demanded offerings of blood from it's followers in exchange for the deity's favors or aid. The cult of Camazotz itself began sometime around 100 B.C. Camazotz is featured prominently in the Popul Vuh, a compendium of Mayan mythology and beliefs. In Xibalba, the demon presides over a house of gigantic bat-creatures like himself in Zotzilaha (in what is now Guatemala), the only difference being that they acknowledge the Death Bat as their lord and master.

One legend tells of the Mayan Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque encountering Camazotz and his kin during their trials in the underworld. The twins had to squeeze themselves into their own blowguns to protect themselves from the circling bats. Hunahpu made the mistake of sticking his head out to see if the sun had risen. Camazotz himself immediately snatched his head off and flew up to the ballcourt, where the head would be used as the ball by the gods in their next ballgame. Xbalanque then calls upon every animal in the forest to bring him their favorite foods. One of these animals brings him a squash, from which Xbalanque carves his brother a new head. The brothers continue on through Xibalba, finally finding and defeating Camazotz (as well as other lords of the underworld), banishing him from creation.

It is thought by some that the legend of Camazotz may in fact be derived from the prehistoric vampire bat, Desmodus Draculae, or the Giant Vampire Bat. This bat is twenty-five percent larger than the common vampire bat (Desmodus Rotundus), and fossilized remains have been found that date back as recently as ten thousand years ago. Some think that D. Draculae may still be around today, and was apparently still common around the time of the Mayans. But is there something else to the legend, perhaps something supernatural? Possibly. They may never know for sure.


Camazotz, Mayan God of Bats

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By "The Cryptozoologist" (R. Merrill)
Ben Macdhui is the second highest peak in Scotland, a huge mountain with deep corries, situated in the Cairngorms: one of Scotland's finest mountain ranges, and a magnet for walkers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Ben Machdhui is also reputed to be haunted by 'something' that is popularly known as the The "Big Grey Man" (a literal translation of his Scottish Gaelic name "Am Fear Liath Mòr").

Strange experiences have been recorded on the mountain from at least the turn of the twentieth century. Various witness sightings and experiences have amalgamated into a popular image of a huge ape-like misty figure that has the malign power to send people into a blind panic. In an attempt—as some writers have speculated—to push them over the steep cliffs of Lurcher's crag.

Witness Experiences on Ben MacDhui

Professor J. Norman Collie was a highly respected scientist and mountaineer. In 1896 he was appointed Professor of Organic Chemistry at University College London and amongst his other achievements he was responsible for the first ever medical X-ray photograph. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. In the climbing world he pioneered many climbs on the Isle of Skye and in the Alps, and, in 1895, he was part of the first ever attempt on a 26,247 ft (8000m) peak in the Himalayas, Nanga Parbat. He later went on to make 21 first ascents in the Canadian Rockies. He is remembered in the names of Mount Collie in Canada and Sgurr Thormaid ("Norman's Peak") on Skye.

So when, in late 1925, the still eminent and active Professor Collie stood up to give a speech to the 27th Annual General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club in Aberdeen, he was a man whose words carried a great deal of weight with his audience. Which added all the more to the impact of part of what he had to say, about an experience he had while alone on the summit of Ben MacDhui in the Cairngorms, 34 years earlier in 1891:

"I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. For every few steps I took I heard a crunch, and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself, "This is all nonsense". I listened and heard it again, but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch, sounded behind me, I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it, I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui and I will not go back there again by myself I know."

Professor Collie's comments caused a sensation and attracted a great deal of press coverage. Suddenly other respectable and responsible climbers and hillwalkers started to acknowledge that they, too, had similar experiences on Ben MacDhui but had not broadcast them before for fear of ridicule.

Alastair Borthwick's superb 1939 book about climbing in Scotland, Always a Little Further relates the accounts of two climbers he knew who had experienced what by then was becoming known as Am Fear Liath Mòr, Ferlas Mor, or the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, because of its appearance when briefly glimpsed by a few of those who encountered it.

The first was alone, heading over MacDhui for Corrour on a night when the snow had a hard, crisp crust through which his boots broke at every step. He reached the summit and it was while he was descending the slopes which fall towards the Larig that he heard footsteps behind him, footsteps not in the rhythm of his own, but occurring only once for every three steps he took.

"I felt a queer crinkly feeling in the back of my neck," he said, "but I said to myself, 'This is silly, there must be a reason for it.' So I stopped, and the footsteps stopped, and I sat down and tried to reason it out. I could see nothing. There was a moon about somewhere, but the mist was fairly thick. The only thing I could make of it was that when my boots broke through the snow-crust they made some sort of echo. But then every step should have echoed, and not just this regular one-in-three. I was scared stiff. I got up, and walked on, trying hard not to look behind me. I got down all right—the footsteps stopped a thousand feet above the Larig—and I didn't run. But if anything had so much as said 'Boo!' behind me, I'd have been down to Corrour like a streak of lightning!"

The second man's experience was roughly similar. He was on MacDhui, and alone. He heard footsteps. He was climbing in daylight, in summer; but so dense was the mist that he was working by compass, and visibility was almost as poor as it would have been at night. The footsteps he heard were made by something or someone trudging up the fine screes which decorate the upper parts of the mountain, a thing not extraordinary in itself, though the steps were only a few yards behind him, but exceedingly odd when the mist suddenly cleared and he could see no living thing on the mountain, at that point devoid of cover of any kind.

"Did the steps follow yours exactly?" I asked him. "No," he said. "That was the funny thing. They didn't. They were regular all right; but the queer thing was that they seemed to come once for every two and a half steps I took." He thought it queerer still when I told him the other man's story. You see, he was long-legged and six feet tall, and the first man was only five-feet-seven.

Once I was out with a search-party on MacDhui; and on the way down after an unsuccessful day I asked some of the gamekeepers and stalkers who were with us what they thought of it all. They worked on MacDhui, so they should know. Had they seen Ferlas Mor? Did he exist, or was it just a silly story? They looked at me for a few seconds, and then one said: "We do not talk about that."

These were the first recorded encounters of the Grey Man and caused something of a sensation at the time, creating a lot of interest in the mountain and its possible other-world denizen. It is interesting to note that Cameron McNeish, the respected outdoor author and walker, has noted that Norman Collie was a well known practical joker. He would certainly have been amused by all the publicity that was generated by the story.

A second hand account exists that the mountaineer Henry Kellas, and his brother witnessed a giant figure on the mountain around the turn of the 20th Century, which caused them to flee down Corrie Etchachan. This has never been verified as Henry Kellas died on the Everest reconnaissance mission of 1921, before Norman Collie's speech to the Cairngorm Club.

In 1945 a climber named Peter Densham reported hearing footsteps and fleeing the mountain in panic. Peter was part of the team that was responsible for aeroplane rescue in the Cairngorms during the war.

Another experience on the mountain by Alexander Tewnion—Naturalist and Mountaineer—appeared in The Scots Magazine, in June 1958. It took place in 1943 when he was climbing Ben Macdhui armed with a loaded revolver in search of game for the pot (perhaps naturalist was stretching it a bit). He was returning from the mountain by the Corrie Etchachnan track in fear of getting caught in a storm, here is his account of the event:

"I am not unduly imaginative, but my thought flew instantly to the well-known story of professor Collie and the Fear Liath Mhor. Then I felt the reassuring weight of the loaded revolver in my pocket. Grasping the butt, I peered about in the mist here rent and tattered by the eddies of wind. A strange shape loomed up, receded, came charging at me! Without hesitation I whipped out the revolver and fired three times at the figure. When it still came on I turned and hared down the path, reaching Glen Derry in a time that I have never bettered. You may ask was it really the Fear Laith Mhor? Frankly I think it was. Many times since then I have traversed MacDhui in the mist, bivouacked out in the open, camped on its summit for days on end on different occasions—often alone, and always with an easy mind. For on that day I am convinced I shot the only Fear Liath Mhor my imagination will ever see."

Fortunately for Alexander the figure that he filled with lead was intangible and not a lost tourist, this account does show that by 1958 the Fear Liath Mhor had become part of the popular culture of the mountain.

Another witness encounter involved a friend of the author Richard Frere, who wished to remain anonymous. He was camping on top of the mountain when he saw a large brown creature swaggering away down the mountainside in the moonlight. He estimated the size of the figure at around twenty feet tall. Author Wendy Wood heard footsteps following her in the vicinity of the mountain, after hearing Gaelic music, and there have been other reports of phenomena on the mountain, from ghostly music, feelings of panic to the discovery of huge footprints in the 1940's.

Reports are not wholly confined to Ben MacDhui either. One day during the early 1920s, while coming down alone from Braeraich in Glen Eanaich. which is close to Ben MacDhui. experienced mountaineer Tom Crowley heard footsteps behind him. When he looked around, he was horrified to see a huge grey mist shrouded figure with pointed ears, long legs and finger-like talons on its feet. He did not stay for a closer look.

Wales's answer to the Big Grey Man is the Grey King, also known as the Brenin Llwyd or Monarch of the Mist. Said to frequent Snowdon. Cader Idris Plynlimon and other lofty peaks, this awesome entity was greatly feared in times past as a child-stealer, and even the mountainguides were nervous of venturing into its domain.


In appearance, the Big Gray Man most often resembles an enormous human, between ten and twenty feet tall, covered all over with a thick layer of hair or fur. He is usually described as gray, sometimes as brown. The head and neck are disproportionately large in comparison to the rest of the body. The ears are pointed. The toes are very long, more like fingers than toes, and end in large, sharp talons. The Big Gray Man has long legs, but the arms are not longer in proportion to the rest of his body than they would be on a human being. In overall appearance, he is described as far closer to man than ape. The Big Gray Man walks very erect, not stooped over or humped like some hairy humanoids. In some sightings, he wears a top hat. He is often partially shrouded by mist or fog, which seems to come with him and retreat when he retreats.

Sightings have been reported since at least the 1700s, and continue to the present day. A number of famous mountain climbers have sworn that the Big Gray Man is real because of personal encounters. Footprints have been photographed, but these are abnormal even for a Bigfoot-type creature. The 19-inch prints are nearly as wide as they are long.

It should be noted that spelling variations between American and British versions of English sometimes make it hard to look up information about the Big Gray Man. Most American authors write "Big Gray Man" while European authors write "Big Grey Man" ("gray" is spelled with an "e" in Britain).


There have been many explanations for the Grey Man phenomena, but looking at the experiences as a whole there are actually very few sightings of a 'Grey Man'. Most accounts are associated with feeling rather than actual physical sightings, and even those that are sightings do not agree: A huge grey mist-like figure, a great brown creature 20 feet tall, and a dark human shaped figure.

Some people have put forward the theory that a wild-man or yeti type creature inhabits the area. I think we can safely dismiss this, I have met some wild men from the area, but they were much less hairy than the average yeti and more inclined to be propping up a bar in the wee hours than roaming the cairngorm plateaux scaring the wits out of hapless tourists. Besides explaining a mystery with another mystery is never a good option.

A more reasonable explanation for some of the sightings of huge figures in the mist could be phenomena known as the Brocken spectre, named after the German mountains where the effect was first discovered. An early account of such an event occurs in In the Shadow of Cairngorm by The Rev. W. Forsyth,

'Sir Thomas Dick Lauder describes such an appearance (Edinburgh New Philosophic Journal, 1831.)

“On descending from the top (of Ben Mac Dhui) at about half-past three P.M., an interesting optical appearance presented itself to our view. We had turned towards the east, and the sun shone on our backs, when we saw a very bright rainbow described on the mist before us. The bow, of beautifully distinct prismatic colours, formed about two-thirds of a circle, the extremities of which appeared to rest on the lower portion of the mountain. In the centre of this incomplete circle there was described a luminous disc, surrounded by the prismatic colours displayed in concentric rings. On the disc itself, each of the party (three in number), as they stood about fifty yards apart, saw his own figure most distinctly delineated, although those of the other two were invisible to him. The representation appeared of the natural size, and the outline of the whole person of the spectator was most correctly portrayed. To prove that the shadow seen by each individual was that of himself, we resorted to various gestures, such as waving our hats, flapping our plaids, etc., all which motions were exactly followed by the airy figure.”

This account shows that the Brocken effect, where shadows are reflected onto mist banks giving the appearance of huge figures, has occurred on Ben Machdhui.

An interesting explanation for the sound of following footsteps was put forward some years ago, and appeared in the popular Trail magazine. It was suggested that the sound could be caused by freezing action upon footprints recently created in snow. We would first have to presume that the encounter in 1891, and other witness testimonies of footsteps, took place in the appropriate conditions.

The most common factor that links the experiences on the mountain is the feeling of blind panic that the witnesses feel. Some researchers have named such experiences 'Mountain Panic' which is basically a blind panic in wild places. Either as a feeling of a powerful presence, or just an overwhelming sense of fear about nature or something that lies behind nature. This kind of encounter is not uncommon: Chris Townsend the respected long distance walker and author mentions such an experience in 'The Munro's and the Tops'. In Glen Strathfarrar on a track by the Allt Innis a'Mhuill. Chris had an overwhelming feeling of a presence watching him, waiting for him to leave. Rennie McOwan mentions a similar experience in his Magic Mountains, and I have heard first hand accounts of similar experiences in wild places. The mechanisms behind this are not at all clear. Some witnesses felt that it was a power behind nature itself, usually hostile (unsurprising given man's track record), and have felt compelled to get away from the area as quickly as possible. When this occurs all the rationality in the word cannot stem the depth of feeling involved. In classical times these experiences were identified with the nature god Pan, who lends his name to the word Pan-ic itself. Whether these experiences are a combination of location, solitude and unfamiliarity, or an actual physical effect is unclear.

In folklore there is a whole denizen of nasties wandering the wilderness perhaps old explanations for the feeling people felt and experienced in the wild areas. From the hideous Nuckelavee, and the Each Uisge, to the Headless Trunk of the MacDonalds, Folklore has a virtual who's who of things you would not like to meet down a dark valley.

Ben Machdui is a marvellous mountain in a stunning and prestigious wild area. Whether haunted or not the mountain will hopefully remain an unspoiled wild part of Scotland into the future. Personally I believe the Grey Man to be modern Folklore, perhaps relating to older legends, a belief I will repeat in my mind if I ever hear slow thunderous footsteps behind me in the Lairig Ghru.


Daniel Parkinson


"Am Fear Liath Mòr, the Big Grey Man", Undiscovered Scotland: The Ultimate Online Guide. Located at: The Grey Man.

The Grey Man of Ben Macdhui, Mysterious Britain & Ireland: Mysteries, Legends & the Paranormal. Located at The Grey Man of Ben MacDhui.

Dr. Karl P.N. Shuker, The Unexplained, pp. 36-37,Carlton Books, 1996.

For other great books on the subject, check these out.

Grey, Affleck. The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui. Aberdeen, Scotland: Impulse Books, 1970.

McEwan, Graham J. Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland. London: Robert Hale, 1986. Pages 171-172

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 59, 198

Redfern, Nick. Three Men Seeking Monsters: Six Weeks in Pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters, Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs, and Ape-Men. New York: Paraview Pocket Books, 2004. Pages 21, 217-226

Shuker, Karl P. N. Scotland's Greyman.


My thanks and gratitude go to my good friend and fellow monster hunter Randy Merrill for allowing me to use and repost his essay on the Big Grey Man. This creature has fascinated me for a few years now, and I will one day (probably not anytime soon) do a study of my own on this creature. The Grey Man is a supernatural entity as much as it is an unknown hominid. It could be both. Only time will tell.

Randy's cryptozoology blog may be found here:
The Cryptozoologist. You may also find him on Facebook, where you may also find me, Kyle Germann.

You may find an excellent article on the Big Grey Man here: The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, by Dr. Bob Curran.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Baykok

Forests have long been believed to contain supernatural evil, and the forests of America are no exception. For centuries, Native American tribes have told stories of monsters and demons that hunt in the night for human prey, and they are still whispered about in modern times. One such creature comes in the form of a walking skeleton that hunts for human victims at all hours, day or night. It was once human, but now nothing remains of the man it once was. This monster is known as the Baykok, and it is driven by a ravenous hunger to feed on humans.

The Baykok is an evil spirit or a revenant that originates from Chippewa mythology and folklore, although this harbinger of doom has been encountered by the Ojibwa and Algonquin Indians as well. Among these people, the Baykok is an unstoppable killer. It stalks and murders people without even a trace of remorse, for all such human sentiments left it when it arose as an undead creature. In other words, the only things that this monster cares about is hunting and feeding. Morality plays no part in this creature's existence.
The Baykok’s origins aren’t completely understood, even to this day. However, some evidence suggests that the Baykok may once have been a proud hunter and a fearless warrior. One day, he was out hunting, but his quarry led him far, far off the game trail. Eventually, not only did he lose his prey, but he became hopelessly lost as well. Several days later, on the verge of death from starvation and angry at being deprived of the privilege to fully enjoy his life and the glory that he felt he was due to be given, the hunter swore that his lifeforce would never leave his remains. A number of months passed, with the proud warrior now being presumed dead and mourned by his family. Sometime after his body had decomposed, he was roused from his eternal sleep by hunters. Angered and vengeful, the hunter arose from his unmarked grave as the Baykok, craving the flesh (and livers) of man.
Many Native American tribes fear the Baykok, and there are many names for the creature as well. Among these are paguk, pau’guk, baguck, bakaak (Ojibwa), and pakak (Algonquin). The word baykok may be derived from the Anishinaabe word bakaak, meaning "skeleton". But the name refers to the sense of the creature being "bones draped in skin," rather than being merely bare bones. The name also lends itself to other words, like bakaakadwengwe ("to have a lean or thin face") and bakaakadozo ("to be thin, skinny, or poor"). The word bakaak itself may be a shorter variation of bekaakadwaabewizid (a long word, eh?), which means "an extremely thin being."
The Baykok is said to inhabit the forest territories of the Great Lakes, especially if those places were once inhabited by the Chippewa. The Baykok is anthropophagous, stalking and killing humans so that it may devour their livers. However, it is likely that the Baykok consumes the victim’s flesh from time to time as well. Once it has fed, it will leave its victim to die and return to its gravesite. It is unknown if there is only a single Baykok, or if there are multiple creatures that lurk within America's forests.
According to legend, the Baykok appears as a skeletal being that is covered in a translucent layer of desiccated skin, and has a truly horrifying skull-like countenance. It may or may not have some hair remaining on its head. The creature’s eyes usually glow an unholy red, although some legends have claimed that the revenant’s eye sockets are empty black pits, soulless and wholly evil. Those who gaze into those empty, black sockets find themselves paralyzed with horror. They are then easy prey for the Baykok.
The Baykok is known to be a silent hunter, stalking and killing human prey without a hint of guilt or remorse. However, this ghoulish creature never appears to more than one individual at a time. Furthermore, the monster only preys upon hunters and warriors. The Baykok prefers to hunt at night, moving silently through the brush and the darkness in search of lone individuals. The darkness, combined with the creature's silence, makes it nearly impossible to detect the monster before it has a chance to ambush its victim. It is said that the only way to sense an impending attack from the Baykok is by hearing the popping and creaking sounds made by the creature’s bones. Even then, sensing the threat is no guarantee of survival. Although the Baykok occasionally uses a heavy war club to bludgeon its victims to death, the creature prefers a bow that fires invisible arrows, which are tipped with a poison that induces a deep, dreamless sleep in those hit by the arrows. In this state (which lasts several hours), the unfortunate victim cannot feel any pain. All the better for the Baykok, as it can now feast upon its hapless victim.
Before it eats, the Baykok unsheathes a small silver knife, and slices open the victim’s abdomen. The revenant then thrusts its bony hand into the cavity, removes the liver, and greedily consumes the organ. After dining, the Baykok shoves a rock into the empty cavity, and finishes by sewing the wound shut with a magic thread that heals any and all superficial signs of the incision. The unsuspecting victim then wakes up the next morning in the middle of the woods, most often with no recollection of their encounter with the ghoulish creature. Surprisingly, the unfortunate individual often lives for days or even weeks without any adverse side effects, despite having unknowingly lost such a vital organ.  Then the victim suddenly becomes violently sick, inevitably wasting away and dying. Doctors will be at a loss to explain the cause of death and, even if they do figure out that the deceased is missing their liver, how will they explain that and how the victim managed to live for so long without it? There are no exceptions, nor is there any cure or a way to restore the lost organ. But fortunately, the Baykok never willingly approaches a human civilization, as the creature itself is extremely reluctant to leave the safety of the forest it calls home. The Baykok knows its forest domain better than a seasoned woodsman, using this knowledge to set ambushes, to track prey without being detected in turn, and to escape those that may be hunting it.
Although a skeletal entity, the Baykok retains the same degree of strength as it possessed during its lifetime, probably through mystical means. The creature is far more agile and much quicker than it was in life, being free of the limitations of heavy muscle and flesh. To make matters worse, the Baykok is impervious to most weapons and attacks (including blades and firearms). In addition, the Baykok is highly proficient with the bow and arrow, and is skilled in the use of its war club. To even have a chance against this creature, one must be an expert in armed combat (or just plain lucky). And even then, it is very unlikely that any attack against the revenant’s unliving body will actually be effective at all.
One of the most horrifying aspects of the Baykok is that the creature has no known weaknesses that may be used against it. Holy water, religious icons, and perhaps even blessed weapons have no effect on this revenant. However, like most of the corporeal Undead, the Baykok may have some sort of susceptibility to fire. And, since this revenant is little more than a dried-up skeleton, some sort of bludgeoning attack is advisable if a fight is unavoidable (use the creature’s own war club for this, if necessary). And since the Baykok is clinically dead, one cannot actually kill the creature. However, despite what the legends say, there may be a way to destroy it. It may be necessary to hunt down the Baykok to its lair deep in the forest, confront it, and break its brittle bones to splinters with a heavy bludgeon (a flanged mace works best). Then, the remains of the creature (every single fragment) should be gathered up and placed in a pile of dry wood, and then salted and thoroughly soaked in gasoline or lighter fluid. Then, a lit match should be thrown onto the pile, igniting it. The fire should be constantly fed until nothing remains of the Baykok except for ashes. If luck holds out, this should permanently destroy the creature and prevent it from ever rising again. However, be aware that this is only a theory, and has never actually been tested.
Is the Baykok still feared today? Quite possibly. Even if cultures die out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the horrors of the night that they feared die out with them. Although reports of encounters with this creature are very rare in this day and age, hikers in the woods still go missing with alarming frequency. Who is to say that at least some of these disappearances are not the work of the Baykok? And even more disturbing is that the remains of many hikers are never found. This points to one possible conclusion: that the Baykok lives, and it still hungers for the taste of human flesh…
Blackman, W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Monsters: Everything You Need To Know About Encountering Over 100 Terrifying Creatures In The Wild. New York: Three Rivers Press. Copyright ©1998 by W. Haden Blackman.
Brown, Nathan Robert. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies. New York: Alpha Books. Copyright ©2010 by Nathan Robert Brown.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Vampire of Guadalajara: A Guest Entry by Rev. Robin Swope

Maria was always an inquisitive girl. She liked to poke and prod around everything she encountered ever since she was a young child. Her family had lived on Nardo street in Guadalajara, Mexico all of her young life. Like most of the children in her neighborhood the streets were their playground and she had explored every nook and cranny of the streets that surrounded her home. One spot that truly fascinated her was the cemetery that was only a few blocks away, El Panteon de Belen. It is an ancient cemetery with many supernatural legends surrounding its occupants. Maria was only two years old when she first went there on November 2nd during a festival for the day of the dead. The cemetery had been turned into a museum long ago and the day of the dead celebrations would go on into the night with puppet shows and plays preformed throughout the graveyards property. She didn’t know when she first heard the story of the Vampire’s grave, it seemed as though it had been a part of her experience of El Panteon de Belen for as long as she could remember.

The story is told that long ago there was a vampire who stalked the countryside of Guadalajara in the early 19th century. Livestock and newborn babies were attacked in the middle of the night and all of their blood was drained from their lifeless bodies. The local citizens were on alert and during the dark hours of early morning a man was seen skulking back into his house after another reported attack of El Vampiro. A mob was formed and they burst into his house and killed him while he lay in his bed. A crude wooden stake was driven through his heart and he was buried unceremoniously in El Panteon de Belen. The stick was fed by his preternatural blood and soon it grew into a massive tree that burst open the tomb of El Vampiro. Legend has it that if you cut a limb from the tree you will see blood mingled with the sap ooze from the stump. An old prophecy claims that once the tree completely overgrows the grave and pushes the coffin up to the ground, El Vampiro will be free to rise again and take his revenge upon the citizens of Guadalajara.
This story fascinated and frightened Maria, and she would often stare at the opened hole of the crypt of El Vampiro whenever she visited the cemetery. Sometimes she was sure she thought something moved in the shadows, but her mother told her that her imagination was overactive from watching too many movies on television. But as she grew, the fascination with the crypt and the certainty that something was moving in its stygian darkness motivated her to visit the grave more frequently.
When she was 11 she her curiosity about the site was piqued and she decided to investigate the grave up close without anyone to bother her. After her parents had gone to bed she snuck out of the house after midnight and stealthfully walked the busy streets of Guadalajara and climbed the walls of El Panteon de Belen. The caretaker was usually guarding the grounds with his dog but luckily for her they had retreated to some location or another and she was not harassed as she made her way through the moldy and decaying crypts to the great tree. When she arrived at the grave of El Vampiro she stood undecided for a few moments as fear gripped her heart, but she then cast these feelings aside and boldly skirted the makeshift fence that was erected to keep out the curious and vandals during normal visiting hours.
The cracked top of the crypt seemed like a bottomless pit as she carefully crawled toward it. She saw no movement now, only a gaping black pit where nothing was discernable. Fear once again seized her heart, but she once again pushed these emotions aside and moved on with sheer determination.
She let her legs drop down into the hole and took out the small candle and lighter that she had tucked away in her dress pockets. With a quick flick she lit the wick and the small illumination gave her just enough light to find a footing in the crypt. She lowered herself down only to find herself in a cramped oblong tomb not much larger than the metal casket she stood upon. There was just enough head room for her to slouch while on her knees as she beheld the old iron casket in the dim light. The metal was thin and very rusty, and it seemed to give a little as she distributed her weight on its lid. There was some writing on the lid at the head and she scooted herself to get a closer look. When she did so the metal began to buckle and flake as the corroded metal gave way and a small hole began to form at her knee no bigger than a baseball. She shifted her weight away and leaned to read the writing, but it was too rusted and the lighting too dim for her to distinguish what the old lettering actually said.
It was then that she felt something touch her leg.
It was something that was coming out of the coffin.
She screamed and bumped her head on the inner lid of the crypt, but the daze that overcame her did not prevent her from quickly making her way out of the crypt’s hole with remarkable speed.
She ran all the way home, and it was not until she opened the door did she see the blood.
It was trickling down her arm from a cut on the top of her head, and she had bled so much that the top half of her dress was a crimson stain. She managed to sneak in her house undetected and quickly disrobed and washed the cut on her head, luckily it did not seem that bad and the blood had stopped flowing. Her hair would hide it as it healed, and she washed her dress in the sink to hide all evidence of her nightly excursion.

She did not sleep at all that night though, for at every slight sound in the night or movement on the street outside of her window she was brought back to the terror she experienced in the crypt. She was sure El Vampiro was after her. After all, not only did something come out of the coffin and touched her, she had bled in the vampire’s crypt. Surely once he tasted her blood he would want more.
She felt sick the following day partially because of the lack of sleep and partially because of the throbbing headache she felt from the wound on her head. But she did her household chores without complaining or telling her parents what had transpired the night before. And even though exhausted from the previous night without sleep and a full day of work, that evening she could not rest but instead lay rocking in her bed for hours fearful of the thing in the crypt. Finally she succumbed to exhaustion and fitfully fell into a half wakeful slumber. She awoke to see a dark figure standing over her bed. It was a tall man with no discernable features who just stood there watching. Maria screamed and her parents ran to her bedside. As soon as the lights were turned on the figure vanished, but the young girl was hysterical. In tears she confessed to her parents of the previous nights adventure and the thing she had seen at her bed. They were terrified, not because of the dark figure but at the fact that the young girl had been roaming the streets in the middle of the night and had hurt herself. They calmed her down and assured her that it was just a figure of her imagination. The next day they brought her to a doctor who tended to her wound and found that there was a slight infection. He too assured little Maria that the specter at the end of her bed was just an illusion from her wound and lack of sleep.
But the dark figure returned the next night. Maria awoke to pain on her head and the dark figure was leaning over her. The girl’s screams alerted her parents, and this time when they came into her room they found her pillow had a spot of blood on it. Maria’s wound had seemed to open once again. The girl was sure that it was El Vampiro taking another drink of her blood, and after they once again dressed her wound the girl refused to sleep alone in the bed, so her mother sat by her resting in a chair.
For two nights the mother slept in the room and even though she slept soundly the girl seemed to weaken. The wound also refused to heal. The doctor had no idea why the wound would seem to heal during the day but reopen during the night. Maria was adamant that it was the work of the vampire ghost that attacked her, but her parents just regarded this as foolishness. That all changed on the third night after Maria’s fateful excursion. The mother sat with Maria for a while, until she fell off to sleep. Then she made herself ready to retire into her bedroom, but first stopped in the bathroom to freshen up before bed. On her way to her bedroom she quickly checked on Maria. Peering through the half opened door she saw her daughter lying asleep in bed and what looked to be a man standing over her in the darkness. She screamed for her husband and burst the door open and in the half second before the specter disappeared she swore she saw at look up at her with glowing eyes of fire. And once again the wound on Maria’s head was bleeding. The family was now convinced they were dealing with no normal wound, but they had no idea what to do.
While Maria’s family was not religious, Maria’s grandmother was a stout Pentecostal and she asked her minister for help. Although he had no formal training in such matters he did believe in the supernatural powers of darkness and decided to help anyway he could. Rev. Guivez visited with the family one night and talked at length with Maria. He anointed the wound with oil and prayed over her and the family in her bedroom. Immediately a porcelain doll flew off a nearby shelf and crashed into the wall just above the Reverend’s head. The minister was shaken up but still having his wits about him immediately demanded that the activity cease and the entity that was appearing and causing the harm to the girl immediately leave the room. Within seconds the room became cold and a mist began to swirl next to Maria. Every person there swore it looked like it was taking the shape of a man. Reverend Guivez immediately invoked the name of Christ and demanded that it cease and desist, and to his surprise the mist began to fade. With new found authority he demanded again that the entity leave the house immediately; and suddenly they heard the house cat in the next room screech in terror. The father turned to see it run frantically around the house as if insane and then jumped out an open window, and into the heavy traffic of Nardo street. It was run over and killed instantly.

The apparitions stopped and within a few days Maria’s wound began to heal for good. She never again went to El Panteon de Belen, not even to celebrate the day of the dead. She grew up to be a well adjusted young woman with a fantastic story to tell. After everyone in the church and the neighborhood heard of Maria’s tale, Reverend Guivez soon was called to many people and places where spiritual deliverance was needed. He quickly found himself doing more exorcism than marriages in his ministry at the Pentecostal church.

According to the e-mail that I received from which this story comes, the tree over El Vampiro’s crypt was cut down . Only a stump remains. There was no blood as they took the saw to the old wood. But that has not stopped the stories of El Vampiro’s hauntings. To this day his crypt has a vast hole on the top beckoning visitors to El Panteon de Belen to come in for a closer look.
If you visit this cemetery in Guadalajara, do not be tempted to explore the crypt yourself.

You never know what you might find.
Until next time,
Pastor Swope

The original story can be found at The Vampire's Ghost of Guadalajara.


My thanks go to my good friend Rev. Robin Swope for allowing me to repost this story in my blog. He has done so much for this blog (and for me), and I hope to meet him in person someday for an interview.

The first time I heard this story, it was in Brad Steiger's Real Vampires, Night Stalkers, and Creatures from the Darkside (Visible Ink Press, 2010). I recently purchased this book in near-perfect condition from a used bookstore by the name of Half-Price Books. I never got around to buying it from Amazon. This story is incredibly creepy, and good one at that. But just what is my opinion on the case, you ask? Honestly, I'm not sure. The creature is not a traditional folkloric Vampire. It seems to feed on blood, yes, but it also appears and disappears at will. The creature seems to detest bright lights (but doesn't seem to be harmed by them). And yet it is able to take on a corporeal or semi-corporeal form to feed. The only being that even comes close to matching this description is an Astral Vampire (known in occult circles as an Etheric Vampire or an Etheric Revenant). However, the Astral Vampire requires nightly feeding to keep its etheric form from completely disintegrating. An Etheric Vampire could not have survived in its grave for a long period before someone foolishly tried to investigate. This species of Vampire, like most revenants, retreats to its grave during the day to re-enter its body and digest its meal.  But unlike the corporeal undead, the Astral Vampire isn't limited by physical distances. It may have been feeding on the surrounding community, but really didn't start making trouble until this young woman decided to go legend-tripping. And she almost paid the price. But I'm not sure entirely what to make of this case. But one day, I intend to go to Guadalajara and, if the tomb is still there, to salt and burn whatever remains are to be found within the confines of the grave.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Draugr

Undead (Corporeal, Restless)
Other Names
The Draugr is known to the Norsemen by two distinctive names: Draug and Aptrgangr (literally, "one who walks after death").
The Draugr (pronounced “drah-ger”) is one of the most feared of the Undead, and goes by many names. There is more than one species of the creature as well. One, the Draug, is bound to the sea and terrorizes sailors. The Aptrgangr is merely another name for the creature. The Haugbui is another, weaker species of the Scandinavian Undead altogether. This creature doesn’t leave its burial mound to hunt, but stays inside its mound at all times, killing anyone who enters. However, it will leave to slay an intruder immediately outside of the mound.
The Draugr inhabits the burial mounds of deceased Viking warriors, inhabiting the dead warriors’ bodies and reanimating them for evil purposes. Usually, the Draugr can be found in Norway, Scandinavia, and Iceland, although the creature may also be found on the coasts of America, where the Vikings once settled.
The Draugr is purely anthropophagous and takes great delight in devouring the flesh and blood of its victims, preferring to tear them from limb from limb before ripping into the unfortunate victim’s corpse.
The Draugr appears much as it did in life, except for its pale, corpselike countenance or a deathly blue skin tone. It reeks of death and decay. Sometimes, the revenant is described as having a skull-like face, and it always has glowing red eyes. The Draugr always has a heavy, muscular build and the creature is usually dressed in decaying leather and corroded steel armor. More often than not, the Draugr will carry weapons, such as a sword or an axe.
The Draugr may be a vicious, powerful killer, but it is also paranoid, selfish, and greedy. Since the Vikings were often buried with great amounts of wealth, the Draugr greedily guards its horde. The revenant will attack and kill anyone who tries to take even one gold piece.
From time to time, when darkness falls, the Draugr will leave its grave unguarded for a short period of time, and will attack sleeping humans. The creature’s attack is highly destructive, leaving only torn and blood-covered bodies in its wake. The revenant then feasts on the warm flesh and flowing blood with an unnatural relish. Once it has had its fill, the Draugr hurries back to the burial mound to check on its treasure.

The Draugr is an undead monster, driven by nothing more than its utter hatred of the living and its hunger for human flesh and blood. The Draugr has supernatural strength and endurance, being so powerful that it crushes its victims to death and rips the unfortunate individual limb from limb before feasting on the corpse. According to some legends, the Draugr can increase its size at will, effectively doubling its already-considerable strength.
The Draugr is said to be able to command the weather, summoning thick fog to conceal itself as it leaves its cairn to hunt. It is able to call upon fierce storms to slow down any pursuers (most often the family of the revenant’s victims). The Draugr is a shapeshifter, able to transform itself into a great gray wolf, a seal, or a large predatory bird at will. These forms allow the revenant to cover great distances at speed, while arousing minimal suspicion from the living.
The Draugr is greatly feared, not only because of its great strength and shapeshifting abilities, but because the creature is completely impervious to all weapons forged by human hands. Swords shatter on its breast, spears break, arrows splinter, and bullets bounce off. There is almost no way to physically harm or kill the Draugr.
The Draugr is a virtually unstoppable monster, and possesses only a handful of weaknesses. According to one legend, one man drove the revenant away using a mixture of herbs and his own semen. This man was eventually burned at the stake as a witch. 
The only other weaknesses the Draugr could possibly have is fire and decapitation. Fire is a vulnerability shared by most of the corporeal undead, a sure sign that nature itself rebels against the very existence of the undead. However, decapitation only works after the creature has been wrestled to the ground and defeated. Therefore, decapitation and burning are the only methods of permanently destroying the Draugr.
Slaying the Draugr
While this unliving horror cannot be slain in the traditional sense, there is one way to defeat the Draugr. A hero, one who is pure of heart and is in good standing with God, must face the creature with only his bare hands, for only by wrestling this revenant into submission can one hope to defeat this monster. Then, the creature must be decapitated (preferably with the Draugr’s own sword or axe), and burned to ashes. Some people took the extra precaution of driving a wooden stake through the corpse before decapitating and cremating the Draugr (which is why this revenant is sometimes identified with the Vampire). Unfortunately, such dignified warriors are very rare, and the average man stands no chance against the fury of a hungry Draugr.
However, some legends suggest that the Draugr is susceptible to weapons made of cold-forged iron. This is a likely means of slaying this creature, since all evil fears iron. Whether this actually works or not is subject to folklore.


The Draugr is a strange revenant that is found in Norway and the surrounding regions. It is created when a demonic spirit possesses the deceased corpse of a Viking warrior, creating an undead monstrosity so powerful that no weapons forged by mortal men can possibly harm the creature. This revenant is not of this world. The Draugr is one of the few things that Viking warriors truly feared, as they were fearless and brutal in battle. It is believed that one who is slain by the Draugr will arise from the grave as one of the Undead

Maberry, Jonathan. The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead. Doylestown, Pennsylvania: Strider Nolan Publishing. Copyright ©2003 by Jonathan Maberry.

Curran, Dr. Bob. Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night. Franklin Lakes, NJ: The Career Press, Inc. Copyright ©2005 by Dr. Bob Curran.

The Walking Dead: Draugr and Aptrgangr in Old Norse Literature (The Viking Answer Lady)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

La Lechusa (The Witch Owl)

In the Hispanic folklore of Mexico and Texas, tales are told of a strange shapeshifting witch known as La Lechusa. In Spanish, the word lechusa (also spelled lechuza) simply means “owl.” To those who believe the stories, she is known as the "Witch Owl" or the “Witch Bird.” According to legend, La Lechusa was once a curandera (someone who practices white magic) who, after being exposed as a witch (or bruja), was killed by the angry and frightened townspeople. Folklore says that she returned from beyond the grave as a ghost to seek revenge upon those who murdered her in the form of a human-sized bird with a woman’s face. Sometimes, she is the ghost of a woman who was widowed by a man who remarried, or was the devoted wife of an unfaithful husband. At least, that’s what they say.

The legend of La Lechusa is very popular in Mexico and Texas. She can appear at any time, and seems to be particularly widespread in Zavala County. She particularly enjoys attacking people who have had one too many beers. Many people believe in her existence, while others claim to have actually seen this creature. The legends seem to vary quite a bit. In some, she is a vengeful spirit. In others, she is a woman that has sold her soul to the Devil in order to gain supernatural powers. Every night, she is said to transform into a five to six-foot tall bird (most commonly an owl) with the face of a beautiful or wizened old woman and enormous wings. This resembles the Harpy of Greek mythology in many ways, but she also bears traits of the Siren and the Banshee. And like those two entities, La Lechusa uses sound that bears a supernatural compulsion to lure her prey to her. It is said that when Lechusa locates her prey, she perches herself in a hidden area, and will then commence making strange whistling sounds or an eerie sound resembling the crying of a newborn baby. And anyone who attempts to locate the source of the sound risks their lives, for they may become the Witch Bird’s next meal. Once she has them in her sights, she swoops down on the confused and frightened individual and carries them off to her lair, where she may devour them at her leisure. In the manner of the Banshee of Irish and Scottish legend, to hear the cry of the Witch Bird is an omen that someone in the household of the one who heard the cry will die. In this day and age, most encounters with La Lechusa occur when she swoops down on cars that are driving on a deserted road late at night. Usually, nobody is hurt in these encounters. But all who report such sightings mention one thing: the encounter terrified them. 

Having made a pact with Satan as a witch, La Lechusa possesses supernatural powers that are granted by her magic and her shapeshifting abilities. The Lechusa possesses a nearly supernatural degree of strength, as she can pick up children and possibly adults with her talons and carry them off. This makes her more powerful than any known bird. One of the distinguishing powers of the Witch Owl is her ability to summon storms (and, quite possibly, to direct and control them). In the olden days, sightings of La Lechusa almost always coincided with the appearance of thunderstorms. One of the more obvious abilities of La Lechusa is her power of shapeshifting. She is able to become a man-sized bird creature by night. However, it is unknown if she is able to take the form of other birds, or if she is only limited to becoming an owl (although some legends do tell of her becoming an eagle). Furthermore, as mentioned previously, she can disguise her voice to make it sound like a crying infant’s in order to draw human prey closer. It is said that La Lechusa is immortal, and that mere bullets and forged steel cannot harm her. 

Other legends of the Witch Bird beg to differ. According to these tidbits of folklore, La Lechusa can be killed or warded off. Like most creatures that serve the darkness, the Lechusa hates salt (renowned for its purity). An unbroken line or circle of salt should ward her off (either table salt or sea salt will work, but it must be free of any impurities, like iodide). Saying the “Hail Mary” backwards (in Spanish) will cause her to flee. Cussing at the creature in Spanish will also drive the Witch Bird away. Some of the older tales suggest that a Mexican shaman can walk out to where the Lechusa is supposed to be and, after he recites a specific prayer, the creature will drop dead out of the tree. It is recommended that one fall back on four basic remedies if La Lechusa comes after them: Prayer, tying seven knots into a piece of string or a rope, hiring a good witch (again, a curandera), and finally, blasting the creature with a shotgun while she has taken the form of a bird. Some legends say that the gun must be loaded with bullets that have a cross engraved into the bullet's head (which can be done by cutting into the soft lead with a knife to make the cross shape). Folklore varies widely, so knowing all of this may prove to be invaluable when hunting this creature. 

Ironically, it is said by some that not all Lechusa are evil, or even bad. Some only go after those who have done harm to others. But, as the people of the border say, “Las lechuzas, por regular, no son peligrosas.” What does this mean? That La Lechusa is not dangerous. Normally.


I would like to thank my good friend Jaime Gallinar (aka Cryptid Hunter) for introducing me to this strange creature the other day. He provided resources and information for me when I needed it. Thanks, Jaime! I owe you one, man!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Kung-Lu

Something vicious stalks the lower passes of the Himalayas. Something that feeds on the flesh and blood of whatever humans it can find. This beast, this monster, is known to the natives of the Himalayas as the Kung-Lu. In their language, the name itself means “great hulking thing.” While the Kung-Lu is similar to the more docile Yeti (which is still dangerous) in that the beast is a large manlike creature covered in a thick coat of fur and walks upright on two legs, the similarities end there.

Also known as Dsu-The, Ggin-Sung, or Tok, the Kung-Lu is a ferocious beast that possesses unnatural strength and toughness that aid the creature in its survival in the remote mountains, and gives it an advantage in hunting its chosen prey: humans. Ancient legends tell of tribes of the Kung-Lu raiding human settlements and villages, then slaughtering each of the inhabitants. Afterwards, the beast ate the flesh and drank the blood of their victims. Although it most commonly lives in large groups, the Kung-Lu will sometimes hunt on its own, oftentimes snatching away a small child for its meal.

Although further lore and legends are yet to be found on this hominid creature, it is commonly thought that, among the Kung-Lu tribes, there are no females of their own species. To continue the survival of its own species, the Kung-Lu is forced to abduct a human woman. It then proceeds to rape her so that she may bear the monster’s offspring. Such a birth would more than likely tear the poor girl apart, causing her to die slowly from internal bleeding. Males born of these creatures are almost always Kung-Lu. Female offspring immediately become a gory feast for these vile creatures.


Maberry, Jonathan. The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead. Doylestown, Pennsylvania: Strider Nolan Publishing. Copyright ©2003 by Jonathan Maberry.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Navajo Skinwalker

In the Navajo community, witchcraft is viewed with the highest contempt and is a very serious crime. But the most volatile and dangerous of these witches is the yenaldlooshi, which when translated means “with it, he goes on all fours” or “he that walks like an animal.” Also known as the Mai-Coh or Limmikin, it is more commonly known by outsiders as the Skinwalker. These people are witches that shapeshift into animals using magic animal skins. These people are evil to the core, bent on nothing more than destroying the lives of those around them.

The Skinwalker, while most commonly male, may be of either gender (some are even transvestites). As mentioned earlier, the Skinwalker is a type of shapeshifting witch that uses enchanted animal hides to initiate a transformation into any animal that they desire, but the most common animal forms taken by the Skinwalker are those of a wolf, a coyote, a fox, a dog, a cougar, a bear, a crow, or an owl. The shape taken by the witch depends on the sort of abilities that it may need for a given period of time. The skins of the wolf, the coyote, the dog, and the fox grant stamina, enhanced senses, and the ability to traverse great distances at speed, while the bear gives great strength, endurance, and formidable claws and teeth. The cougar’s hide bestows speed, grace, and stealth, and the form of the crow and the owl gives keen vision, sharp talons, and the ability to soar through the air without alerting anyone to its presence. The Skinwalker may use its abilities to fight off or escape pursuers, with the power of each animal giving it decisive advantages in a life-or-death situation. It is said that the animal form of the Skinwalker is larger and more powerful than any natural beast. To the Navajo, the Skinwalker is regarded as having a preternatural degree of strength, speed, endurance, agility, and animalistic cunning whilst in animal form, in addition to having human intelligence. This creature is said to be able to run faster than a car, and is able to jump mesa cliffs with little effort. In addition to being a dark adept (that is, a practitioner of the dark arts), the Skinwalker may be regarded as a sort of werebeast, one that is very similar to the European Werewolf.

In order to become a Skinwalker, the witch must commit an unthinkable crime: murdering an immediate relative. This is a very serious taboo to the Navajo people, and is a terrible crime regardless of one’s cultural heritage. As was said earlier, the Skinwalker is evil to the core, most being homicidal and violent. The creature cares for nobody other than itself, and the Skinwalker most often kills out of greed, anger, envy, spite, or revenge. The creature resorts to grave robbery to increase its own personal wealth, as well as to collect much-needed ingredients for use in its own brand of black magic. Yet another common method of becoming wealthy used by Navajo witches is the unethical practice of fee-splitting. This is done when a Skinwalker causes a victim to become ill, and a healer (usually a witch himself) heals the victim. The healer is then paid, and the culprits then split the proceeds, each taking half of his or her share.

It is said that some particularly powerful Skinwalkers have the power to steal the skin or the body of a victim. By merely locking eyes with the intended victim, the Skinwalker can absorb that person into its body, effectively enabling the creature to become that person at will. This may be somewhat like hypnosis, and the stronger the victim’s will, the more difficult it is for the Skinwalker to take possession of the victim’s body. In theory, the absorption attempt may be able to be resisted, although only if the victim’s will is stronger than that of the Skinwalker. When the Skinwalker takes over a victim’s body, it takes complete control, making the victim say and do things that are completely beyond their ability to control. And all the while, the victim remains fully conscious and alert to the horrors being committed with their body, and all the while being helpless to stop it. Exactly how this is done isn’t really known.

However, the Skinwalker’s eyes may be the key to identifying the creature in its human form. The Skinwalker will avoid bright lights when it can, not because it causes the creature any harm, but because the eyes of a Skinwalker burn red like coals in a fire. When the Skinwalker is in animal form, its eyes do not glow at all. It is said that, in addition to being able to shapeshift, the Skinwalker is also able to control the creatures of the night and to make them do its bidding. Some Skinwalkers are necromancers, able to call up the spirits of the dead and to possibly reanimate the corpses of the recently dead to attack their enemies. The Navajo themselves absolutely refuse to touch a corpse, for fear of accidentally summoning the shade of the deceased or making oneself vulnerable to the Skinwalker’s dark magic.

Except for an animal skin, the Skinwalker prefers to go about naked, even in the dead of winter. Because of the Skinwalker’s choice of shapeshifting into predatory animals, wearing the skins of those particular animals is a major taboo, and is deeply frowned upon by the Navajo community. Wearing the hide of a sheep or a cow is acceptable, but if an individual should choose to wear the skin of a predator, he is liable to be accused of being a Skinwalker. The Skinwalker is also known for wearing the skulls of the animals it becomes in addition to their skin, which is said to bring additional power to the witch. Sometimes, the Skinwalker does not do evil of its own accord, but instead works under the will of another. Occasionally, a truly vile person will hire the Skinwalker to perpetrate some evil deed, for which the Skinwalker will be amply rewarded. When it comes down to punishing the Skinwalker if it is caught in the act (a rarity, indeed), Navajo law is very direct and straightforward when it comes to witchcraft: when a person becomes a witch, they immediately forfeit their humanity and their right to exist, and thus the Skinwalker can be killed without any legal or moral consequences.

The Skinwalker and most Navajo witches are usually active at night, when they are less likely to be seen and they may conduct their profane rituals in secrecy. These rituals are the Native American equivalent of the European Black Mass, which undoubtedly involves bloodletting, sex, and desecration of religious icons. Navajo witchcraft itself is known as the “Witchery Way,” in which the magic revolves around the use of human corpses in various concoctions that are designed to curse, harm, or even to kill an intended victim. The four basic ways of Navajo witchcraft are “Witchery, Sorcery, Wizardry, and Frenzy.” These ways have no connection to European witchcraft, but are merely additional pieces of Navajo spirituality. According to these beliefs, people must live in harmony with each other and the Earth. It also teaches that there are two types of beings: the Earth People (humans) and the Holy People. These entities are invisible spirit beings that have the ability to either help or harm people. The Navajo also take a spiritual approach to sickness, disease, and personal problems. These things are believed to be due to disorder within an individual’s life, and they can be remedied with prayer, singing, various herbs, help from a shaman, and traditional rituals. However, there is a dark side to the religion. While the shaman uses his knowledge to heal and to help his people, there are others (like the Skinwalker) who use witchcraft to direct and control supernatural forces in order to cause harm, misfortune, sickness, or death to others. But despite this, Navajo witchcraft is only another aspect of the Navajo religion as a whole.

In regards to magical practices, Skinwalkers are said to gather in small groups in dark caves in order to initiate new members, plot their activities, kill people from a distance with black magic, engage in necrophilia with female corpses, and to commit cannibalism, incest, and grave robbery. Here, they perform their dark ceremonial rites, which are blasphemous mockeries of traditional Navajo religious ceremonies. Instead of sprinkling pollen (which is sacred to the Navajo and is used for blessing), the Skinwalkers scatter dust made from the powdered bones of infants in order to curse their victims. The Skinwalkers use bows carved from human shinbones to attack their victims, while the arrows are made of hardwood and tipped with flint (the arrowheads themselves may be cursed). They also make traditional sand paintings using colored ash, upon which the Skinwalkers will spit, urinate, and defecate, profaning and desecrating the religious nature of these paintings, which are usually of their intended victims. The leader of the Skinwalkers is usually an old man, perhaps a very powerful and long-lived Skinwalker. A small feast may take place, during which the participants eat coyotes and owls, as well as a type of ground-up blue lizard. As stated earlier, the Skinwalker goes about naked, wearing only beaded jewelry and ceremonial paint. All the while, they sit around in a circle and walk or run on all fours, singing or howling like wolves.

The Navajo themselves fear the Skinwalker so much that they are very hesitant to speak with outsiders about these creatures, and absolutely refuse to speak about it at night. One might suppose that this is a variation of the phrase “Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear.” The Navajo fear any consequences or attacks from the Skinwalker in retaliation for allowing outsiders to meddle in their affairs. In regards as to how the Skinwalker actually chooses to attack its victims, the methods are both numerous and terrible. It may choose to bite and claw the victim to death in its animal form, but the Skinwalker is usually far more subtle. At times, the Skinwalker will try to break into a home in order to frighten, harm, or kill the inhabitants. Each Navajo home (called a hogan) has a small opening in the thatched roof to provide ventilation. The Skinwalker takes advantage of this by making use of a deadly dust, known as corpse powder, made from dried and powdered human remains. The corpse powder may be sprinkled through these holes, causing grave sickness and eventual death to those dwelling within. If this powder is blown into a victim’s face, it causes the tongue to turn black and to begin swelling, followed by convulsions, paralysis, and the eventual death of the victim. It is said that the corpses of children, especially twins, are the best source for this powder.

The Skinwalker may make strange sounds, like banging on the walls, knocking on the windows, and scraping noises on the roof. These noises are all signs that the Skinwalker is out and about, trying to gain the attention of its victim. Rarely, an animalistic, beastlike figure may be seen standing outside of a window, looking inside with glowing red or yellow eyes and a fanged snarl on its face. This ferocious creature (possibly the Skinwalker’s man-beast form) will attack vehicles in hopes of causing a serious or even fatal accident. The Skinwalker is described as being extremely fast, agile, and impossible to catch. Attempting to shoot or otherwise kill the Skinwalker is usually unsuccessful, and the Skinwalker itself may even seek revenge for the attempt on its life.

According to Navajo legend, the Skinwalker has the power to read human thoughts, allowing it to use the victim’s own fears and secrets against them. The Skinwalker has the ability to control the minds of its victims, forcing them to comply with whatever the Skinwalker may have in mind. The Skinwalker is also able to mimic any human or animal sounds it chooses, perhaps using the voice of a loved one to lure a potential victim out of his or her home. It may also use this ability to distract homeowner so that it may steal property (like livestock) or to escape. The Skinwalker is adept in the use of black magic, using charms, chants, and spells to induce supernatural fear into its chosen victims, so that it may manipulate them into doing the Skinwalker’s bidding. It may use this ability to induce fear to curse its victims or even to kill them. It is possible that the Skinwalker’s very presence induces supernatural fear into both people and animals. The Skinwalker has a wide variety of weapons at its disposal, in addition to the human shinbone bows and arrows mentioned earlier. One of the most potent of these is a tiny bone pellet, which is fired from a blowgun into a victim’s body. These pellets imbed themselves into the skin without leaving so much as a mark, and afterwards causes sickness, social misfortune, and eventual death. Bone dust, once again made from ground-up infant bones, induces bodily paralysis and eventual heart failure. Another spell that the Skinwalker uses to kill is done by acquiring some of its victim’s hair, wrapping it around a potshard, and placing it into a tarantula’s hole. Live rattlesnakes may be released into the victim’s dwelling or his bed, causing him to grow sick and die from the rattlesnake’s bite. The Skinwalker also loves to cause trouble between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. The Skinwalker digs up a corpse, severs a finger or another small body part, and hides it inside the home of the intended victim. The ghost of the deceased will rise from the grave in search of its missing body part, and will then haunt whoever possesses it. The home’s owners will be both confused and terrified as to why this is happening to them.

The Skinwalker is notoriously hard to kill, and defeating one requires the assistance of a powerful shaman, who knows spells and rituals that can turn the Skinwalker’s evil back upon itself. These medicine men charge an exorbitant fee for their services, but most victims are more than willing to pay after being unduly harassed by the Skinwalker. As for more mundane means, attempting to shoot or otherwise kill one of these creatures is usually unsuccessful, as the Skinwalker can use its magic to make guns jam, and can even stop the bullets in mid-air. Even if the bullets do hit the Skinwalker, they may not have any effect whatsoever. However, if the creature actually is wounded by chance and manages to escape, a similar wound will appear on the Skinwalker’s human form. In the Werewolf folklore of Europe, this phenomenon is known as sympathetic wounding. This leaves the creature clearly marked and makes it vulnerable to discovery, and will be dealt with according to tradition. If one knows who the Skinwalker truly is, he must say “(name of the accused), you are a Skinwalker.” The witch will fall sick and die within three days time. Similarly, if a Skinwalker is captured and the news is broadcast, the witch will die within a year.

The only way to kill a Skinwalker, according to Navajo legend, is to shoot the creature with bullets that have been dipped into white ash (although some legends say that silver will work as well). The bullets themselves must be hollowpoints, which are filled with white ash and then sealed with melted wax. Even then, the Skinwalker must be shot through the neck while the witch is in animal form. The bullet will strike the Skinwalker’s real head, and any shot that is aimed elsewhere will pass harmlessly through the body. It is said that, if wounded, the Skinwalker will bleed a yellow liquid instead of blood. However, there is a way to defeat the Skinwalker without actually killing the creature, although if the attempt is successful, it will surely prompt the witch’s revenge. The Skinwalker is able to speak while in animal form, but it will not willingly do so because it may cause the witch to permanently lose his powers. If one could trick the creature into speaking while in animal form, it will reassume its human form and will be unable to shapeshift ever again.

It is said that sometimes the Skinwalker is invisible to human eyes, but it will leave tracks that are larger than those of any natural beast. It is very bad luck to cross over a Skinwalker’s tracks if the creature is in front of them – one must step over them. As well as the creature’s eyes, the Skinwalker can be distinguished from a real animal in that its tail hangs down and moves constantly, while their ears move up and down constantly as well. The Skinwalker’s eyes, as well as glowing when the creature is in human form and vice-versa in animal form, are seen as mere slits in their masks. Against the Skinwalker’s poison, the gall of an eagle, a bear, or a mountain lion are the best remedies. Sweats will help rid oneself of the fear of Skinwalkers.
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