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.
Arnold, Neil. Monster! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena. Great Britain: CFZ Press. Copyright ©2007 by CFZ Press.
Brown, Nathan Robert. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Werewolves. New York: Penguin Group, Inc (USA). Copyright ©2009 by Nathan Robert Brown.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. New York: Facts on File, Inc. Copyright ©2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.
Hall, Jamie. Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures. Bloomington, Indiana: 1st Books Library. Copyright ©2003 by Jamie Hall.
Kluckhohn, Clyde. Navajo Witchcraft. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press Books. Copyright ©1944 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Kriss, Marika. Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Skinwalkers (For the Millions Series). Los Angeles, California: Sherbourne Press, Inc. Copyright ©1972 by Marika Kriss.
O’Brien, Christopher. Stalking the Tricksters: Shapeshifters, Skinwalkers, Dark Adepts, and 2012. Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press. Copyright ©2009 by Christopher O’Brien.

Kelleher, Colm and George Knapp. "Skinwalkers - What Are They?" August 9, 2007. Accessed on February 25, 2017. <>

The Elemental of Leap Castle

Raised in blood; blood be its portion.”
-The Curse of Leap Castle
Something terrible haunts the ruins of Leap Castle in Ireland. It is a primal force, horrifying beyond description, which has dwelled within the castle walls for centuries, if not longer. It waits in the darkest shadows for unnatural forces or spilled blood to awaken it, or for a foolish human to rouse its anger. In the past, the spirit was known as “the Thing.” Some know the ghost as “It.” Today, it is known as the Elemental.

Among the many ghosts that already roam the lonely halls, the Elemental is perhaps the oldest and the most intriguing of the spirits that currently call Leap Castle home. This primitive ghost’s origins and its exact nature are largely unknown, and as such, parapsychologists and paranormal investigators (as well as demon hunters) can only speculate as to where this bestial spirit came from and what its agenda may be (if it does indeed have one). However, the Elemental’s origins seem to be connected to the castle’s own bloody past. Many theories regarding this grotesque apparition have circulated over the years, but it is unknown if indeed any of them are even close to the truth…whatever the awful truth may be.

Exactly when the Elemental first appeared seems to be lost to history, but there have been vague reports of an animalistic apparition that has appeared since the castle’s earliest days. Theories abound as to what “the Thing” actually is, and what its origins are. Here are some of those theories.

Druidic Magick
One theory states that the Elemental was actually summoned to this plane and bound to the site by Celtic Druids in order to protect the Druids, the site itself, and the magickal rites performed there. Such a ritual may have required one or more blood sacrifices, with human blood being seen as the most potent. Such sacrifices might have empowered the spirit, giving it the necessary power to ward off the enemies of the castle’s inhabitants. Perhaps the Elemental has become weakened, and is seeking fresh blood to renew its strength and to maintain its existence on the Material Plane. Therefore, much like a Vampire, the spirit may be compelled to seek out blood. Ironically, Ireland itself has a long tradition of Vampire folklore and legends. See Dr. Bob Curran’s Bloody Irish for more details.
Enemy Sorcery
Some believe that the Elemental was placed within the castle by invading enemy forces, so that the ghost could destroy the castle from the inside out. It has long been said that the perpetrator was Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Killdare. It is widely rumored that Fitzgerald was a practitioner of the dark arts (i.e. necromancy and summoning demons), and if this is to be believed, summoning and binding such a spirit to the castle may have been within his capabilities. Historically, Fitzgerald tried to seize the castle on many different occasions, but failed each time.
The Oubliette
Other people believe that the Elemental’s manifestations may be connected to the gruesome discoveries within the castle’s oubliette. An oubliette (the name of which is derived from the French word oublier, and simply means “to forget”) is a horrible dungeon, dank and dark and only accessible by a hidden trapdoor. Lining the floor of the dungeon is a number of long iron spikes, meant to impale those who were pushed into the dark pit. It was here that Tadgh Coach O’Carroll (known to others as One-Eyed Tadgh), after having incapacitated forty members of the O’Mahon clan with drugged food and wine, had them each flung into the oubliette, one by one. Those who remained conscious begged to be thrown into the pit upside down, hoping to avoid death via impalement by instead breaking their necks on the cold, hard stone floor. Those that failed to die quickly faced death by starvation or, if badly wounded, bleeding to death. It wasn’t until the mid-1920’s that the previously-sealed dungeon was opened, and a truly terrible discovery was made. Inside the oubliette were the skeletal remains of one hundred and fifty people, which took three to four cartloads of bones to clean out (accounts seem to vary slightly as to the number of carts). It is thought that the removal of the mortal remains of that dark dungeon’s victims may have inadvertently unleashed the dormant emotional anguish of their restless spirits. The ghosts of the victims, combined with the pent-up energy from such emotional trauma, may have caused these agonized spirits to coalesce into a powerful elemental spirit that has bound itself to the castle, driven to destroy the descendants of those who had so brutally murdered the victims to begin with. Such a being is known as a Collective Apparition, which can only be created when there are a sufficient number of angry or anguished spirits who shared the same sort of death.

This theory holds that the Elemental may not be a spirit of the dead at all, but rather at thought-form. A thought-form is an artificial being created by collective thoughts or emotions. Some believe that the suffering of the dungeon’s victims, along with the agony present in their thoughts and feelings, collected together and, through sheer emotional power, created a horrible wraith that is hell-bent on revenge. While this is similar to the Oubliette theory, there is a difference in that the Thought-Form theory very simply details a being that was created out of thin air. On the other hand, the Oubliette theory explains that the Elemental is truly a spirit of the dead, in that it is composed of many different ghosts that shared a similar fate.

Leprous Spirit
Local legends say that the Elemental is the ghost of an ancient O’Carroll who died of leprosy within the castle. The local folk reason that this is the reason for the decaying facial features and the appalling stench of decomposing flesh that accompanies the Elemental’s manifestations.

Whatever the truth may be, it does not change the fact that the Elemental “Thing” is a horrifying apparition that causes all who encounter it to become very sick and flee immediately. In 1909, shortly after the discovery and the clearing of the oubliette, Mildred Darby had her terrifying encounter with the Elemental. As was the fashion of the day and age, Mildred loved to dabble in the occult. She enjoyed holding séances and performing automatic writing (both of which are very dangerous, as they can summon evil spirits that seek to inflict harm upon the living). Unknowingly, Mildred may have awoken or provoked the Elemental by her dabbling. Her encounter is given here, as written in the Occult Review:
Suddenly, two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as I see you now-a grey ‘Thing’, standing a couple of feet from me, with it’s bent arms raised as if it were cursing me. I cannot describe in words how utterly awful the ‘Thing’ was, it’s very undefinableness rendering the horrible shadow more gruesome. Human in shape, a little shorter than I am, I could just make out the shape of big black holes like great eyes and sharp features, but the whole figure-head, face, hands and all-was grey-unclean, blueish grey, something of the colour and appearance of common cotton wool. But, oh! so sinister, repulsive and devilish. My friends who are clever about occult things say it is what they call an “Elemental”.”

The thing was about the size of a sheep, thin, gaunt and shadowy in parts. It’s face was human, or to be more accurate, inhuman, in it’s vileness, with large holes of blackness for eyes, loose slobbery lips, and a thick saliva-dripping jaw, sloping back suddenly into its neck! Nose it had none, only spreading, cancerous cavities, the whole face being a uniform tint of grey. This too, was the colour of the dark coarse hair covering its head, neck and body. It’s forearms were thickly coated with the same hair, so were its paws, large, loose and hand-shaped; and it sat on it’s hind legs, one hand or paw was raised, and a claw-like finger was extended ready to scratch the paint. It’s lusterless eyes, which seemed half decomposed, and looked incredibly foul, stared into mine, and the horrible smell which had before offended my nostrils, only a hundred times intensified, came up to my face, filling me with a deadly nausea. I noticed the lower half of the creature was indefinite and seemed semi-transparent-at least, I could see the framework of the door that led into the gallery through its body.”
Another letter was written in response to Mildred’s. The letter itself details another encounter with the “Thing”. The letter reads thusly:
I saw your eyes fixed upon something above our heads, and the next minute my own eyes were filled by the sight of a Thing in the gallery looking down at us. There was plenty of light from the lamps in the hall and the one above on the wall at the corner of the gallery, for every one of us to see quite plainly the grey-coloured figure about the height of a small grown-up person looking down at us. I wish I thought I could ever forget the sight of that grey figure with dark spots like holes in its head instead of eyes, standing with grey arms folded on the gallery railing looking down at us…Then, just as he put foot on the gallery, the Thing that he saw there, that we were watching, suddenly faded out of sight. The Thing did not move, only became less and less visible until it vanished.”

Yet another encounter with “the Thing.”
“The last appearance of the Elemental were on Nov 25th 1915 and I deduct again last November from the gait of my husband really wild with rage? fright? coming into my room at Midnight to let fly at me for “again dressing up things to try and frighten me.” On the 25th Nov 1915 two of our servants knowing the “master” would be late and that I was driving that afternoon had invited “friends” two soldiers from the Barracks at Birr distant the other side 6 miles. They came rather late and my husband came home early so the visitors had to be kept out of his sight in the lower regions of one of the wings (the Priests House) and were unable to be shown the centre tower – the very lofty hall. At 7.15 my husband and I went up to dress for dinner, my room in extremity of house from kitchens, his dressing room next door to me. Whilst dressing I was startled by a loud yell of terror stricken male and female voices coming apparently from the hall – and ran out to see the cause. My husband was out ahead of me at his heels I passed through corridor of wing and onto the gallery wing rounds two sides of hall. Two lamps on gallery two more in hall below. On the gallery leaning with “hands” resting on its rail I saw the Thing – the Elemental and smelt it only too well. At the same moment my husband pulled up sharply about 10 feet from the Thing, and half turning let fly a volley of abuse at me ending up “Dressing up a thing like that to try and make a fool of me. And now you’ll say I’ve seen something and I have not seen anything and there is nothing to see, or ever was. This last speech without a pause, begun waving one hand at the Thing end up by stalking back to his dressing room still abusing me for trying to give him a fright. As he was speaking the Elemental grew fainter and fainter in its outlines until it disappeared. By the sounds from my husband’s room I judged he was employed as I was myself in preparing an empty spot for our coming dinner. He never made any enquiry as to the yell that called us both out, and from that day to this has not mentioned the incident to me. I heard from our servants that when we went to dress for dinner they had brought their friends just to show them the hall, when all four has suddenly seen and smelt the Elemental looking down at them from the gallery. We all got such a turn, we couldn’t help letting out a bawl then fled to servants quarters where all 4 were very sick. The two maids had letters necessity their going home next day – and they did not return.

The account below describes an encounter with the Elemental. The individual has the unfortunate experience to have been attacked during their investigation.

18th June 2002
I travelled to Leap Castle in order to make a show for a local TV network and this was my first time in the notorious castle I had heard so much about. So the show went well but I wanted to try the UV on the camcorder whilst still shooting. I had sensed something down the old access to the battlements earlier and never went down. I climbed the stairs with the camcorder in front, the light from the UV allowed me to see about 6 ft ahead and no more so I climbed slowly. I opened the gothic style door and made my way slowly down the narrow passage, about 10ft in I thought I saw something move and I lifted my head, I could feel something was wrong but I had no idea what. This time with the camera dropped I thought I saw a glow come from around the corner and then it went back in. I stood and studied this for a while and thought it may be a side effect of the UV which can be common, a few steps more and my body was weakening fast, it was a strange sensation. Suddenly this mass of white like mist raced around the corner like a bull, even the rubbish on the floor scattered as it approached at speed. The passage was tight and I turned to my left to try and get out but it was too late, I felt the pain as if something had just pierced under my right rib cage and went all the way through to the back. This startled me a little and we proceeded to arrange shooting in the cellars. The audio refused to tape again in the cellars and I felt really odd, I was sweating heavily and was becoming very weak and drowned in dread. Right after the incident in the tunnel it felt as if a hole in my chest had been punctured on a spiritual level and my life was seeping into the stones. In order to describe it and let the reader understand they would have had to experience a large blood loss sometime in their lives. As they felt the blood drain this weakness would become prominent, other words they were experiencing the onset of death……I was dying.

Another first-person account of an encounter with the Elemental:

Burnt out during the 1920s, Leap’s looks lived up to its reputation. Narrow Gothic windows, ivy covered towers, bats and a barn owl; it was like a set from a Vincent Price movie. We crept in through the gaping doorway. Our flashlights revealed a huge hole in the stone floored front hall and we gingerly made our way around the edge, heading for the spiral staircase. No ghost would make us nervous – we were the Dublin Ghost Busters! Despite our confidence, we found ourselves talking in whispers. A slight sound behind me and I spun like a ballerina to see the cause. But as I spun around, I slipped and then dropped through the hole in the floor. The flashlight hit a rock and went out. Just above me, just out of reach, I could see the jagged outline of the floor. I could hear friends coming to help me. And then, in the darkness, I could hear a sniffling snorkly sort of noise. There was a smell, too. A horrid, rotten smell. I am not athletic, but that night, terror put rockets into my heels. I shot upwards. Scrabbling madly I made the doorway and did not stop running till I was safely in the car.

Yet another encounter with the Elemental (June 18th, 2006)

I looked into the darkness of a corridor that exited the spiral stairway. I became aware of the smell of sulphur. It was as if boxes and boxes of matches had suddenly been lit at once. I looked at my friend who had taken me to visit Leap Castle. He could also smell the sulphur. I stared into the darkness of the corridor and had the impression that a beast like a bear or lion was staring back at me . The tension was rising like a ticking timebomb. My friend then closed the door and said “To let sleeping dogs lie.” Meaning sometimes you just have to leave things alone. He was a friend of Sean Ryan and I certainly did not want to disrespect either of them by stirring up the Elemental.

“The Elemental has the potential to cause great harm to anyone receiving the brunt of an attack. One belief is that that the Elemental has the ability to alter the atmospheric pressure, generally lowering it. The polarity of atmospheric ions fluctuates and triggers a condition known as serotonin hyperfunction syndrome. This can cause symptoms such as heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, sweating/chills, tremor, dizziness and fatigue. It has also been seen that skin and hair will have an electrical charge. This theory has been generated over the last 10 years and it is interesting to note similarities between these symptoms to those described by Mildred Darby in the early 1900′s.”

“I felt every hair on my head separate and move.
For my flesh all over my body and scalp crept, and every hair on my head stood straight on end.

..the absolute weakness that came over me, the seeming cessation of the pulses of life, the grip in heart and brain, the deadly numbness which rendered me incapable of thought, word or action, when I first saw that awful beast.

So, exactly what is going on in the haunted halls of Leap Castle? Nobody knows for sure. I advise those who wish to study and speculate about the Elemental do so with a few good books and whatever eyewitness accounts they are able to get their hands on. That’s how I did it. I first heard of the Elemental from The Castle Ghosts of the British Isles on DVD (presented by Robert Hardy). And it scared me (they put together a particularly gruesome form for the portrayal of the Elemental, and that caused most of the horror). One cannot risk provoking the “Thing” with his inquiries, risking his life and limb just to solve the mystery. If you wish to tour Leap Castle (as I do) one day, by all means do so. It would indeed be a riveting experience. But do so at your own discretion.

Curran, Dr. Bob. The World’s Creepiest Places. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books. Copyright ©2012 by Bob Curran.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Ghosts and Haunted Places (Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena). New York, NY: Checkmark Books. Copyright ©2008 by Infobase Publishing.

Castle Ghosts of the British Isles (DVD, presented by Robert Hardy)
My sincerest thanks go to Sean Ryan and his Leap Castle Website for allowing me to use their accounts of encounters with the dreaded Elemental. Their website can be found here at Leap Castle.

The Enfield Horror

During the early 1970s, something horrible stalked the small town of Enfield, Illinois. Although Illinois is already home to phenomena such as strange lights, phantom black panthers, and Thunderbirds, something even stranger briefly haunted the people of this town. On April 25th, 1973, Henry McDaniel was among the first to encounter this terrible aberration. At about 9:30pm that night, McDaniel and his wife had returned home, and were greeted by their two children, Lil and Henry. The kids proceeded to tell him a tale about how some “thing” had tried to get into the house by scratching on the door. Shortly thereafter, Henry was alerted to a peculiar scratching sound at his front door. He expected to see a dog or a cat, but what he met instead was far stranger...
What Henry found, to his terror, was a creature that “had three legs on it, a short body, two little short arms, and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four-and-a-half-feet tall and was grayish-colored. It was trying to get into the house!” Henry was completely mortified by the sight of this horrible apparition, slammed the door, and rushed to grab his .22 pistol and a flashlight. Henry proceeded to fire on the creature four times, and according to him, “When I fired that first shot, I know I hit.” The beast hissed at him (most sources say that it sounded rather like a wildcat) and proceeded to bound away in long leaps across the yard, eventually becoming lost to McDaniel’s sight as it made its way towards the railroad and the cover of the trees. He asserted that he had seen the thing cover fifty feet in three leaps.
Stunned by the encounter, Henry proceeded to call the police. Upon investigation, the state troopers discovered a series of scratches in the siding of the house, and footprints that were very similar to a dog’s, but having six toes instead of four. Two of the tracks were four inches wide, while the print left by the third foot was smaller. Many on the police force were skeptical about what McDaniel had seen, despite having just received news of an attack on a small boy just thirty minutes earlier. The creature had ripped at the child’s clothes with the claws on its arms, while the talons on the toes had shredded the kid’s shoes. However, the police couldn’t find any trace of the entity, so things cooled down for the moment.
However, on May 6th, at 3am, Henry encountered the creature again, after having been roused from his sleep by the commotion from his neighbor’s dogs. Once again, he saw the creature loitering about near the train tracks. This went on for several minutes, until the entity casually bounced away into the night. McDaniel later said “I saw something moving out on the railroad track, and there it stood. I didn’t shoot at it or anything. It started on down the railroad track. It wasn’t in a hurry or nothing.” Then, after word of the “Enfield Horror” had gotten around, people began to flock to the small town in hopes of seeing the thing. They were very enthusiastic, but they were also intrusive. This prompted the local Sheriff Roy Poshard Jr. to warn McDaniel about keeping his mouth closed, or he would be forced to incarcerate McDaniel. Over the next few months, the crowds began to grow larger. With the larger crowds came increased alarm among the citizens of Enfield. Some among them were genuine monster hunters, while others were just hunters or thrill-seekers with guns. This forced the Sheriff’s hand, particularly when he had to arrest five gun-toting hunters for shooting at a “gray thing” that ran through the woods. Two of those hunters, Mike Mogle and Roger Tappy (both from Elwood, Indiana), both swore that they had witnessed a “gray monkey” quickly move through the underbrush. Sheriff Poshard made numerous threats against Henry McDaniel (which, it should be noted, had no effect whatsoever), who was convinced that there was something very strange going on…
Shortly thereafter, once the frenzy of hunters and tourists had died down, four more people saw the Enfield Horror. On Sunday, May 6th, Rick Rainbow, the then director of radio station WWKI in Kokomo, Indiana, was searching an area with three friends when they saw something that was around five-and-a-half-feet in height, gray and stooped over running through the woods near an abandoned house (which, it was reported, was nearby McDaniel’s home. The entity moved with an unnatural speed, and quickly vanished from the four men’s sight. However, Rick Rainbow claimed to have recorded the creature’s eerie shriek as it ran away from them on a tape recorder. Despite investigation by world-renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman (who is said to have heard the creature’s cries), the attention that the sightings received eventually died down, and the creature hasn’t been seen since. Loren told the press, "I traveled to Enfield, interviewed the witnesses, looked at the siding of the house the Enfield Monster had damaged, heard some strange screeching banshee-like sounds, and walked away bewildered."

Between the years of 1941 and 1942, there was a string of similar sightings in the small village of Mt. Vernon (which is, ironically, less than forty miles away from Enfield). These encounters involved a mysterious leaping beast that terrorized the local people, and is supposedly responsible for numerous animal deaths and mutilations in the region. The locals called the creature "the Mt. Vernon Monster," and described it as being vaguely baboonlike in appearance and able to leap anywhere from twenty to forty feet in a single bound. However, this creature is likened more to the Devil Monkey than the Enfield Monster. But it is a possibility that this was, in fact, the same creature.
So, what was the Enfield Horror? One can say with certainty that it is truly an enigmatic entity, one with no logical explanation whatsoever. In his book Mysterious America, Loren Coleman speculates that the creature may have been an escaped kangaroo, due to the way it leaps and hops about. There are some people that would suggest that this creature is UFO-related, but aliens are outside of this blog's scope. It’s possible, yes, but don’t bet on it. This creature, however, is very simply too bizarre to be a misidentified animal or a hallucination. It could have very well been a Devil Monkey, which is a large, baboonlike cryptid that is known for its vicious temperament and has been known to attack animals and humans alike. However, that is another story unto itself. For some reason, the pink eyes keep coming back to me. Could they hold some sort of clue? Truth be told, there aren't many reports of an entity with glowing pink eyes. When people describe glowing eyes on a creature, they are usually described as yellow or, more commonly, red. Glowing eyes might be a signifier that the beast in question is of a supernatural origin. One cannot help but wonder if the Enfield Horror is a supernatural being, or perhaps it is a denizen of another plane of existence. What did the creature want? If there had been a closer encounter, there can be no doubt that someone would have been hurt.
People have said that the creature is either an alien, a genetic mutation, or a demon. Of those three, the latter two seem to be most likely. It has been called a "zoological oddity" by others. Loren Coleman described it as "like a combo phantom kangaroo, Devil Monkey, and Swamp Ape situation." Other investigators have pointed to a series of UFO sightings that (allegedly) plagued the area at the same time. Others believe that there may be a more supernatural side to the case. The creature is aggressive towards humans, and actively tries to break into their homes. Some say that this has all of the indications of a classic "demon" attack. Further investigation is definitely warranted in this case.

Arnold, Neil. Monster! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena. Great Britain: CFZ Press. Copyright ©2007 by CFZ Press.
Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation’s Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures. New York, NY: Paraview Pocket Books. Copyright ©2007 by Loren Coleman.

The Jiangshi

The Chinese have a very long tradition of hungry ghosts, monsters, evil spirits, and bizarre happenings that stretches back for thousands of years. They have always believed that evil is lurking in the darkness, even up into the present day. Rituals are used and prayers are still offered up to their ancestral spirits for good luck and good health. But there are some truly horrible things that hide in the dark of the night, ready to pounce and to kill. Among the most horrifying things to come out of this country’s oral traditions and written literature are tales of horrific creatures that were once human, but now rise up out of their coffins at night to feed on the qi (lifeforce) of their victims. These undead monsters share traits with the modern-day notions of the vampire and the zombie, and yet it appears to be neither one. But the carnage and death that it leaves in its wake leaves little doubt that a monster is on the prowl. It is known as the Jiangshi, the “Hopping Corpse” of China.

The Jiangshi appears in legends all over China, but it is also known throughout most of Asia, mainly due to modern cinema. Thus, it is known by a multitude of different (and yet very similar) names. These include: Chiang-Shih (which is by far the most common spelling), Kiang-Shi, Kuangshi, Geong-Si (Cantonese), His-Hsue-Kuei (which literally means “Suck-Blood Demon”), Kyonshi (the Japanese name for the creature), Ch’ing Shih, Ch’iang-shih, Giang Shi (Korean), Kiang-Kouei, Kouei, Kuang-shi, Pinyin, Xianh-shi, and Xi Xie Gui. English names for the monster include Chinese Vampire, Hopping Ghost, Corpse-Specter, Hopping Vampire, and Hopping Zombie. The word jiangshi (pronounced “jong-shee”) is derived from the Mandarin Chinese language, and literally means “stiff corpse.” Another common English translation is “blood-sucking ghost.” The Jiangshi is said to haunt graveyards, ancient tombs, and places that are associated with the dark realm of death by the living. The creature is often said to live underground, where caverns and caves are numerous and it can hide during the day and avoid the sun’s rays. Anyone who is brave (or foolish) enough to enter one of these caves may find themselves to be the revenant’s meal. Most often, the creature rests in a coffin or a wooden box within its hiding place.

According to scholars, there is some disagreement or differences in opinion as to what the Jiangshi actually looks like. Most people seem to agree that the creature can seem quite human, especially if the person is recently deceased. This seems to be advantageous to the revenant, drawing its prey in close enough for the Jiangshi to attack. However, Chinese folklore states that the Hopping Corpse may assume other forms that are more powerful and hideous to behold. One such manifestation is described as a ball of flickering light that flies about at night, much like a will o’the wisp. But the most common form of the monster is a tall, gaunt walking corpse with pale, greenish-white skin, which some have suggested may be mold growing on the corpse’s skin. Other times, it is said to be covered in wild white or green hair, although a mixture of the two is not unheard of. It is said that the Jiangshi has a mouthful of serrated, razor-sharp teeth (not unlike those of a shark), long talons on its fingers, glaring eyes that glow an eerie red or green in the dark, and the creature’s breath is so foul that it is able to kill just by breathing into an unfortunate victim’s face. Some say that a phosphorescent green light emanates from the creature’s body, which again may be attributed to a fungus that commonly grows on clothing and burial shrouds. Other sources describe the creature as having bulging eyes and a long tongue that hangs loosely from the monster’s mouth, both of which could be attributed to decay. On a more bizarre note, some sources say that the Jiangshi is always found to be wearing Qing Dynasty-era burial garments, which may have more to do with the creature’s portrayal in modern cinema than folklore or mythology. One might be pressed to ask exactly how the monster obtains such ancient clothing, but getting close enough to a hopping corpse to ask such a question borders on either great bravery or extreme stupidity.
There is a very unique aspect to the Jiangshi that sticks with the creature wherever it goes, whether in folklore or in the movies. As the monster is an animated rotting corpse, it has an extremely difficult time moving due to the rigor mortis in its body, which is apparently quite painful to the revenant. Due to this, the Jiangshi is forced to hop along its way instead of walking, with its arms outstretched for balance. Another explanation for the creature’s unique means of locomotion can be found in the Chinese belief in the yin and yang, the negative and the positive. The corpse contains a great deal of negative energy (yin), while the earth is filled with positive energy (yang), and thus the two cannot come into contact with each other. Therefore, each time that these reanimated corpses hit the ground, the negative force is repelled by the positive force. In order for the Jiangshi to move and chase its prey, it hops. Others say that this creature jumps around because spikes or nails were driven into the feet as part of the funerary rites. All three are equally valid theories, and while this hopping may both look and sound hilarious to a person that is unfamiliar with the creature, this monster is not a laughing matter.
Becoming a hopping corpse can be accomplished in a variety of ways, usually through a violent death. Deaths that have the potential to create a Jiangshi can occur through murder, hanging, suicide, drowning, being smothered or suffocated, or dying during the commission of a criminal act. A person who died suddenly or was interred without proper burial rites is also at risk of becoming a hopping corpse, as is somebody who was buried alive. It was also believed that if a corpse’s burial was postponed for long enough after death, the dead would become angry and restless, and therefore would be more inclined to take revenge. In fact, one might say that the Jiangshi is literally hopping mad! A hopping vampire can also be created if the corpse isn’t buried in accordance with Feng Shui. Even if a funeral is given but the body remains unburied, a Jiangshi is the most likely result. Black magic, a curse, or necromancy could also create a hopping corpse. If a corpse absorbs enough yang qi, it may return to life. If sunlight or moonlight were allowed to shine upon a corpse, the yang energy within the light will reanimate the deceased person’s body. According to Taoist beliefs, the body houses two different souls. One is the hun, which is the good and rational aspect of the soul. The hun could leave while the body was asleep and would roam around the countryside, appearing as that person’s doppelganger. The hun is also thought to be capable of possessing another person’s body and speaking through it. However, if something bad were to happen to the wandering soul while it was out, the physical body would suffer as a result. The other, the p’o (sometimes called the p’ai), is evil, weaker, and irrational. The p’o is thought to inhabit the fetus at a woman’s pregnancy, and then is the last aspect to leave upon death. If the p’o fails to leave the body at the time of death, it will seize control of the corpse. This creates a Jiangshi, which is in turn reanimated, preserved, and protected by the p’o. Even the smallest bone can be used by this inferior soul, and even severed body parts (including heads) have been known to become vampires. If the sun or the moon shines fully upon an unburied body, it empowers the p’o, which is certain to become a revenant. If a cat jumps over the corpse (it may be a black cat or even pregnant), it might accidentally “shock” the yin residing within the body. It is also believed that the soul could be snagged by the cat’s hairs, effectively stealing the soul of the deceased.
The Jiangshi is truly a monster in all senses of the word, in regards to both its appearance and its habits. The creature is insanely vicious, driven solely by the hatred it feels towards the living and its hunger for the qi of the living. The creature is mindless in its hunger and attacks when it senses an opportunity, regardless of what consequences that attack might bring. The reason for its madness is that the Jiangshi is thought to epitomize the irrational aspects of the human soul, which makes the creature both vicious and sadistic. This revenant particularly takes delight in ripping the limbs of its prey off one at a time, just for the pleasure it derives from the act. The Jiangshi has an enormous sex drive and has been known to sexually assault women, favoring virgins and nuns because their resulting despair from being raped by a reanimated corpse is pure ecstasy to the creature. Fortunately for the women, death usually comes swiftly afterwards.
Because the Jiangshi fears the light of day, it is forced to hunt at night. However, the creature is actually blind, and so must find its prey through its senses of smell and hearing. Therefore, it is forced to track humans by the scent of their breath and the sound of their breathing. The monster favors ambush tactics, since it has no powers that allow it to entice or otherwise lure its intended prey to it. Once its potential prey is within striking distance, the Jiangshi attacks using its sharp fingernails and its serrated, sharklike teeth to claw and bite the victim to death so that it may drain them of their life. In some cases, the creature may strangle its prey and feed afterwards. Some say that the creature is able to drain a victim’s life essence with but a touch. The Jiangshi’s hunger for the life of others is unending, no matter how many victims it has claimed that night. Because of this hunger, the creature will slaughter and feed upon any travelers that it comes across in its nightly wanderings.
The Jiangshi, unlike many other species of the undead, is not known for being able to physically arise from its grave. And unlike the Vampire in Slavic mythology, the Jiangshi is unable to dematerialize and thus escape from the confines of its own grave. Soil and the coffin that it is buried in further impede the monster’s escape from its imprisonment. Therefore, the transformation from being a lifeless corpse to an undead creature of the night had to take place before burial. This was viewed as being motivation by the Chinese to bury the deceased as soon as possible. Otherwise, a monster would be born and people would begin to die night by night. Fortunately, the Jiangshi cannot create other hopping corpses by feeding on and killing humans.
Although the Jiangshi is most commonly called a vampire (it is frequently called a “hopping vampire” or even “the Chinese vampire”), the creature actually shares only a few traits with the Vampire of European folklore. Unlike its Slavic cousin, the Jiangshi does not actually feed on the blood of its victims, nor is the bloodsucking aspect a part of the original mythology. This notion may have been introduced to the Chinese people when Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) was first released in China. In fact, Dracula himself is referred to in Chinese translations as being a “blood-sucking Jiangshi,” as this aspect was not present in the original mythology. There are a few folktales that make reference to this monster as being a blood-drinker, and one such story is “The Vampire and the Head” (1907), in which a particularly hideous Jiangshi decapitates a man and sucks the head dry of its blood. Undoubtedly, these tales were penned after the Westernization of China began and Western scholars began to study Chinese folklore and mythology. Instead of blood, the Jiangshi feeds on the qi of its victims. To those who are familiar with the martial arts, the qi (called ki in Japan) is the vital energy that flows throughout the human body, which can be focused and used to perform great feats of strength (i.e. breaking concrete slabs or splintering wooden boards). In other words, the creature feeds upon the lifeforce of living beings. The Jiangshi craves this energy (also known as the Spiritus Vitae, the “Breath of Life”), which empowers the p’o and prevents further decomposition in the revenant’s body. To obtain this energy, the creature will drain the victim’s life through a simple touch or a bite to the neck. Other times, it simply tears the victim to pieces and then feeds. Additionally, some sources say that the hopping corpse feeds on human flesh. However, if this is true, it is very rare and practically nonexistent in the original mythology.
The malevolent spirit that inhabits the Jiangshi’s body gives the revenant a number of unnatural powers. The Jiangshi is possessed of supernatural strength and speed, and this is made evident by the delight that the creature takes in ripping off the heads and limbs of its victims. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to escape a hopping corpse on foot. It is reputed to be a shapeshifter, able to take the form of a wolf at will. The creature’s breath reeks of coagulated blood and rotting flesh, and it is so rank that the mere scent of it is both poisonous and lethal to living beings. Since it is blind, the creature’s senses of smell and hearing are unusually sharp. Since it follows the scent of its victim’s breath, the only way to escape it is to hold one’s breath until the creature moves on. This is obviously easier said than done, as holding one’s breath for too long will result in brain damage or even suffocation.
Like some folkloric vampires, the Jiangshi gains greater power as it grows older. Many folktales and legends state that when the Jiangshi’s hair is long and entirely white, the monster has matured and reached the peak of its power. In a sense, the creature evolves. Eventually, the rigor mortis will wear off, granting the creature far greater freedom of movement. And according to legend, the creature’s intelligence and its propensity for evil increase as well (although exactly how intelligent the revenant becomes is unknown). With this increase in strength, the creature is able to leap great distances with an enormous amount of force. Many sources state that the monster gains the ability to levitate and fly through the air at great speeds. In addition, the Jiangshi is said to possess gale-force breath and has very long eyebrows that can be used to capture and bind its victims. These abilities may have more to do with Hong Kong cinema than actual mythology though, and so this information may not necessarily be accurate. The monster also possesses incredibly long and sharp swordlike talons that are extremely deadly. These terrible claws may also be clotted with dirt and the blood of its previous victims, and thus may be capable of infecting victims with disease (if the initial blood poisoning doesn’t kill them first). One folktale, “The Wandering Corpse,” (1907) tells of such a creature’s attack its prey. The creature lunges at the man, but the revenant misses its intended prey (the man passes out from exhaustion and fright) and buries its talons so deeply into a tree that it cannot pull free in enough time to make its way back to its coffin. With the morning dawn, the creature reverts to an inanimate corpse. Local people cannot pull the corpse free, so they end up having to cut its nails in order to place it back into its coffin. Luckily, the victim lived.
Fortunately, as dangerous as the Jiangshi is, the creature has several weaknesses and limitations to its powers. The revenant greatly fears sunlight, and is one of the few undead in folklore that can actually be destroyed by it. It has an intense aversion to garlic, salt (which is believed to be corrosive to the creature’s skin), azuki beans, and sticky rice (which contains yin from the earth, and yang from the sun) and is very much afraid of eight-sided Taoist mirrors (the Jiangshi is said to be absolutely terrified of its own reflection). Some say that the urine of a virgin (usually a boy) will burn the creature’s skin like holy water does to the western Vampire. The reasoning behind this is that boys who are chaste and who have not yet entered puberty carry within them pure yang energy (males are associated with the yang, while females are associated with the yin), and ergo their urine has a negative effect on the creature. However, it is unknown if this is indeed genuine Chinese folklore or if it is something from the Hong Kong movies (although anything is worth a try). According to Li Shizhen’s medical text Bencao Gangmu, “A mirror is the essence of liquid metal. It is dark on the external but bright inside.” The creature is also unable to cross running water, and is said to fear freshly-shed chicken blood as well. Furthermore, it is said that this monster despises and fears the sounds of hand gongs, jingles, and bells (especially if these instruments are forged of copper or bronze). These have much the same effect on the Jiangshi as the sight of a crucifix would on Count Dracula, effectively rendering the monster powerless in their presence. The crowing of a rooster will cause the Jiangshi to flee back to its coffin. According to Yuan Mei’s book Zi Bu Yu, “Evil spirits withdraw when they hear a rooster’s call.” The same book also mentions that jujube seeds can be used against a hopping corpse, saying “Nail seven jujube seeds into the acupuncture points on the back of a corpse.” The text is rather vague about what this will accomplish.
According to the Chinese concept of Feng Shui, a small piece of wood (about six inches in length) installed along the door’s width over a house’s threshold will keep the Jiangshi from entering, although Chinese tradition doesn’t specify what kind of wood must be used. Thunder is said to be frightening to this creature, and is even able to kill it. As mentioned earlier, the creature is blind, and thus completely relies on its senses of smell and hearing while hunting. If a would-be victim holds his breath, the Jiangshi cannot sense his presence and would thus hop right past a potential meal. Sadly, there are few who can hold their breath long enough to elude the creature, and few have the good sense to do so. Interestingly, the hopping corpse is compelled to stop and count tiny objects. This is known as arithmomania, which is a weakness that it shares with the vampires of Central and Eastern Europe. Scattering long-grained rice, seeds, dried peas, or even tiny iron pellets will ensure that the revenant doesn’t stray too far from its grave for the night. If the Jiangshi is still preoccupied with this task at the break of dawn, the morning sun’s rays will destroy it. A circle on the ground of iron filings, red peas, or rice can trap the creature where it stands. In some legends, the Jiangshi is able to be literally swept away back to its grave with a common household straw broom. One could also use the broom to sweep seeds or grain back towards the creature’s grave, and the Jiangshi will undoubtedly follow because of its arithmomania. But while the monster fears thunder, garlic, glutinous rice (sticky rice), and loud noises, the only being that the Jiangshi truly fears is the White Emperor, to whose court the monster must pay homage.
Like any demon or evil spirit, the Jiangshi can be exorcised. This is somewhat safer than destroying the creature, but it is also dangerous. Taoist priests must be summoned to banish the creature from the village that it haunts and expel the negative energies associated with it. The priest prepares special charms made of strips of yellow paper (which can also be red and yellow in color), onto which powerful spells or death blessings in illegible Chinese characters are inscribed with the blood of a freshly-slain chicken (although red ink will also work in a pinch). Then comes the tricky part: the charm must be affixed to the revenant’s forehead (kind of like a sticky note), which is far easier said than done. However, if the priest is successful, the Jiangshi is instantly paralyzed and completely helpless. Of course, every now and then the paper slips off, with catastrophic results (which are used to great effect in Hong Kong cinema). These charms, however, are said to work only on a newly-risen Jiangshi. A hopping corpse at its full power must be dealt with in a completely different and much more dangerous manner. The creature must be captured and buried in a grave in the burial grounds of the ancient ancestors, using Buddhist or Taoist magic to bind the Jiangshi to the gravesite. But as stated before, saying and doing are two completely different things.
In spite of the Jiangshi’s mindless savagery, there are a handful of methods that may be used to destroy the creature. As mentioned before, sunlight is lethal to the Jiangshi. If it is exposed to direct sunlight, the creature will burn into ashes. Decapitation will put the creature down permanently, although getting close enough to deliver a beheading stroke is another matter altogether. For the best results, the monster’s head should be struck off with a traditional Chinese jian (a straight, double-edged sword) or a dao (a curved saber that widens towards the point). According to legend, lightning is fatal to the Jiangshi, but a lightning strike is obviously very difficult to arrange unless one can manipulate the weather to his favor. Interestingly, it is said that upon the monster’s evolution to its stronger white-haired form, the Jiangshi can only be killed by a bullet or lightning (which could alternatively mean the sound of a gunshot or a thunderclap). Assuming that the creature is destroyed, the corpse must be salted and burned to ashes immediately after it is slain to avoid the possibility of the Jiangshi’s resurrection. The Zi Bu Yu mentions that “When set on fire, the sound of crackling flames, blood rushes forth and bones cry.”
Although this revenant is vampiric in its feeding habits, it is highly unlikely that silver, holy icons, or a stake through the heart will have any sort of detrimental effect on the Jiangshi. This is because the creature was created in a culture where Taoism and Buddhism are the dominant religions. However, folklore dictates that monks and heroes have used the martial discipline of kung-fu to fight this revenant. But kung-fu is an exceedingly difficult discipline to master, taking years to gain proficiency and even longer to become an expert. But on the other hand, the speed and skill of a kung-fu practitioner may just give a man a slightly greater chance of overcoming the Jiangshi’s unnatural strength and speed. But there are other weapons that can be used against the hopping corpse. Legends speak of bizarre weapons that can be used to gravely wound the Jiangshi, and monks are quick to use such implements. One of these is the peachwood sword, which is carved from the wood of the Peach Tree. It is used by Feng Shui masters to exorcise demons, dispel dark energies, to drive away ghosts, and to inflict painful wounds upon the Jiangshi. It is mentioned in the Jingchu Suishi Ji that “Peach is the essence of the Five Elements. It can subjugate evil auras and deter ghosts.” Another such weapon is the coin sword. This is made by combining copper coins and red thread, with the thread being used to bind the coins into the shape of a sword. The Chinese believed that, if the sword was made of one hundred and eight individual coins and prayed over by a Taoist priest, it could be used to drive away evil, to destroy ghosts, and to inflict grievous wounds upon a hopping corpse.
According to Chinese history, the Jiangshi’s origins may lie within the Taoist religion. The notion of such a creature may be derived from an ancient Chinese folktale, ”The Corpses Who Travel a Thousand Miles,” also known by the name of “transporting a corpse over a thousand li” (gian li xing shi). It is this story from which the belief arose that, if a person died far away from home and the family could not afford a wagon to bring them back for burial, Taoist priests would be hired to reanimate the corpse. Then, the priest would teach the corpse to hop back to their home village, where the corpse would “die” once again and it would be able to receive a proper funeral and burial rites, and would hence be able to join its honored ancestors and be worshipped by its family. The priests, known as “corpse shepherds,” would only travel with the corpses at night, as it was cooler at night and was thus more ideal for transporting the recently deceased. They would ring bells to let other people in the general vicinity know that they were coming through, as apparently it is bad luck to see one of these corpses. A similar (if not identical) practice is known as Xiangxi Gan Shi, which literally means “driving corpses in Xiangxi.” In Xiangxi (which is where the practice originated), where it was common for people to leave their homes in search of employment elsewhere. When those people died, their bodies would be taken back to their hometowns. The reason for this is because people believed that the souls of the dead (as fickle as they are) would become homesick if they were buried in a place that was unfamiliar to them in life. The corpses would be tied to two bamboo poles from the sides and arranged standing upright in single file. Two men (one in the front and one in the back) would then place the ends of the poles on their shoulders and walk on their merry way. Because bamboo is so flexible, it would appear that the corpses were hopping along their way in unison when seen by a casual observer from a distance.

However, if the folktales are to be believed, every now and then one of these reanimated corpses would become lost on its way home, and the concept of being unable to find eternal rest in the afterlife eventually drove the reanimated corpse insane. At this point, the reanimated corpse became a Jiangshi. It would then proceed to take its revenge by slaughtering any travelers that it happened upon, draining them of their lifeforce, and leaving their grisly, dismembered corpse to be found by another person the next day. To children this creature was nothing more than a bogeyman, a scary story to keep them in bed at night or to make them think twice about going off alone. However, perhaps their parents knew better…
It has been speculated that perhaps thieves invented the legend of the Jiangshi. Such a story would scare off curious locals and law enforcement so that they could continue their smuggling operations in relative peace. But what if they didn’t fabricate this story? Even if such is the case, the smugglers would have readily taken advantage of these legends. They would have probably even dressed for the part, using hideous costumes to frighten away anyone who got too close to their operations. Perhaps even murdering and horribly mutilating those people who became too nosy for their own good would not have been out of the question. Anyone who attempted to investigate the murders would have most likely been dealt the same fate. But what if the Jiangshi isn’t a myth? Is it possible that there is actually something to the legends?
The Jiangshi is definitely unique among the undead in the world’s cultures, and not just because it hops everywhere. It is because the creature possesses traits of both the traditional vampire and the modern-day concept of the zombie. And yet, it seems to be neither one. The hopping corpse seems to have more in common with the zombie portrayed in today’s popular culture in that the creature seems to retain little or none of its human intelligence after the corpse has been reanimated. But like a vampire, this monster is compelled to feed upon the lifeforce of living beings for its own survival. And even though the Jiangshi does become more powerful and seemingly more intelligent in accordance with how long it avoids destruction, it otherwise seems to possess only a modicum of intelligence, perhaps more like animal cunning than anything else. It is likely that this lack of reasoning power is due to the irrational nature of the animating force, the p’o. But what is the Jiangshi? Is it a vampire or a zombie? The evidence says that the Jiangshi is indeed a vampire, but it is not a vampire in the same vein as the more traditional type that one sees in western literature or films such as Dracula (1931), The Horror of Dracula (1958), Fright Night (1985), or even Queen of the Damned (2002). But at the very least, the Jiangshi is a revenant with vampiric tendencies, being driven by little more than animal instincts and its need to drain living beings of their vital energies.
In the end, the Jiangshi is quite possibly one of the most dangerous of the undead. It isn’t a traditional vampire, but neither is it a zombie in keeping with George A. Romero’s ghouls in Night of the Living Dead (1968). Thankfully, encounters with the Jiangshi are practically nonexistent in the twenty-first century because of modern-day burial practices like embalming and cremation. Instead, this frightening creature has been reduced to being late-night entertainment for millions of moviegoers around the world. It has been the focus of films like Midnight Vampire (1936), Vampire Kung-Fu (1972), The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974), Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980), Kung Fu Zombie (1982), Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave (1982), The Trail (1983), Haunted Cop Shop (1984), Curse of the Wicked Wife (1984), Mr. Vampire (1985) and its sequels, Blue Lamp in a Winter Night (1985), Dragon Against Vampire (1985), The Close Encounter of the Vampire (1985), Kung-Fu Vampire Buster (1985), Love Me Vampire (1986), Vampire’s Breakfast (1986), Hello Dracula (1986), A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), Vampires Live Again (1987), Toothless Vampires (1987), Elusive Song of the Vampire (1987), Vampires Strike Back (1988), Vampire vs. Vampire (1989), Spooky Family (1989), Spirit vs. Zombi (1989), Crazy Safari (1990), First Vampire in China (1990), The Ultimate Vampire (1991), Spooky Family II (1991), The Musical Vampire (1992), Robo Vampire (1993), Tsui Hark’s Vampire Hunters (2002), Vampire Effect (2003), Shaolin vs. Evil Dead (2004), Shaolin vs. Evil Dead: Ultimate Power (2006), and most recently, Rigor Mortis (2013). Many of these films are comedies, particularly Mr. Vampire and its sequels. In fact, it would probably be accurate to say that Hong Kong cinema invented the Jiangshi as people know it today. People actually seem to think that this creature’s use of hopping to get around is hysterical! And to an extent, it is. However, most of these people are either unaware or completely ignorant of the fact that these creatures were once greatly feared and believed to exist by the general Chinese populace. Moviegoers and cinema junkies have no idea that the Jiangshi and the carnage that it is capable of wreaking is no laughing matter.
When all is said and done, there is one question that still remains: does the Jiangshi still stalk the night? Perhaps, somewhere in a remote Chinese village, such a monster is stirring in its coffin. And once the demon has awakened, it will relentlessly wander through the night in search of that one foolish person who deemed it necessary to make any such journey after the sun has gone down. The Jiangshi will feed, and that person will die. The next day, the person’s mangled remains will be discovered. And perhaps only those who know the old legends will suspect that there is a monster in their midst…
This is a complete revision of my original research on the Hopping Vampire, and it would not have been possible if not for the help of a few people. First off, I would like to thank my friend Theresa Bane (one of the few vampire experts in the world) for her clarifications and helping me to separate fact from fiction (what was in the original mythology, and what wasn’t). Secondly, I would like to thank my good friend Anthony Hogg, who not only befriended me, but he has shown me the truth to be found in the folklore behind the vampire in the movies and literature. He also helped me to come to the conclusion that the Jiangshi is indeed a type of vampire. I owe the both of you a great debt of gratitude, and I feel honored to call you my friends. Thank You!!
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