Folklore/Myth

The Tokoloshe

Today we visit South Africa for a story about the Tokoloshe, a small and terrifying creature that seriously messes with your ability to have a restful night’s sleep. Tokoloshes are a creature from Zulu mythology that inhabit South Africa. These creatures attack you in your sleep and are said to be a part of the reason while many people in the Zulu culture used to sleep with their beds raised off the floor.

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Tokoloshe are described physically in a large variety of ways. One constant seems to be their small size. Sometimes they are described as small humanoid creatures (like gremlins or brownies) and other times they are described more primate-like.

These creatures are malevolent and very dangerous. They are said to crawl into sleeping people’s rooms and cause all kinds of havoc - from simply scaring them all the way to choking them to death with their long, bony fingers. It seems to particularly enjoy scaring children, often leaving them with long scratches on their bodies. One way to keep the Tokoloshe at bay is to put bricks beneath the legs of one’s bed. This will you put you out of reach, and hopefully out of harm’s way, of the Tokoloshe.

Tokoloshes are creatures called upon by those with magical abilities (like witches) to wreak havoc and pain in a community.  One of the ways the witches are able to keep them docile is to cut the hair out of their eyes so they can see and feed it curdled milk.

If a Tokoloshe continues to terrorize a household or a community a sangoma (Zulu witch doctor) is summoned to exorcize the area and/or the home with the use muti, a kind of traditional magic practiced by the sangoma.

But why was the Tokoloshe such a promintent and terrifying creature? And why did it only attack the sleeping? Well, there might actually be a very real, terrifying reason for the creation of this creature.

Let’s back up to the sleeping arrangements quickly. As mentioned above, raised beds are an important way to combat the Tokoloshe. Traditionally, many South Africans in areas rife with Tokoloshe myths slept on grass mats encircling a warm, wood fire that would keep them warm during the bitter winter nights. However, sometimes healthy people would inexplicably be found dead come morning.

Why? Well, the Tokoloshe of course.

But, there is a theory that sleeping close to the fire in their homes may have depleted the oxygen levels and filled the home with carbon dioxide. As it is heavier than pure air, it would sink to the bottom of the home where people slept. Thus, seemingly healthy people and sometimes entire families would be found dead. A parallel was found between elevated sleepers and a lack of death so the Tokoloshe was told as a story forewarning those who slept close to the ground (and the fire). While it might not be an actual malevolent creature, what kept away a Tokoloshe would also keep away death from carbon monoxide.



The feature image is by Flickr User Jason Rogers, entitled Day 466 / 365 - Reach for the Light and liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)



The Rusalka





Sirens, mermaids, fish-people...notions of humanoids that live in water pervade many cultures throughout the world. The Slavic peoples are no different and their own mermaid myth. They call them a rusalka.

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The folklore of the rusalka has been dated back to the eighth century although it was probably a part of the oral tradition for quite some time before it was written down. In fact, the rusalki are said to be descended from Bereginya. Bereginya, in Slavic folklore, is the great goddess and creator of the world. According to the Slavic Chronicles, “Bereginya is basically a combination of  “hearth-mother,” associated with the guardianship, even of the nation itself,” although some consider her to be a spirit.

Unlike some stories of mermaids, the rusalka are made from human choices and do not seem to be a race of creatures independent from humanity. What I mean by this is the idea that rusalki are created, not made. It is said that a variety of circumstances can transform a human into a rusalka, although many have to do with death. For example, if a young woman dies a particularly violent death related to water she may become a rusalka. Other times it deals with suicide, such as a young woman drowning herself because she has become pregnant by wedlock or rejected by a lover. Others say that any young woman who dies a virgin is bound to become a rusalka.

Another interesting fact, if one considers these potential origin stories, is that the rusalki are said to have a finite time in the world. According to Ancient Origins, “These souls linger on in water until their allotted time on earth is complete (this version of events usually accompanies the violent death or suicide origin stories). Others must remain until their death is avenged (this version of events usually accompanies the murder or jilted lover origin stories).”

As folklore has grown and mutated throughout the centuries so do the rusalka looks. In the earliest stories regarding rusalki their hair and eyes are described as blue and green while later stories their hair is described as red, the color of sin. However, their shapeshifting powers seem to remain constant with their ability to transform into animals related to the water such as fish and frogs. Another constant is that they are not half-fish, they appear as typical human women with feet. However, they do have the ability to survive in and manipulate water.

Like sirens, it is believed rusalki are predators. They tempt people, in particular young men, by her voice or physical appearance. Once tempted, she traps him and pulls him under the water. In folklore stories of heroes the rusalka often represents a ‘test’ and if abused or if the hero fails the test he will be cast into a watery grave.

However, they do have some protective power and don’t seem to be all bad. For example, during harsh storms, hail, and other intense water-related weather if they are worshipped correctly, they will protect the people. It is also believed that rusalki take revenge very seriously. According to Slavorum, “In other stories a rusalka may fall in love with a man from the world of the living but they always end in tragedy. No good may come from such a love story and there is no happy ending for the poor rusalka’s damned soul: she’ll haunt the river forever with her sorrow and vengeful fury. Even almighty Slavic Gods Perun, Svarog, Veles and many other couldn’t stay indifferent to a beauty of Rusalka.”

Today, some places still celebrate Rusalka Week, also known as Green week, which occurs after Easter. It is said that at this time the rusalki are supposed to be at their most powerful and they sing and dance in the woods bringing with them water to reinvigorate life.





The featured image is Załaskotany (cykl Rusałki). Olej na płótnie. 38 x 109,5 cm. Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego w Krakowie and is liscensed under the public domain.


Gjenganger

A Gjenganger, hailing from Scandinavian folklore, is not your typical ghost. In fact, many Scandinavian people fear that when they die they may come back a Gjenganger. A Gjenganger, at its most basic, is a ghost that has been revived from death to purposefully haunt the living.

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The word “Gjenganger” is a combination of the words ‘again’ and the word ‘ganger’ means ‘foot’ or ‘walker’ so Gjenganger translates to ‘walking again.’ This is even more fitting because Gjengangers usually look wholly corporeal and real and not at all “ghostly.”

Typically, Gjengangers are those who died before their time, usually a victim of murder, suicide, or another crime or accident. These revenge-motivated ghosts are extremely vicious and with the goal of seriously disturbing the lives of those who wronged it in life.

Gjengangers mostly commonly attack in the dead of night while their victim is fast asleep. The Gjenganger will then pinch the sleeping person and flee the scene. When the victim awakens they’ll notice a strange, blue spot where the Gjenganger pinched them. This is a sign of coming sickness and death for that person.

In addition to attacking specific people who have wronged it, Gjengangers also seem to enjoy wreaking havoc among all the living. They are adept at spreading sickness and, if it touches you, even if it is just a brush, your flesh will soon begin to slough away as the virus reaches your heart.

To avoid Gjengangers there are some practices that can be put in place to avoid the creation of them. A person who has the potential to become a Gjenganger must be buried in a specific way with a specific runic inscription being written inside the coffin to prevent any waking up and walking around.

Interestingly enough a lot of the symptoms caused by the Gjenganger seem to mimic real-life diseases that were common at the time. Could the skin sloughing disease be necrotizing fasciitis which often occurs after an injury or even simple abrasions or cuts? Furthermore, could the pinching-based disease be a symptom of cancer or other internal issues?

The above image is entitled Porteous Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia PA. It was taken by Flickr user Thomas. It is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).


A Brief Overview of Crossroads

Crossroads factor into many stories of the occult, strange, and astonishing. But, why? And who are these strange creatures that seem to be pulled towards to them to interact with humans? Like many special places in folklore such as bridges, dusk, and stairwells, crossroads act as a liminal space. Every magical being from fairies to Old Scratch himself has been rumored to be available to call upon or see at a crossroads. Crossroads also represent the need for a choice - if you are a traveler you must make a decision, which road will you take? And how could this direction change your life?

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There are crossroads myths that date back to well before there were any roads for carts or cars and can be found all over the world from Africa to Europe to Asian. Crossroads myth and folklore also dates incredibly far back all the way to America in the 20th century, and perhaps even more recently.

Before I begin diving into the crossroads and the beings that guard, appear, or interact at the crossroads I do want to stress not that all aspects of the crossroad are necessarily or inherently evil. In fact, crossroads play an integral part of all sorts of magic. Commonly, an offering of food, wine, silver, or lavender is made at a triple crossroads when asking for advice when you are a metaphorical crossroads in your life. Many magical practices, such as a wash, also need to be poured out or completed on a crossroads to finish and solidify the magic.

Let’s begin with what Icy Sedgwick calls the “Daddy of crossroads legends”, the Devil. The Devil appearing at a crossroads is quite a popular through-line of the myth, however, Old Scratch appearing at a crossroads and offering fame, knowledge, power or fortune is one of the most popular crossroad deals you’ll hear in American myth. In America, he sometimes appears as a well-dressed man (typically white or black) offering you a wily deal that’s bound to end in disaster and, of course, with him getting another soul to add to his book.

One of the most infamous crossroads myths in America is that of Robert Johnson. In this story, Johnson does not begin as the great talent we recognize today. Frustrated as gig after gig landed him nothing and being asked to stop playing multiple times, he decided to make a deal with the devil...literally. The story goes that late at night Johnson made his way to a crossroads and expressed his intention and desire for a deal in the middle of them. Summoned, the devil took Johnson’s guitar out of Johnson’s hands and into his own, while strumming a few nearly unlistenable chords. When he was done, he handed back the guitar to Johnson. However, when Johnson played the notes came easy and talent flowed from him. Some of his lyrics are often nodded to as “proof” of this deal, such as “I got to keep movin’, blues fallin’ down like hail… And the day keeps on worrin’ me, there’s a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail.” -- Hellhound on my Trail, Robert Johnson (1937)

Robert Johnson died early at the young age of 27, joining the infamous 27 club. Was his death the work of the devil, or simply bad luck?

In addition to devils, there are also animals of the crossroads. Oschaert, from Belgian folklore, was a black dog that haunted crossroads. A bit of a trickster, this creature often played tricks on those who are unknowingly wandered into one of his crossroads. Luckily, you could be saved from his trickery by standing in the dead center of the crossroads and waiting for Oschaert to leave, tail between his legs. Never fear cat-lovers, there is also a crossroads cat, often called the money cat. In order to conjure the cat, you must leave a food offering, particularly a dead hen until it shows itself to you. Then, it will allow you to take it home. Once in your house, it must be trapped in a box or corner of the house until it is tamed. You must take diligent care of it, including feeding it well and offering it treats. If you let it out early or if you do not take proper care of it, it will flee your home and curse you with bad luck.

Another figure of the crossroads is Papa Legba, an African trickster god, and the god of the roads. Like the crossroads itself, Legba is also a liminal being with the power to open the way between the world of the living ad the world of the dead. Gerdès Fleurant, a sociologist focusing on music and folklore, noted that without Papa Legba, “nothing can be done. No ceremony can take place. He is the one who opens the gates of the universe.” Unlike the devil at the crossroads, Papa Legba is typically helpful and kind, despite being a bit of a trickster. He is willing to help as long as you honor him with his favorite things (like candy) and treat him with respect and he will teach you what you wish to know or lead you to a choice when you are at an indecisive mental crossroads.

As mentioned before the crossroads are a powerful place to perform magic. According to Danish lore on midnight on New Year’s Eve if one stands within a rectangle formed by horse-cart tracks a ghost of any dead person can be summoned and will be forced to answer three questions of your choosing. It is said in German lore that if you’d like to hear the names of the people that will die in the coming year you simply need to visit a crossroads between 11p, and midnight on New Year’s Eve to hear the names called out by the wind.

Without a doubt, the crossroads are a place of great, time-old folklore, mystery, and myth. We urge caution when driving or walking through at night. And, if someone asks you to sign a book in a crossroads in exchange for fame and glory...we highly suggest you close the book and keep on moving.


The featured image is Crossroads by Flickr user Jacopo. It is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Qalupalik

When you think of a mermaid, a few different images may cross through your mind - images of kind-hearted, beautiful half-fish, half-human maidens or perhaps sirens that may be beautiful but once they have you in their clutches turn to heinous beasts ready to kill you. But, the Qualupalik is a bit different.

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The legend of the Qalupalik comes from the Inuit people and their icy, arctic waters. Unlike many other mythical mermaids, there is nothing attractive about the Qualupalik. They are described as aquatic humanoids with scaly, bumpy skin. They are often depicted as having fins coming out of their heads, backs, and torsos. Their hands, though webbed, are clawed and made for the hunt. The Qualupalik are also rumored to smell like sulfur and wear eider duck clothing. Most hauntingly is what they carry -  an amautik. Amautiks are commonly worn by Inuit women to secure their babies to their backs. They carry amautiks so they can snatch small Inuit children.

Inuit parents warn their children frequently about the dreadful Qualupaliks. One of the warning signs if they are near the shore and hear a humming noise. The humming is a warning that the Qualupalik is near. The humming is meant to entice curious children to come closer to the edge of the shore so the Qualupalik can steal the child away. However, the threat does not vanish if you’re away from the shore. Sometimes the Qualupalik will knock under the ice drawing a child to a weak part or hole in the ice to steal them away.


But what do the Qualupalik do with the stolen children? Some say they eat them but other legends say they take them away to a cave and put them under a sleeping spell. They feed on the young, innocent energy to remain immortal.

Like many creatures from folklore Qualupalik serves a utilitarian purpose in the harsh environment of what is now Northern Alaska and Canada. By scaring the children out of wanting to be alone or going too close to sea ice or the shore they lowered the chances that the child would venture near those dangerous places.

The above image is Pink floyd88 a. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.


The MacLeod Fairy Flag

At Dunvegan Castle lays a treasure that was, allegedly, bestowed upon the MacLeod family by fairies themselves. Behind this curious artifact lays a story of romance, loss, and, surprisingly, luck. In Gaelic, it is known as Am Bratach Sith.

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The fairy flag is a treasure your eyes might pass over if they should ever come through the doors of Dunvegan castle. In this age, it appears tattered and brown and quite a ruined object. However, in its heyday, this object protected Clan MacLeod time after time.

Like many magical objects, there are a few origin stories of the fairy flag. The second one is the more romantic (and more popular) tale so that is what I’ll be telling you. Legend has it that a fantastically noble, young Chief of the MacLeod clan fell in love with a fairy princess. The pair, just like Arwen and Aragorn, planned to marry but the fairy princess’ father would not hear of it. However, the king of the Fairies saw how distraught his daughter was at the idea of never being able to marry her dashing MacLeod...so, he offered her a deal. He would allow them to “Hardfast.” Hardfasting was a common practice in the Scottish Highlands in which a pair could be trially married for a year and one day. However, the King said, at the end of this time the princess must return and take nothing human with her.

Their time together was nothing short of blissful and soon enough a baby boy was born to the couple. Each day the new family’s time together dwindled and dwindled until there was none left. Honoring her promise to her father the princess returned and the couple parted with great sadness in their hearts at the fairy bridge that connects our world to theirs. She made Chief MacLeod promise that he would never allow their son to cry. The princess claimed that these cries would follow her into the fairy realm and cause her untold amounts of grief. The good Chief kept his promise and his son was never left unattended or given the chance to cry.

Although he still had his son as time went on the young chief continued to mourn the loss of his fairy wife. The clansfolk desperately wanted to lift his spirits so they decided they should throw him a grand birthday party to take his mind away from the fairy princess. This idea worked...for a spell. The young chief enjoyed himself alongside his clansmen and the merry-making lasted well through the night. However, the nursemaid tasked with watching over the little baby soon grew restless and jealous of the other partygoers and went to the edge of the room to open the door and observe the festivities. She was so entranced by the wonderful party that she did not hear the little baby begin to whimper.

The fairy princess heard his cries from the fairy realm and instantly appeared by his crib. She took him into her arms, cradled him back to sleep, and wrapped him in her own shaw. The maid returned when she heard the princess singing. The maid ran into the room, picked the baby up, and ran to the chief to alert him.

Years later when the baby became a young man he told the tale of his mother visiting him in his infancy and deemed that the shaw should be a great talisman of luck and good fortune for the MacLeod clan. He claimed that his mother somehow communicated to him that if they waved this flag in battle the fairy legions would rush forth to ensure their victory. The only catch? This flag could only be waved three times and only three times would the fairy legion rescue the MacLeod’s. So, they both agreed to share this tale with the clansfolk and keep the flag in a safe place.

According to the legend, the flag has been used twice.

First, it was used when the MacLeod clan was outnumbered by their most hated enemy, the MacDonalds. The Chief took the flag from its case and waved it. It was at this point that the battle took a turn in favor of the MacLeods, despite being outnumbered.

It was used a second time when the entire land of the MacLeods was plagued and the cattle continued to get sick. Because of this, many of the MacLeod clan were dead or dying of starvation. The Chief at the time waved his flag and the cattle were raised from the dead and the plague ended.

The legend has continued to have great meaning to the MacLeods in the centuries since. In fact, many MacLeod men carried a picture of the flag in their wallets in WWII. Additionally, Dame Flora MacLeod during WWII offered to bring the flag to Dover and wave it, in the event that the Germans should invade.

The flag remains encased at Dunvegan castle.

A photo of the Dunvegan Cup, Fairy Flag, and Rory Mor's Horn. This image is a cropped version of the photo which appears between pages 38-39, in the book The Macleods of Dunvegan from the time of Leod to the End of the Seventeenth Century. The photo is credited to Roderick Charles MacLeod. It is the public domain.

Blå Jungfrun

Blå Jungfrun, which translates to Blue Maiden, is off the coast of Oskarshamn, Sweden. Today, it is an abandoned island. Blå Jungfrun primarily inhabited by all sorts of birds, including eagles and eider ducks. The island itself is thought to be around 570 million years old. It is spotted with giant burrows, smoothly rounded rocks, and herb-rich woodlands. There is even a labyrinth, known as the Trojeborg labyrinth, that no one knows who built it. Most interestingly, according to lore it was home to witches.


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The island itself is a little more than a half mile long and is dome-shaped. In 1926 Blå Jungfrun was named a national park. Blå Jungfrun has been an ominous, small island for generations. In fact, many people avoid saying its full name which is Blåkulla. Sailors who were near it avoided saying it aloud or even writing it down as it was believed if it was uttered a storm would instantly fall upon the vessel. So, that is why it is now known largely as Blå Jungfrun.


According to 16th century Swedish ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus, Blå Jungfrun has been a home to witches, rituals, and magic for centuries. In 1555, he wrote that witches openly worshipped the devil every Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). In addition, the island is thought to be generally cursed and any who remove even a small pebble from the site are said to endure a lifetime of bad luck.


It was also a common practice to leave votive offerings on the shores of the island in hopes of avoiding its wrath or cruse. Many of these offerings were female clothing.


Although many people have feared the strange island before recently archaeological evidence brought to light compelling proof that rituals may really have once taken place on Blå Jungfrun.


The archaeological team from Kalmar County Museum and Linnaues University began their fieldwork in Spring 2014 and found “extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age.” Which is quite interesting, especially since its believed to have always been largely uninhabited.


The most compelling sites were two caves. The first of the caves has a sizable hollow about 2 feet in diameter which was purposefully hammered into a wall. Underneath this hollow, there is a fireplace. The layout of the cave is also strange, "The entrance to the cave is very narrow, and you have to squeeze your way in. [However,] once you're inside, only half of the cave is covered and you can actually stand above the cave and look down into it, almost like a theater or a stage below," said Papmehl-Dufay.


The second cave provided equally interesting artifacts. The proof of human use of the space was found in the form of a hammerstone and an area that the archaeologists believe was dedicated to grinding up materials. It is believed that the room could have been used to give some sort of offering or serve as an altar-like structure.


In between these two strange caves the archaeological team also found a rock shelter that held stone tools and remains of seals. Radiocarbon believes that the seals were prepared and consumed by people about 9,000 years ago.


Papmehl-Dufay notes, “A few people could have been sitting or standing, perhaps just resting or spending the night during sporadic stays on the island...However, more-specific activities with ritual elements to [them] cannot be ruled out, such as feasting in connection to the rituals performed in the nearby caves." This is interesting because it seems to further promote the idea that the area was used primarily for some kind of ritual and not permanent human habitation.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Stick Indians

The Northwest Indian tribes, particularly the Salish, have a tale of a particularly malevolent and dangerous being that dwells deep in the forests of the Northwest. They are known primarily as Stick Indians. Physically, their description changes from tribe to tribe. Many legends acknowledge that they at least somewhat resemble other Native Americans, for example, they are about as tall as any other tribe. The Salish and tribes say that Stick Indians resemble our idea of Bigfoot. Even more curious, the Nez Perces call them little people.

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The Stick Indians are seldom seen, they are almost completely nocturnal, and it is said that their language does not mimic human speech but instead sounds like birds and other animals. They primarily hunted and fished to feed themselves and seemed to not have any permanent settlement. They were clothed with deer skins or other fixings from the forest.

It is believed these creatures got their name Stick Indians because they dwell in the forest and share many traits with animals of the forest rather than typical tribes. Other inspirations for the name Stick Indians is believed to come from their puckish habit of thrusting sticks into teepees, lodges, and individuals while they slept.

Similar to the Pukwudgies, these beings were not a problem...until they were. Many Stick Indians will play pranks on villages during the night when they come across them. These pranks, while annoying, were fairly mild. For example, they would steal fish from nets, take off with food, and removed men’s clothes.

However, when threatened by other tribes or when tribes interfered with their lives the powers of these creatures would soon be on display. Stick Indians were incredibly vindictive and always sought revenge.  It is believed that the Stick Indians have some powers of mental persuasion. Although the range of the powers differs (some believe they have the power to hypnotize or cause instant insanity) almost every tribe agrees that they are able to induce dread, confusion, and anxiety to humans, especially humans wandering alone. One of the ways they accomplish this is through disorienting a travel by whistling and mimicking animal noises.

Many people who disappeared were thought to have been taken by the Stick Indians as a punishment for disrespecting them. Children, specifically, were warned of the Stick Indians and wandering into the forest at night because the Stick Indian’s stole them away and brought them up to act as wives and slaves.


The above image is unrelated to the story and is from flickr user Mrs. Gemstones and is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Fetch

You may have heard of Doppelgängers before, but did you know the Irish have their very own version of the Doppelgänger? Well, it isn’t quite a Doppelgänger but a Fetch is an apparition of a living person and typically classified as a wraith.

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The fetch is typically depicted as a mere shadow that resembles a living person, including their clothing. Fetches are usually seen not by the person the fetch resembles, but by a close friend or family member. Fetches are only seen for a short time, usually at a bit of a distance, and fade away shortly after being seen.

Fetches are not substantial nor are they made of matter. They are often described as being airy or not “all there” indicating to those who see the fetch that they are not the person they think...merely a portrayal of that person.

Encountering a fetch doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, if you saw a fetch (even your own fetch) in the morning it meant good luck was coming your way. However, if a fetch was seen after nightfall it almost guaranteed death or catastrophe was close. Seeing a fetch while the person was ill was also typically a bad omen.

In the Book Haunted England, folklorist Christina Hole recounts the story of Sir William Napier, “who stopped at an inn while traveling from Bedfordshire to Berkshire. When he was shown his room, he saw a corpse lying on the bed. Upon closer inspection, he was astonished to see that the corpse was himself. Shortly after arriving in Berkshire, he died.”

Fetches do not appear to have specific power or interaction with the warning world besides as an omen (good or bad). It is silent, little seen, and does not seem to directly interact with the humans that encounter it.

Fetches classifications as a wraith make sense, especially considering Wraith translates to “dark shadow.” If we believe Fetches to shadows of people currently living, it tracks that they would fall under the larger category of wraiths.

So, if you think you see a ghostly representation of a close friend or loved one make sure to give them the warning that the fetch carries.

The above image is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘How They Met Themselves, watercolor, 1864.’ It is in the public domain.

Pukwudgies

Pukwudgies are a magical, humanoid race of people that feature prominently in Algonquian folklore. To different tribes, the Pukwudgie acts and looks differently. For example, in the Ojibwe tribes they are described as a mischievous but mostly good-natured being that may trick people but rarely has malicious intent. The Wampanoag and many other tribes of New England know the Pukwudgie to be both a trickster but also dangerous. They are known to play tricks but, in some cases, help out a human who has encountered them. If you wrong them or somehow offend them they are known to steal children, commit acts of terror, and can even be deadly.

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Pukwudgies are usually likened to the Western European fairy or gnome. While almost all accounts note that they are tricksters accounts vary on whether or not they have malicious intent. They are typically described as being about knee-high to an average height human. They have large hands, sagging shoulders, a stooped appearance, and a tendency to hunch forward when they walk. Despite this, they still appear to be agile and quick. Although they are small they are typically carrying arrows (which sometimes have poison arrows), knives, or spears. They also can attack in unison to kidnap people, push them off cliffs, or otherwise intimidate.

Their name denotes they habitat. ‘Pukwudgie’ translates directly to ‘person of the wilderness’ and they are often revered and respected of protectors or spirits of the forest. They are also known to have special powers. These powers vary depending on the tribe speaking about Pukwudgie lore, but they usually include the ability to become invisible, confound people, shapeshift, and bring harm to people simply through their gaze.

Native Americans believed that if you were to cross the path of a Pukwudgie you should avoid it as much as possible and not interact with the being at all.

The Wampanoag legend of the Pukwudgie is particularly interesting had a connection to Maushop, the creation giant who is believed to have created the land which is now Cape Cod. He was a beloved god and the Wampanoag people often felt they were blessed and especially taken care of by Maushop. The Pukwudgies felt forgotten and tried to help out the Wampanoag people so the Pukwudgies could be as revered as Maushop. However, their efforts often backfired or their tricksy nature got the best of them and the Wampanoag people were not, at the time, grateful for them.

Sensing that they would never be as beloved as Maushop the Pukwudgies decided to fire back. They became more and more malevolent. They played tricks, scared Wampanoag people, and did nothing to improve their daily lives. One day they Wampanoag were fed up with the feud and decided to visit Granny Squanit, Maushop’s wife, for guidance. Maushop, on his wife’s orders, collected up as many Pukwudgies as he could and flung them all around the area - from New England to the Great Lakes and even as far south as Delaware! He hoped this would lessen their power and if they were more spread out it would be harder for them to have such a big impact on humans’ lives.

Satisfied but exhausted from the work Maushop and his wife took a short sabbatical. However, during this time the Pukwudgies snuck back to Massachusetts. Infuriated that the Wampanoag were behind their scattering they elevated their attacks on them. Instead of just being nuisances and tricksters, the Pukwudgies began stealing children, burning villages, leading those lost in the woods to their deaths, and other horrible misdeeds.

Maushop was aware of this but did not want to fully return yet so he sent his five sons to fix the Pukwudgie problem. However, his sons were not a match for the Pukwudgies and they tricked them, ensnared them, and killed all five of them. Maushop and Granny Squaint were furious over their sons’ deaths and they attacked and killed as many Pukwudgies as they could. However, many escaped to the lands of New England.

Many still survive to this day and, according to some stories, a group of Pukwudgies overwhelmed Maushop and killed him.

It is interesting to note that after this story takes places Maushop largely disappears from the Wampanoags’’ mythos.

The folklore of the Pukwudgie is so pervasive that The Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, includes a brief section on Pukwudgies. It was published in 1855 and you can read it in full here:


“Far and wide among the nations

Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;

No man dared to strive with Kwasind,

No man could compete with Kwasind.

But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,

They the envious Little People,

They the fairies and the pygmies,

Plotted and conspired against him.”

Eyewitness accounts of the Pukwudgies and their good (and bad) deeds have been around for centuries. Although running into a Pukwudgie is always a scary situation because of their power and capricious nature it is not necessarily a death sentence. However, it is important to be wary of them and their intentions.

One of the areas with the most activity is in Freetown-Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts. It is on this land that a 227-acre Watuppa Reservation, which belongs to the Wampanoag Nation, is located. In fact, reports in the Freetown-Fall River State Forest forest rangers have put up a ‘Pukwudgie Crossing’ sign. Although this may be in jest, it does reflect the large number of calls, stories, and experiences with Pukwudgies that emerge from this area.

One of the most famous encounters occurred in the Forest. A local named Joan was walking her dog along a path in the forest, something she had done many times before. Without warning her dog began running excitedly off the path and into the forest. When the dog finally stopped running and Joan caught her breath she raised her head and found herself face to face with a small, humanoid creature. According to Joan, the being was roughly two feet tall, with pale gray skin, and short, stocky legs. It had large lips, a canine-like nose, and a human-like face.

The creature did not make a move towards Joan and her dog and Joan simply stared. Soon her dog began pulling her back towards the path and Joan followed. Unsettled by this strange and unexplainable experience Joan tried to forget it. However, this did not seem to make the Pukwudgie very happy. Later that night, and for a number of weeks, the creature would appear at Joan’s bedroom window in the middle of the night and wake her up.

Does the Pukwudgie crave human attention, or perhaps need it in some way? It is important to remember that previous to the Wampanoags’ run-in with them and the fight that erupted between Pukwudgies and Maushop, they enjoyed at least respect and acceptance of the Wampanoag people...they just wanted more. Although sightings are somewhat rare and scattered over the years I wonder if Pukwudgies make themselves known after they have been out of the news for some time. If they didn’t need or care about human interaction...why not just disappear deeper into the woods? If they have the ability to make themselves invisible why would they ever let themselves be seen? For this reason, I believe there is some kind of cross-over or necessity of human attention directed towards Pukwudgies...good or bad attention.



Thanks to Fallyn E T for the #blogstonishing topic suggestion!


The above image is unrelated to the story and is entitled Road through the Forest (Berkshires), Scenic. It is made available under the public domain.

Wampus Cat

A Wampus Cat might sound like the name of a cartoon cat but in reality, it is something much more complex and much more sinister. Although Wampus Cat legends can be heard throughout the South in the United States they seem to be predominantly prominent in Appalachia and has its origins in Cherokee lore.

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There are several different version of how the Wampus Cat came to be. One of the most prominent legends behind the Wampus Cat says that a group of Native American men set out for a long and grueling hunting trip. Because of the nature and duration of this hunt, no women were permitted to accompany the men. Both the men and the women of the tribe were incredibly upset about this order. One particularly spirited wife decided to secretly follow the men along of their hunt.

In order to camouflage herself, the woman decided to wear the hide of a cougar and hang near their campfire. She listened with rapture to the tales of the hunt, the rites of the hunt, and the conversation of the men. However, she soon made herself known. Perhaps she coughed, or gasped, or repositioned herself and broke a stick. But, whatever happened the men discovered her and were infuriated. They brought her back to their village and let the shaman decide her fate. The shaman punished this woman by turning her into the animal she wore on a back.

Thus, the Wampus Cat was created. The Wampus cat is half-human, half-cougar and is cursed until the end of time to walk the woods alone. Because of her terrifying experience, all those who cross her path are terrified of her and typically run screaming, thus preventing her from ever having positive human contact.

It is said the Wampus Cat has the ability to walk on her hind legs and has the snout and ears of a feline. The Wampus Cat likes to stalk campfires, especially those only with men, perhaps as a way to avenge her situation. Sometimes she simply steals food, but other times she attacks those around the campfire.

Interestingly enough, the Wampus Cat is where the term ‘Catawmpus’ allegedly comes from. Catamountain was a common way to say ‘Mountain Cat.’ Catawampus was used to describe an atypical or strange cat that those in the mountains believed they were seeing.

Thanks to Stacy C for the #blogstonishing  topic suggestion!

The above image is unrelated to the story and was taken on the trail leading up to the Appalachian Trail. It was taken by MaciEej and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication.


Church Grims

It is known as the Church Grim or the Kirk Grim in English, Kyrkogrim in Swedish, and Kirkonavki in Finnish. No matter where you may hear the story the lore surrounding this particular creature is fascinating. Church Grims are popular in both English and Scandinavian folklore. Despite its ominous and frightening appearance many believe the Church Grim is an attendant spirit, sent to oversee a church.

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Although they are an attendant spirit, Church Grims are not some dapper gentleman dressed in clothes of old or a gentle animal. Instead, Church Grims usually appear as intensely fierce black dogs ready to protect the church. In some stories, the dogs can also be rams, horses, roosters, or ravens. In Scandinavian legend it is also said that they can also appear as pale, human-like ghosts who were once parishioners.

The Church Grim may not be as cute and cuddly as our beloved Greyfriars Bobby, it does not call forth evil. Instead, the Church Grim’s one goal is to protect the church safe from the devil. It is a guardian spirit and some people believe this was because early Christians may have sacrificed animals when a new church was built and bury them on the north side of the land. Why would they do this? Well, it was once assumed by several different religious traditions, including early Christianity, that whoever was the first and/or last being interred in the Church’s cemetery would be forced to serve as its guardian for all the years to come. So that this tough existence wouldn't be granted to some poor soul at random, an animal was sacrificed and buried in the churchyard or on the church grounds. Some of the more gruesome traditions suggest that the animal would be buried alive.  

However good its intentions may be, you don’t want to bump into the Church Grim. Church Grim’s are often an omen and herald doom and death to those who witness it.

Thanks to Luke C for the suggestion!




The above image is unrelated to the story and is by Flickr user Matthias Ripp. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


The Nain Rouge

The Nain Rouge, also known as the Red Dwarf, a legend that has shaped Detroit, Michigan for decades. The Nain Rouge is also known as the ‘The Demon of the Strait’ and is believed to be the first bad omen for an upcoming disaster. One of the most infamous encounters of the Nain Rouge was when the founder of Detroit, Cadillac, found him sitting on the bank of the Detroit River. Suddenly, he jumped up and thrust a stick at Cadillac. Frightened, Cadillac drew his own sword in response and beat the creature away until it ran. After his experience he lost his entire fortune, went back to France, lost his trade monopoly, and was bereft of the wonderful benefits that had accompanied him throughout life.

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The Nain Rouge doesn’t just have Cadillac to thank for his French name. In fact, French folklore has long depicted trouble-making creatures that hold a grudge and wreak havoc if disturbed. As the decades wore on and Cadillac’s story was told again and again the Nain Rouge also took on several characteristics of Native American folklore.

It has been witnessed right before many of the city’s lowest times. For example, it was spotted by several people racing through the streets on 1805 mere days before much of the city burned to the ground. It was spotted again in 1812 when the British began bombarding the American forces at Fort Detroit.  When General Hull finally accepted the British unconditional surrender, he reported that he saw the Nain Rouge leering and laughing at him through the fog as it cleared.

He has also been seen in the 20th century during the police raid that sparked the race riots of 1967 and, ten years later in 1977, was seen by Detroit Edison lineman while on lunch break shimmy up a utility pole. They screamed at him to stop and when he reached the top dropped to the ground without a scratched, leered at them and ran away. The next day a historic ice storm left roughly 400,000 residents without electricity.

Detroit has been an American city that has seen more downs than ups during its long and storied history. However, much of this is blamed on the Nain Rouge. So much so that for over a decade the city holds a parade to banish the Nain Rouge for another year. “He’s a necessary villain,” said Shane Stroud, one of the marchers from Dearborn, MI. She continues, “He takes the blame for us.”

Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal notes in a 2016 article, “The Nain-bashing has coincided with the city’s recovery. While much of Detroit is still troubled, pockets of the city are starting to see new life. Detroit’s downtown, where visitors could once see trees growing on the rooftops of abandoned office towers, has begun to flourish with restaurants and businesses locating there. Investment is pouring in, and in some neighborhoods, rents and home prices are rising.”


Thank you Brad L for the suggestion!

Representation of "Le Nain Rouge", or "The Red Dwarf", the mythical figure that haunts Detroit and is cause for all of the problems that plague the city by Fujiwara06. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.


Ghost Lights: An Overview

From centuries-old folklore to contemporary sightings, ghost lights seem to play a part in many paranormal experiences and remain a constant thread of unexplained phenomena through the ages. They have been reported around the world and remain a constant and haunting element whose purpose and intent we can only guess at.

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Many of the earliest mentions of ghost lights call them Will-o’-wisps. These are phantom lights that hover in the wilderness, specifically away from human settlement. Many popular stories of Will-o’-wisps take place in the moors and bogs of England. Will-o’-wisps are simple things - they are balls of light typically described as blue, although red and yellow have also been reported.

Will-o’-wisps, despite their whimsical name, seem to have quite dark and evil intents. They are said to appear as a beacon to lost travelers or children lost in the woods. The victims, thinking they may have found another soul in the marshes or a nearby village, follow the light. However, the light almost always leads them to a deep hole, a deadly muddy part of the bog, or just deeper into the woods leaving them more lost than over. In some cases, the lights are carried or controlled by vicious fae who plan on taking the follower captive in their kingdom.

In addition to being misleading signs of hope, it is also said that these Will-o’-wisps act as powerful omens and warnings of tragedy and death.

Today, they aren’t called Will-o’-wisps as regularly. There are several popular places in America alone that are notorious for ghost lights - Marfa, Texas, Brown Mountains, North Carolina, and the Paulding Lights of Michigan!

The mysterious lights of today seem to move in a similar way to Will-o’-wisps - they bob, change their speeds, weaving through the air, and are rarely still or are on a clear path. They have also been assigned new names like spook lights and corpse candles.

But what are ghost lights? Are they the same vicious fae of Will-o’-wisps lore? Are they intent on confusing travelers? Or, are they something else? Some theorize that they may be ghosts or even UFOs. On a skeptic level, many believe it is methane gas that has caught fire and appears to float due to fumes rising or headlights of cars that have been distorted..

Thanks to Kimbery G. for the suggestion.

The above image is from The Public Domain Review and is  entitled will o the wisp. It is licensed under the public domain.


Hungry Grass

Hungry Grass, also known as Fear Gortach, is popular in Irish folklore. So, what makes it so different from normal grass? Well, it is said to be indistinguishable from a normal patch of grass, but if you stand in a patch of hungry grass you’ll immediately be overtaken by hunger, sleepiness, and you may even faint.

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What causes hungry grass to spring up in otherwise normal fields? Some say that it arises when someone dies violently, others say it happens when someone starves to death. Even more, believe they are the victims of the Irish famines. In reaction to these painful realities, the land responds.

Another theory of hungry grass springing up is it is a fairy curse. Recently, I was learning about Fairy Paths. Fairy Paths typically connect the various places where fairies frequented, including their hills, raths, gathering places, and meadows. People tended to avoid taking these paths, building on them, or otherwise obstructing them. If you did obstruct them or even walk there, the fairies might get upset and punish or play with you. Perhaps the hungry grass is a reaction to those messing with common fairy paths?

Whatever causes hungry grass to spring up, almost unnoticeably, once it does the grass becomes predatory. Anyone who walks across it feels a deeply insatiable hunger, even if they just ate. People who live near known patches of hungry grass try to keep some extra food on hand for those walking and who don’t know to avoid certain parts of the meadow.  

Today, the threat of hungry grass seems to have abated. However, a common phrase is "The fear gortach is on me", which means ‘I’m very hungry!’ so it isn’t wholly missing from cultural consciousness.

Thanks to Brenden K. for the suggestion! This image is entitled “Mowing grass at Bridge-end Pasture The path from Crook Hill Farm provides some splendid views of the Hope Valley, Snake Pass and Derwent Edge (On a clear day !)The conifers on the right are at the edge of Hagg Side Plantation. Forestry Commission have just started major tree-felling work here” by Peter Barr and is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0

Thanks to Brenden K. for the suggestion!

This image is entitled “Mowing grass at Bridge-end Pasture The path from Crook Hill Farm provides some splendid views of the Hope Valley, Snake Pass and Derwent Edge (On a clear day !)The conifers on the right are at the edge of Hagg Side Plantation. Forestry Commission have just started major tree-felling work here” by Peter Barr and is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0

Japanese Bathroom Beings

One thing Japanese folklore is famous for is having dozens and dozens of ghosts, spirits, and demons that inhabit people’s everyday lives and can be anywhere from a bridge to your very own home. One area of the home you might want to be specifically aware of? The bathroom. There are a few characters from Japanese folklore that are specifically bathroom (or even toilet) orientated: the Kawaya no Kami, Akaname, and the Noppera-bō.

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Let’s start with not just a mere spirit or a ghost, but a god. Kawaya no-Kami is a Japanese toilet god. What makes him a toilet god? Well, his origin story certainly helps. It is said Kawaya was born from the excrement of Izanami, who is the goddess of Earth and darkness in Japanese folklore.

It is particularly interesting that he was born from Izanami because, if you think about it,  toilets are quite dark places buried into the earth. In fact, some believe that Kawaya’s existence in the folklore is representative of the issues with pre-modern toilets - they were dark, deep, and could actually be quite dangerous. Kawaya offers protections against the danger of toilets.

He is typically depicted as an old, blind man and is usually pictured hiding at the bottom of toilets and clutching a spear. It is for this exact reason you should make your presence known before you sit down, or else...Don’t worry, you don’t have to announce or worship him before, usually, just a polite cough will do.

To thank him, some people would decorate their toilets or bathroom-areas as a way to say thank you. If you want to anger Kawaya, make sure your bathroom is dirty. Kawaya had so much power that it is said if you don’t properly respect him you will have ugly children. Human waste was also a popular fertilizer so he was also sometimes worshipped during the harvest.

Another reason to keep your bathroom clean is to avoid the Akaname, aka the ‘Filth Licker.’ Akaname is summoned from human filth and scum left in the bathrooms. Late at night, Akaname appears in unkempt bathrooms and licks the filth. He is often described as having a red body and quite a long and large tongue. In some versions of this story, the Akaname is rumored to have poisonous or acidic saliva (which is how the grime is removed) although it does not seem to have a negative effect on humans.

Although Akaname would no doubt be quite alarming to see, it does not seem the creature does anything evil. The presence of Akaname should be a wake-up call to anyone who has let their bathroom go too long.

Finally, we arrive at the Noppera-Bo whose appearance might be the most frightening of the bunch mentioned here. Noppera-Bo looks like any other person until you see its face. The Noppera-Bo’s face is completely smooth.

The Noppera-Bo haunts specifically public restrooms and seems to have a particular preference for ladies bathrooms. Unlike the other two beings mentioned above, the Noppera-Bo doesn’t seem to care much about the cleanliness of the bathroom and its main goal is, well, scaring the crap out of people. They are not limited to the bathroom, although it seems it is one of their favorite haunts. It is unclear their motives for spooking people but, perhaps, they feed off of human fear and scaring people generates energy or food.

If you know anything about Japanese bathroom beings you might be questioning why I left off Hanako-san. The Japanese equivalent to Bloody Mary is Hanako-san. I left it off because I plan on writing a comparative piece later on...stay tuned!

Dieter Sieger, Sieger Design. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.


The Gray Man of Pawleys Island

As Hurricane Florence barreled towards landfall in the south strange murmurings of the Gray Man began to resurface. The Gray Man is an eerie spirit said to appear on the shores of a beach, particularly Pawleys Island, right before a historic storm. If you see the Gray Man, you should heed his warning and evacuate.

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As some people view Mothman as a warning of doom (instead of the harbinger of doom), the Gray Man is seem quite similarly. Although he is haunting and eerie to witness, he acts as a warning to those close to the coast in order to warn and protect them.

While there are a range of origin stories of who the Gray Man was before death, most people seem to settle on a tale of love lost.

This story takes place on Pawleys Island, South Carolina in the early 1800s. A young man is excitedly getting ready to visit his long-distance love. He has not seen her in some time because he has been out at sea. However, the day has finally come for their planned visit. She lives on the other side of Pawleys Island and decides that on this visit he will finally ask her for her hand in marriage. The young woman is equally excited as she busies herself cleaning the house, preparing for his arrival, and wondering if he’ll finally ask the question she’s been dying to say yes to.

He heads out on horse with a friend but the man is getting antsy and wants to get to his beloved faster. He decides to part with his friend to take a shortcut through the marsh while his friend decides to stay on the road.The shortcut proves useful for sometime but as the sun is setting his horse stumbles and he man is thrown violently into the marsh. The water, mud, and marsh all weigh him down and drag his further and further from the surface.

Hours later, the young women grows nervous when her lover doesn’t arrive. The next day, the news of his tragedy travels to her. She is devastated and decides to take a walk alone to help settle herself.

The walk settles her so much she begins to make evening walks a regular part of her evening routine. Weeks pass and she notices a man, dressed all in gray, standing in her usual path. Even from a distance she could tell there was something familiar in the way he stood. As she got closer and closer her breath was taken away - it was her lover’s face. But how was this possible? He had been dead for weeks. Approaching him even faster, dying to ask him how he had survived, he told her to leave the island immediately. It was not safe. He disappeared before she could even utter a word.

More distraught than she had been since that fateful night she rushes home and tell her parents what had transpired. Unwilling to hear reason she is determined to heed her lover’s advice, even if it was from beyond the grave. They decided to leave the next morning for the mainland.

And thank god they did.

When they returned a few days later the island had been devastated. There had been a hurricane. Only one home survived the storm: hers.

Ever since there have been reports of this somber Gray Man warning those on the island to head for the mainland whenever a big storm is on the horizon.

The Gray Man typically appears to 2-3 to people and rarely to groups. He seems to take a special interest in couples. For example, a young, newlywed couple were enjoying their honeymoon on Pawleys Island in 1954. Very early one morning during their honeymoon someone knocked on the door. They sleepily answered and were greeted by a man dressed plainly, although somehow out of place, in gray. He told them in an even tone they needed to leave the island because a deadly storm was coming. One look out the window showed a clear morning was breaking. Before they could question or contest he disappeared before their very eyes. Terrified and confused the couple left that day. Just a few days later, when they should have still been on the Island, Hurricane Hazel swept through the island ruining many homes and even killing several people.

In the wake of Hurricane Florence, several people have reported seeing the Gray Man themselves warning them to get away.

Rian Fontaine told Yahoo News, “It’s a story I heard growing up...I think everyone in the low country has heard the story, especially when hurricanes or tropical storms begin to form around our area. It’s always something you hear people bring up. He’s a friendly entity. … Not that it’s a good thing to see him, but when someone does claim to see him, it gives us locals an idea of what we’re dealing with.”

Whether you not you believe you see him or think your eyes are just playing tricks on you, be sure to heed the Gray Man in hurricane season.

The above image is from Hunter Desportes on Flickr. It is titled 127 Black and White (1964) Pawleys Island, South Carolina, ca. 1964 and liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Draugr

In Norse Mythology, Draugr (also known as Draug and Draugen) are the ghosts of Vikings that rise from their graves to walk the world. It is said they first appear from the graves as wisps of smoke and have the cloying stench of decay. In addition to the smell and reanimation, Draugr also retain superhuman strength and the ability to increase their size at will.

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The Draugr were believed to be propelled from their graves to physically attack the living out of anger and envy. Regardless of how they were in life, in death, they were only murderous and vengeful monsters with a thirst to attack humans at every chance. Like contemporary zombie myth, it was also said that those who are killed by Draugr were destined to become Draugr themselves.

However, unlike contemporary zombies, they aren't mindless. In fact, they are usually depicted with human-level intelligence (except imbued more deeply with anger and hate) and also had some magical powers. As mentioned above, they could grow at will and, in some versions of the myth, were able to shapeshift into animals or pass through walls and other obstacles without impediment. Their only goal in their undead-life seems to be to attack and kill humans. In addition to turning their victims into more Draugr, they also reportedly enjoy the taste of blood. Additionally, it was sometimes believed that they stole treasure to hoard back at their graves. They didn’t just attack humans, they also attacked livestock (as this makes the living’s lives a lot harder). While roaming, they’d often make a snack out of the countryside creatures. This meant that shepherds were also popular targets for the Draugr.

They also delighted in suffering. It is said that they loved causing trauma and pain to their victims and they weren’t just quick killers. In some stories, they sit on the chests of their victims bringing them just to the brink of suffocation over and over again.

In the Eyrbyggja saga, a famous Norse tome, the Draugr of Thorolf had swollen to the size of an ox and his body was so heavy that it could not even be moved without levers. The Eyrbyggja saga says about Thorolf, “[Thorolf] was buried near Þórólfr. Of all the sheep in the valley, some were found dead, and the rest that had strayed into the mountains were never found. Whenever birds landed on Thorolf’s grave, they fell down dead.”

So, how do you kill an undead being? Well, it’s quite difficult and they seem as difficult to exterminate as cockroaches. One of the surefire ways to rid yourself of Draugr is to cut off their heads, burn their bodies, and throw their ashes into the sea. Another way to prevent the Draugr from wreaking more havoc is for a hero to wrestle it backs to its grave and remove its head.

To prevent the threat of Draugr it is suggested that big toes be tied together with needles driven through their feet. This should prevent them from being able to walk once they become undead. Large boulders could also be placed on the grave (or directly on the corpse) to further prevent this from happening. Archaeologists have even found evidence of the weapons buried with Vikings were rendered impossible to use when they were put into the grave.

Like many tales of the dead coming back to life, it is believed that Draugr folklore is born out of a fear of dead bodies and the powers they held. Dead bodies are not only frightening and grisly reminders of what happens to all of us someday, they also carry disease and can be harbingers of death themselves.

This is a photo of VISIT TO GLASNEVIN CEMETERY IN DUBLIN [FIRST SESSION OF 2018]-135050 by William Murphy. It is unrelated to the story (except for the fact that it is a graveyard). It is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).


The Hidebehind

One thing I recently realized was lacking in the blog? American Folklore! So, today we remedy that with a short tale about one of the little known creatures of 19th century American Folklore, the Hidebehind. Tales of this creature seem to spring up around lumber communities and particularly with lumberjacks. 19th century lumberjacks had a lot to worry about - physical injury, bears, falling trees...and, of course, the Hidebehind.

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According to the lore, the Hidebehind got its name from how it stalked its prey - hiding behind it. It hid behind trees in the forest and stalked its prey as it concealed itself amongst the forest. Whenever someone’s back was turned, it would creep closer. When it finally was close enough to its victim it would instantly gouge out the stomach and intestines of the victim. The Hidebehind would then feast on the raw meat. Assaults by the Hidebehind were so instant that even if not completely deadly, the victim often died of fright alone.

The Hidebehind’s physical description is hard to nail down, as it is so rarely seen. However, those who have glimpsed this horrid creature describe it as wraith-like and vaguely humanoid. The body of this creature was undeniably slender, though, as it was able to conceal itself behind a whole variety of trees. Additionally, one would have to guess that it has fearsome claws in order to eviscerate its victims instantaneously.

How could one possibly evade the Hidebehind if it was fast, sneaky, and armed with claws? Well, drinking helps. No, seriously. According to most accounts, the monster hated the smell of alcohol. If it hated the smell, it sure didn’t want to eat something chock full of it. So, the lumberjacks drank as a way to protect themselves when they thought they might be on the hunting grounds of a Hidebehind. However, many saw this solution as an excuse to drink more.

So, where and why did these tales arise? As mentioned above, these stories took place in logging country in the USA (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan) which were pretty wild places in the 19th century. Being a lumberjack was a taxing job with a myriad of dangers to contend with every single day. Perhaps the Hidebehind was a story to keep men vigilant for bears and other wild animals that may be lurking in the woods. Or, perhaps, this isn’t an animal specific threat and just a grander reason and reminder for lumberjacks to stay vigilant at all times in order to avoid vulnerability.

However, it might also be a way to deal with mysterious disappearances and deaths of fellow lumberjacks. Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth describes the creature as "A predatory cannibal beast that lurked around the loggers' camps until one was alone long enough to be grabbed and carried away to be consumed." Perhaps this creature was a way for logging camps to deal with the fear of accidental kills, lost men, and fallen friends.

The above is an image of Federal Forest Highway 13, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by Jim Toomey. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.

Moll Dyer

In 17th century Leonardtown, Maryland there was an infamous woman named Moll Dyer. Although no direct historical record has been found of her existence, a road, a stream, and a large rock all bear her name. But who do we think she was?

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Similarly to the Bell Witch, we aren’t quite sure what exactly her origins were before her title of ‘witch.’ Most sources seem to agree that she was a woman that lived in semi-isolation on the edge of town. Her origin was unknown to many of the townspeople and this created a hotbed of speculation - some believed she was an Irish noblewoman on the run, others believed she was running a way (or even killed a husband), and some believed she had been run out of her hometown. As noted before there was no record of a ‘Moll’ Dyer, but there were several Dyers in the area at the time and ‘Moll’ could have been a nickname of one of them, or that her birth certificate was never created or otherwise improperly filed and lost to the archives of time. Her story wasn’t recorded until the 19th century when a local writer, Joseph F. Morgan decided to write the story down.

In addition to her isolation, it is believed she practiced as a healer. Like many healers during the 17th century as soon as a series of misfortunes took hold of the town Moll was blamed and labeled a witch. During a particularly cold winter, the townspeople arrived at her small house and ran her out. Some stories says the townsfolk came to her door dramatically - torches and pitchforks in hand. Others say that their intent was just to scare her enough to get her to move. Moll, unbelievably, escaped this small but angry mob. She ran from the fire of her home and it was believed she ran in the dead of a cold, cold night until she fell upon a large boulder. It was at this boulder that she died. Several days later, a young boy came upon her corpse. Her body was frozen and one of her arms was allegedly stretched towards the heavens, perhaps in a last ditch effort for her or as a way to curse her tormentors.

How do we know this? Well, it is rumored that the imprints of her hand remained burned into the rock for hundreds of years. This boulder is so important that the local historical society had it moved and placed in front of their building. It is also said that at the original site of the rock the fields were strangely barren for years after her passing.

However, her curse had more effects than leaving behind handprints and making a few fields barren. It was said that the men responsible for leading the mob to Moll’s door all had bouts of horrible luck. Their lands became barren, their livestock died, they got sick, and their families suffered.

It should also be noted that some people believed Leonardtown and the story of Moll Dyer partly inspired the being and energy in The Blair Witch Project.


The above image is unrelated to the story it is by Aleks G and is liscensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.