Monster of the Week: The Black Dogs of England

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Throughout English history, tales of spectral black dogs have provoked fear and anxiety. Often believed to be omens of death, historical accounts of malevolent black dogs can be found in almost every county in England. These nocturnal apparitions were variously described as ghosts, hellhounds, and shapeshifters, and were sometimes associated with witchcraft or the devil. Despite their sinister reputation, there are reports in which ghostly black dogs take on the role of benevolent guardian. Continue reading

Monster of the Week: The Rougarou

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What was a loup-garou? Oh, well, it was the most terrible thing in the world. Sometimes it was a wolf, and sometimes it was a man, or a woman either, whichever it felt like in its wicked heart. And always it could take your heart out, and then you died, because you could not breathe without your heart.
—Laura Elizabeth Howe Richards, Marie (1894)

Rougarou-SwampFrom deep within the murky bayous of Louisiana comes the legend of the dire lycanthropic creature known as the Rougarou. Rougaroux are found in French-speaking areas of North America such as Québec, but most particularly in Cajun Acadiana (in and around New Orleans), where its legend has proliferated from those of the werewolf-like loup-garou of medieval France—loup is the French word for wolf, and garou is a French word similar in meaning to werewolf. Cajun lore uses the terms loup-garou and rougarou interchangeably. A major difference between the Rougarou and the creature we more commonly think of as a werewolf is that the Rougarou has agency over its transformation, and maintains the consciousness and intelligence of its human form throughout that change. Continue reading

Monster of the Week: Jólakötturinn

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jolako%cc%88tturinnstampJólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, is an Icelandic holiday monster. He is a giant cat who is said to eat children who have not finished their autumn wool-working chores, thereby failing to have been rewarded with new clothes by Christmas Eve.

“His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high,
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.”
—Jóhannes úr Kötlum, “Jólakötturinn” (Vignir Jónsson, trans.)

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Monster of the Week: Frankenstein

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Boris Karloff as the Creature, 1934

Two hundred years ago, on the shores of Lake Geneva during a dark and dismal summer, the eighteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin created one of the most enduring monsters of contemporary history. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously as an epistolary three-volume novel two years later. The second edition was published in France five years after that in 1823, bearing for the first time the English author’s married name: Mary Shelley. Since then, the novel has become one of the most widely taught literary texts in the English language, and the creature commonly known as Frankenstein remains one of the most recognizable and popular monsters of the horror genre and beyond.

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The Mysterious Menehune of Hawaii

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Stone Menehune statue

In Hawaiʻi, tales of the little people known as the Menehune have been passed down through generations. Stories of these mysterious folk can be found in ancient Hawaiian mythology and through more recent accounts. Menehune live in deep mountain forests and secret valleys, staying hidden from the modern world. Though tales of the Menehune are known throughout Hawaiʻi, they’re most associated with the island of Kauaʻi. Continue reading

Monster of the Week: Huli Jing

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After aging for 1,000 years, a huli jing becomes a jiuwei hu (nine-tailed fox)

Accounts of foxes with supernatural powers have existed for millennia. The huli jing (狐狸精 húlijīng) is a fox spirit that arose out of Chinese traditions, predating the Japanese kitsune and Korean kumiho. Despite attempts to suppress the practice, the huli jing was venerated at household shrines throughout China for many centuries.

The fox can be a force of benevolence or malevolence, depending on its individual nature, thus the intentions of these mischievous creatures are suspect when they interact with humans. A huli jing may attempt seduction to steal human essence, curse those they seek vengeance against, reward worshippers with wealth, or provide sage guidance.

“Without fox demons, no village is complete.” —Chinese proverb Continue reading

Monster of the Week: Bunnies

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twilightzoneRabbitIf you think that bunnies can’t be monsters, you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Below are some film and TV sources of a few of the scariest hares we’ve heard of.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: If a centuries-old vengeance demon like Anya (Emma Caulfield) is deathly afraid of rabbits, perhaps there’s something to learn there. Anya wears a bunny costume for Halloween in Season 4 because she’s told that the idea is to dress as “something scary.” Buffy lore has retconned Anya’s leporiphobia into having some relation to the fact that she seems to have bred and raised rabbits back in the Middle Ages when she was human (see S07E05, “Selfless”), but we don’t think she needs a reason. Continue reading