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
Category Archives: Fiendish Creatures
Witches, wendigos, and werewolves—monsters that may be or once were human, but have become something unspeakable.
Monster of the Week: The Rougarou1
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)
From 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: Jólakötturinn4
Jólakötturinn, 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.)
Monster of the Week: Frankenstein2
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.
The Mysterious Menehune of Hawaii3
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 Jing8
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: Bunnies2
If 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
Monster of the Week: Spring-heeled Jack2
Spring-heeled Jack, “the Terror of London,” is a well-known monstrous villain of Victorian urban legend. Though generally human in appearance, Spring-heeled Jack is said to have demonic characteristics such as bulbous glowing eyes, long, sharp claws of metal, and sometimes even horns. He was often seen in England and Scotland in a bat-like, black winged cloak and a tight suit of black and white oilskin, not unlike a twentieth-century comic book character’s costume. Reports of Spring-heeled Jack speaking, or indeed making any sound, are rare, and it is possible he is mute, though there have been reports of victims hearing fiendish laughter. Another unnatural characteristic commonly attributed to Jack is his ability to spit blue flame. Spring-heeled Jack’s most famous attribute, though, is his ability to escape capture by leaping over tall gates and walls.
Monster of the Week: The Krampus3
The Krampus is a yuletide monster of Alpine lore. He is one of the helpers of St. Nicholas, seeking out naughty children on Krampusnacht, the eve of St. Nicholas’ Day (December 6). He acts as the anti-St. Nick, frightening, and sometimes punishing—or even abducting—badly behaved children.
The Krampus, whose name likely derives from krampen, the Old High German word for claw, is of mostly humanoid form, though exceptionally furry, similar to a satyr. He has large, pointy ears, a bull’s tail, and big goaty horns. The Krampus has one normal foot and one cloven hoof, but his most distinguishing characteristic may be his huge red tongue, which perpetually lolls out of his mouth. Krampus will often carry a large sack in which to haul away bad children, though sometimes a washtub, basket or other conveyance is used. Along with a sack, his accoutrements often include chains, bells, and a ruten (a birch-twig switch) or whip. Continue reading
Monster of the Week: The Vodyanoi1
The Vodyanoi (водяно́й in Russian) is a water-dwelling demonic creature of Eastern Europe. His appearance can be described as somewhere between that of an elderly man and a toad, with a greenish beard and dripping with muck and weeds. He is a curmudgeonly old spirit whose time outside of his lavish underwater home is often divided between murder and mayhem. Continue reading