Monster of the Week: Spring-heeled Jack

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A Spring-heeled Jack penny dreadful cover

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.

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Monster of the Week: The Krampus

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KrampusCutoutThe 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 Vodyanoi

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The Vodyanoi on an early 20th-century Russian postcard.

The Vodyanoi on an early 20th-century Russian postcard.

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

Monster of the Week: Hellhounds

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GytrashHellhounds are great infernal dogs that hunt the damned, guard the underworld and defend their demonic masters. There are tales of hellhounds in ancient Greek and Viking writings, and legends and even stories of sightings can now be found throughout the world. Hellhounds are often described as oversized black dogs with sharp teeth and glowing red eyes. Hellhounds transcend supernatural categories, alternately considered apparitions (the Black Dogs of Britain), creatures of Faerie (the hellhounds of the Wild Hunt) or demons (the Cajedo Negro of South America). Continue reading

Monster of the Week: The Ifrit

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Ifrit” by inSOLense on DeviantArt

The supernatural creature known as the ifrit* (عفريت) arises out of the rich tapestry of Middle Eastern lore and history. An ifrit is a type of infernal Jinn. The Ifrit is able to generate fire, and withstand smoke and flames.

Traditionally an Ifrit had wings, but more recent incarnations are known for their horns and claws. The Ifrit is known to be formidable and cunning, making it a dangerous enemy.

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All You Ever Wanted to Know about Kitsune in Six Minutes

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Celestial foxes are sometimes referred to as Inari foxes because of their association with the Shino God Inari. Image: Fushimi Inari Fox by Hector Gutierrez

Celestial kitsune are sometimes referred to as Inari foxes. Image: Fushimi Inari Fox by Hector Gutierrez

Do you love kitsune? So do we. The kitsune is a yōkai, a supernatural creature. This Japanese fox spirit is known for its mischievious behavior. Some kitsune are benevolent, while others act maliciously towards humans. All kitsune are secretive, so be careful not to stumble upon one. To read more about the kitsune, their abilities, and some of our favorite kitsune in popular American culture, read our Monster of the Week piece about these magical creatures.

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Monster of the Week: The Pishtaco

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Marzita the Pishtaco feeding on a client in “The Purge”

The Pishtaco is a South American anthropophage who hunts people in order to eat or steal their body fat. Tales of the Pishtaco began in the Andes during the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 16th century, perhaps when conquistadores were seen to make use of human body fat for unusual purposes, such as dressing battle wounds. This, in combination with the important place of body fat in Andean culture as representative of strength and vitality (the pre-Incan creator deity Viracocha is closely associated with body fat), contributed to the idea of the Pishtaco. Continue reading