Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Acheri

In cultures throughout the world, people believe that there are demons, ghosts, and monsters that are responsible for unleashing deadly, infectious diseases on innocent people. Most of these plague-bearers are hideous to behold, but there are exceptions. Some appear in the most innocent forms in order to walk amongst humanity and to spread death amongst them. One such spirit exists in both Native American folklore and Hindu mythology, possibly due to European confusion regarding the term “Indian”. She is known as the Acheri, and she comes down from the mountains at night, spreading a virulent sickness wherever she goes. Death inevitably follows with her passing.

In both Native American (mainly Chippewa) and Hindu folklore, the Acheri is the ghost of a little girl who died a painful death from a contagious disease. In other legends, the Acheri is a small girl who passed away as the result of a “bad death”, meaning that the poor girl was murdered, abused and then murdered, or was brutally beaten and left to die from her injuries. She appears as a gaunt young girl, having pale gray skin and wearing worn deerskin or cloth clothing. Her frail, sickly appearance creates feelings of sympathy in both other children and adults alike, fooling them into believing that she is only a very sick little girl who needs their care and friendship. This is how she lures her victims in close enough to spread her disease. The Acheri’s true form, however, is both monstrous and frightening. She manifests in this form with a skeletal body, red eyes that glow with a demonic malevolence, long clawed fingers, and sharp, gnashing teeth. But her true form is rarely seen, as she only assumes this visage when she is cornered and has no other choice otherwise but to attack.

The Acheri has a simple agenda, and that is to spread her plague to living humans and to kill as many innocent people as she possibly can. This disease is known simply as Acheri’s Shadow, and it is both highly infectious and extremely contagious. She is attracted to human movements, and will follow anyone who catches her interest down from the peaks of her mountain home. The Acheri is nothing if not patient, and merely bides her time until a community gets together for a harvest celebration, a festival, or even a funeral (the Acheri is opportunistic as well as patient). During these times, the Acheri will enter the village while she merrily sings and dances, although sometimes she is seen playing the drum as well. Seeing her dancing and hearing her singing or drumming are ill omens of misfortune or death to come. Once she has entered the village, she seeks out children and befriends them. While they play together, the Acheri casts her shadow over the unwary children, although the disease can be spread by her touch as well. This act infects the poor children with a terrible disease that can take a variety of forms. Most commonly, the disease is a horrible wasting sickness that is incurable and ultimately results in death. In his excellent book Vampire Universe (Citadel Press Books, 2006), Jonathan Maberry writes that “the very touch of the Acheri’s shadow is like the breath of a highly communicable respiratory disease; infection occurs instantly and spreads rapidly throughout the community” (Maberry 5). This plague is capable of wiping out entire villages, and all the while the Acheri vampirically feeds on the despair, pain, misery, and death created by the outbreak (Maberry 5).

The Acheri desires nothing more than to see the living suffer as she did before she died, making her a sort of vengeful ghost. However, this spirit isn’t known for targeting individuals and very rarely seeks out her killers outright. And with each person that the plague kills, the Acheri grows even stronger. Only if an adult notices the Acheri will she retreat back to the mountains, and even then the Acheri may try to lure the children back into the mountains with her, where they will meet a grisly, painful death at the Acheri’s hands. She is said to fly over inhabited valleys late at night, throwing her shadow over children as they sleep (hence the disease’s name), and the children will grow sick and eventually die from her plague.

As deadly as the Acheri is, she does have a few weaknesses. However, they are limited to one or two things. The most common defense against this vengeful spirit is items which bear the color red. Placing amulets, necklaces, or bracelets of woven red thread on one’s person will thwart the Acheri’s attentions, as will red beads, ribbons, embroidery, and clothing. Even being a natural redhead might work, although this theory is speculative at best. It is also said that salt will keep this spirit at bay. Salt, due to its purity and pure white color, is thought to be a very potent defense against evil spirits and all sorts of supernatural beings. Salt can be used to line the boundaries of one’s property, and can be carried around in leather pouches by children. But the best possible defense against the Acheri would be a red cloth bag, filled with salt and hung around one’s neck with a cord of woven red thread.

Unfortunately, there are no known methods that can be used to destroy the Acheri. Some legends do suggest, however, that she can be put to rest. According to folklore, the Chippewa believe that wrapping a red cloth that has been blessed by a medicine woman around the spirit’s neck will cause the ghost to dissipate and find eternal rest. But good luck getting close enough to the spirit to do this without contracting the sickness she carries. Either that, or the Acheri will reveal her true form and tear the would-be hero to pieces in a flurry of ripping claws and teeth.

If the Acheri cannot be laid to rest, then she must be placated or otherwise appeased. This can be done in a couple of different ways. According to Hindu tradition, one way to do this is to build an altar. Then, the altar is filled with lit candles and delicious cakes. Then the altar must be carried to a remote, seldom-visited location. Hopefully, the Acheri will follow this offering to that location and cause her anger to wane. It may also encourage her to return to the mountains. Another method is designed to encourage her to remove the sickness that she has inflicted upon the people. This involves vigorously beating on a brass dish, which is intended to send one of the spirit’s victims into a trance (or it might just give them a headache), which will cause frenzied dancing on the victim’s part. In this trance, the victim will gain insight and know what sacrifice must be made in order to appease the Acheri’s anger. Hopefully, the sacrifice will cause the disease to recede and the Acheri to go away. But be warned: neither of these methods is guaranteed to work, and thus the best solution might be to just run.

Today, the horrifying legend of the Acheri has been all but forgotten. Advances in both science and modern medicine have rendered such beliefs obsolete in the modern world. And yet, the belief that diseases and sickness are caused by supernatural evil still runs rampant around the world today. What if there is something to those beliefs? Once people have accepted that possibility, then the existence of evil spirits like the Acheri doesn’t sound so far-fetched anymore…does it?


Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us. New York: Citadel Press Books, 2006.

Ramos Jr., Octavio. “Monster of the Week: Acheri.” 1 May 2011. 6 August 2015. <>

Black, Andrew. “Acheri.” The Mask of Reason. 6 August 2015. <>

Hume, Nic. “Acheri.” The Paranormal Guide. 14 December 2013. 6 August 2015. <>

“The Acheri.” BEAR Nation Online. 7 February 2012. 6 August 2015. <>

Alex. “Acheri (MYTHOS).” 13 March 2002. 6 August 2015. <>

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: The Zombie Book (Nick Redfern and Brad Steiger)

About a year ago, I received a new book from my good friend Nick Redfern, who has written over thirty books on monsters, cryptids and cryptozoology, UFOs, government cover-ups, conspiracy theories, and just about every conceivable mix of these subjects. The book in question is The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead, and it happens to be one of the most comprehensive works available on zombies today! People today are utterly fascinated by the concept of the flesh-eating walking dead, but most of them don't realize that this phenomenon is much older and goes much deeper than the majority of these people are inclined to believe. The phenomenon itself actually goes back to ancient Sumeria and the world's oldest known literary work, The Epic of Gilgamesh. In a fit of anger, the goddess Ishtar declares:

"Father give me the Bull of Heaven, 
So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling. 
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven, 
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld, 
I will smash the doorposts, and leave the doors flat down, 
and will let the dead go up to eat the living! 
And the dead will outnumber the living!"

This is where the modern concept of the zombie originates. Getting back to the review, this book treads into some truly strange territory and covers just about everything, from Vodoun, diseases that might be capable of creating a zombie plague, zombielike monsters and entities, Nazi reanimation experiments, and the 2012 MacArthur Causeway Incident, to the Wendigo, zombies in popular culture (there are a multitude of entries devoted to zombie movies and literature), zombie preparedness, the apocalypse, zombie folklore and mythology, zombies and extraterrestrials, death and burial practices, and cannibalism. There are even some thought-provoking parallels presented to the reader regarding the Lord Jesus Christ and zombies. Nick's co-author Brad Steiger also presents some great material from his book Real Zombies, the Living Dead, and Creatures of the Apocalypse (2010). The only issue that I have with this book is that there seems to be no entry in the book that is specifically dedicated to how to destroy or otherwise kill a zombie other than an entry on Decapitation and Reattachment. But then again, any hardcore zombie fanatic should automatically know that the only real way to kill a zombie is to destroy the brain. Consequently, this isn't a huge deal if you know your stuff.

Overall, this book is fantastic! The amount of detail and research in this book is simply amazing, and I cannot recommend it more. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a copy if the need should arise, and neither should any of you, my dear readers. I would like to take this opportunity to give my sincerest thanks to Nick Redfern for being kind enough to send me an autographed copy of this book, for putting up with my seemingly endless questions, and for helping me with my own research. Nick, you are a true friend, and I cannot thank you enough for your friendship and your kindness! Thank you for all that you've done for me, and I hope to repay you for that someday. Thank You!!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Rougarou

Swamps have always inspired fear and awe in the hearts of men. These lush, waterlogged forests and wetlands are as beautiful as they are dangerous, and with good reason. The murky waters are notorious for concealing deadly animals like alligators, venomous snakes, dangerous fish, and disease-bearing insects. But people fear the swamps for other reasons, too. They are said to be home to monsters, ghosts, evil spirits, and the undead. The swamps and the bayous of Louisiana are no exception, and this waterlogged land seems to be haunted by some particularly vicious creatures. One of the most feared of these swamp monsters is the Rougarou, a shapeshifting man-beast that feeds on the flesh and the blood of sinners.

According to local folklore, the Rougarou (also spelled rugarou, rugaru, roux-ga-roux, or rugaroo) is a Cajun variety of werewolf that is said to stalk the swamps surrounding Acadiana and Greater New Orleans, but there is little to no doubt that the beast prowls the forests, fields, and bayous of these regions as well. To the local Cajuns, the name Rougarou is interchangeable with the French name for the monster, Loup-Garou. Over the years, the word eventually became rougarou. According to Cajun folklorist Jonathan Foret (who has appeared on Monsters & Mysteries in America on Destination America), this may have been what the English-speaking people thought that they had heard, and in the end, that word became more popular and stuck. But regardless of what the monster is called or where it chooses to dwell, the Rougarou is feared by both Native Americans and white men alike. The word rougarou itself is actually a corruption of the French loup-garou, with the word loup being French for “wolf,” while garou originates from the Frankish word garulf, meaning a man who transforms into an animal. However, behind all of this is a horrible monster that is terrifying to behold. Legend says that the beast is bipedal and has a human-looking body that is covered with shaggy brown or black fur and has taloned fingers and toes (some say that the creature only has three toes on each foot). Standing seven to eight feet in height, the monster most commonly has the head of a wolf or a dog, with an elongated snout filled with razor-sharp teeth and eyes that glow an eerie red or yellow in the darkness. In other words, the Rougarou isn’t something that a man would want to run into in the middle of the night.

According to Native American folklore, the Rougarou is thought to be a sacred being that is in perpetual harmony with the energies and the powers of the Earth itself. In these traditions, the beast is seen as being akin to the timid Sasquatch and the man-eating Wendigo. However, it can be argued that there are enough differences between the Rougarou and the Wendigo to warrant classifying the Cajun Werewolf as a different type of monster altogether, even though they were both once human and share a taste for human flesh. In any case, it has been said that if a person gazes upon the Rougarou or looks into the beast’s eyes, he takes the curse upon himself. Such a man is doomed to live out a short portion of his life as a werewolf. This curse can last up to one hundred and one days (about three months and eleven days), provided that the afflicted person refrains from consuming human flesh and avoids telling anyone that he is a rougarou for the duration of the curse. Other legends say that the curse lasts for the rest of the person’s life, or at least until the beast is either cured or killed. Either way, living as a monster and avoiding human contact is a very lonely and deeply depressing experience, one that a man is forced to endure as he walks the earth in the form of a vicious, predatory beast.

In Cajun folklore, the Rougarou is thought to be a type of bogeyman. Those parents who know the legend will oftentimes tell their misbehaving children, “If you don’t behave, the Rougarou is going to get you!” According to the Catholic version of the legend, a rougarou is created when a man doesn’t observe Lent for seven years in a row. As punishment, God supposedly curses the perpetrator to become a werewolf every Lenten season for the remainder of their lives. However, it is unclear as to whether the afflicted one only becomes a monster every night for the forty days of the Lenten season or if it is a year-around curse. The beast may also come into being in much the same way as the Native American version of the creature, but there is a much more sinister side to the story. Because of its own sins, the Rougarou feels compelled to hunt down and kill any Catholics who don’t abide by their own Lenten vows (which usually involves giving up alcohol, sweets, or red meat for the forty days of the Lenten season). Those who haven’t adhered to their vows are inevitably ripped limb from limb by the Rougarou, and what remains of the victims are found half-eaten and torn into pieces for their transgressions.

According to the legend, someone who is cursed to become a rougarou is said to develop an insatiable thirst for human blood, although not every version of the legend shares this notion. Most legends and tales surrounding the Rougarou maintain that the beast has an overwhelming hunger for raw flesh, and that isn’t limited only to humans. Animals such as goats, cows, horses, nutria (a large swamp rat), and even alligators are fair game for the monster. As mentioned previously, folklore says that the victim of this curse becomes a ravenously hungry man-beast every night for one hundred and one days. At the break of dawn, the Rougarou reverts to its human form. He then spends the day bedridden, feeling sick and frail as though he is slowly dying from an incurable wasting disease. For fairly obvious reasons, the afflicted person must refrain from telling others of his predicament, for he fears being killed (or at the very least, a trip to the local psychiatric ward). After the original one hundred and one days are over with, the original victim may transfer his curse to another person by drawing blood from another individual. This can happen by accident, but it is almost always done intentionally. The original victim is freed of his curse, but the suffering of the newly-afflicted has just begun. In this way, it seems that one can never truly be rid of the Rougarou’s curse. Other stories say that witchcraft or practicing the dark arts is the cause, either by the witch transforming herself into a wolf or by cursing other people with lycanthropy.

Avoiding the Lenten season for seven years straight isn’t the only way to become a monstrous wolf. In some versions of the legend, the curse is said to be hereditary, in which case it is passed on from one generation to the next. The curse itself is usually inherited by the third child. In other cases, a rougarou is created when a man is rejected by society, especially for his religious beliefs. But one of the most common ways to become a rougarou is through sorcery, and this happens most often by accidentally angering a powerful sorcerer. According to legend, Native American shamans will curse people who abuse the swamplands, squander its resources, or attempt to use the swamp for their own personal gain. One such story, as related by folklorist Alyne Pustanio, tells of a white trapper that would don the skins of wolves and other animals that he had caught and would wander the swamps and the forests at night, taking great delight in terrifying both friends and neighbors alike by pretending to be the dreaded Loup-Garou. This was eventually brought to the attention of a native Louisiana medicine man, who knew of the perfect punishment. The medicine man decided that if the disrespectful fur trader loved playing the part of a monster so much, then he should stop pretending. Stricken by the shaman’s curse, the trapper sang a sadder song from that point on as a ferocious werewolf, forever condemned to hunt and kill under the swampland moon’s eerie yellow glow for both his abuse of nature’s resources and his wicked sense of humor.

But hope isn’t completely lost for someone so afflicted. Most traditions in Southern Louisiana hold that the curse of the Rougarou can be lifted or broken by a gypsy witch, a Hoodoo conjurer, a Voodoo priest, or another shaman whose powers are equal to or greater than those of the sorcerer that cursed the afflicted individual to begin with. Any of these conjurers could, if willing (or for the right price), remove the curse and quite possibly turn it back on the medicine man who cast the spell to begin with. This could have debilitating or even fatal results for the angry shaman who cursed the person. Of course, there is never any guarantee that the curse can in fact be broken. Curses are fickle by nature, and are seldom so easily dispelled. This is especially true in the case of curses that create monsters, and it is possible that some can never be broken.

According to legend, there is another way to cure this bayou variety of werewolf, although it is by no means pleasant. In some of the stories, a person who is attacked by the beast draws a knife to defend himself and manages to cut the monster. At the first drop of blood, it is said that the Rougarou will revert to its human form. The drawing of blood has somehow freed the individual from the werewolf’s curse, which has its origins in European werewolf traditions. The now-human monster will then tell his savior who he is and that, if the other person tells anyone else of the encounter before a year and one day have passed, then the would-be victim of the cured creature is doomed to become a werewolf as well. But more often than not, the man runs home and proceeds to tell his family all about his encounter with the dreaded beast. At that point, he has cursed himself to become a monster every night.

In one such case, a young boy was on his way home from being with friends. As he was walking, a strange white dog of unusual size began to follow him, biting at his heels and practically begging the boy to attack it. Tired of the dog’s antics, the boy managed to save himself by cutting the dog’s right foot with a pocket knife. The white dog then turned back into a man, who was a doctor by trade. The man explained that he had made a pact with Satan in return for prosperity, but was tricked by the Devil and transformed into a beast instead. The man then warned the boy not to tell anyone what he had seen for a year and one day. But the boy foolishly told several of his friends and ran home and told his family what had happened. The next day, a respected doctor appeared in town with his right arm in a sling. At this point, the boy started disappearing at night, with nobody knowing where he had gone. He would then reappear in his bedroom the next morning, with no explanation of what had happened the previous night. Shortly thereafter, the doctor shot himself. And then, a year later, the boy was found lying dead in the streets. The police deemed it to be a suicide, but his family knew the truth. Secrecy seems to be essential to the Rougarou’s existence, as exposing the afflicted person’s cursed nature to other people may turn the other person into a werewolf…or worse.

While most legends speak of the Rougarou as being a werewolf, there are others who say that the beast’s shape isn’t limited to that of a wolf. Because wolves are somewhat uncommon (although by no means unheard of) in the Louisiana swamps, regional tales of the monster usually incorporate other animals into the legend. Such animals include dogs, pigs, alligators, cows, and even chickens. Furthermore, it is said that these animals are usually white in color, like the large white dog mentioned earlier. Other legends say that the Rougarou is capable of shapeshifting into any of these animals completely, and other than some unusual coloring and strange behavior on that animal’s part, most people would never know that it was a monster in disguise. But make no mistake, because the Rougarou is a ferocious monster regardless of the form it takes. And no matter what that shape may be, the beast still hungers for the flesh of sinners.

According to legend, the Rougarou’s bestial form and its ravenous hunger for human flesh (or blood, according to some versions of the legend) gives the beast a supernatural degree of strength, allowing the Rougarou to rip apart livestock like goats, cows, and even horses with ease. The Cajun Werewolf can break down household doors with little effort. The monster’s unnatural strength is one of a number of reasons why most animals (including the alligator) give the beast a wide berth. Because most animals are sensitive to any supernatural presence (whether corporeal or otherwise), most animals (including trained pets) will instinctively flee from that presence immediately. However, they may not be able to escape for long. Once the werewolf has chosen its prey, the beast’s sheer speed, agility, and endurance (exceeding that of any animal) allow the Rougarou to outrun and outlast any potential prey in a chase, whether the victim is human or an animal. Even if its potential meal tries to hide, the creature’s heightened senses of sight, smell, and hearing ensure that the victim doesn’t remain hidden for very long at all. The Rougarou can see clearly in the dark, can hear the heartbeats of its victim, and is able to smell the sweat dripping from their faces. Even in the deepest, darkest swamps, one is not safe from this horrifying man-beast. And once the werewolf has caught its prey, it will rend and tear the flesh from its screaming victim’s body. At that point, the Rougarou will feast on the victim’s flesh and blood until the monster’s hunger has been satisfied. But no matter how much the beast feeds, the hunger will eventually return, and the Rougarou will be forced to hunt once again.

With all of the folklore and legends that surround the beast, one feels compelled to ask: where did the Rougarou come from? Some people say that the beast is nothing more than a werewolf that traveled to America from France, gradually adapting to living and hunting in the dark swamps and eventually becoming a different breed of werewolf altogether. In the process, the monster took on some different qualities that aren’t typical of the European Werewolf. But there are some, like author and folklorist Alyne Pustanio, who argue that the Rougarou (which she spells Rugarou) has darker, more obscure origins. The Native American traditions found in Southwest Louisiana are particularly rich in tales of werewolves and other shapeshifting creatures. In the traditions of the Chitimacha, the Opelousas, and especially the Attakapas, there is an ancient and perhaps even primordial ancestral memory of savage, powerful shapeshifters that the Opelousas and the Chitimacha knew as the “Wolf-Walkers”. These legends are predominantly associated with the Attakapas, and the name of the tribe itself is derived from the Choctaw word for “man-eater”. At one time, the people of this tribe were fierce warriors who made a habit of consuming the flesh of their fallen enemies. Today, there are very few members of this once-proud tribe remaining in the Louisiana swamps. But what happened? What events took place that dealt such devastating consequences to the Attakapas?

In the early 1700s, the Opelousas and the Chitimacha waged an all-out war against the Attakapas. There was one battle in particular, however, that absolutely devastated the tribe. This battle (which has no name to speak of) took place in a stretch of low country just six miles outside of what is now the small city of St. Martinville in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana. In what was undoubtedly a bloody hand-to-hand conflict, the Chitimacha and the Opelousas virtually wiped out the Attakapas. It has been reported that only six individuals (perhaps more) escaped with their lives and fled into the surrounding swamps. Where they went is debatable: some took refuge with a tribe up in Calcasieu, while others ran away to the area around Indian Bend. Some legends, however, say that they fled into the deep, dark swamps to eke out a living, relying on their knowledge of the swamps and their primitive living skills to survive. Some appeared in the settlements, driven to begging for food by their desperation. They were eventually discovered, and those that weren’t killed were driven back into the swamps.

In the winter that followed the fateful battle, things reached a turning point. According to one account from Spanish settlers, impending starvation drove the surviving Attakapas to kill and devour their own people. But cannibalism was linked with these people long before the Europeans made contact with the tribe. Sick and tired of being hated and feared by others, the Attakapas appealed to their shamans for guidance in their time of need. In their desperation, the medicine men turned away from their places as servants to the Great Spirit and sought help from the evil that dwelled within the swamps. When they cried out, something dark in the forests answered. Legends say that evil spirits came up from the depths of the swamp and entered the bodies of the Attakapas, possessing them. Possession by these dark spirits gave what was left of the Attakapas something unique: the power of shapeshifting. Now able to become vicious beasts at will, these people gave themselves over to their feral natures entirely. In other words, they overcame their starving bodies by supernatural means, giving up their humanity in exchange for something else: animal instinct. These people had become vicious werewolves, seeing other people as their food. Over time, the Attakapas came to be known as the Rugarou, the Wolf-Walkers. And to make matters worse, their numbers were slowly starting to grow once again.

During the spring and summer months, the Attakapas seemed to be happy to live like any other people by hunting, fishing, and farming for food. Only the most savage and feral among them chose to live as monsters all year-round. But when winter came and an icy chill could be felt on the wind, it was then that the Wolf-Walkers were feared the most. When in the form of a beast, the Rugarou appeared as manlike wolf-creatures, much like the Werewolf is portrayed in Hollywood cinema today. Possessed of unnatural strength, endurance, and speed while bearing ripping claws and teeth, these creatures were not something that a man all alone in the swamp could encounter and hope to survive.

During the winter, it is said that the Attakapas lived in the forms of animals at all times, whether they were men, women, or children. And during those long, freezing winter nights, some say that the heart-wrenching memories of starvation would cause insanity in the beasts. This drove them out of the swamp and into the lowlands, where they prowled about in search of human prey. But the Opelousas and the Chitimacha have more to fear than other people, for madness and hunger aren’t the only forces that drive the Rugarou. The Attakapas haven’t forgotten how the other tribes so brutally slaughtered their own families and friends, and their desire for revenge still burns fiercely in their hearts. And one day, they firmly believe that vengeance shall at long last be theirs.

Today, the Chitimacha continue to live in the Louisiana swamps, while the Opelousas endure in smaller numbers. But when winter comes, fears of the Rugarou and its depredations come back with it. As for the Attakapas, they’re still around. On October 28th, 2006, hope for the future was restored as the Attakapa-Ishak Nation met for the first time in over one hundred years as “one nation.” There was a total of four hundred and fifty people gathered together that day, all representing Louisiana and Texas. Rachel Mouton, the mistress of ceremony and the newly-appointed Director of Publications and Communications introduced Billy LaChapelle, who opened the afternoon with a traditional prayer in both English and Attakapa.

As recently as 2010 (and possibly much more recently), there have been reports of mutilated livestock and strange figures seen close to the roads around the Chitimacha reservation near Charenton, Louisiana. People have begun to whisper that the Rugarou is once again on the hunt for human prey. The Chitimacha elders believe that it is because the Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and Gustav have devastated the ecosystem of the Louisiana swamps, effectively destroying the many foods and resources that the Attakapas have depended upon for so long. Some say that this is the Rugarou’s revenge, a vendetta that stretches back from at least three hundred years ago, if not longer. It is only a matter of time until the Rugarou strikes again, and there can be little to no doubt that blood will be spilled on that day.

The legend of the Rougarou is well-known among the Cajuns and the Native American tribes of Louisiana, but they aren’t the only people in the region plagued by the beast’s depredations. The Cajun Werewolf is also an old enemy of the Romani Gypsies, who inhabit Louisiana’s Atchafalaya region. The Gypsies know this horrible monster as “stragoi jostumal,” also known as “the unclean”, “the enemy”, “the evil one”, and “the accursed”. According to Roma legend, the Stragoi (which may be related to the Romanian Strigoi, a species of vampire) is a sort of revenant that feeds on human blood and is capable of assuming the forms of a variety of animals at will. The enmity between the Gypsies and the Werewolf is deep-rooted, and goes back hundreds of years.

The Gypsies, as a people, have long been persecuted wherever they go. And although the attitudes of the people towards the Roma have changed considerably in the twenty-first century, things were very different in the late 1600s. In Germany, it was actually legal to hunt and kill Gypsies like animals. They were persecuted and burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition, and English laws announced that trading or otherwise making purchases from the Gypsies was illegal. But it was in France that things were the worst. Initially, the French enjoyed a very friendly relationship with the Gypsy caravans, and they were welcomed in many of the great cities throughout France. But eventually, laws were passed against the Roma, and the French authorities reinforced those laws brutally. Even the innocent act of stopping to reprovision themselves with food and supplies was punishable by death. It is thought by some that these restrictions may be one of the reasons why Gypsies lead a nomadic existence. What were they to do?

Eventually, some of the Gypsies were placed on ships by the French and deported to the Americas. By this time, the Gypsies had taken a French name, calling themselves the Manouche. They ended up settling in exotic locales like the Canary Islands and Brazil, but some of them wound up in the French colony of Louisiana. Over time, the Manouche abandoned their nomadic ways and began to settle down in the area. They began to intermarry with the local Native American tribes, and also with the Acadiens, those people exiled from the French colony of Nova Scotia in Canada. The intermingling of blood between such diverse cultures created the unique Cajun flavor of what is known today as the great state of Louisiana.

The people of the Atchafalaya region hold some peculiar beliefs about the Manouche Gypsies. For example, they have long believed that the old witches among the Gypsies could transform themselves, at will, into crows. Seeing one of these birds or being followed by a flock of crows isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Gypsy traditions at all. In fact, it is actually considered to be a good omen. The very presence of these birds is believed to be sure protection against the Stragoi, and despite the fact that it is illegal to this day to do so, crows are kept by many Romani as pets. According to legend, one harsh croak is all that is necessary to frighten the Stragoi away. The same could be said for the Rougarou.

Before the Gypsies had arrived, however, legends of deadly shapeshifting beasts had already been known to the native peoples of the region for many generations. The French settlers had inadvertently brought their legends with them of a beast that they called the Loup-Garou, a particularly vicious werewolf that had terrorized France for centuries. The Gypsies themselves were (and still are) very superstitious, and their culture abounds with legends of the walking dead, curses, witchcraft, and werewolves. The Stragoi, as mentioned earlier, is one such creature that is able to shapeshift. When the Manouche encountered these horrible man-beasts from the Native American and French cultures, they knew exactly what they were dealing with. The caravan’s resident sorceress (or drabarni in Romani) and the elders knew that they had to do something, or people would begin to die

In the event that the Rougarou (Stragoi) is found to be one of their own people, no time is lost in attempting to drive the beast out of hiding and to rid the afflicted of the curse. The caravan’s wise men and women (puridanos) use their powers of divination to single out the individual who carries the werewolf’s curse, after which the tribe’s men will then capture that person (the Rougarou can be male or female, although males are the most common). Once this has been done, the puridanos will attempt to use every kind of magical cure that they can possibly think of to save their kinfolk from the curse. Most Romani accounts say that this painstaking process very rarely fails, but it has happened. And when the process does fail, they all know that the beast must be destroyed. If this isn’t done, then the entire tribe’s lives are at risk.

When a monster must be destroyed, that task falls to the leader of the tribe, the most powerful and prominent man among them. He is known as the Rom Baro, the “Big Man.” Only he has the authority and the power to kill the Stragoi. According to eyewitness testimony, there is a very strict ritual that must be followed to the letter. This is an ancient tradition that is used to put the afflicted person out of their misery. Thus, it is an act of mercy, not malice. As such, the only person in a gypsy tribe who may have a sword in his possession is the Rom Baro himself. This sword is usually made by the caravan’s blacksmith to exacting standards. It can be assumed that the Big Man uses this weapon to dispatch the werewolf, which is done by beheading the individual, and then burning the body until only ashes remain. And while the Gypsies of the Atchafalaya region have been plagued by the Rougarou or Stragoi for hundreds of years, the Romani themselves say that only three times in the American chapter of their history have they resorted to killing a person suffering from the werewolf’s curse. The Gypsies remain dead silent about those particular incidents.

Today, the curse of the Rougarou is so widespread and feared that the native Cajuns still seek out Gypsy help when they feel that they have been “jinxed” by the werewolf’s curse. There are still many remote gypsy encampments scattered throughout the swamps of Southern Louisiana. Here, the gypsy wise women (or puridai) are sought out. There are quite a few people who are willing to brave the dangers of the swamps just to receive her advice and wisdom. Their magic is believed by some to be the only sure defense and the only promise of salvation from the Rougarou’s curse. And they are usually willing to give their help to those in need…for a price.

As terrifying and dangerous as the Rougarou is, it does have several weaknesses. A bright, roaring fire will cause the beast to seek prey elsewhere, as fire is said to be one of the few things that the Cajun Werewolf fears. According to Alyne Pustanio, there are several herbs that have protective properties which can be used against the beast. These herbs include wolfsbane, angelica root, rue, sage, bay leaves, and laurel. However, these herbs must be gathered when the moon is in its waxing phase, or else they won’t work. Alyne also says that salt, holy water, consecrated Eucharist wafers, and the ashes of blessed palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration will also protect a person from the depredations of a werewolf. Brick dust, a contribution from New Orleans hoodoo conjurers, is said to work as well.

One unusual method of keeping the Rougarou at bay, according to Claudia Reynolds, is to place thirteen small objects along the doorways and the windowsills of one’s home. According to some versions of the legend, the Rougarou can only count up to the number twelve. And thus each time the beast counts out twelve of those objects, it will be forced to start all over again. It is said that the monster will become so occupied with this task that it will fail to take notice of the rising sun until it’s too late, and the beast will be forced to run back into the swamp. In the same vein, some say that hanging a colander on one’s front door will achieve the same effect. The Rougarou will just stand there counting all of the holes and, once it gets to twelve, the monster has to start all over again. When the sun comes up, the Rougarou will be forced to retreat. This may have more to do with legends of the Vampire in Eastern and Central Europe than anything else, and little to do with the Rougarou. Still, it might be worth trying.

There are a number of other ways to deter the Rougarou from attacking as well. If one takes the Gypsy legends of the Stragoi into account, the harsh cries of a crow may frighten the monster away. Some say that by rolling up a certain leaf (which might be wolfsbane or one of the herbs mentioned above) and placing it inside one’s wallet will keep the creature away. There are others who say that there are elderly women who paint protective hexagons in the middle of their floors and say certain prayers to keep the beast at a safe distance. Mojo bags and other charms from the Voodoo and the Hoodoo religions may also work.

Despite the beast’s sheer strength and ferocious appetite for human flesh, the Rougarou can be killed. However, the sheer danger and the risk to life and limb are beyond measure and thus should only be done when there is no other choice. Like the Werewolf seen in film and literature, silver is said to be a most effective means of destroying the Rougarou. Brad Steiger recounts in The Werewolf Book (Second Edition, 2012) that silver, in alchemical traditions, symbolizes “the moon, the Divine Virgin, purity, and chastity” (Steiger 252). In her book, The Encyclopedia of Vampires & Werewolves (Second Edition, 2011), Rosemary Ellen Guiley writes that silver is a “precious metal with protective powers against negative influences and everything evil” (Guiley 313). It is interesting to note that the use of silver as a means of killing werewolves comes from France in the mid-to-late 1760s. During the years of 1764 to 1767, a monstrous wolflike creature terrorized the Gévaudan region of France, where it killed and devoured anywhere from sixty to over one hundred people, if not more. But in the end, on June 19th, 1767, a reclusive hunter by the name of Jean Chastel shot and killed the Beast with two bullets forged from a blessed silver Communion chalice that he had melted down and cast into three bullets. The monster has since become known as the Beast of Gévaudan, and the case still remains unsolved, even after over two hundred years of searching for answers. It is from this case that Hollywood gained the idea that a werewolf can be slain with a silver bullet.

There are two distinctive ways of killing the Rougarou. The first is the classic Hollywood approach, and that is to pierce the monster’s heart with a silver bullet or a blade. The silver must be fairly pure, but alloys like sterling silver or coin silver (both of which contain copper as an alloying element, making the resulting alloy harder and more resistant to wear) will also work because of their high silver content. A steel blade can be plated with pure silver as an alternative to an expensive blade forged entirely from silver or a silver alloy, although pure silver is considered to be more effective. However, be cautious not to remove the blade until after the beast has been permanently dealt with (which shall be discussed shortly), or else one risks the werewolf regenerating and returning to life.

The second and the most effective means of killing the Rougarou is decapitation. This involves taking a long, very sharp blade of iron or steel and separating the head from the rest of the body. This can be done with a sword, an axe, or a long knife (having at least twelve to fifteen inches of cutting edge), but such a weapon demands getting very close to the monster in order to deliver a beheading blow. That also puts the hunter within striking distance of the Rougarou’s claws and fangs, so it is recommended that the Rougarou be taken down from a distance before decapitating the beast. The Gypsies, according to Alyne Pustanio, preferred forged iron for this purpose, usually in the form of a sword. It can be reasonably assumed (but it could be wrong) that this means wrought iron, but it should be known that wrought iron is a fairly soft metal that doesn’t take or otherwise keep a very sharp edge. However, it should be noted that that the Gypsies performed their mercy-killings while the werewolf was in human form. In all likelihood, the modern-day monster hunter will not have this option, as he is far more likely to encounter the Rougarou after the cursed person has transformed into a monster.

There is one final step in permanently destroying the Rougarou, and that is to salt and burn the beast’s body and scatter the ashes. This step in the process is crucial, as it will prevent the monster from regenerating and thus returning to life to seek revenge on its would-be killer. But keep in mind that burning a human body requires extremely high temperatures of at least sixteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit or higher and several hours of burning time to reduce a corpse to ashes, not to mention the fuel needed for such an undertaking. A modern-day crematorium would be far more efficient, but good luck finding one that doesn’t ask questions. A good old-fashioned bonfire that is constantly watched and tended to by multiple people is probably a safer alternative than a crematorium. But if done correctly, the threat of the Rougarou will be gone, but only for the time being. There is always the possibility that the Rougarou’s curse will come forth from the darkness once again.

The idea of having to resort to killing a human being cursed to prowl the swamps at night as a monster brings up some issues regarding the morality of such a situation. Is it immoral to kill something evil? Generally speaking, no. But is it immoral to do the same to an innocent human being? Yes, it is. It is crucial to remember that the Rougarou is still human underneath the fur and the fangs, and that person may just be the innocent victim of a sorcerer or a shaman’s curse (although some of these people may have done something to deserve it). Either that, or they may have been infected with the affliction by another werewolf. It could even be hereditary, and thus the victim’s condition may not necessarily be their fault. But killing the beast should only be done as a last resort, and every possible effort should be made to cure the afflicted person before it’s too late. Louisiana is filled with Gypsies, Hoodoo conjurers, Voodoo practitioners, and Native American medicine men, so a cure could very well be found for this particular type of lycanthropy. It should be noted that the author of this blog neither encourages nor condones murder of any kind, because it is wrong on both legal and moral grounds and will likely result in imprisonment for the rest of one’s life…or worse.

It would seem that there are two varieties of the Rougarou prowling the swamps of Louisiana. One is the Loup-Garou, the werewolf that immigrated to Louisiana from France with the settlers. The other is the Attakapa Wolf-Walker, a member of a near-extinct tribe of vicious shapeshifters. While both may look similar when fully transformed, there may be something different about each one that distinguishes one from the other. On one hand, the French Loup-Garou is believed to physically transform into a monster. On the other hand, the Attakapa Wolf-Walker could be transforming on an etheric level by utilizing a magical animal body of transformation (see this blog’s entry on Phantom Werewolves for more information). But regardless of those differences, both of these varieties of the Rougarou are extremely dangerous, and encounters with either one should be avoided at all costs.

The legend of the Rougarou may very well be changing. As people’s perceptions of the world around them change, so do their beliefs. There are a few people in Louisiana who believe that the Rougarou might be something metaphysical, an entity that isn’t entirely a physical, flesh-and-blood monster. Some paranormal investigators and cryptozoologists are intrigued by this notion and theorize that this creature may be interdimensional or perhaps even spiritual in nature. However, there are a great deal of people who believe that the Rougarou is a flesh-and-blood monster that, at the same time, is supernatural in origin. “These tales twist and turn throughout history,” says Cajun folklorist Jonathan Foret, “and this may be one of those twists.” Who’s to say that Jonathan isn’t right?

Today, the Rougarou is most often thought of as a kind of bogeyman, a scary story to frighten children into behaving themselves. But the legend itself is becoming increasingly popular and more widely-known to people outside of Louisiana due to the beast’s portrayal in popular culture and especially television. The monster has appeared in the enormously popular television series Supernatural in a very different form in the fourth season’s fourth episode, “Metamorphosis” (originally aired on October 9th, 2008). The monster has also appeared in the short-lived series Cryptid: The Swamp Beast (2013), the four-episode reality series Swamp Monsters (2014), and has gained widespread notoriety in the ongoing series Monsters & Mysteries in America (2013). But there are many credible eyewitnesses who have come forward with their stories, and they are adamant that they have seen something truly horrifying in the swamps of Louisiana, something that they cannot explain. And the sightings just keep coming in. Does a werewolf truly prowl the forests and bayous when darkness falls and the moon is full? The people of Louisiana seem to believe so. And maybe, just maybe, they have a good reason for their beliefs. But regardless of what some people may say, the legend of the Rougarou continues to endure. And the beast itself still hungers for the taste of warm, raw human flesh…


The legend of the Rougarou has fascinated me for a few years now, and this is the culmination of that fascination. But I wouldn’t have been able to do this without some serious help. I am deeply indebted to my good friends Jonathan Foret, Alyne Pustanio, and Brad Steiger. I would like to sincerely thank Jonathan and Alyne for allowing me to use their expertise and for putting up with and answering my seemingly endless barrage of questions. As for the history behind the legends as told by the Opelousas, the Chitimacha, and the Gypsies, that is Alyne’s original work and research, which I have retold here with her gracious permission. I would also like to thank Brad for allowing me to use his excellent books in my research. In fact, it was from Brad’s work that I first learned of the Rougarou. Jonathan, Alyne, and Brad, I am so very thankful for your kindness, your understanding, your willingness to help, and your friendship especially. I owe each one of you a debt of gratitude, and I hope to repay each one of you someday. Thank You for all of your help!!!

Works Cited

Brown, Nathan Robert. The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Werewolves. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009.

Brown, Nathan Robert. The Mythology of Supernatural: The Signs and Symbols Behind the Popular TV Show. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2011.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Vampires & Werewolves. Second Edition. New York: Checkmark Books, 2011, 2005.

Pustanio, Alyne. “The Rugarou, Werebeast of the Swamp Indians.” Steiger, Brad. Real Zombies, the Living Dead, and Creatures of the Apocalypse. Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2010. Pages 181-184.

Steiger, Brad. The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings. Second Edition. Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2012.

Burns, Phyllis Doyle. “Louisiana Werewolf – Rougarou of the Bayou.” HubPages. 15 August 2014. 10 October 2014. <>

Duby, D.S. “The Rougarou – Southern Louisiana.” HubPages. 5 November 2012. 10 October 2014. <>

Folse, Brandon. “Rougarou remains strong figure in Cajun folklore.” The Nicholls Worth. 26 October 2006. 10 October 2014. <>

Lamb, Robert. “Monster of the Week: Rougarou the Lenten Werewolf.” 20 February 2013. 10 October 2014.>

Lugibihl, Jamie. “He creeps, he crawls, he conquers: The Rougarou – A Louisiana folklore legend.” The Nicholls Worth. 26 April 2001. 10 October 2014. <>

McKnight, Laura. “Tales of the Rougarou still haunt local memories.” 22 October 2006. 16 December 2014. <>

Pustanio, Alyne. “The Loup Garou (Cajun Werewolf).” Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. 14 May 2007. 10 October 2014. <>

Reynolds, Claudia. “The Rougarou: Louisiana’s Cajun Werewolf.” Lifepaths 360. 3 April 2012. 12 October 2014. <>

“What is a Rougarou, Exactly?” CryptoVille. 1 April 2014. 10 October 2014. <>

“The Rougarou is Watching You!” Cajun French Blog. February 2009. 15 September 2014. <> (now defunct)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Kanaima

The natives of the Carib islands have always been superstitious, but they have good reasons for being so. Danger lurks all around them in their rainforest home in one form or another, and some of these threats aren't of the natural world at all. The Carib people believe in a number of different ghosts, spirits, demons, and strange creatures. One of the deadliest of these spirits is able to shapeshift into animals and take bodily possession of mortal men, inciting them into committing murder. This spirit is known as the Kanaima, a shapeshifter that seeks to kill and wholly consume humans in body and soul.

The Kanaima is primarily associated with the Akawaio, Pemon, Carib, Patamona, and the Macushi tribes, all of whom inhabit the jungles of South America. There seems to be some confusion in the tribal folklore in regards to what the Kanaima (also known as Canaima or Kenaima, as some spell it) actually is, as it may vary from one tribe to another. Some say that it is a shaman who uses dark magic to take on the form of an animal in order to hunt, kill, and feed on people. On the other hand, other people say that the Kanaima is an evil spirit that passes silently through huts at night while the residents are asleep, seeking those whom it may possess. According to legend, however, the Kanaima can also take possession of animals. This causes the animals to become very aggressive and violent towards other animals and people in particular.

In some tribal traditions, there are some people who are so consumed by their need for revenge (usually for a murdered relative) that they willingly invite these evil spirits into their bodies through the use of powerful drugs or magic rituals. Those people literally become Kanaima, seeking out their enemies so that they may kill and devour those who did them wrong. There are others who believe that the Kanaima is a predatory animal possessed by a human's spiritual self, possibly through the magical practice of astral projection. In this case, the animal that is most often sought is the jaguar, a magnificent animal that was worshipped in the olden days by the Olmecs and the Maya for its strength, speed, and its prowess in the hunt. This big, vicious cat usually takes small to large animals as its prey, although humans are sometimes on the list as potential prey as well.

Whatever the case might be, the Kanaima is still a supernatural force to be reckoned with. This evil spirit gives possessed humans the power of shapeshifting, the ability to physically transform into any animal that they desire. The jaguar seems to be the most common choice, although there are also tales of the Kanaima assuming the form of a deadly anaconda as well. In addition, the possessing spirit gives its host unnatural strength, speed, endurance, and a murderous ferocity that only the most depraved serial killers may come close to matching. When the person takes on an animal's form, they also gain the animal's claws, teeth, its strength, and the animal's senses as well. It is also said that the Kanaima's gaze can cause a person to become irrevocably insane. Like other spirits, the Kanaima seems to be able to spread disease and cause bodily problems for its victims (like stomach ailments) as well. In addition to its powers, the Kanaima carries a bottle made from a gourd called a calabash. The gourd may contain poison, although this is uncertain. The creature also carries a magic bow that fires poisoned arrows. Presumably, this weapon assists the monster in bringing down its chosen prey.

The following story tells of an encounter with a Kanaima. Once there was an old man who lurked in the forests as a Kanaima, taking the shape of a tiger (although this may have simply been another term for a jaguar) in order to stalk and kill unwary humans. One day, the old man's son was out hunting with his bow and a quiver of arrows. His arrows were primitive, the points being carved bone bound to a wooden shaft with resin and sinew. It wasn't long before the young hunter encountered the big cat. Raising his bow, he fired an arrow that hit the animal squarely in its lower jaw. The tiger roared in pain and, raising its paw, snapped the wooden shaft and the bone point off. The animal then fled into the forest. The young man picked up what remained of his arrow and went home.

The next day, the old man came out of the forest. He groaned with pain, claiming that his mouth was on fire. Being a good son, the boy offered to take a look. The old man opened his mouth as wide as he could. Seeing something, his son carefully withdrew a piece of broken bone from the inside of his father's cheek. Now suspicious, the younger man retrieved his broken arrow from the day before. The piece of bone fit snugly into the arrow's shaft. At that moment, he knew the truth: his father was a Kanaima, a werebeast. The hunter's heart was heavy with sorrow, and he told his father that he had to take his wife and leave. The young man knew that as long as he stayed in his father's presence, neither he nor his beautiful wife would be safe from the monster within his father. With those words, the young man and his wife took their belongings and sought a home elsewhere to start a family.

The legend told above tells of the connection between the Kanaima and a phenomenon related to shapeshifters and werebeasts, which is known as sympathetic wounding. This belief states that if a shapeshifter is injured or wounded while in the shape of an animal, then that very same wound will appear on the shapeshifter's human body. This identifies the monster to others and enables those people to take action against it. Most often, this leads to death for the werebeast. In this case, the old man got off lucky and was only shunned. However, there are only a few people who can imagine the unbearable pain of being rejected by their loved ones because of their own mistakes.

There are no known methods of warding off or destroying the Kanaima while it isn't possessing a living body. Salt might be able to keep the spirit at bay for a time, although exactly how long that might be can't be said. As for dealing with the Kanaima while it is in possession of a body, one may be able to kill the body with everyday weapons. This could hypothetically release the inhabiting spirit, although it would be free to find another body at that point. However, because life is so precious, an exorcism might be somewhat more appropriate. A Christian exorcism wouldn't be out of the question in this part of the world, although finding a priest who is trained and can conduct the ceremony might be a challenge. Therefore, it might be more convenient to find a native shaman who can use his magic and his knowledge of the natural world to drive the invading spirit out of its host, while at the same time keeping the victim alive.

Although not much is know about the Kanaima and its habits, South American natives still believe in the existence of the creature and are still very much afraid of it. To them, it is death incarnate. Once a victim has been chosen, there is no escape. Even if the victim runs, the Kanaima will hunt them down without mercy. The beast is utterly relentless in its pursuit, and one cannot run or even hide for long. It just goes to show that, no matter how hard a person tries, they cannot outrun death itself.

Works Cited

Hamel, Frank. Werewolves, Bird-Women, Tiger-Men, and Other Human Animals. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1915, 2007.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Flying Heads

Within the annals of folklore, legend, and mythology, some truly bizarre monsters can be found. But being bizarre doesn't make them any less dangerous. In fact, it may make them even more deadly. One of the most bizarre of these creatures can be found in the oral traditions and folklore of the Iroquois. These creatures appear as decapitated human heads with wings that will devour anything that moves. They are known as Kanontsistóntie, the Flying Heads.

The Flying Heads are undead disembodied heads or demons that have the wings of a bird or a bat growing from their temples. They have fiery eyes that glow eerily in the darkness, while their heads are covered in a matted mess of long, tangled hair. Their heads vary in size, from being human-sized to being "four times as tall as the tallest man." The faces of the monsters are described as being "very dark and angry, filled with great wrinkles and horrid furrows." These creatures have large mouths that are filled with needle-sharp fangs, which they use for catching and devouring their prey. Their skin is thick and matted with dirty, greasy hair, so much so that no weapon can penetrate these disgusting defenses. Some legends say that they have long talons of great strength on their undersides for tearing flesh and seizing prey, but this trait is either absent or is simply not mentioned in other accounts. These monsters can be found in the dark forests of the Adirondack Mountains in New York.

The Flying Heads were once thought to kill primarily for revenge because of some wrongdoing on the part of the Iroquois. However, these creatures have since become so feral and debased that the only thing that they think about is what they're going to eat next. They are constantly hungry and, being only disembodied heads, they can never know the satisfaction that a full stomach brings. Hunger is now their only motivation, and it drives them at all times. These demons travel in groups and are entirely carnivorous, and they especially seem to savor the taste of human flesh. They are relentless predators, pursuing and devouring any living creature that makes the slightest movement. They appear to be nocturnal by nature, roosting in caves or desecrated ruins by day (much like bats). Some of them might make their nests in an abandoned village, where all of the original inhabitants were mercilessly slaughtered by the winged demons. By night, the Flying Heads soar through the darkened sky at speed, shrieking and laughing like madmen as they go.

While the Flying Heads are exactly what their name suggests (severed heads with the ability to fly, obviously), they are supernatural entities with powers beyond those of a mere mortal. They are most obviously able to fly, although there is no evidence of any limit to the distance or the speed of their flight capabilities. They are possessed of great strength, particularly in their jaws and the talons on their undersides. It is said in some legends that the stumps of their necks drip blood, and that this blood is both toxic and corrosive to human flesh. Some people say that they are able to spread disease by appearing in the dreams of their victims, which is always taken to be an omen of a coming illness or death. And wherever these monsters choose to dwell, the place eventually becomes corrupted by their evil. This unnatural taint gradually spreads to the surrounding countryside, rendering the area desolate and devoid of life for many miles. This corruption may attract other monsters, making such a territory both inhospitable and extremely dangerous to human beings.

There is one question that begs to be answered about the Flying Heads: where did they come from? Many people say that the Kanontsistóntie are the result of a horrible violent death, while others say that a human may become one of these creatures through an act of cannibalism (a trait shared with the more notorious Wendigo). Some folklore suggests that the Flying Heads are the decapitated remains of great sorcerers, sorceresses, or giants. Some stories, however, do not speak of the origins of the Flying Heads at all. This would seem to imply that these monsters are primordial in nature, having existed since prehistory with little to no purpose other than to terrorize and feed upon humans. In order to understand the origins of these monsters more clearly, one must look to Iroquois mythology for answers.

Long ago, there was a very severe winter on one particular year. The intense cold killed most of the plants, and it drove the deer, the moose, and the other game animals off to other regions in search of food. The local native tribes decided against following the animals, and decided to rely on their fishing skills to sustain them. But the fishing didn't last, for it seemed that the fish had abandoned the area. Eventually, a devastating famine swept through the area, becoming so severe that it killed entire families. What were the natives to do?

It wasn't long before the younger members of the tribe began to talk about migrating from the area that they had long called home. The young braves proposed a secret journey to a great lake to the west of them. The journey would be dangerous, as there were a number of hostile tribes in the area that always seemed to thirst for the blood of their enemies. But once they were beyond the borders of the lake, it would be a fairly simple matter to find a new home. However, not everyone agreed with this plan.

The elders of the tribe absolutely refused to make the journey, saying that it was madness to attempt such a feat. They argued that the famine had been orchestrated by the Master of Life to punish the people for their sins. They believed that if they could endure the famine, it would eventually pass. But if they tried to escape it, the consequences would follow them for the rest of their lives and beyond. They would rather die in their own homelands than to live in a strange place where they didn't belong. The young men were furious with the elders' decision, and they proceeded to slaughter the elderly men in their anger.

When the young men realized what they had done, they were faced with a dilemma: how would they dispose of the bodies? Seeking to justify their grisly deed, it was eventually decided that the bodies would be decapitated and burned as an offering to the Master of Life. The heads would be bound together and thrown into the lake (presumably with heavy stones), so that they would sink to the bottom and never be seen again by the eyes of man. Then they would be free to migrate to new hunting grounds, where food would be plentiful. Of course, things never go exactly as planned when murder is involved, do they?

When one of the chiefs involved in the murders tried to hurl the heads into the lake, he himself became entangled in the ropes and fell into the lake. Unable to break free of the ropes, the chief drowned. According to legend, the water started to bubble, and a sickening slime appeared on the water's surface. Then, something monstrous emerged from the lake: a gigantic head covered in matted hair, with the wings of a bat and a cavernous maw filled with needle-pointed fangs. The Iroquois would never be able to escape this horrible monster, which arose from the depths of the lake to avenge the deaths of the tribal elders.

It wasn't long, however, before the Flying Head began to attack other tribes in the area, seemingly for no apparent reason. The Flying Head would devour any living thing that moved, oftentimes while the victim was still alive. Over time, the Flying Head's attacks grew more vicious and its unceasing hunger claimed more and more lives. Eventually, people fled and hid themselves from the monster. All that remained was a woman and her baby inside of a longhouse, and she had a decision to make. "Someone must make a stand against this monster," she thought to herself, "It might as well be me." She began to build a large fire, and tossed in several large stones. And then, she sat down to wait for the monster.

The young mother watched and waited for the monster to make its presence known. Suddenly, the Flying Head appeared in the longhouse doorway! Looking inside, the monster grinned horribly when it saw the woman sitting within the dwelling. The woman pretended that she didn't notice the hideous creature and acted as though she was cooking a meal for herself (some versions of the legend say that she was roasting chestnuts or acorns over the fire). Picking up the now-glowing stones with a forked stick, she then pretended to eat the red-hot rocks. In reality, the woman passed the stones behind her beautiful face and simply dropped them on the ground. All the while, the woman smacked her lips and exclaimed, "Ah, how good this is! What wonderful food! Never has anyone feasted on meat like this before!"

The woman's ruse worked. Unable to control itself, the Flying Head rushed into the longhouse and seized the entire pile of glowing, red-hot stones in its mouth. But as soon as the creature had swallowed them, it let out a horrifying scream that echoed over the trees, the mountains, and the streams as it frantically flew off in agony. Its screams reached such volumes that the largest and oldest of the trees trembled, the earth shook, and even the very leaves fell from the branches of the trees. Every person throughout the land covered their ears and grimaced in pain from the monster's screams! Gradually, the screams faded into the distance, becoming fainter and fainter until they could no longer be heard. What became of the monster after that is unknown. Some people say that the Flying Head burst into flames and burned into ashes. Others say that the creature fled into the wilderness and never bothered humanity again. Could this demon still be out there somewhere?

There are very few known ways to deal with the Flying Heads in regards to warding off or even destroying them. They are said to be vulnerable to medicine charms (traditionally used by the Native American peoples to ward off sickness and evil) and seem to particularly hate ritualistic dancing and sacred songs. They do have one huge weakness, however: their lack of intelligence. Despite the fact that these creatures are little more than heads with wings, they aren't much smarter than the average wild beast. They are driven only by their voracious appetites for flesh. Because of their stupidity, they are easily deceived and will fall for the simplest of tricks. And while the Flying Heads are highly aggressive and dangerous predators, they are cowards and will retreat if the dominant member of their flock is destroyed or if their chosen prey proves to be more powerful than the creatures had anticipated.

It would seem that the only way to destroy the Flying Heads is fire. Decapitation is obviously out of the question here, although splitting the monsters in two with a bladed weapon or piercing the brain may also work. Gunshots to the head may also stop these flying demons, although the veracity of this theory will most likely never be proven. Cutting the wings of these creatures will most likely disable them, causing them to fall helplessly to the ground. There, they can easily be finished off by piercing the brain with a narrow spike or blade (like a bayonet). The remains should then be salted and burned, and the ashes cast to the four winds to prevent the Heads from possibly returning.

The Flying Heads have not been seen in the modern age, and one might be able to assume that they have died off. Either that, or encounters with such creatures are few and far between and may be so sporadic that people don't bother reporting them for fear of ridicule! But is it possible that the Flying Heads are still out there, flying out in search of prey when the sun goes down? It is certainly a possibility. Perhaps somewhere, deep in a forgotten cave in a dark forest, the Flying Heads sleep and await nightfall, when they may prowl the darkened skies once again in search of living prey...

Works Cited

Zenko, Darren. Field Guide to Monsters. Canada: Dragon Hill Publishing Ltd. Copyright ©2008 by Dragon Hill Publishing Ltd.

Flying Head (Wikipedia)

Legendary Native American Figures: Flying Head (Big Heads)

Flying Head (The Demoniacal)

The Flying Head


Flying Head

Big Giant Heads: The Importance of Being Monstrously Gluttonous