Myth Monday: Cat Sith, the Fairy Cat (Scottish Legend)


Myth Monday: Cat Sith, the Fairy Cat (Scottish Legend)
By Kara Newcastle


I’m sure a great many of you are somewhat familiar with fairies. They’re small (not
always), they’re beautiful (usually, but looks can be deceiving), they have gossamer wings (occasionally), and they have their fairy pets.

Aha! I see the surprise on your faces. “Pets?” you’re asking. “Fairies have pets?” Yes, they do. They have fairy horses, fairy cows, fairy dogs … and fairy cats, called the Cat Sith (pronounced cat shee, and no, not the character from Final Fantasy VII.) Fairy animals abound in various mythologies of Great Britain and Europe, but the Cat Sith is best known
in Scotland, as you’ll soon see why.

The Cat Sith was said to be huge, the size of a large hunting dog—or even bigger. It was solid black, save for a white patch on its chest, and had intense yellow eyes that held intelligence that seemed to go beyond the range of any ordinary cat, big or small. It was frequently seen with its back arched and fur bristling along its spine, its ears laid back and huge fangs bared. It was not a friendly kitty.

Unlike some fairy folk, the Cat Sith was always ferocious, and while it didn’t actively seek out humans to harass, it was known to go after humans who had hurt other cats. A Cat Sith will never give an offender a warning—it will launch immediately into a vicious attack as soon as it is provoked because it is always ready for a fight. This made it the perfect heraldic animal for many Scottish Highland clans, such as the MacBains and the Mackintoshes. Please, no Simpsons or Brave jokes here.

At Samhain (the original name for the festival we now call Halloween), the Cat Siths were known to roam the land at night (this is why black cats are associated with Halloween!) If a family wanted to make sure that they were on the Cat Sith’s good side, they would leave a bowl of milk out in front of their door on Samhain. Like all cats, fairy and otherwise, Cat Sith loves milk and will bless the family that left them the treat. If a family neglected to leave milk out, the Cat Sith would curse them so that all their cows would stop giving milk.

However, in the Scottish Highlands, Cat Sith was known particularly for stealing the souls of the recently dead and carrying them away to the fairylands. All the Cat Sith had to do was spring over the corpse and snatch the soul straight out of the air as it hovered there, waiting to move on to the Otherworld. To prevent their loved ones’ spirits from being forced to eternally serve the fairies, Highlanders would hold a wake called the Feill Fadalach, or Late Wake, to make sure the Cat Sith didn’t jump over the dead body. Unlike
other wakes where sad people gathered to mourn, the Feill Fadalach was held all day and night until the body was buried, and it was essentially a party. The Highlanders would try to divert the lurking Cat Sith with riddle contests, music, and dancing, wrestling, not lighting any fires because the Cat Sith (like all cats) loved warmth, and—get this—spreading catnip throughout the house.

Apparently, even fairy cats are not immune to the ‘nip.

As Christianity took hold in Britain and the isles, the Cat Sith’s identity began to change, especially when the savage witch hunts began. Instead of being a fairy cat, Cat Sith was now believed to be the form a witch could shapeshift into to either cause chaos in the community or escape pursuers. It was believed that a witch could transform into a black cat eight times, but if she turned into a cat for a ninth time, then she would be stuck in that form forever. This is partly where the myth that a cat has nine lives comes from (nine was considered the perfect number by many pagan/pre-Christian cultures, because,
once broken down, it was three equal groups of three, and three was associated with Triad goddesses—I could go into it more, but that would make this blog way longer) and why  cats—especially black ones—are linked with witches.

Sightings of actual Cat Siths were reported in Scotland for years, but most people dismissed the reports out of hand—no way could there be that big of a black cat with a white chest patch roaming around the highlands and moors. There had never been any proof of anything larger than the native wildcat (sometimes called the Highland Tiger, with good reason) living in Scotland, and even then those cats looked like hefty striped tabby cats. Anything that was found had to be a hoax. The Cat Sith existed only in legends …

And then one was captured.


Kellas cat found in Aberdeenshire on display in the Zoology Museum University of Aberdeen by Sagaciousphil wikimedia
Kellas cat on display at Zoology Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland

In 1985, Ronnie Douglas, a gamekeeper in Kellas, Moray, was stunned to find a large, black cat with a white chest patch in one of his snares. About a year later, a live one was caught by the Tomorrows World team. Soon, a total of seven additional specimens were collected by alien big cat (in this case, “alien” as in “not supposed to be from around here,” not as in, “extraterrestrials made a pit stop here so their pets could go to the bathroom”) researcher Di Francis, who gave them all to the National Museum of Scotland. There, studies revealed that some of the “Cat Siths” were actually a cross between a domestic cat and a Scottish wildcat. They were then named the Kellas cat by cryptozoologist Karl Shuker after the village where the first one had been found.

While the Kellas cat might not be supernatural, they are BIG. The snared Kellas cat measured fifteen inches tall at the shoulder and was forty-three freaking inches long! That cat was roughly the height of, and longer than, a typical cocker spaniel. Can you imagine a cat that big getting the zoomies in the middle of the night? Yeah, and whatever it howled for, you would give it without a second thought … and if you’re thinking about getting one as a pet, lemme put a stopper in that idea right now: just like its mythical counterpart, the Kellas cat is fierce, more than ready to attack, and can never be tamed. And I don’t think you want a four-foot-long wild cat getting pissed at you for any reason. Or no reason at all.

Now that it was proven that these cats were real, many researchers have gone back and reexamined depictions of the Cat Sith in legend and pagan art. One scholar, Charles Thomas, theorizes that the cat depicted standing triumphantly on a salmon in the 1,000-year-old Golpsie stone in Dunrobin Castle Museum actually depicts one of these hybrid cats. Elsewhere in England, where sightings of unusually large black cats sometimes pop up, it has been suggested that the Kellas cat might account for a few of the sightings.

With less than 400 Scottish wildcats remaining in the wild, conservation efforts are being made to limit crossbreeding with domestic cats to preserve the species. You might see a few Kellas cats in zoos now, but if the conservation is successful, the Kellas cats, like the Cat Sith, made fade away into legend once more.

Myth Monday: The Hideous Wampus Cat (Cherokee Legend)

Myth Monday: The Hideous Wampus Cat

By Kara Newcastle





Imagine this; you’re taking a twilight stroll through the countryside of North Carolina, wandering down an old road through the sparse woodlands. The sun is just sliding past the horizon, turning the shadows of trees dark and long. Crickets and peeper frogs are beginning to sing in the tall grasses. Occasionally, you can hear the lowing of cattle not far in the distance as they settle down in their pastures for the night.

Imagine that you decide that it’s getting too dark, so you decide to head back home. As you meander along the road, it gradually occurs to you that you can’t hear anything anymore. All the frogs and crickets have fallen silent. You glance around, thinking that’s weird, but shrug to yourself and assume that maybe you were the one who startled them all into silence. You keep walking.

As you come upon a bend in the road, you hear what sounds like rustling. Alarmed, you look up, and so can see the tall weeds along the side of the road shudder, as though something is passing through it. Your heart picks up speed, but you tell yourself that because the weeds aren’t moving very much, it must be something small. Like a rabbit. Or a fox. Those live around here in the country …

Your mouth goes dry and you freeze in your tracks as the huge, slender head pushes through the grasses, followed by one large paw, then another. A massive, pitch-black feline shape eases out onto the road, its glowing yellow eyes turned in the direction of the farm where you had heard the cows earlier.

A flicker of hope shoots through you. This thing—this giant cat, massive black panther, this creature that should not be here, not in North Carolina, not anywhere in America—hasn’t noticed you. It’s too interested in the cows.

Just as you think that, the unnatural creature turns its head. It stares straight at you, unflinching, for an eternity.

And just when you start to fear that this panther has decided that you would make a much simpler meal that a cow …

That’s when it stands up on its back two legs.

Like a human.

If you live through this encounter, congratulations—you have just met the demon panther of North Carolina and the Appalachia region: the Wampus Cat.

The Wampus Cat is probably the most famous cat-monster in the United States, and its legend—and sightings—stretch back to long before the Europeans ever considered coming to the New World. The Cherokee were most familiar with the hideous creature … because it used to be a member of their tribe.

As with most myths that are variations to the story, but the most common tale begins with a beautiful Cherokee woman who was married to a handsome, accomplished hunter. The woman was devoted to her husband, and while he seemed to love her as well, he frequently left her in their home so he could go on long hunts by himself. In those days, some of the women would accompany men on the hunts to help prepare and carry home the game they caught, but this woman’s husband absolutely insisted, demanded, ordered, that she not accompany him ever.

This didn’t sit right with the woman. In time, she began to wonder, then worry; what if her husband wasn’t really out hunting? What if he was sneaking off to be with another woman? The wife tried to get her husband to tell her, but he adamantly refused. Every time he refused to tell her what he was doing, the more convinced the wife became that he was cheating on her.

Finally, the woman couldn’t stand it anymore. One night after her husband set out, the woman wrapped the pelt of a mountain lion around herself and snuck after him. She followed her husband deep into the woods, moving carefully so he never suspected that she was there. It was growing late in the evening before the husband reached his true destination—a large bonfire in the center of the woodland, with many of the men from their tribe gathered around it.

Puzzled, the woman crept up as close as she could to the fire and listened. She heard the men tell secrets and stories, practicing magic—this knowledge was forbidden to women. Realizing what she had stumbled upon, the woman tried to crawl away, but her hand accidentally came down on a brittle twig on the ground. The snap was as loud as a thunderclap.

In a heartbeat the tribesmen descended on her, grabbing her and her mountain lion pelt up and dragging her into the light of the fire. Before the frightened woman could explain or her shocked husband could intercede, the shamans, outraged that their secret rites had been exposed, placed a curse upon the woman so that she could never speak of what she saw, and to keep other women from trying to spy as well.

Before the woman knew what was happening, the mountain lion pelt she wore adhered to her skin, and she was violently transformed into a half-woman, half-mountain lion beast. Horrified at what had been done to her, the cat-woman flew into a rage and disappeared into the forest, appearing periodically to stalk and kill humans in revenge for what was done to her.

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK – Black Jaguar on the move

In time white settlers came to the area, and while they were successful in driving out the Cherokee, they had no luck getting rid of the thing they called the Wampus Cat (I’m not 100% sure why they called it that, but I’ll look into it.) There have been dozens if not hundreds of sightings throughout the years of a large black cat killing livestock, attacking humans and generally just lurking in the vicinity. Some people don’t believe that it exists at all. Some believe that it’s just a misidentified animal, others say it’s just a black panther that escaped from a zoo or private collection or otherwise wandered up from Mexico (before you suggest it’s a black mountain lion, let me just point out that mountain lions apparently do not possess a gene for melanism, and there has never been a documented case of a black mountain lion). And still, others still swear that they’ve seen the creature that’s easily twice the size of a cougar and can walk around on two legs, moving just like a human. There have been scads of blurry cellphone videos depicting what appears to be a large black cat from these areas, but so far, they all seem to prefer walking on all fours.

The Wampus Cat is not the only werecat beast in the United States … either that, or it has an incredibly huge range of territory it travels. The best-recorded case of a Wampus Cat or other werecat-type interaction with a human occurred on the night of April 10, 1970, in Cairo, Illinois. Mike Busby, an auto mechanic, was on his way to pick up his wife from work in Olive Branch when his car suddenly began to sputter and die. Figuring he could fix whatever was wrong, Busby pulled off to the side of the road alongside a stretch of woods, got out of the car and popped the hood. Unable to clearly see what the issue was in the darkness, he tweaked what he thought was the problem, then started to close the hood.

That’s when he heard the noise—something big. Running fast.

Coming straight at him.

By Bob Adams from George, South Africa – Black Jaguar with supper.

Busby managed to turn and look just in time to see a huge black cat lunging for him, its jaws wide and clawed paws outstretch. It knocked the terrified man to the ground and began to claw and bite him as he struggled. The monster opened its jaws to snap down on his throat, and Busby shot a hand up, grabbing the thing’s lower jaw and straining to pull it aside. In response, the cat creature struck him in the face, and Busby later said it felt like he was being punched. That, coupled with the fact that Busby reported that the claws were dull, would make one think that this was some lunatic in a  cat costume that came out of the woods and attacked Busby, but Busby claims that the thing was making noises like a large cat would, that it was heavy and solid and very real, with wiry, jet black fur.

Hurt, bleeding, terrified, the desperate Busby tried to play dead, and as he went limp and the cat-thing relented its attack. As the creature towered over Busby, the headlights of a passing diesel truck swung over them. The driver, John Hartsworth, was shocked by what he saw and slammed on his brakes but didn’t stop. The light and the noise seemed to scare the beast because it sprang off of Busby, leapt up on two legs and ran back into the woods!

As I understand it, Busby managed to crawl back into his car, started it up with no problems, then continued into Olive Branch, where John Hartsworth was waiting for him. Both men went to the nearest hospital, where both men recounted the attack to skeptical police. The police insisted that Busby had been attacked by a wolf and even later reported that they shot and killed one wandering near where the Mike Busby had been attacked. Busby, who is still alive as of the writing of this blog, doesn’t believe it; he knows he was attacked by a giant black cat that ran on two legs, and it swears to it to this day.



Myth Monday: Vampires from Around the World (World Mythology)

October 31, 2018

By Kara Newcastle



Everybody knows about the traditional European vampire: thin, pale, red lips, piercing eyes, sleeps in a coffin, survives on blood drawn from a victim’s throat which has been punctured by a pair of fangs, blah blah blah. Fortunately, that’s not the only kind of vampire out there—there are hoards of them all over the world, each more unique (or weirder) than the last. Take a look, and keep the garlic handy!

Oh, and fair warning … some of these can be a little gross.

  1. Bakeneko (Japan): Before the arrival of Europeans, Japanese people believed in vampires, but their versions weren’t reanimated human corpses out looking for blood; typically, a Japanese vampire was an everyday, run-of-the-mill animal that had developed nefarious powers. One famous story tells of how a bakeneko (ghost cat) sought revenge for the unfair death of her owner’s son by Nabeshima Mitsushige, a local daimyo (feudal lord.) The bakeneko killed Mitsushige’s favorite concubine and then took on her appearance so that she could drain the life from him at night. After noticing how Mitsushige seemed well during the day but increasingly weak and frail after spending the night with his concubine, the daimyo’s retainer Komori Hanzaemon hid in their bedchambers one night and caught the bakeneko attacking the prince. He drew his sword and slew the blood-drinking cat vampire.

  2. Chiang-shih/jiangshi (China): The Chinese vampire is one of the more unique reanimated human bloodsuckers in mythology. Why? Because it gets around by hopping! Long ago if a person died far from their home, their grieving relatives would hire a Taoist priest to bring the body home. The priest would go to the corpse, bind its arms and legs together, then attach a magic spell to its forehead to make it stand up and hop its way home—naturally, it only moved along at night when the roads were deserted, since the sight of a corpse bouncing along a road would surely give living witnesses heart attacks. In time the myth evolved, and a chiang-shih was thought to be the reanimated  or demon-possessed body of a dead person who had not been buried properly. They grew fangs and claws and attacked people for blood—all while still hopping around. If a chiang-shih was not disposed of quickly, it would move through seven stages of evolution (sort of like the worst Pokemon imaginable), growing increasingly more mobile, more powerful, and eventually gaining the ability to fly and transform into wolves. They were almost impossible to kill at that point. Salt, garlic and iron were effective tools against a chiang-shih.

  3. Chupacabra (North and South America, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean): The most modern of all vampires, the Chupacabra (“goat sucker”) is a creature that apparently comes in two different species: the half-ape-half-reptile-kangaroo-like-usually-fairly-large-and-may-or-may-not-be-winged variety most often reported in Mexico, South and Central American and certain places in the Caribbean, or the hairless, blue-eyed dog-like creature seen (and killed and taxidermized!) in the Southwest United States. The reptilian version gained notoriety in the early 1990s, particularly in Puerto Rico, when an unexplained rash of pet and livestock killings occurred. The animals—particularly goats, hence the name—were found dead and largely intact, save that they appeared to have been completely drained of blood. Sightings of the fanged kangaroo-lizard-monkey thing quickly followed, giving rise to a new legend. More recently, similar livestock deaths in the United States, particularly Texas, have been blamed on a highly unusual-looking canine-like animal seen lurking around. The dog thing is gray, hairless, has front legs shorter than the back, weird knobs on its hind end, only two mammary glands (unlike a dog’s typical six), piercing blue eyes and long white fangs. The animal has been sighted by hundreds of witnesses, including a sheriff’s deputy who caught it on her dashboard camera. Several have been shot and killed, and the body of one that was hit and killed by a car was rescued by Dr. Phylis Canion, who had it stuffed and mounted. DNA tests suggest that it’s probably a mix of coyote and wolf, but it sure is weird looking. See it here!

  4. Langsuyar and Pontianak (Indonesia): The langsuyar is a woman died either while pregnant or during childbirth, and a Pontianak is a baby that was stillborn (though some other regions believe that pontianak is an even more vicious version of the langsuyar.) The langsuyar appears as a beautiful woman with ankle length black hair (though sometimes she can be a detached head), long claw-like nails, hands that drag down by her feet, and wearing green robes. She hunts infants and especially likes the blood of newborn boys. The langsuyar can be recognized by a hole in the base of her neck, and she can be cured of her vampirism if you cut off all of her hair and fingernails and stuff them into the hole—good luck with that. To prevent the creation of either a langsuyar or a Pontianak, the mouths of the corpses must be filled with beads to keep them from screeching, eggs must be placed under their arms and needles in their hands to keep them from flying. As recently as 2013, villagers in Kelantan, Malaysia, reported a langsuyar flying over their houses, cackling.

  5. Leanan Sidhe (Ireland): Interestingly, while most of Europe west of Romania had never heard of the blood-drinking vampire, Ireland had a wealth of tales about fairies that would feast on the blood or life energies of human beings. One such fairy vampire was the beautiful leanan sidhe, who was highly attracted to poets and artists. If a leanan sidhe found and fell in love with a poet or artist, she would act a as their muse, granting them inspiration to created fabulous works of literature or art. However, there was a cost; the poet may gain inspiration, but he would slowly wither and die as the leanan sidhe fed off of his energy. Once the victim had passed away, the leanan sidhe would move on to find new prey.

  6. Manananggal and Aswang (Philippines): Perhaps the grossest of all the vampires, the manananggal is a woman who can either detach her head from her body or her upper torso from her lower torso (depends on the story). The detached part of her body then flies through the air, trailing its intestines behind it. The manananggal loves to prey on pregnant women and, upon finding one, will perch on the roof of the woman’s house and lower its needle-like tongue down inside. The tongue pierces the woman’s stomach through her bellybutton and sucks out the heart of the baby, resulting in a stillborn child. The manananggal can be defeated if the lower part of its body is found and filled with salt or garlic, preventing the upper half from rejoining the rest of its body, and then dying in the rising sunlight. Another way to defeat the manananggal is to cut its tongue; one popular story (I might be getting it confused with another similar vampire) tells of an expectant mother who was sitting in a chair sewing, and noticed a long dark thread on her lap. Annoyed that she couldn’t find the end of it, she snipped the thread with her scissors, then jumped in fright as she heard something yelp, fall off her roof and crash into her yard. The next morning a dead manananggal was found in her yard, and was recognized as a local woman. A similar creature, called the aswang, is male, doesn’t detach any part of his body but can shapeshift into an animal, and is impervious to sunlight. It feeds on babies and small children, but would never harm anyone in its village and can actually be a good friend. They are driven off by salt, garlic and holy items and can be killed by decapitation. In the 1950s, the CIA helped to curb an uprising in the Philippines by killing a rebel soldier and staging his body to look like he had been killed by an aswang (it worked—the rebels fled the area.) An episode of Destination Truth featured a hunt for an aswang near a mosque in the Philippines.

  7. Obayifo (West Africa): Here’s a interesting vampire for you: the Dahomey and Ashanti people of West Africa believed in a creature called an obayifo, a black-magic user who was so constantly hungry that they were known to steal children to eat (hence the Ashanti word obayifo, “child-snatcher”) and not only sucked blood out of living people but also the juice out of fruits and vegetables. They appeared as ordinary human men or women, and sometimes could leave their bodies and travel as balls of light. In their human forms, they were pretty easily identified as vampires: they glowed from their armpits and anuses.

  8. Penanggalan (Malaysia): Much like the manananggal, the penanggalan is a woman who detaches her head from her body and flies around at night with her organs trailing behind her like the world’s most disgusting kite tail. How the woman becomes a penanggalan varies from story to story, though frequently she’s cited as being a woman who died in childbirth or a midwife who has made a pact with the devil. When she needs to return to her body, she soaks her entrails in vinegar to shrink them down for easier insertion (hey, I don’t make this crap up, I just report it.) The penanggalan uses her long tongue to feed on the blood of pregnant women and infants, all of whom die from a wasting disease. She can be deterred by wrapping thorny branches around windows or planting prickly pineapples beneath the stilt legs of the woman’s house, where the penanggalan will be snagged and can be hacked to death with a machete. If the body is found it can be burned or filled with crushed glass, preventing the head from rejoining. The head will then be killed by sunlight.

  9. Rakshasas (India): Most often described as being infernally beautiful women, rakshasas are blood-thirsty demons that haunt Indian cemeteries and crematoriums, and are known to follow in the wake of Kali, the goddess of destruction. Travelling by night, these fanged beasts liked to prey on pregnant women and infants, and a hero who could kill a rakshasa was a powerful warrior indeed. Like many vampires, rakshasas could be killed with fire.

  10. Red caps (Scotland): Red caps are hard to miss; they’re Scottish dwarves that tramp through the roads and fields at night, brandishing axes and halberds as they go. The second they spy a human being, the chase the hapless person, hack him to death, and then soak their caps in his blood. No, they don’t drink the blood—they just like the color of it. That’s all.

  11. Sasasabonsam (West Africa): A freaky vampire, this thing had iron teeth and hooks for toes. It would sit in tree branches that extended over a trail and dangle their legs down, waiting for someone to pass by. When a human made to mistake of crossing under their tree, the sasasabonsam would grab them with their hook toes, haul them up into the tree and drain them dry.

  12. Soucouyant/loogaroo (Caribbean, United States): A soucouyant (often known as a loogaroo in the United States) is an old, black magic-wielding hag who peels off her skin at night, hides it, transforms into a fireball and then flies through the air seeking victims. She worms her way through a gap in a person’s house and then proceed to drink their blood from their limbs. If she drinks too much, her victim will die and possibly become a soucouyant as well. Like many vampires, the soucouyant is very OCD, and if you scatter rice around your bedroom, around the outside of your home or at a crossroads, she has to stop and count every single grain; if she doesn’t complete the task before dawn, the sunlight will burn her and she’ll rush screaming back to her skin. If you should find the soucouyant’s skin, you should coat the insides with salt and put it back in its hiding place. When the soucouyant tries to put the skin back on, the salt will burn and kill her.

  13. Tlahuelpuchi (Mexico): An interesting and unusual vampire from ancient Mesoamerican myth, the tlahuelpuchi is a person, most often a woman, who is cursed to become a vampire when they reach puberty. They feed largely on the blood of infants, and if they don’t consume blood once a month they will die of starvation. Tlahuelpuchi maintain their own hunting territories apart from one another, though the are in communication with other supernatural entities and magic workers. The tlahuelpuchi hunt by leaving their legs behind in their home, transform into a turkey or a vulture, then fly in a cross pattern above the house of their intended victim as part of a ritual (north to south, then east to west.) When a tlahuelpuchi is discovered, they have to be destroyed immediately, though if a family member kills them the curse can pass on to them. Garlic, certain metals and onions can protect people against the tlahuelpuchi.

  14. Vrykolakas (Greece, Bulgaria, Slavic folklore): Ever had a hard time deciding if you want to be a vampire or a werewolf? Well, you’re in luck, because if you’re a vrykolakas, you can be both! A vrykolakas is a person who lived a sinful life, was excommunicated, ate the meat of an animal killed by a wolf or was a werewolf in life. When this person dies, they can return to life as a vampire. The vrykolakas then roams through their hometown, killing villagers, spreading disease and terrorizing their surviving family members. Burning or dismembering the body, piling rocks atop the body, decapitation and staking were effective ways at killing the vrykolakas. Like a surprising number of vampires throughout the world, vrykolakas are obsessive-compulsive, so if you spread seeds of grains of sand over the grave, the vampire is compelled to count each grain—at a rate of one grain a year, so you’ll be pretty safe.

  15. Yara-ma-yha-who (Australian Aboriginal legend): Among the weirdest of vampires, this one takes the cake: the yara-ma-yha-who is a frog-like humanoid with red hair that sits in fig trees, waiting for humans to stop by. When a human does pause at the tree, the yara-ma-yha-who drops out of the tree and attaches its fingers—each tip of which has a sucker on it—to the victim, draining them of blood. Once the human is dead, the yara-ma-yha-who swallows them whole, drinks some water, sleeps for a little while, then spits the person back out. The victim is alive, but a little shorter than before, and their skin now has a red tint. The yara-ma-yha-who does this over and over again until their victim is turned into a yara-ma-yha-who. Interesting, the yara-ma-yha-who hunts exclusively during the daytime and will only go after living prey, so if you see one coming at you, drop to the ground and play dead until sunset; once it gets dark the yara-ma-yha-who will return to its tree and you can make a run for it.

Myth Monday: Attack of the Killer Sea Globsters! (Cryptids)

September 17, 2018

By Kara Newcastle



It came from the briny deep! More specifically, this time it emerged out of the Bering Sea, washing up on the shores of Siberia—a large, lumpy, white, furry formless mound of … something … with a tentacle-like appendage stretching out beside it. It didn’t look like the remains of any animal known to man, with no discernible shape, no flippers, no tail, no apparent head, and covered in white fur—and not to mention stinking to high hell. It was clearly a dead animal, but what was it? Could it be a giant octopus? A colossal squid? The decaying corpse of a fuzzy sea serpent?


The thing found in Siberia on August 15, 2018 is just one in a long line of globsters—a term coined in 1962 by famous cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson to describe any large lump of flesh that washes up out of the ocean that has no obvious resemblance to any known animal (also known as blobsters.) These unidentified sea-going carcasses are usually first discovered by an average person (that is, somebody who isn’t educated in marine biology) who is out for a stroll on the beach. The discoverer understandably has no idea what the formless, often huge mass of flesh is and, more often than not, they soon come to the conclusion that they are looking at the dead body of some kind of sea serpent.


Hate to break it to everybody, but of the globsters that have been found, recorded and tested since the early 1800s or so, not a single one of them has proven to be a sea monster … or, at least, that’s what they want you to believe, but that’s a topic for another blog. Anyway, almost every globster that has been discovered has been proven to be the blubber from a decaying whale, the remains of a dead shark (often a basking shark), and, on occasion, parts from a dead giant octopus or squid. Sometimes the globsters will still have jaws, beaks or flippers attached, but the subsequent rotting of the animal’s flesh alters the appearance, leading witnesses to believe—and quite stubbornly so—that what they’re looking at is not the body of a dead porpoise, it’s the body of a dead sea monster.

Here’s a case in point: on April 25, 1977, off the coast of New Zealand, the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyo Maru snagged something big in one of their nets. Unsure of what it was, the crew pulled the thing up onto the deck and were beside themselves with shock when they saw it: it looked like the rotting body of a dead plesiosaur! The crew managed to take a few pictures of the thing and obtained a few samples, but it smelled so ungodly that they were forced to throw it back rather than have it contaminate their fish. Now, when I first saw those pictures when I was like ten or so years old, I was 100% certain that this thing was an honest-to-God sea monster. I mean, look at it (here, because it’s copyrighted and I don’t have permission)! It looks just like the sea serpents you would see in books in movies. How could it not be?

Well, there’s like a 99.99999% chance that it’s not a sea monster. Without a body to examine to be absolutely sure, there will always be some doubt, but what you’re looking at in this picture is very likely the remains of a dead basking shark. Weirdly, when basking sharks and similar animals die and decay, they tend to break down in a similar way, leaving their bodies to look as though they were long-necked sea serpents in life. It’s highly likely that the discovery of these corpses back in ancient and medieval times prompted people to believe that there were long-necked sea monsters out there, waiting for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ruling the possibility of sea monsters out entirely, but we have to look at the facts before we jump to conclusions.


But what about the reports of white fur? Well, I’m not a biologist and I haven’t seen a “real live” globster up close and in person, but my guess is that it’s just the fraying remains of blubber or fat, coming apart due to a combination of rot and scavenging sea animals—hey, these bodies have probably been floating around for weeks before coming ashore, it’s not like a bunch of fish, sharks and seagulls are going to pass up the opportunity for a floating buffet. Also, newborn whales and dolphins are born with fur, but they lose it shortly after birth. Maybe it’s possible that every now and again a cetacean grows up still retaining its fur, but it’s highly unlikely.

But then again … there have been sightings of unidentified sea-going creatures that appear to have fur, the most famous likely being Trunko.


The creature known as Trunko was sighted off the coast of South Africa in October of 1924 and reported in London’s Daily Mail the following December. Witnesses claimed to see a furry, snow-white whale-like creature with an elephantine trunk fighting with two killer whales for about three hours, using its tail to fend them off and apparently raising itself about twenty feet out of the water. One of the witnesses, a farmer named Hugh Ballance, said it looked like a “giant polar bear” … except for, you know, the trunk. (And I know what you’re thinking, NO, it WASN’T Tuunbaq from The Terror.)

Apparently, the beast succumbed to injuries from the battle and washed ashore, where it laid for about ten days but was never examined by researchers. About four photos were taken of the thing, but it seems they weren’t discovered until September 2010. Furthermore, the body was left on the beach so long that the tide eventually carried it back out sea, and nothing like it has been reported since. People who saw the body have differed on their accounts a bit, with some saying it had a trunk, others saying that it had a pig nose, and a few claiming it had a tail like a lobster. There were disagreements on the actual date of the orca vs. sea monster battle as well, though the recovered photographs were dated as being taken in July 1925. Karl Shuker, another big name in cryptozoology and apparently the guy who actually christened the creature “Trunko,” examined the photographs and concluded that the globster in question was just whale blubber, and suggested what the witnesses had actually seen was just two orcas maowing down on a dead whale.

One thing’s for certain, whether the globsters are known animals or not, they’re appearing with increasing frequency all over the world. This past August it was Siberia. In 2017 globsters appeared in two different places in the Philippines and on Seram Island. In 2003 a globster appeared in Chile, one showed up in Newfoundland in 2001, and from 1990 to 1997 four different globsters washed up in Scotland, Bermuda, Nantucket and Tasmania. Maybe we should be less concerned with what these things are and more concerned with what’s going on with our oceans.

Myth Monday: The Shunka Warak’in, Native American Monster Wolf (Cryptids)

June 26, 2018

By Kara Newcastle


In keeping with the theme of cryptids in the news, I came across an interesting little tidbit; in May 2018, a farmer in Montana shot and killed a strange, wolf-like animal on his property. The pictures that went along with the article showed a very large, shaggy-furred animal with a canine-head, somewhat small, pointed ears, and front legs and paws that appeared almost bear-like.

What the hell was this thing?

 Again, what the hell? Photo credit Montana Fish & Wildlife Dept. & DailyMail

Sorry to spoil it for you, but DNA proved that the creature was nothing more than a common gray wolf frequently seen in Montana. The critter in the pictures certainly doesn’t look like a wolf, and, given the area where it was killed, people can be forgiven for thinking it was something … unworldly.

For hundreds of years, the Ioway tribe of Montana, along with tribes in Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas and other nearby states bordering Canada were quite familiar with a beast they called a shunka warak’in, a term that translates to “carries off dogs.” The shunka warak’in was said to be a very big, dog-like animal that frequently appeared at night, often stalking through Native American villages, unintimidated by anything. These things were known for attacking, killing and dragging off the villagers’ dogs—hence the name—and the Native Americans were absolutely certain that the shunka warak’in weren’t wolves. They knew what wolves looked like, and these things were too big, too aggressive … too strange.


In time white people began to press further and further into North America’s plains, and the resident Native Americans frequently warned ranchers and journeying cowboys to watch out for the shunka warak’in, as it would go after their dogs, their livestock, and even them. Of course, the whites scoffed at the idea of a monstrous dog (they tended to scoff at all Native American legends, often to their regret later on), and went on to raise herds of sheep, cows and horses throughout the northern Midwest.

And then the shunka warak’in came.

The first few times the things were just glimpsed on the horizon, skulking at the edge of the ranchers’ property or a way’s off from the cowboys’ herds. They might have just been big wolves, but they were certainly weird-looking, with sloped backs, blue-black fur, snub-nosed faces and yellow eyes. The witnesses likely fired a few shots in the air to scare the things off, but the animals would just come back, moving closer in every time, watching the people with a terrifyingly bizarre sort of intelligence and a very un-wolflike sense of boldness.

Soon after the sightings came stories of the shunka warak’in stealing livestock and dogs, menacing people in their homes or out in the fields. Their snarls and howls could be heard for miles off, and packs of them had no qualms about trotting through a person’s farm, often in full view of witnesses. Horrified ranchers would take shots at the huge things, but the dog-beasts would scatter with incredible swiftness, and many men claimed that they hit the things dead on—and these were cowboys, having grown up with guns and hunting and fighting, so they were likely good aims—only to see the monster barely stumble with the impact and then race off. What the hell were these things? Were they invulnerable?

 Dire wolf size comparison to common gray wolf. (Wikimedia Commons)

As it turns out, as fearsome as the shunka warak’in was, it wasn’t immune to bullets. One day in 1886 a rancher named Israel Hutchins finally managed to shoot and kill one on his property in Montana after discovering it chasing his wife’s geese. With likely a combination of satisfaction at killing the thing and wanting to prove it to the world, the Hutchins sent the weird carcass to a taxidermist and general store manager named Joseph Sherwood and had it stuffed. The taxidermist had never seen such a frightening—and ugly—animal like this before, so after examining and stuffing it, the taxidermist-turned-biologist gave it a scientific name: Ringdocus.

 The Ringdocus mount

The newly christened Ringdocus mount was kept on display in the taxidermist’s general store in Henry’s Lake, Idaho, for many years before being donated to the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello. The stuffed whatever-it-was was on display for many years before it inexplicably vanished. Nobody knew what happened to it, but luckily, somebody had the foresight to take pictures of the thing before it was lost. The black and white photos were taken from different angles, all showing a snarling, shaggy canine-like animal that no one could readily identify.





Some researchers maintained it was nothing more than an unusual wolf. Others have suggested that it was a hyena, a wolf-dog or wolf-coyote hybrid, or maybe even a surviving member of the prehistoric dire wolf species (not to be confused with the Game of Thrones dire wolves, but they were about as big.) In 1995 cryptozoologist (a scientist who studies animals largely believed to be mythological but may actually be real) Mark Hall suggested that perhaps this thing was an actual shunka warak’in. Debate continued for decades over what the shunka warak’in/Ringdocus was, but the general consensus was that without the body to examine and test, no one would ever know for certain what it was.

Then—surprise!—in December 2007 the Ringdocus mount was discovered in the museum’s storage facility by no less than Israel Hutchins’s grandson, naturalist Jack Kirby (not the legendary comic book artist). Apparently, it was packed away to make room for a new display and was simply forgotten about, but has now been moved and put back on display at the Madison Valley Historical Museum in Ennis, Montana. Annoyingly, no scientists have attempted to test the Ringdocus’s remains yet because it still belongs to the Idaho Museum of Natural History and is on loan to the Madison Valley Historical Museum, which means Madison Valley doesn’t have the legal authority to authorize any DNA testing. From what I’ve read about it so far, the Idaho Museum isn’t ready or willing to give approval to a test, possibly because they’re afraid that it’ll prove to be an normal animal and the paying public will lose interest.

 credit to Loren Coleman

Sightings of the shunka warak’in continue to this day in the upper Midwest and in Alberta, Canada. Several of the animals have been killed, and while they have unusual characteristics (such as reddish fur), thus far they’ve all been proven to be ordinary wolves. Even so, people are still reporting sightings of a big, black-furred, hyena-looking dog running around. The story is becoming increasingly popular, with various TV shows such as History Channel’s Monsterquest, Destination America’s Monsters and Mysteries in America, Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, and Jack Osbourne’s short-lived Paranormal Highway searching for the beast.

Personally, if the shunka warak’in is as fierce as people claim, I think it might be better to let sleeping monster dogs lie. But that’s just me.