Wednesday, October 22, 2008

S is for Spring-Heeled Jack

This image of Spring-Heeled Jack is originally from a Penny Dreadful. It was taken from

Okay I find this legendary creature/man very strange. I first found out about Spring Heeled Jack when I was reading my Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures. I was like, WHAT? Well, let me tell you about him so you can share in my bafflement.

Spring-Heeled Jack is a creature of English folklore who terrorized people in the suburban London area during the mid to late 1800s. He was able to jump long distances and had terrifying features. His eyes seemed to glow like fire, sometimes with blue flames erupting, and he spat blue flames out of his mouth. He had long metallic claws that were used to claw at his victims. He was particulary fond of leaping out from behind buildings to terrorize his prey. Tall and thin, he wore an oilskin cloak. He would tend to jump out, terrorize people by spitting blue flames in their face and eyes, and clawing at their clothes, and then leap away over tall hedges. He had a habit of terrifying coachmen, causing them to crash their coaches.

A real-life historical figure, Henry de la Poer Beresford, the Marquis of Waterford, was thought to be the major person behind the Spring-Heeled Jack attacks. He was a wastrel who was said to be fond of sadistic pranks and had a distaste for women. As Spring-Heeled Jack seemed to attack women more often, this seemed to fit the profile of Waterford.

Spring-Heeled Jack became a popular character for the Penny Dreadfuls, which were inexpensive books sold on the streets as entertainment during the Victorian age. He has also been featured in plays and a video game.

The true mystery behind Spring-Heeled Jack has never been solved. One has to wonder, if it was a prank, how silly is this person to be doing this to people? Other theories are that Spring-Heeled Jack is an extraterrestrial or a demon conjured up from hell. Regardless, he is a very interesting entry in the beastiary of folklore.
Spring-Heeled Jack-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 11 October 2008. Accessed 22 October 2008.
Spring Heeled Jack. Mark Brodie. Accessed 22 October 2008.

Monday, October 20, 2008

B is for Black Annis

This Image was taken from Mysterious Britain Black Annis Case File:

I first became acquainted with the existence of Black Annis when I read Agents of Darkness, Agents of Light, the second book in the Simon R. Green Nightside series. She was horrifying. Of course I had to look her up and learn more about her. What I learned was no comfort to me.
According to Wikipedia, Black Annis is an English legendary creature who haunts the countryside of Leicestershire. She is a witch that is known to eat human flesh, especially children. Her face is blue and she has claws of iron. She is said to wander the glens at night looking to snatch up children and lambs to devour. She wears their skins as a skirt around her waist. And if there are no children easily grabbed outside, she has been known to reach inside of peoples' houses to obtain her dinner. This is the reason why houses in the Leicestershire area have small windows.
With those long claws, she is able to dig into the sides of cliffs, making a home for herself. This is called Black Annis' Bower.
The legend of Black Annis is said to be traced back to Celtic or Germanic mythology. In Celtic mythology she may have originated with goddess Danu, whereas the goddess Hel might be her Germanic mythological origin. Some say that the legend is based on real-life Dominican nun and hermit, Agnes Scott. Since she helped lepers, I have to wonder why she was given such a terrible namesake.
According to the Mysterious Britain Folkore of the British Isles website, Black Annis actually would hide in hollowed out oak trees, awaiting an unwary traveler, who would be eviscerated by her long claws. She is said to flay children alive and hang their skins on the walls of her cave. Incidentally, Black Annis' Bower was actually created by her digging away at the solid rock with her claws.
Black Annis is definitely the stuff of nightmares, and I can imagine a poor child trying to be a very good boy or girl to avoid the grisly fate that awaited wayward children who happened to be around when Black Annis was hungry and a-wandering.
Black Annis. Mysterious Britain Folklore of the British Isles Website. Copyright 200-2007, D. Parkinson. Date Accessed 20 October 2008.
Black Annis-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 8 October 2008. Date Accessed 20 October 2008.

L is for La Llorona

La llorona is a very creepy legend of Latin American countries, and parts of the United States as well. La Llorona is the name for the Weeping Woman in Mexico and parts of the United States. Imagine that you have born children by your dearest love, whether he is your husband or not. He cruelly tells you he is leaving you because he does not want to be a father, or doesn't want you anymore. He may be abandoning you for another woman or to marry a more socially acceptable woman. Or perhaps a new lover won't take you if you have children. What does a mother do? Well don't do what La llorona did. She drowned her children and will pay the price for eternity.

La llorona is a spirit that haunts the riverbeds, doomed to look for her drowned children for eternity. In many of the myths, the woman drowns her children and herself. When she gets to Heaven, the Lord asks where her children are. She doesn't know, so He tells her to walk the earth in search of them.

In some myths she has the head of a horse, and may wear black or white-bloodstained rags. She might steal children. In the Guatemalan myth, she has a loud weeping cry that will send chills down your spine. She tends to be present at wells and in wandering in the mountains. In the Honduran myth, she is known as La Sucia, or the Dirty Woman. She might take the form of a wife or lover, and if you realize it's her, she will scratch out your eyes with her long nails. In an alternate version of the Honduran legend, La Sucia is an abandoned married woman who seduces men by the river. She looks beautiful and young initially, but changes into the form of an old woman. The sight of which, drives the men insane. She has a popular cry that is translated as "Drink of my breast, for I am your mother." En El Salvador, she is said to cry "Where is my children?"

In Panama she is called "La Tulivieja." She was a young woman married to an important businessman who left her baby in what she thought was a safe place under a tree, only to find him gone when she returned for him. For her negligence, she was cursed by God with a hideous face with holes, long hair all over her body, and chicken feet. In Chile she wears white and is seen by people who are about to die, people with special abilities like medicine men, or by animals with heightened senses. She is the guide of the dead and also cries for the dead so that they won't haunt their living relatives. She is said to hypnotize men into spending the night with her to comfort her for her lost child. If you rub your eyes with tears from a dog, you can see her, but you must be brave, or the vision will be a horrible one.

Essentially, La Llorona is used as a cautionary tale to keep wayward children in line, or to prevent a young girl from being easily enticed by empty promises of men. Some believe that to hear the cry of the Weeping Woman is to be doomed for death.

The legend of La Llorona can be traced by to Medea, the Greek legend of a sorceress who killed her children she had with the adventurer Jason, when he abandoned her. The Aztec goddess Coatlique appeared before the arrival of the invading Spanish conquistadors under Hernan Cortes. She was said to be weeping for her lost children. This was an omen of the fall of the Aztec empire. The legend of the Weeping Woman is also said to be related to the story of La Malinche, an Indian woman who acted as a mistress for the conquistador Cortes, and who subsequently sought vengeance when abandoned her and their child for a Spanish lady.

Although the legend is slightly different depending on what country you are in, each telling is chilling. The idea of a woman who kills her children, dies, and is cursed to wanders the riverside on dark, lonely nights; weeping, and possibly looking for victims, certainly makes a person want to stay inside and far away from any bodies of water.


La Llorona-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 20 October 2008. Accessed 20 October 2008.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

R is for Red Cap

I was watching my Hellboy Animated Blood and Iron DVD special features and there was a little animated short on it, based on the folkcreature, a red cap. It perked my interest, and also gave me a chill. Folklore is not always inhabited by happy, friendly, frolicking creatures that mean no harm. There definitely creatures of menace and evil, who gleefully do harm to humans and other unsuspecting beings. The red cap is one of them.

According to Sprits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia of the Little People by Carol Rose, the red cap, also called the bloody cap, is an evil goblin or sprite from the folklore of the borderlands between England and Scotland. The borderlands are ripe with stories of this evil sprite. It lives in the ruins of castles and fortified towers, where previous battles have occurred, and blood has been shed.

In appearance, it looks like an extremely diminutive old man, with hair that is long and unkempt, red eyes, hideous talons on skinny fingers, and protruding teeth. His boots are made of iron, and he wears a cap that is red and blood-soaked.

According to Wikipedia, the red cap, also called a powrie or dunter, has to continually kill in order to dye his cap in blood, as the color will fade. His iron shoes make him very fast, making them quite impossible to outrun.

If a lost traveler happens to come across a red cap in the ruins of a castle, he is a very unfortunate person indeed. The red cap lies in wait to savagely kill him, catching the blood of his unfortunately victim in his cap. The intended victim has the opportunity to escape if he is able to recite the scriptures. This will cause the red cap to shriek and disappear. One of his fangs will be left behind.

If your interest in red caps. has been sparked, Wikipedia lists the following books and media the feature red caps:

  • Hellboy comic "Iron Shoes" by Mike Mignola

  • DemonWars Saga by RA Salvatore

  • Mage: The Hero Rediscovered graphic novel by Matt Wagner

  • Meredith Gentry books by Laurell K. Hamilton

  • Fables Volume 2 gothic novel

  • Spiderwick Chronicles books

  • The Dark Age and Kingdom of the Serpent by Mark Chadbourn

  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

So if you happen to visit Scotland and get lost, remember not to seek shelter in any castle ruins. I think a night spent outside in the elements is a lot safer than encountering one of these beasties. If you think a cold Scottish night outdoors is too much for you, the alternative is to memorize a few scriptures on the flight over.


Rose, Carol. Sprites, Fairies, Leprechaun: An Encyclopedia. Page 43. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. N.Y, N.Y, 1996.

Red Cap-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Date accessed 4 October 2008. Last modified 16 September 2008.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

D is for Doppleganger

For some reason, when I think of dopplegangers, a chill just runs right down my spine. Perhaps it is that feeling of the unknown touching you personally. I lot of people have told me they know someone who looks just like me. I really don't like the thought of it, but maybe I do have a doppleganger.

A doppleganger is a double of a person, and tends to be regarded as bad luck. Usually to see a doppleganger means that a person may die soon. According to Wikipedia, Norse mythology has a vardoger, which is a ghostly double of a person who is seen performing their actions before the actual person does. Or the person may arrive later, to find that his friends or family are confused because he had already came and went.

In history, Abraham Lincoln was reported to have seen his doppleganger in the mirror, a sign he would not live through his second term in office. Other reports include the famous poet Thomas Donne seeing a doppleganger of his wife the night she gave birth to a stillborn child, although he was in a different city than her.

According to Halloween Web, there is a theory that everyone has a double. One is good, and one is extremely evil. It also states the many times the doppelganger is seen by someone else, instead of the person who is doubled, leading to confusion. This gives the effect of being in two places at once.

Interested in reading fiction or watching television or movies that involve doppelgangers?

  • The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

  • William Wilson by Edgar Allen Poe

  • Doppelganger by Maire Brennan

  • Heroes TV show has a character named Jessica with an evil doppleganger called Niki who manifests as part of her own psyche, and has supernatural strength.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show character Willow has an evil doppelganger in an alternate reality known as "Evil Willow"

  • The movie Silent Hill has a child named Alessa who's doppleganger is called Dark Alessa, and has frightening telepathic powers

  • Dopplegangsters short story by Laura Resnick in the Murder by Magic: Twenty Tales of Crime and the Supernatural Anthology has supernaturally-bumped off mobsters appearing as dopplegangers minutes before their demise.

Are your friends saying that you seem to be in two places at once? Did you rudely insult your boss, only it wasn't you? You might have a doppleganger who's out to cause mischief for you. If you don't want to believe, then just hope that the double image that you see out of the side of your eye is just a sign that you need glasses. The truth could be too frightening to accept.


Doppelganger-Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 October 2008. Last modified 2 October 2008.

Doppelgangers Legend. Halloween Web. Accessed 2 October 2008. Copyright 2003-2008.

What is a Doppleganger? Niki Foster. Conjecture Corporation. Accessed 2 October 2008. Copyright 2003-2008.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

B is for Banshee

Image taken from Irish Fairies: Banshee

I have always been fascinated with banshees, probably because of my Irish ancestry. They are equally eerie to me. I get the creeps thinking of seeing a pale, long-haired woman in a rotting cloak, wailing and pointing at me on a dark and dreary night. Sheesh!

According to the website, Irelandseye: A Field Guide to Irish Fairies, Banshees, or bean-sidhe, are faery women or ancestral spirits that are assigned to certain families to forewarn their members of their time of death. The five major families that the banshees were said to cry for are: O'Neill, O'Brien, O'Connor, O'Grady, and the Kavanaugh. However, this list has been lengthened by intermarriage (so don't think you're off the hook.) According to Wikipedia, the banshee is sometimes not a fairy, but the ghost of a murdered woman or a woman who died in childbirth.

The Field Guide to Fairies states that the banshee can appear in three major forms: a young woman, a bedraggled old crone, or a matronly woman. This is in representation of the triple aspects of the war and death goddess of Celtic mythology, Badhbh, Macha, and Mor-Rioghan. The banshee can also appear in animal forms, such as hares, weasels, and hooded crows, which are associated with witchcraft in Ireland.

Wikipedia states that banshees are frequently described as having long, fair hair, which they will brush with a silver comb. This relates to a very old Irish story that you should never pick up a silver comb laying on the ground, for the banshees (or mermaids, depending on the tale) will place it there to lure an gullible human away, likely to their death or to be stolen away to the land of Faery.

The banshee will typically be dressed in a hooded cloak of gray or the grave robe of people who died without receiving Last Rites. In some instances, she may appear as a washer-woman, washing the blood-stained garments of the unfortunate soul who is about to die. When a banshee appears as a washing-woman, she is called a bean-nighe. According to Wikipedia, the Scottish call the banshee a bean-nighe.

The Field Guide states that sometimes a banshee may not even be seen. Instead, her wailing can be heard when someone is about to die. The banshee's wail can be so piercing that it can shatter glass. It is said that King James I of Scotland was told by a banshee that he would be murdered in 1437. Wikipedia states that according to legend, the banshee will wail around the house of the person who is about to die.

Although banshees are very much a part of Irish and Scottish folklore and legend, they have found their place in modern fiction. For instance, Seamus Finnigan, one of the Irish students in the Harry Potter stories, saw a banshee, and screeching was heard in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that was attributed to banshees.

Banshees may be associated with the five great Irish families, but many Americans have Irish heritage. Who is to say that a banshee may not come to foretell of one our demises on a dark, gloomy night? I hope I never find out.


Banshee. Irelandseyes: A Field Guide to Irish Fairies. Accessed 1 October 2008.

Banshee-Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed 1 October 2008. Last Modified 29 September 2008.

In Honor of October: Creatures that Go Bump in the Night

Since October is the month of Halloween, I will be spotlighting the more scary of the creatures that dwell within the folktales and myth stories. Fear is in the eye of the beholder, but I find these creatures either creepy, sinister, or down-right scary. So join us, and don't read this blog before bedtime.

Imagine Vincent Price laughing eerily right now!