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. http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/folklore/blackannis.html. Copyright 200-2007, D. Parkinson. Date Accessed 20 October 2008.
Black Annis-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Annis. Last modified 8 October 2008. Date Accessed 20 October 2008.