In the days before modern technology and science, people used the supernatural, such as magic and various creatures, such as werewolves and goblins, to explain various phenomena. In light of the current holiday, I thought it might be fun to take a look at 5 of the more bizarre creatures from folklore.
Alp (Germany and Austria): Sort of like a cross between an elf and a vampire, Alps are said to be the minions of witches. They appear as evil-looking elves, with green pointed caps. It was said that angering a witch could lead her to unleash one of her Alp minions upon you. Alps drink the blood of their sleeping victims while sitting on their chests, which causes horrific nightmares; in fact, the German word for nightmare “Alptraum”, literally translates to “Alp dream”. Alps can shapeshift into various farm animals, and even go invisible, but with one catch: no matter what form it takes, an Alp will always have on its pointed green cap. The only way to stop an Alp is to capture its magic cap, since it will die without it. Common ways to protect against an Alp include steel, crosses, laying a broomstick on your pillow, hanging iron horseshoes onto the bedpost or placing a mirror on your chest.
Tikbalang (Philippines): This tall, hairy hominid, which can be found deep in the forest of the Philippines, has the head of a horse and legs so long that they stretch above its head when it sits down. The Tikbalang’s character varies by story. Some say that it’s simply a trickster, enticing its victims into the forest to taunt and slap them mercilessly. Other stories say that it’s a demonic creature who stomps on victims while smoking a massive cigar. Nonetheless, all stories agree that the Tikbalang is able to perfectly mimic the appearance of friends and loved ones, and that its presence is heralded by the stench of cigars. You can avoid the Tikbalang by simply turning your clothes inside-out.
Aka Manto (Japan): Interestingly enough, this malicious spirit, said to haunt public school toilets, is a fairly new invention, most likely created in the second half of the 20th century by some particularly creative Japanese schoolchildren. In life, Aka Manto was said to be a beautiful man, constantly hounded by admirers, so he now wears a mask to hide his face. If you’re sitting on the toilet (typically the last stall), a mysterious voice will ask you if you want red or blue paper. If you say red, Aka Manto will appear and slice you up with a sword. If you say blue, he will strangle you until your face turns blue. Trying to trick the Aka Manto by saying another color (such as green paper) will cause you to be dragged to Hell. The only correct answer (if you don’t want to die) is to say “no paper”.
Pukwudgie (Wampanoag Indians): These mischievous little trolls look like humans, but with porcupine quills, grey skin and enlarged noses, fingers and ears. They’re said to possess various powers, including the ability to appear and disappear at will, transform into a porcupine, and create fire at will. The Wampanoag believed that the Pukwudgies were best left alone, otherwise they were likely to follow you and continuously play tricks on you. They’ve also been known to push people off of cliffs. In the Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts, which is part of the Wompanoag Nation, there are several instances of unexplained suicides, which some believe are connected with Pukwudgie activity.
Loogaroo (Francophone West Indies): Appearing as a normal woman by day, the Loogaroo takes on a completely different form when the sun goes down, which she does by rubbing herself down with a special lotion and then peeling off her entire skin and placing it in a mortar. She then performs a ritualistic dance that causes turkey wings to sprout out of her back, and although the Loogaroo can fly, that’s not how she does it; rather, she uses flames shooting out of her armpits and butt to propel herself. Soaring over the sky, the Loogaroo goes on the prowl for victims, typically children and infants, whose blood she can drink. Since she doesn’t have fangs, the Loogaroo carries a massive straw with her everywhere she goes, inserting it into her victims to drink their blood. The only way to destroy a Loogaroo is to place coarse salt in the mortar containing her human skin.