Archive for the Monday Monster Profile Category

Monday Monster Profile: Wendigos

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags , on May 3, 2010 by gobbets

Wendigo as featured in Supernatural

What is a wendigo?

A wendigo is essentially a cannibalistic supernatural entity. It is typically found in the woods in North America and attacks and eats hikers and campers.

How do wendigos come about?

In some legends a wendigo is a malicious flesh-eating spirit, but in other legends wendigos were once human. It is said that a human that succumbs to cannibalism can be transformed into a wendigo, and is then cursed to haunt the woods eating flesh but never feeling satisfied.

How do I know a wendigo when I see one?

Wendigos possess super-human strength and speed to catch their prey, so you probably won’t have time to identify their features at leisure. However, wendigos are often depicted as emaciated, starving beings – always hungry, yet no matter how much they eat, their hunger cannot be satisfied. If you see a really skinny entity drooling in the woods – run away.

How do I kill it?

Advice varies from the standard use of silver to the more obscure shattering of the heart (some variations of the story involve the wendigo having a heart made of ice). Fire is said to ward it off, but it is uncertain whether burning alive would cause true death. I’d go with burning and shooting with silver bullets followed by dismemberment and further burning – but I’m a cautious sort.

I want to know more!

Algernon Blackwood’s story ‘The Wendigo’ (1910) is a great place to start (but he’s one of my favourite authors so of course I’m going to say that!)

Also check out the 2001 film Wendigo (which merges the myth somewhat with werewold legends)

Wendigos also turn up as an X-File and one is hunted by Sam and Dean in Supernatural.

Marvel comics feature wendigos which comply with some elements of the folklore.

Monday Monster Profile: Poltergeists

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on April 12, 2010 by gobbets

What is a poltergeist?

The word ‘poltergeist’ is German and means ‘noisy ghost’.  Essentially it is a ghost (the spirit of a dead human) that can affect things in the world of the living, usually by moving objects and making noise. Poltergeists are typically destructive in nature, throwing objects, making irritating or very loud noises and generally being unpleasant. The phenomena associated with poltergeist activity usually starts and stops abruptly, making it difficult to anticipate.

Where do you find them?

Poltergeists inhabit homes, but they usually fixate on a person, called a ‘focus’ or ‘agent’ and the activity generally only occurs when that person is present in the house.

What causes poltergeist activity?

In many reported cases the ‘agents’ of poltergeist activity are female children or female teenagers. In the early part of the 20th century attempts were therefore made to explain poltergeist activity as the unconscious psychokinetic (moving objects with the power of the mind) activity of people suffering from intense stress, or repressed anger or sexual frustration. Because of the gendered associations of these issues in early psychological theory, women were blamed for poltergeist activity and underwent therapy to suppress their latent psychokinesis. Like many gendered aspects of early psychology, this explanation has since been discredited in many circles but many parapsychologists still consider unconscious psychokinesis (by any member of he household) to be an explanation. Others see poltergeist activity as the manifestation of an angry or annoying spirit trying to get attention or make mischief.

How do you get rid of a poltergeist?

You could move away, but there have been reported cases of a poltergeist following an ‘agent’ from place to place. Alternatively, depending on which ‘causal’ theory you prefer, you can try and ensure all members of the household deal with any unresolved psychological issues (not an easy task!) or have an exorcism performed. Often poltergeists simply go away on their own once they’ve had their fun, but if a spirit is trying to communicate it may not go away until it is sure its message has been heard. In that case, instead of an exorcism you could try a séance. In both cases, exorcisms or séances should only be performed by trained professionals, to avoid unpleasant side-effects like headaches or possession.

I want more information!

Lots of books exist on the subject. Recent texts include:

Michael Clarkson,  Poltergeists: Examining Mysteries of the Paranormal (2006)

William G Roll,  Poltergeist (2004)

The film series Poltergeist is also a good introduction to the phenomenon.

Monday Monster Profile: Drop Bears

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on March 29, 2010 by gobbets

I thought I’d add a little local flavour to this week’s Monster Profile, so I give you – Drop Bears.

Image Source: Marvel Universe: The Appendix! http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix4/dropbears.htm

What are they?

Drop Bears are a type of carnivorous marsupial – kind of like a really big koala that likes to eat people. The live in trees, waiting for their prey to walk below, then suddenly drop down upon their heads in a flurry of teeth and claws.

Where do they live?

At present Drop Bears are only found in the Australian bush. However attempts to export them to New Zealand are currently underway.

What can I do to protect myself from Drop Bears while hiking?

Experts recommend holding a sharp-pointed object above your head as you walk so that if a Drop Bear attacks they are likely to be impaled on your weapon before they land on your head and tear your eyes out. Some locals suggest putting vegemite on your face to scare them off, but that’s just silly. Who doesn’t like vegemite?

I want more information!

Just ask any Australian – I’m sure they’d be more than happy to tell you in great detail about this most dangerous of predator – as a public service of course…

Monday Monster Profile: Banshees

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on March 22, 2010 by gobbets

I think it’s a bit unfair to call banshees a ‘monster’ – they don’t hurt anyone and are just doing their jobs… Nevertheless they are a supernatural critter and are the focus of this week’s Profile:

What are they?

Banshees, originating in Ireland and Scotland, are either spirits or fairy women who are prophets of death. Their name derives from the conjunction of ‘bean’ (woman) and ‘sidhe’ (fairy). They are known for turning up in the dead of night and keening or screeching at the homes of people who are about to die. It has been said that banshees can become attached to certain Celtic families (those whose surnames begin with O or Mac/Mc). There have been suggestions that banshees ‘feed’ on the grief of families, but this is not part of the traditional folklore.

What do they look like?

Ahh. Well there’s the problem. Often they appear in the guise of an ‘old hag’. But they have also been known to take the shape of a beautiful young woman, or various animals, particularly crows. Their cry is said to resemble that of a mixture between a human and a night bird (like an owl) or a hollow wind. You tend to identify a banshee by their actions and call rather than their appearance.

What should I do if a banshee starts screaming outside my house?

I’d suggest putting your affairs in order. Usually the person for whom the banshee cries will be dead within a week. You can try and be very careful – but the banshee is simply giving you pre-warning of your fate, she is not responsible for it.

I want to know more!

Banshees are not terribly common in popular fiction (but I’m working on a YA banshee novel – so stay tuned!). You can find one in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Reaper Man’, they turn up occasionally in games and RPGs, and a good non-fiction text is: Patricia Lysaght (1986). The banshee: The Irish death-messenger. Boulder, Colorado: Roberts Rinehart.

Does your family have a banshee? Would you like one? Share your thoughts!

Monday Monster Profile: Golems

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on March 15, 2010 by gobbets

We’ve looked at werewolves and zombies – now for something a little more obscure: Golems!

Golem by Philippe Semeria

What is a Golem?

Golems have their origins in Jewish folklore. They are human-shaped creatures usually fashioned out of mud, that are animated by a holy person. Golems typically can’t speak (the folklore explains this as a means of differentiating creatures made by man from creatures made by god). In most cases the golem is animated by means of mystical Hebrew words that are either inscribed in the clay or written on a substance and enclosed within the clay (this is referred to as a shem or chem). These words are taught to an adept of  the Kabbalah, but it is often believed that the word that is inscribed is ‘emet’ (truth) and that the golem can be returned to dust be erasing the ‘aleph’ so that the word becomes ‘met’ (death).

What do they look like?

Golems are clay-men, often depicted as larger than life. They can be rough hewn or smooth and well-sculpted but generally give the impression of bulk.

How do they become a problem?

Golems are animated but not intelligent. They are a kind of ‘living’ automaton, used to carry out some kind of ‘work’ (often unpleasant or dangerous to flesh and blood humans). You need to be careful about the instructions you give them. Most golem tales involve either the golem following instructions too literally with disastrous consequences, or failing to adapt to changing circumstances.

What should I do if one is after me?

You can try to run away, but if someone has set it on you, they are relentless and won’t give up. You could try talking nicely to the Jewish mystic you’ve evidently offended – but if you can’t think of who that might be you don’t have too many options but to try and destroy the Golem. As mentioned above you need to get to the ‘words’ that animate it and either destroy them entirely or erase the aleph from ‘truth’ that makes it ‘death’. If the words are just inscribed you can scrub it out, if the words are baked within the clay you may have to try and smash the golem to gain access (no- this won’t be easy – maybe impossible – but what other options do you have?).

Famous Golems

The most famous golem is the Golem of Prague, believed to have been created by the rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel in order to protect the city of Prague during pogroms in the sixteenth century (there’s still a statue of the golem at the entrance to the Jewish sector in the city) . Most of the literary and film depictions of the golem are based on this story such as Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 novel, Der Golem, and the film by Paul Wegener The Golem, 1920. Golems also feature in the work of British fantasy author Terry Pratchett, Marge Piercy’s novel He, She and It (1991), David Brin’s science-fiction novel Kiln People (2002), and the The X-Files episode ‘Kaddish’ in Season 4.

I want to know more!

Golems have been the focus of a number of academic studies. See:

Goldsmith, Arnold L. (1981). The Golem Remembered 1909-1980: Variations of a Jewish Legend. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Idel, Mosche (1990). Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. Albany (NY): State University of New York Press.

Monday Monster Profile: Zombies

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags , on March 8, 2010 by gobbets

What are they?

Zombies are essentially reanimated corpses. Once they reanimate their hunger for human flesh is usually overwhelming so they attack and eat the living.

What do they look like?

They look like the walking corpses that they are, which means that whatever killed them, whatever their level of decomposition (which often continues even after reanimation), and whatever injury they subsequently receive, they walk around with it. In addition, their desire for human flesh means they usually end up covered in blood and gore. They often sustain injuries from human attacks but, because they are difficult to kill, they keep going with horrific injuries that would have killed a normal human.

Because of the injuries and decomposition, some kinds of zombies can have difficulty moving about, limping around, slowly and lacking coordination. These are generally referred to as ‘slow zombies’. The other kind, ‘fast zombies’, look the same but retain human speed and agility without the inhibitions of fear of injury.

How do people become zombies?

Originally zombies were created by voodoo practitioners, bokor, who had the power to bring the dead back to life, though claims have been made that the people were never actually dead, instead they had been administered a combination of drugs, usually a small dose of tetrodotoxin (the poison found in pufferfish) along with a psychotropic substance in order to produce a death-like dissociative state. However these ‘zombies’ do not eat flesh (they were mainly used as slave labour) and are uncommon today.

Modern zombies are usually the product of a viral outbreak that causes ‘death’ initially, but then reanimates the nervous centres to create a moving corpse, hungry for human flesh. Because the virus is highly contagious, it can be spread through blood and saliva, meaning that victims are driven to ‘bite’ others, who then become zombies as well, infecting others in turn. Outbreaks spread rapidly and if left unchecked can claim entire populations in a very short period (see this academic study of the epidemiological patterns of an outbreak of the zombie virus).

Can only humans be zombies?

Though humans are by far the most commonly affected by zombie viruses, other mammals have been known to fall victim as well. In the case of animal zombies, similar infection mechanisms apply, with the virus sometimes able to spread from species to species.

Is there a cure?

It depends on the virus that causes the outbreak. Some have a companion ‘antivirus’ that if administered in time can either prevent infection or reverse the spread of infection prior to the final ‘zombie’ stage. Usually there is no cure once the person has ‘turned’. Some work has been done on ‘rehabilitating’ victims, with the aim of helping them to be useful members of society. This has had mixed success and appears to hinge on the ability to control the desire for human flesh in some way. In many cases the ‘rehabilitation’ is really a coded form of exploitation and should be considered with a healthy scepticism.

What should I do if a zombie is after me?

Run away if you can. ‘Slow zombies’ can be easy to outrun and outmanouvre and you want to avoid being bitten at all costs. ‘Fast zombies’ are a different story. It is unlikely you will be able to outrun them so your best bet is to take up residence in a defensible position (if you have a Zombie Action Plan, now is the time to activate it – if you don’t – you should! Gobbets will run a feature on making a Z.A.P in the near future). You must kill any zombie that threatens you.

To kill a zombie you must destroy their brain. Shooting is a good method since it allows you to keep at a greater distance, but shooting arrows, or if close quarters are unavoidable edged weapons or repeated bludgeoning to the head will get the job done.

What do I do if I get bitten in the process?

The virus acts quickly, sometimes over a period of just a few hours. If you are aware of an antivirus you need to get to it as soon as possible. But do not assume there is a cure. If you cannot obtain an antivirus in a timely fashion you must take action to isolate yourself from others because once you turn into a zombie you will no longer be able to control your actions and you will attack your companions. In general death is a preferable option to becoming a zombie, and if you stay with others they will in all likelihood be forced to kill you to protect themselves.

I want more information!

Max Brooks’ book “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead” (2004) is widely considered essential reading.

For reports of outbreaks in other areas, they way they have progressed and been dealt with, see:

Shaun of the Dead

George Romero’s  ‘… of the Dead’ series

The Resident Evil series

28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later

Any tips or sources we should be aware of? Comment and add to the Gobbets database!

Monday Monster Profile: Werewolves

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags , on March 1, 2010 by gobbets

Werewolves were the winners of last week’s poll so they have the dubious distinction of being the focus of the first Monday Monster Profile:

What are Werewolves?

Werewolves fall into the larger category of ‘shapeshifters’. Specifically, werewolves are humans who are capable of turning into either completely into wolves or into wolfmen (half wolf/half human hybrids). Some werewolves can change shape at will, others can only change during the full moon. It is generally understood that even a werewolf that can change at will must change under the influence of a full moon.

How do I know if I’m looking at one?

When they’re in human form you probably won’t. Unless it is fast approaching full moon, when werewolves in human form have been known to act grouchy, jumpy, depressed or just hyper. In their alternative forms, werewolves will either look like an ordinary wolf (often retaining a ‘human’ look to their eyes), or a very large wolf, or a large, hairy person with wolf-like features (hands, feet, elongated muzzle, pointy ears etc). You should try very hard to be elsewhere at this point.

How does a person become a werewolf?

It seems in some cases it is hereditary, a rare form of lycanthropy where instead of the person just believing they can turn into a wolf they actually do.  Hereditary or ‘born’ werewolves are rare though – most often people become werewolves as a result of being bitten by other werewolves.

Current theories suggest that there is something in werewolf saliva that ‘infects’ the person bitten, and the ‘virus’ begins a period of incubation in the host. During the incubation period, the host commonly suffers from a high fever, increased hunger (often a craving for rare meat) and discovers heightened senses of smell and hearing. After the first full ‘change’ (either at the next full moon or at the end of the incubation period for change-at-will shapeshifters) the person is now a werewolf.

Is there a cure?

No. Most werewolves simply adapt to their condition, locking themselves away during the full moon, or only opting to change when it is safe to do so, and refraining from biting in social situations. Death is also a cure of sorts to those who no longer feel able to live with their condition.

What should I do if a werewolf is after me?

It is important to remember that a werewolf is also a human being and has very little say in their condition. Some werewolves retain no memory of their ‘wolf’ times and may be quite surprised when confronted with evidence of their condition. If at all possible a werewolf should be trapped and held at a secure location until they revert to human form and can be reasoned with. Usually hereditary or change-at-will werewolves are adept at managing their condition and pose few problems – it’s usually the recently bitten, who may have no idea what’s happening to them, that cause all the havoc.

In some cases a werewolf goes ‘bad’ and chooses to give in to their worst impulses while in wolf form (it is unfair to say they choose to act like wolves, for even wolves don’t chase and kill humans for the fun of it). In this situation you will probably need to kill it.

How am I supposed to do that?

Usually ‘silver’ in some form is recommended for the destruction of werewolves – and since you don’t want to get too up close and personal, silver bullets tend to be the weapon of choice.  You can stab them with a silver knife, or slice them up with a silver sword but these methods are not recommended for amateurs (for one thing – how expensive do you think a silver sword is?). You can also get good results with fire and decapitation – there aren’t too many things that you can’t kill in this way.

Lastly, if at all possible try not to just run away. Firstly, it won’t work. They’re much, much faster than you (they have more legs – even a wolfman can choose to run on all fours). Secondly, even otherwise respectable werewolves have reported that the urge to chase something that’s running away is just overwhelming.

What do I do if I get bitten in the process?

Clean and dress the wound. Stock up on rare steaks and invest in some chains and handcuffs. Sorry.

I want more information!

Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves (1865) is a seminal work on the subject. But if Victorian folklore isn’t your thing you could opt for one of the more modern ‘documentaries’. There are hundreds, but I’d recommend:

The Wolfman (1941)

The Howling (1981)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Teen Wolf (1985)

Wolf (1994)

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Underworld (2003)

The Wolfman (2010)

Please recommend any other tips or sources for our database!

And don’t forget to vote for your favourite werewolf movie in our poll! (if yours isn’t there, send us a comment and tell us about it!)