Tag Archives: Monster

The Aswang – Filipino Demon

Main piece:

BR: My grandmother is very religious and even more superstitious, and she was raised in the northern part of the Philippines. And one bit of folklore that she always talked about when I was a kid was the concept of the Aswang, a creature who appears human during the day but becomes a hideous beast during the night. And the Aswang brings bad luck and death wherever it goes, and is considered to be one of the stealthiest demons in Filipino culture, cause it can shapeshift, and usually slips by unnoticed. So my grandma always brought up the Aswang whenever anything bad happened, and it terrified me because she seemed dead serious about it. 

Context:

The informant, BR, was born and raised in the Bay Area. His father is from Hawaii, and their family immigrated there when he was very little from the Philippines. BR was always scared by this story when he was little, and even to this day he is still afraid of the dark. This story was collected over a phone call.

Thoughts:

We talked about in class how there are always a lot of stories that are meant for scaring children, and I think this one is interesting because it appears human during the day as a normal human. This not only encourages children to be on their best behavior (as most other children’s tales that we talked about) but also brings into question your relationships with other people, which is very important. It kind of seems like a metaphor for if you’re in a toxic relationship, or someone is giving you trouble. And that’s an important thing to be scared of, and so it makes all the more sense to scare children of that when they are young because young children have those same issues.

The Legend of The Lindworm

Performed Piece:
Once upon a time in a far off kingdom there ruled a king and queen, who were plagued by a terrible sadness. They mourned the fact that they could not have a child. One day the queen went for a walk in her garden. There she sat and cried. A witch appeared before her, hearing her sobs and asked ‘why are you crying, my dear?’ the queen explained that she was sad that she will never be able to have a child and the kingdom would be left without an heir. The witch then told her, ‘come back this evening and place the smallest teacup you own upside down at the bottom of the garden. The next morning, before anyone else wakes up, return to the cup. Underneath you will find two roses, a red one and a white one. If you eat the red one you will have a boy and if you eat the white one you will have a girl.’ And with that the witch disappeared. 

The queen did as she was told and when she returned to the bottom of the garden she did indeed find two roses. ‘If I have the red one, I will have a strong boy but one day he may go off to war and die. But if I have the white one, I may be with my daughter for her youth but I know she will one day have to marry someone and I will never see her again.’ Eventually she decided to eat the white one, but the flower was so sweet that she ate the red one too to combat the taste. The queen instantly became pregnant and went back to the castle to tell her husband the good news.

A few months later the queen went into labor and, to the shock and horror of the many handmaids present, gave birth to a scaly Lindworm. It hissed at the queen and slithered out the window. But the queen gave birth to a second child, a perfectly healthy baby boy. That night the queen and her maids agreed to not tell a soul about the first child. Years later and the boy grew into a young prince and eventually told his father that he wanted to find a wife. His father agreed and sent his son to a neighboring kingdom. 

However, on the ride there, the prince’s path was blocked by a large Lindworm. It hissed at the prince ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince was confused so told his entourage to take a different path, but his path was blocked by the Lindworm again as it repeated its message ‘A bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince tried a third time with the same result, and so returned to the castle to tell his parents of the strange beast. The queen went pale and explained to her son that the Lindworm was indeed his older sibling and in common practice the eldest must marry first. So the king sent a letter to a nearby kingdom, asking for it to send a princess to marry one of his children.A princess arrived and was horrified to see her groom to be: the Lindworm, but it was too late. The morning after the ceremony, the maids went to check on the Lindworm and his bride. They found the Lindworm but the bride was nowhere to be seen. He had eaten her.

The young prince set off later that day to find himself a wife only to find the Lindworm on the road again, hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home immediately and told his father. The king sent another letter to a different kingdom and the Lindworm was married again. The next morning came with the same results as last time, the Lindworm had eaten his bride again. The prince set off as early as he could but the Lindworm still stood before him hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home again and told the king, but the king shook his head explaining a war has been started between two kingdoms over the princesses. While thinking of what to do the king went walking and eventually stopped by the home of his swine herder, where he saw the man’s daughter. He asked the swine herder to give his daughter to marry the Lindworm. While the man objected he eventually relented. His daughter was horrified and ran to the nearby woods and cried. A witch appeared before her and asked “why are you crying, my dear?’ The girl explains her situation to the witch and tells her “tonight before you enter the bedchamber, wear 12 shiffs, bring a tub of lye and milk, and as many switches as you can carry. By this method you will rid yourself of the Lindworm.’

So on the night of the wedding, the Lindworm said to the girl ‘fair maiden, shed a shiff.’ and the girl responds ‘Lindworm, shed a skin.’ The Lindworm is taken aback, ‘no one has ever asked that of me.’ ‘Well I ask this of you now,’ says the girl. The Lindworm sheds his skin and the girl sheds a shiff, but before anything else happens the girl scrubs the Lindworm’s raw skin with the lye and milk. After she finishes bathing it, the Lindworm asks her to shed another shiff and the process repeats late into the night.

In the morning the maids come to check on the couple and when they look inside, they find the girl, unharmed, in the arms of a handsome prince. The kingdom celebrates and has the wedding anew for the happy couple.

Background: My informant learned this story from a children’s book that she used to read to her children and grandchildren, however she does not remember the title of the book.

Context: My informant and I were discussing my childhood with her and how I used to love a few specific stories. This was one of them and she tells it how she remembers.

Thoughts: I wonder if she is still telling the story as it was originally written, or if she changed it through re-remembering and re-telling it. I remember phrases repeating only three time instead of 12, and the reason why the Queen ate both flowers being a bit more selfish, like she wanted both a son and a daughter.

El Cucuy – “Boogeyman” Creature in Mexican Folklore

The Cucuy, I’m not really quite sure what it is, um, but, usually, uh, when like children are acting like- out of like the norm, like when they’re misbehaving uh parents will be like “oi, there comes the cucuy!” Like he’s gonna come eat you if you don’t stop being a bad person, um…and it’s sorta like similar to like the boogeyman like if you- if you put your child to sleep, and like they don’t go to sleep, you’ll be like the cuc- if you don’t close your eyes, the cucuy’s gonna come get you…so yeah.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friends with KF. This story followed two of KF’s previously about La Llorona and the devil appearing on people’s horses at night.

 

Analysis: This performance demonstrates the phenomenon of children being more inclined to follow instructions based on the threat of a supernatural creature or element rather than their own parents. Likewise, the parents utilize this tactic because the effect is so immediate. It is also interesting to note that the comparison to the boogeyman is drawn because I have only known the American version of that bedtime creature: bedtime and a fear of the dark seems to conjure similar fears and potential monsters across cultures.

Lake Champlain Monster: Champ

Piece:

“So, there’s this lake in the northeast called Lake Champlain, and people who live around the lake say that there’s a monster similar to the Loch Ness monster who occupies the lake, and the name of this monster is Champ. There have been multiple sightings ever since people have come to America, and people around there even believe that the monster, who lives in the lake, was worshipped by Indians as a god. But there have been no violent confrontations with the monster, and it is believed to be very nice and kind.

“I used to go to a ski lodge around the lake, and I heard [this story] from someone at a store there. Like one of those small souvenir stores.”

Analysis:

Local monster stories are both common and relatively easy to keep alive once started. As well as the two named in the story there are tales of the jersey devil, yetis, bigfoot, and countless other seemingly mythical creatures. Upon further investigation into Champ, the Lake Champlain monster, I was able to find examples of his cult of personality. Lake Champlain is the largest lake in the Adirondacks and draws large crowds for outdoor events throughout the year. Historically, the region was home to the Iroquois and the Abenaki, who both had stories about a creature that lived in the lake. Samuel de Champlain was cited as seeing a monster in the lake, but it was later found to have been in a different body of water. He described the creatures he saw as about five feet long, though he was told they grow up to ten, thick as his thigh with scales that even a dagger could not penetrate. This description sounds similar enough to a garfish, which current historians believe to be the actual creature seen in the lake. As time went on many of the stories began to report a larger beast. Some reported it at around thirty feet, while one even went as far as one-hundred and eighty-seven. Over time, sighting numbers and intrigue have grown, with Champ gaining national and international acclaim as ‘America’s Loch Ness Monster’.

More information on Champ can be found on the Lake Champlain tourism website at https://www.lakechamplainregion.com/heritage/champ.

Context:

The interviewee is a 23-year-old male who attends the University of Southern California, pursuing a masters degree in computer science. When he was very young, he lived in India, until he moved to South Africa. He lived in South Africa from then until he moved to New York City to pursue his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering.

This interview was conducted in person at the interviewed party’s house. The audio was recorded in order to aid in accurate transcription of the dialogue that took place.

Barn Monster

Main piece:

DM: You remember the Shed Monster story, right?

JH: You mean the one Zurbier or whatever his name told?

DM: Yeah! The Dutch fella that lived up the hill from you guys

JH: OH! Yeah, the Barn Monster. First time he told us was around the bonfire back behind my place. Scared me shitless.

DM: Do you think you can re-tell the story?

JH: Oh for sure! Yeah so we was around the fire, and Jos is a big ol’ Dutchy, right? Like – 6’8” or some shit. In a circle of Midwestern fellas, he looks like a fuckin’ giant. Has hands and teeth like one too. So he’s smokin’ a cigarette, Bud in hand callin’ us over to tell us a story and he goes points over at the pole barn a ways off and says, “Heard you boys been messin’ around in the barn recently after sundown”.

And of course you and me were, like, lookin’ around at my dad who knew damn well that we had been and we weren’t supposed to.

DM: Right, yeah.

JH: Anyway, Jos goes on and scares the shit out of us, right? Starts talkin’ about a shadow that can slide up walls and under doors about the size of a man. But he can change shapes and make the floor drop out from under you under the hay, too. He can trip you and touch you with a cold hand, and he moves from barn to barn on the New Moon. ‘Bout the scariest story I’ve ever heard. I don’t know that we went back in the polebarn for a year after that.”

Context:

Story originally told by Jos Zurbier in Decatur, IL.

Background:

Jos was a dutch, immigrant carpenter from the Netherlands. He fit in extremely well in rural, Southern Illinois.

Analysis:

This story reflects the Shadow Person motif which has been popularized in a variety of contexts. Similar stories describe a dark figure which does not speak, though Jos’ localization to the barn is particularly eerie. Additionally, most polebarns don’t have overhead lighting – meaning that shadows are cast by flashlights whenever someone enters them in the dark.

El Cucuy

My friend Rudy, who is Mexican-American, shared the following description of a supernatural figure they learned about from their mom:

“El Cucuy was a monster that my mom told me was in my closet, and I had to close my door–my closet door–at night or else he would get me. And so, every single night- well I was- I would always leave my closet door open because I would forget and she’d be like, ‘el Cucuy is gonna come get you!’ She would like, slam the door shut and like, that was that. And um, I actually like- that was all that we talked about, about el Cucuy. Like that was the only interaction I had…it was very mysterious.”

Variants of a monster or ghost that hides in a child’s closet appear across various cultures and locations. Much of the folklore that children learn from their parents consists of vaguely threatening or scary legends that may or may not serve to teach children not to misbehave. For example, Rudy’s mother may have talked about el Cucuy partly to get Rudy to close the closet door and keep their bedroom neat.

A description of this figure, known alternatively as “el Coco,” can be found in the book Chicano Folklore: A Guide to the Folktales, Traditions, Rituals and Religious Practices of Mexican Americans by Rafaela G. Castro (Oxford University Press, 2001) on page 57.

The Drop Bears of Camp Orkila

Artist's rendition of a drop bear

Artists rendition of a drop bear

The summer camp councilor describes the legend of the Drop Bears at Camp Orkila, a traditional overnight summer camp on Orcus Island, WA.

When I was in middle school I went to Camp Orkila three summers. And the second time I was there, we had this councilor called Jim who had me completely convinced that drop bears are real.

Drop bears are a dangerous cousin of the koala bear. Jim described them as looking like koalas except with razor-sharp teeth. They live in trees and at night they drop onto your head, knocking up unconscious. Then they eat you. And he wore this skate helmet at night for protection. He warned us not to leave the cabins at night without a flashlight and he said even with a flashlight we still might be eaten. 

The source explained that the story was that the bears had been brought to the island by the Seattle Zoo in the 1930s after the zoo couldn’t contain them. The helmet is what convinced the source that the councilor wasn’t lying. After all, why would he bring a helmet and wear it every night if the threat wasn’t real.

All the other boys in our cabin didn’t believe Jim at all. They knew he was B.S.ing them but I totally bought it and I was really convinced and I would argue with them about it.

Well long story short, last summer I was the lead Grey Wolves councilor at Orkila—councilor for boys aged ten to thirteenand I brought my bicycle helmet and I told them all about drop bears.

Did they believe you?

[laughs] Well… they said that they did not but I know I scared some of them.

From internet research, it’s clear that drop bears are usually are typically an Australian story. Typically, Australians tell foreigners about drop bears as a prank. The drop bears at Camp Orkila function exactly the same way. The camp councilors and experienced campers are in on the joke and they try to trick newcomers. Because original camp councilor brought a helmet with him a prop, it’s possible that he heard about drop bears on the internet or elsewhere and planned to bring it to Camp Orikila. The camp is an ideal place to spread folklore of this kind because the campers are away from home in an unfamiliar place without access to cell service or the internet, making them much more likely to believe. As with other pranks, the drop bears story at Orkila can also serve as an initiation, or a mild hazing of newcomers.

https://australianmuseum.net.au/drop-bear

The Watermelon Boy

“So I used to go up to camp every summer for like two weeks at a camp called Camp Belknap.  It was in New Hampshire, in Wolfeboro, right on Winnipesaukee.  Fun time, it was an all boys camp.  Did all the typical camp things like play sports, shoot bow and arrows, go swimming, boating, sailing– all that stuff.  And then of course we would tell stories at night when we were back in the cabins.  My first year at the camp I was like 11.  I’m already missing home, and mom and dad and all that, and one night my counselor, who was probably like 17 or 18 tells us this crazy scary story about this Watermelon boy.  He had gone to Camp Belknap back in like the 1920s.  They called him watermelon boy cause he had a huge head.  Big dome, shaped like a watermelon.  So my counselor tells me that the kid used to get bullied cause he was a little weird, looked funny, wasn’t that good socially.  Finally one day, the kid had enough.  Took a rifle from the rifle range and shot a bunch of other kids.  Now this is tough to hear for me cause I’d already been to the rifle range a couple times and really had a good time shooting at targets and shit and what not.  So after the kid does this he runs into the woods somewhere near the highway that runs past the camp.  They never found him.  Now the story goes that he lives in a little shack in the woods and comes out to terrorize little kicks in the camp.  Just this guy with a massive head and really long fingers.  The story scared the shit out of me,  couldn’t sleep for like the last two nights I was so scared.  The worst part was, they had all these pictures of all the campers that had ever gone to the camp.  So me and some of my buddies go to check the pictures out and sure enough, in one of the pictures from the 1920s, one of the grainy, black, and white ones, there’s this kid with a massive head scowling in the first row.  We totally thought he was real.  It’s funny I was recently talking with one of my buddies who i went to the camp with and the story came up and he said it’s banned at the camp now cause it scared too many kids haha.  Crazy.”

 

Conclusion:

 

This is a classic, campfire story designed to freak out little kids.  It clearly did it’s job with my friend, Jack.  When he told this to me, I was surprised an 18 year old counselor would tell this grisly, violent story to a bunch of 11 year olds. I guess that was the kind of camp that this one was.  During the recitation, it was interesting to see Jack recall the horror that he once found in this story.  You could really tell it used to rattle him as an 11 year old.

Aswang

Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.

Original Script

Alright, so there’s this creature in Philippine culture. It’s called the Aswang, so it’s basically like the Filipino version of a vampire. So like it’s a shapeshifter like during the day it’s a normal human and it can talk to other people and you can’t tell it’s an Aswang, but then at night it transforms into this really ugly monster. And then, what it likes to do is like it likes to look for pregnant women and then it like sucks out the fetus and eats it. That’s what its food is. And then it also likes to eat little kids. And it likes to eat like their livers and their hearts. So yeah, so that’s the Aswang and they make this really ugly sound like, “Eahhh.” And then it like tries to delude you so like the louder the noise is the farther away the aswang is. So like when it’s really near you, you can’t hear anything so you can’t tell that it’s there. And basically, to lure it away, you need to hang like garlic on your door like for the vampire. Or like you put like salt or something on your door.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

She heard about this creature from her parents when she was small. They tried to get her to sleep by warning her that the Aswang would kidnap and eat her if she does not.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

The Aswang, a carnivorous, shapeshifting monster in Filipino folklore, is the most feared amongst the mythological creatures of the Philippines. Especially popular in the southern areas of Luzon, areas of Mindanao, and the Visayas, the Aswang has gained regional names, such as “bayot,” “kling-kling,” and “tik-tik.” This creature has endured centuries, told by mothers to their children as warnings to avoid walking the streets at night. The Aswang had also been used to explain events relating to grave robberies, child kidnappings, and other bizarre incidents.

My Thoughts about the Performance

Hearing about this myth reminded me of the stories I heard about the Bogeyman. Both creatures, amongst the many others in various cultures, are used by adults to frighten children into exhibiting good behavior. Parents would tell their children that if they misbehave, a certain monster would take them. It seems that these Aswang variants are universal, common to the folklore of several countries.

Chinese New Year’s Monster

Daniel is an immigrant from Hong Kong who immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for both him and his family. Living in a poor family with seven other siblings, he immediately went to work as a police officer after receiving his high school diploma in Hong Kong. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he worked as a computer technician, and subsequently, changed his career to a funeral counselor.

Original Script

This legend is talking about the New Year’s Eve. A lot of Chinese, they like to light the firecracker during the New Year’s Eve because they believe, actually the legend said that there will be a monster coming out during that time. They light the firecracker in order to scare away the monster. I think that this tradition is still used in most of China.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant performed this tradition with his parents and relatives ever since he could remember as a child. He continues this practice with his wife and children every year on Chinese New Year’s. Neither him or his family believe in the existence of the monster, but they continue this Chinese custom because it is an enjoyable opportunity to bond as a family. His children enjoy this custom especially, because they can run around freely, lighting firecrackers and making a lot of noise.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant at his house.

According to Chinese mythology, the Nián, whose name means “year,” is a beast that would appear every New Year’s Eve to consume humans and animals alike. However, an old man from Peach Blossom Village eventually discovered that the monster had three main weaknesses: the color red, loud noises, and firelight. Many New Year traditions, such as the firecrackers and the Chinese Lion dance, have originated from the legend of the Nián.

My Thoughts about the Performance

In many cultures, people generate a lot of noise and light during festivals, believing that the sounds and brightness would scare away evil spirits. When I was small, I never wondered about the reason why the Chinese let off firecrackers on Chinese New Year; I merely thought it was for fun. After learning about this legend, I found it fascinating how the Chinese came up with a tool possessing three different features to combat the mythological creature on Chinese New Year. This tool—the firecracker—utilizes the color red, bright firelight, and loud blasts to scare off the Nián.