Author Archives: Michael Chasin

The Tokoloshe

Interview with informant:

“Okay, so this is from South Africa. The tokoloshe is this creature type thing. The way it works is he’s like this creature thing and it rides on this bicycle, or no it’s like this unicycle. And, like, you’ll just be like walking down the street and you’ll see a unicycle with just like shoes on it, like going down the street. Like the shoes themselves are pedaling the unicycle, and it’s weird as shit. And that’s the tokoloshe, right. And it’s this thing that no one can describe how it looks, you know, it’s invisible, it just has shoes or whatever. And, uh, it appears to children who put hot pap, which is like grits, but like not really. It’s like slightly different, it’s like, you know, cornmeal-type stuff. But if you put it—and it’s hot—you put it under your bed the tokoloshe will appear to you the next day or some shit. And he comes up to little kids and he’s like ‘Hey do you want to play marbles?’ and he starts playing marbles with them, right? And if you say yes, you want to play marbles, then, uh, you know, you’re never seen again. And that’s it.”

Very weird folk creature from South Africa, likely used by many parents to frighten children. Cautionary tale type stuff used to discourage unwanted behavior, whether it be playing with marbles or perhaps other frowned upon activities. Putting hot food under the bed to attract it could mean food is supposed to be eaten entirely. Like, hiding part of a meal causes the Tokoloshe to seek retribution. As to the invisible unicycle aspects, I haven’t the foggiest. Something very sinister about an empty pair of shoes.

Annotation: The tokoloshe gets several mentions in the 2003 film The Bone Snatcher, a British-Canadian horror movie. Though the creature in the film isn’t explicitly a tokoloshe (but rather a swarm of ants that join to form a body using the bones of their victims) but it is referenced, which is to be expected as the director, Jason Wolfsohn, is South African.


The Five Questions Game

The informant enjoys playing a question game he calls “The Five Question Game.” Two people play: One, who knows how the game works, asks the questions. The other, who has never played before, answers.

A wager is made at the outset to determine what the two participants are playing for.

The person answering has to get all five questions wrong in order to win. After he explained these parameters, he and I wagered one dollar and set to playing:

Informant: What’s your name?

Me: Jeffrey.

Informant: (pointing to someone else in the room) All right. Who’s he?

Me: Arturo. (it was not Arturo)

Informant: (pointing to a longboard) OK. What’s that thing?

Me: The moon.

Informant: Okay. Wait, what question are we on?

Me: …Seven. Probably seven.

Informant: Okay, so basically yeah, that’s the game?

Me: Is that the end of the game?

Informant: Yeah, well basically. You just ask a couple questions and then you like, throw a curve ball, and then like you ask them, like, how many questions is it at, and most of them are eager to like, get back to the game and win their money and then that’s how you get ’em. I mean it only works once, because if you’ve played before you see it coming. You haven’t played before, right?

Me: Oh no, I’ve played a million times.

Informant: Fuck you. So yeah, that’s the fifth question.

Me: Okay.

*conversation continues for about a minute*

Informant: So what was that for again?

Me: Oh, it’s uh, it’s for the, the CIA. I work for them now? Yeah.

Informant: DAMN IT.

This was a pretty fun one. Informant says he heard it as a thing you do to hit on women, i.e. at a bar you bet a woman a drink that she can’t win the game, then whether or not she loses you could still offer to buy her the drink. I’d say there are worse ways to break the ice. Makes sense that it would proliferate as a it makes the person performing it look clever.


Shooting up with the Colonel

“Alright so I heard this rumor that if you take a KFC Famous Bowl and you put the bowl in a blender and blend it to the point where everything is liquified and then you inject the liquid substance into your blood, then you will get really really really high.”

The informant related learning this from the internet and that’s not all that surprising. Fast food chains are frequently the subject of rumors both in regards to the shady practices of the corporations as well as the (lack of) nutritional content present in the actual food. This piece of folklore finds itself firmly in the latter camp. I’m not sure what would happen if anyone were actually to introduce a puréed bowl of KFC into their bloodstream. Death? Perhaps. But would they get high? That I find myself doubting.




Sterling Box Cutter

Interview with informant:

“Well there’s a crazy guy in our town, supposedly. In the mall in Sterling, Virginia there was this guy who would apparently walk around with a box cutter, and he would just—walk around with a box cutter—with the blade in so you couldn’t really tell that it was a weapon. And when he walked past women he would open up the blade and slice their butt. He would just cut their butt. He would just cut their butt and keep walking. And no one ever found out where, like, does he exist? Where he is? He just cut peoples’ butts. So. And that’s about as interesting as it ever got.”

This is a pretty disturbing piece about what might just be a violent sexual deviant. If something like this happened even once, no question it would get spread around to everyone who would listen. It’s got sex, violence, a strange and menacing pervert; the whole package. It’s also possible a woman was cut in some other way and blamed a person, or someone just made it up as a joke. Whatever the case, I doubt this rumor actually stopped anyone from going to any malls. Cautionary tales don’t quite outweigh the consumer impulse.

The Hodag

In western Wisconsin lives the Hodag, a creature of folk legend native to Stephen’s Point that the informant described as their version of Bigfoot, but more evocative of a mongoose-like creature. It lives in the woods, and people frequently report sightings.

The informant claims most people don’t truly believe in the Hodag, treating it more as a tongue-in-cheek part of the culture. I suspect folk proliferation of the creature thrives largely due to the way the informant told me it bolsters the local tourism industry, with the Hodag plastered all over merchandise and used to entice outsiders to give the town a closer look and, by proxy, help out their business. Informant seemed dismissive of the local superstition, but still amused by it, as most Wisconsin natives probably are.

A bit of independent research revealed the Hodag is actually most closely associated with Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where it was “discovered.” That the informant didn’t know exactly where the creature is most popular despite living in Wisconsin indicates that general awareness of the creature greatly diminishes the farther out of Rhinelander one travels. I suspect it started out as some sort of hoax and proliferated from there, with locals becoming attached to the first accounts of the creature’s existence.