After last week’s article, I couldn’t stop thinking about weird mythological monsters. While I think I hit the high points last Wednesday, I’ve come up with a few more monsters that deserve a shot at the limelight.
A bit of a content warning: this monster is… particularly unpleasant. If you’re sensitive to topics related to pregnancy/infant endangerment, maybe skip ahead to the nuckelavee.
This bat-winged beast very nearly made the cut last time. Question: what’s scarier than a vampire? How about a vampire that is also a witch? Oh, is that not freaky enough for you? Ah, well, alright. I see. You’re a big toughie, you can’t be intimidated by just any old vampire-witch… but wait. What’s going on? It’s… it’s growing bat wings. And now it’s…. ripping in half… and the torso is flying at you?! What?!
Yes, the manananggal is a blood-sucking creature that can separate its upper body from its lower half, flying off into the night with its entrails flowing out beneath it. That’s just gross! Not to mention freaky. It’s one thing to see a big bat monster fly at you; but a big bat monster that’s dripping viscera? What do you do against something like that? Oh, and one more thing: it doesn’t just suck blood. It also has a long proboscis that it uses to (brace yourself) eat the fetuses of pregnant women. Specifically, it sucks out their hearts.
“Yikes” does not even begin to cover it.
Now, to be fair, in the Philippines (where this monster originated), the manananggal is pretty well-represented in horror media. I still think we could raise a bit of awareness of the creature here in the States, though. I could definitely see a horror movie, or perhaps miniseries, set in a small town where there have been no childbirths for years. There are rumors of a curse; no pregnant woman who remains in the town can bring a child to term, and doctors can’t explain why. A new family–complete with a pregnant wife, of course–moves into town and soon begins to experience odd happenings at night. Eventually, it turns out that the town is the victim of a manananggal, and the family must figure out how to stop the monster before it’s too late.
But Could it Beat Up a Mummy? Much like the chupacabra last week, the manananggal suffers one major setback against mummies: there’s no blood to suck. However, the manannanggal has a much more direct method of attack: just grab the mummy, fly up high, and drop it. Problem solved!
On the spooky spectrum, I give manananggals… well, let’s see. If I gave manticores a whole skeleton, I think these things rate a full-on cemetery.
Perhaps the most visually horrifying creature on this list, the nuckelavee is a sea spirit from Orcadian legend that looks like a human torso fused onto a horse’s back. The human part has unnaturally long arms, and for some reason, the entire thing is completely devoid of skin. Just… no skin on this guy at all.
On top of being a gangly-armed skinless horror, the nuckelavee breathes out poison vapor that wilts crops and sickens livestock–as if you needed another reason to avoid it!
A nuckelavee movie might be a bit tricky to carry off, but it could be done. The important thing to remember is that this is an angry sea spirit, and there’s a fine tradition of horror stories featuring mysterious ocean gods. I’m picturing something in the vein of a Scottish “Shadow Over Innsmouth;” a seaside village holds odd rituals every year to keep the nuckelavee at bay. Perhaps the younger generation hasn’t learned to fear and respect the nuckelavee–the annual festival won’t be held this year, and as a result the demon descends upon the town. Alternately, go with the cult hook: a couple journeys to a quaint little Scottish town on vacation, but are drawn into a series of terrifying events perpetrated by a populace dead-set on placating a malicious nuckelavee.
But Could it Beat Up a Mummy? Being both part horse and quite long-limbed, the nuckelavee has advantages in speed and reach. It should be pretty easy for one to take out a mummy.
On the spooky spectrum, I award the nuckelavee four bones out of five.
Mongolian Death Worm
The death worm, also called the olgoi-khorkoi, is an odd critter said to live deep in the Gobi Desert. I’ll be honest–this one’s not that scary, but it’s so deeply weird that I wanted to include it here.
The olgoi-khorkoi’s whole shtick is that it’s incredibly poisonous. Like, way more poisonous than a regular worm. In fact, just touching a death worm is deadly! And if you don’t get close enough to touch it? Well, it can spit its venom at you, of course. Or–and this is the weird part–it can perform an ‘electrical discharge’ to stun you. That’s right: in addition to having the deadliest venom around, the olgo-khorkhoi can shoot lightning at you.
One might argue that “big yucky worm” is not a great antagonist for a horror movie. To that I say, “What about Tremors and Slither?” Ah, but I can already imagine your rebuttal. “Those are horror-comedies,” you furiously type. “A worm can’t carry a serious picture!”
Here’s my pitch: make it a weird body horror thing. Scale back the “kills you with a touch” thing a bit. Make it so that the venom is extremely corrosive (which is a part of the legend as well) but the worm has to actively exude it for it to kill you. The olgoi-khorkhoi was said to lay eggs in the stomachs of camels, so you can bring in an Alien-style chestburster element. Establish the deadly venom early on, then trap a character in a room with a worm. The character gets knocked out by the worm’s electric blast and we think they’re done for, but when the protagonist finds them later, they seem alright… but then they start having stomach pains. Pretty soon, their torso is dissolving in worm acid as a half-dozen newly-hatched worms crawl out! Gross? Yes. Too graphic? Maybe. Memorable? Absolutely.
Plus, remember that scene in Annihilation when they cut the guy open and his intestines are slithering around inside him? Picture that, but with more acid and lightning. It would be bonkers.
But Could it Beat Up a Mummy? Please. That mummy would be a puddle of melted goop before it’d shuffled ten paces.
On the spooky spectrum, I give Mongolian death worms two bones out of five.
The Jersey Devil
I’ve always been fond of the Jersey Devil. I’m not a super patriotic guy, but it’s kind of fun to have this weird little American monster. It’s kind of a goat, kind of a bat, kind of a horse… it’s not really clear. The main thing is, it’s a devil–and that’s another reason I like it. I’ve always had an interest in religious horror.
The legend goes that in the early 1700s, a woman called Mother Leeds became pregnant with what would be her thirteenth child. Thirteen children is entirely too many, especially when you’re in Olden Times and can’t even distract a few of them with an iPad, and Mother Leeds agreed; upon finding out she was pregnant yet again, she cursed the child and said it would be a devil. Turns out she was right! It was born normal, but quickly morphed into the winged, cloven-hoofed monster pictured above. It swiftly escaped the Leeds house and has been living in the Pine Barrens ever since.
For this one, I almost think an origin story would work best. Something akin to The VVitch: a family of settlers, living in relative isolation. Mother Leeds is overworked raising her many children; her husband is dour and inattentive. Upon learning of her new pregnancy, something inside Mother Leeds snaps. Keep the supernatural elements ambiguous: is Mother Leeds actually beginning to cavort with dark forces, or is the stress of her situation simply making her delusional? Finally, in the climax, she gives birth to the monster, and this could be handled one of two ways. Option one: stick with the ambiguity. Mother Leeds sees it as a hideous, demonic creature, but it’s unclear to the audience if that’s the truth or a result of Leeds’ warped perspective. Option two: come down firmly on the side of the supernatural, with an obviously-fiendish child that attacks the family before flying off into the night.
Also, again, it must be noted that the episode of The X-Files that is nominally about the Jersey Devil is terrible and has nothing to do with the real urban legend.
But Could it Beat Up a Mummy? While I know the picture above isn’t exactly intimidating, the Jersey Devil is imbued with daemonic might. I think it could give a mummy a real run for its money. Of course, it’s a moot point–after the famous clash between Psunesses I and Infernal Duke Eligor back in 1947, mummies and demons signed a peace accord, so the Jersey Devil and a mummy would never come to blows.
On the spooky spectrum, I give the Jersey Devil three bones out of five.
This one’s a little weird because it’s not really a mythical creature, per se. It’s more of an architectural element that happens to look like a cool monster. Funnily enough, gargoyles weren’t meant to be evil themselves–their grotesque forms were supposed to scare away evil spirits.
I just love the aesthetic of gargoyles and think they’d be a great fit for a movie. The idea would be that, many years ago, some saint or priest or what have you bound a group of demons, turning them into gargoyles that now adorn some old cathedral. For one reason or another, the magic fails (maybe the church is torn down or something) and the demons are released once more. This setup could work for a wide array of tones, too–you could go full-on horror show and make the demons legitimately terrifying, turning the town they’ve been unleashed on into a miniature hell, or you could take more of a Gremlins horror-comedy approach, portraying the demons as a flock of impish monsters that are (usually) more wacky than frightening.
But Could it Beat Up a Mummy? Gargoyles are rocks. Can a mummy kill a rock? I don’t think so. Checkmate, mummies.
On the spooky spectrum, I award gargoyles two bones out of five.
There you have it, folks: a whole new set of monsters to terrify and delight! I’m running a bit low on pitches at the moment, so it might be a bit before I get back to this kind of post, but I’m always eager to learn more about mythology from around the world; I’m sure it won’t be too long before I stumble onto some other creepy creature to write about here. If you’ve got any recommendations, leave them in the comments below!