WHEN THE CHUPACABRA CALLS

Half-human, half-vampire creature; an escaped alien hybrid or simply a dog with the mange? Seems there are an infinite number of possibilities for what a Chupacabra really is.

I intended to have the Chupacabra star in my sequel to Devil’s Bait, but that didn’t work out because I needed the setting to be in the northeast and, although there was one reported incident in New Jersey, our friend, the Chupacabra, seems to prefer the warmer weather in the southwest, perhaps because it has no fur.

There are conflicting descriptions of them, some say they are the size of a small bear with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail; others that it is a hairless dog-like creature.

The word Chupacabra is Spanish (chupar, “to suck” and cabra, “goat”). Reported incidents of these creatures vary somewhat, but they seem to be fond of draining the blood from small animals, preferably goats. 

It has been suggested that the Chupacabra might be a genetically modified vampire bat, or a half-human, half-vampire beast. The victims, usually goats and chickens, are said to be drained of all their blood but otherwise left intact. Some reports of the creature indicate two large protruding fangs, others suggest three large claws on each foot.

Some reports have been discounted as simply dogs or coyotes that were infected with the parasite Sarcoptes scabiei (the itch mite), whose symptoms would explain the Chupacabra features of little hair, thickened skin and a rank odor. It would also greatly weaken the animal, which would make attacking livestock more feasible than chasing down wild game. But it doesn’t explain the blood-sucking aspects.

Newspaper reports of the creature go back as far as the 1950’s. In the 1970’s, in addition to reports of a “round-headed, hairy-tailed and large-eyed creature”, there were reports of possible UFO sightings which led to the speculation that these creatures were some type of aliens.

Some people have even suggested that the alien creatures were cross-bred with our own animals by scientists at NASA, and the Chupacabras are actually escaped experiments gone wrong.

Some sightings have been verified as canids afflicted by the mange. Biologists and Wildlife Management’s official position is that the Chupacabra is an urban legend, but I’ll leave it to you to decide what you think it may be and where it came from.

With so many different descriptions and all the speculation about these beasts, I had to find to a way to include the Chupacabra into one my stories. I’m happy to say that he will be making a guest appearance in my soon to be released novel, Devil’s Gathering. I hope I’ve done him justice.

Thanks for joining me.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.com

FEET, FEATHERS AND FISH

Creatures can come for us from anywhere, land, air or sea. I thought you might find it helpful if I point out a few that you might not be familiar with. It is always best to be prepared, don’t you think?

In the novel that I am currently working on, there are paranormal hunters who are participating in a contest and the teams needed some “monster” names. That is how these three first came to my attention and since they aren’t very well-known monsters, I thought that I should acquaint you with them, as well.

We’ll start with a land creature, more specifically, the Windigo, or Ice Cannibal of the North. It is one of the most feared creatures in Native American lore. It has been depicted as something akin to a werewolf; a man-eating skeletal giant or even a 30’ to 80’ foot high ravening ice monster with sweeping antlers.

Some say the Windigos are a giant race of cannibals, but there is no common consensus as to how they come to be. Some think they are humans who became cannibalistic due to starvation; and others that they are just people who have become possessed by the Windigo spirit, turning them into a cannibal.

The Windigo may appear as a monster with some characteristics of a human or as a spirit who has possessed a human being and made them become monstrous. It is historically associated with murder, insatiable greed, and the cultural taboos against such behaviors.

Now, we head up into the air with the Micmac Culloo. I am going to be straight up about this and let you know this creature is included mainly because I like the name. I wasn’t able to find very much information about it, other than that it may be half-avian and half-human.

This creature is derived from the legends of the Micmac Indians of Nova Scotia. The Culloo was a most terrible creature, a winged monster that could dispose of any animal at a single swallow.

The Culloo often haunted the dreams of Native Americans because of its propensity to carry off young children.

And last, but not least, the Globsters, and I have to admit that I was intrigued by this name, as well. There is nothing frightening about the Globsters themselves, they are dead when they wash up ashore on beaches all across the world. I think the most frightening thing about them is that they are not always identifiable and, therefore, there could be live ones swimming out in the oceans just waiting for us.

A globster or blob is an unidentified organic mass that washes up on the shoreline of an ocean or other body of water. A globster is distinguished from a normal beached carcass by being hard to identify, at least by initial untrained observers, and by creating controversy as to its identity.

The giant squid was an actual Globster back in 1896, when the first one washed up on a beach and scientists realized that it was a new species.

Stay safe and watch out for the monsters, wherever they may be hiding. Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next time.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.com  

A LEGACY TO BE SHARED

“You’re betraying your whole life if you don’t say what you think – and you don’t say it honestly and bluntly.” That is one of my favorite Charles Krauthammer quotes.

In case you aren’t familiar with him, Charles Krauthammer was born 3/13/50 and became paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 23 in a diving accident. After fourteen months recovering in a hospital, he returned to medical school and became a psychiatrist.

He left that field and became a columnist and political commentator because he “felt that history was happening outside his door”. In 1987, while writing for the Washington Post, he won the Pulitzer Prize for “witty and insightful columns on national issues” and he was on the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 – 2006.

I’m not sure how I first discovered Charles, but one of my favorite ways to kill time during my lunch hour at work on Fridays would be to check out his column. He stated the facts, used historical references and let you draw your own conclusion, breaking complex issues down in such a way that even I could understand. Even though I didn’t always agree with his opinions, he was able to justify them and sometimes gave me a completely different way to see a particular issue.

I ran across his last book, The Point Of It All, a couple of months ago and I’ve enjoyed reading this compilation of his articles as much as I did his other, Things That Matter.

Both of these books have excellent articles in them, although I’ll be honest, I had to pull out my dictionary more than once (somehow, someway, I will use kleptocrat in one of my novels, what a great word). Charles doesn’t just talk about politics, he talks about life and baseball and chess and culture and space travel, anything and everything. I love hearing his insights and feeling his passion through his words.

I have no interest in chess or baseball, and not nearly as much as I should in political and global affairs, but I read every word in every article and took away some insight from each one.

I also truly enjoyed finishing one of his articles regarding a current relevant issue, only to discover that he wrote those words ten, twenty or more years ago. Some things just don’t change, do they?

Charles was an Orthodox Jew and one my favorite articles in The Point Of It All is “Just Leave Christmas Alone” where he states “The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless”. That article was published December 17, 2004. 

Charles Krauthammer died on June 21, 2018. He was in the process of compiling the articles for his last book when he died and his son, Daniel Krauthammer, did a great job with the final edits, adding not only a wonderful introduction, but also a copy of his touching and heartwarming eulogy.

Charles wrote his last article on 6/8/18 and I wanted to share a part of that with you:

“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life – full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life I intended.”

I wanted to bring Charles to everyone’s attention because if you haven’t had a chance to read any of his writing before now, I hope you take the time to check out one of his books, or even just try and find some of his articles online. I think there is something in them for everyone. I miss him, but I imagine that wherever he is now, he’s letting them know exactly what he thinks about it, honestly and bluntly.

Thanks for joining me,

Debbie
debbieboek.com

MISTLETOE – WHO KNEW?

In honor of the holiday season I tried to find something festive and yet a little creepy and stumbled onto some intriguing information about Mistletoe. 

Mistletoe is parasitic and unable to complete its life cycle without an attachment to a host. The plant we know today as mistletoe has no roots of its own. What it does have is tiny extensions called holdfasts that grip onto the bark of the host plant. They also serve as a sort of an umbilical cord and suck the nutrients from the host.

Mistletoe seeds are coated with a sticky material called viscin. They are spread by birds and when they are excreted and dropped onto a branch, the viscin sticks to the wood and eventually hardens and attaches the seed to its new host.

Mistletoe species grow on a wide range of host trees, some of which experience side effects including reduced growth, stunting, and loss of infested outer branches. A heavy infestation may deform the host and can create a dense mass that resembles a broom or a bird’s nest and is called a Witch’s Broom.

Mistletoe has always been considered a magical, good luck plant. Lovers who kiss beneath it will have lasting happiness and carrying a sprig on your person will ensure good luck, protection and fertility. Hanging it in the home was supposed to protect it from disease, lightening, werewolves and having your children switched with faerie changelings.

Druid elders performed rituals in which they harvested mistletoe from oak trees with golden sickles. It was collected under a waxing moon phase and then fed to animals to guarantee their fertility. As part of the rite, a pair of white bulls were sacrificed, and if prayers were answered, prosperity would be visited upon the villages.

The Festival of Saturnalia is one of the most well-documented ancient Roman celebrations of the Winter Solstice. The week-long revelry included exchanging of gifts, lots of food and wine, dancing and music. Slaves got the week off work, courts were closed, and all kinds of debauchery took place. This festival honored Saturn, an agricultural god. To keep him happy, fertility rituals took place under the mistletoe. Today, we don’t quite go that far under our mistletoe, but it is one explanation for how the kissing tradition originated.

During medieval times mistletoe was again recognized for its medicinal properties and appears in several folk remedies. To ward off demons, twigs of mistletoe could be hung in bundles over a door. In some countries, springs were placed in the stable to protect livestock from local witches. Mistletoe was also known to rural people as the best cure for barren women; in fact, mistletoe seems to have been a cure-all for any problems with conception, because early societies were baffled by its method of propagation. In the Middle Ages, mistletoe wasn’t just thought of as an aphrodisiac of sorts, but as a tool to keep witches from their homes and barns. A sprig hung from a doorway would do just fine.

Throughout the Middle Ages, mistletoe was banned by the church because of its association with fertility and all of the fun debauchery that goes with that. As a substitute, holly was suggested. Even as late as the 20th century some churches did not allow people to wear mistletoe to services.  

Mistletoe retained its lusty reputation, however. During the Victorian era, public displays of affection were largely frowned upon, but if you were standing under the mistletoe, you were going to get kissed.

Mistletoe was used in spells to attract love, for protection, for luck while hunting, for forgiveness and reconciliation, to increase sexual potency in men and to help conceive.

It can be burned to banish unwanted spirits, laid across the threshold of the bedroom to banish unpleasant dreams, hung in the home to attract love and drive away negative influences and carried as a general protective amulet. It’s wood is also useful for making wands and other ritual tools.

Pity that I didn’t learn about all of Mistletoe’s interesting properties until now or perhaps I might have been able to make good use of it in my novel, Devil’s Bait. I’ll see if I can’t find a place for it in the next one.

Thanks for joining me and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. See you next year.

Debbie Boek

SCOTLAND

There are two things that I am very passionate about: my writing and Scotland. And, at long last, my dream came true and I was finally able to experience Scotland in September. It isn’t the type of thing I usually write about here, but it was amazing and I thought I would share a little of it with you.

I traveled with a CIE tour group and they did a wonderful job. Our driver, Kieran, was fearless and our guide, Iona, was phenomenal, entertaining and very, very knowledgeable. I just hope I didn’t butcher their names too badly.

This is the Newton Hotel that we stayed at in Nairn, along with one of their resident “heiland coos”.

Newton Hotel, Nairn

The Scottish history, architecture, scenery and people were all mesmerizing. This is the Glasgow Cathedral where they still hold mass every week. I was fortunate enough to be there when the choir was practicing and, between the atmosphere and the music, it was absolutely hauntingly beautiful. I can’t even come up with the appropriate words to describe the feelings that came over me when I was inside. It is something that you just have to experience for yourself.

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow itself was fun to explore. I spent a little time on Sauciehall Street which is only open to pedestrians and has all kinds of shops and restaurants on it. Then I made my way to Kensingrove Museum and Art Gallery.

Glasgow

Unfortunately, it wasn’t open, so I explored a nearby park and the area around Glasgow University which is in the photo below.

IMG_1254

The weather was overcast and rainy quite a bit, but the scenery was still breath-taking and ruggedly beautiful. Looking out at these views, I could swear that Mel Gibson was standing somewhere up on those mountains, wearing his kilt from Braveheart.

Highlands

We stopped at Loch Ness and took a boat tour. Nessie was not cooperative that day and didn’t come out to visit, not that we know of anyway.

Loch Ness

Then we were off to St. Andrews, which I found to be quite unique because it’s a beautiful college town and there were students everywhere you turned, bringing youth and a certain modernness along with them, all against the backdrop of this amazing history and architecture. The ruins of St. Andrew’s Cathedral are so impressive that it’s hard to imagine what an enormous and imposing structure it must have been in its day.

St Andrews

And then we made our way to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the Edinburgh Castle because there were gale force winds that day and the tours were cancelled.

IMG_1417

I was disappointed, but now have another reason to go back again. And, it did give us an opportunity to tour Holyrood Castle instead, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth. While there I was able to walk through Mary Queens of Scots’ quarters, where she was held prior to being executed. That was surreal, like stepping back in time.

Hollyrood Castle 1

We had a fun and entertaining Scottish Evening in Edinburgh, complete with a bagpiper, singers, dancers and, of course, The Address to Haggis!

Edinburgh

And before I knew it, I was on a plane heading back home. For years I’ve been obsessed with Scotland for some reason, it didn’t let me down and I can’t wait to visit again. This is just a tiny bit of what I was able to see and experience and I would highly recommend a trip there to everyone.

If you have any interest in other articles about Scotland itself, its food or, well, pretty much anything Scottish, please check out myplaidheart.com. Wendy has great articles and photos and she helped inspire me to actually make my trip a reality.

Now it’s time to get back to my other passion and start working on my next novel. It was just a little hard to concentrate when I was in a land whose history is far more dramatic than any fiction I could ever create.

Thanks for joining me, I’ll see you next month.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.wordpress.com

BEWARE THE CHANGELING

A Changeling is a creature that is typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child.

Changling 1

In honor of my upcoming trip to Scotland, I thought I would try to find some folklore specific to that country, which is what led me to the Changelings. But, as I’ve been discovering with most of the creatures that I’ve been looking into, there are many diverse countries that have their own version of a Changeling, including Spain, Poland, Ireland and Scandinavia, to name just a few.

The theme of the swapped child reflects concern over infants thought to be afflicted with unexplained diseases, disorders, or developmental disabilities, and can be found in literature as far back as Medieval times. A human child might be taken due to many factors: to act as a servant, for the love of a human child, or malice. Most often it was thought that fairies exchanged the children.

According to common Scottish myths, a child born with a caul (part of the amniotic membrane) across his or her face is a changeling, and will soon die (is “of fey birth”).

They also believed that the fairies could spirit away children, and even adults, and take them back to their own world. Often, it was thought that a baby would be snatched and replaced with a male adult elf, to be suckled by the human mother. The real baby would be treated well by the elves and would grow up to be one of them, whereas the Changeling baby would be discontented and wearisome.

I loved this little story and had to share it with you. ‘A mother suspected that her baby had been taken and replaced with a changeling, a view that was proven to be correct one day when a neighbor ran into the house shouting “Come here and ye’ll se a sight! Yonder’s the Fairy Hill a’ alowe.” To which the elf got up saying “Waes me! What’ll come o’ me wife and bairns?” and made his way out of the chimney.’

But the sad reality behind many changeling legends was often the birth of deformed or developmentally disabled children. Among the diseases or disabilities with symptoms that match the description of Changelings in various legends are spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, Down Syndrome, regressive autism and cerebral palsy.

It has also been hypothesized that the Changeling legend may have developed, or at least been used, to explain the peculiarities of children who did not develop normally. Interestingly enough, it has been suggested that autistic children were likely to be labeled as Changelings or elf-children due to their strange, sometimes inexplicable behavior. It might, for example, explain why fairies are often described as having an obsessive impulse to count things like handfuls of spilled seeds.

Changling 2

Changelings are creatures known all over the world and are often very mischievous growing up. As they get older they tend to calm down and are more helpful. But, due to their mischievous behavior, they are often depicted as evil creatures, sent by the devil to take the place of a human infant. Many people feared Changelings and often would take great measures to make sure that a Changeling never took the place of their child.

Some of the stories were quite brutal but, in some cases, the Changelings grew up being very loyal and caring to friends and family despite what they were. It was often believed that a Changeling was put in place of a very sick or dying baby so that the mother would never know the heartache of losing her child. The Changeling’s parents would then take the sick or dying human infant in place and keep it safe. The Changeling’s true parents were said to watch them as they grew, helping them along the way.

In Scottish folklore, the fairies were often called elves.  Their fairyland was known as Elfame and they were believed to live deep within the heather of Fairy Glen on the northern edge of the Isle of Skye.

Fairy Glen on Skye

Unfortunately, I’m not going to get a chance to visit the Isle of Skye or experience the magical Fairy Glen on this trip to Scotland, but, hopefully, I will at some point in the future.

I will be taking a cruise on Loch Ness this time, so I may have something completely different to talk about next month. Hope you’re ready for that.

Thanks for joining me.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.yolasite.com

 

THE BLACK GHOST DOG

Harbinger of Doom or Benevolent Protector?

The nefarious Black Dogs are considered spectral or demonic entities which, in most cases, are portents of death. They are most likely to be found on the British Isles, although I was able to find bits and pieces of information about them for Mainland Europe, Latin America and the United States.

Some believe them to be associated with the devil and they are sometimes described as a ghost or a hellhound, larger than a dog and often with large glowing eyes.

black dog 2

A black dog is said to haunt Ivelet Bridge near Swaledale, Yorkshire. The dog is allegedly headless, and leaps over the side of the bridge and into the water and can be heard barking at night. It is considered a death omen, and reports claim that anybody who has seen it died within a year. The last sighting was around a hundred years ago.

Then there are the Gabriel Hounds, dogs with human heads that fly high through the air and are often heard but seldom seen. They sometimes hover over a house, and this is taken as a sign that death or misfortune will befall those who dwell within. Popular conceptions of the Gabriel Hounds may have been partially based on migrating flocks of wild geese when they fly at night with loud honking. In other traditions their leader, Gabriel, is condemned to follow his hounds at night for the sin of having hunted on Sunday and their yelping cry is regarded as a death omen. They are also sometimes said to be the souls of unbaptized children wandering through the air until the day of judgment.

The Black dog is said to haunt the Hanging Hills of Connecticut and is described as a death omen. It is said that, “If you meet the Black Dog once, it shall be for joy; if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time shall bring death.”

“Black Shuck” seemed to be the most widely known Black Dog. “Shuck the Dog-fiend” was first mentioned in print by Reverend E.S. Taylor in 1850, “This phantom I have heard many persons in East Norfolk, and even Cambridgeshire, describe as having seen as a black shaggy dog, with fiery eyes and of immense size, and who visits churchyards at midnight.”

One of the most notable reports of Black Shuck is of his appearance at the church in Blythburgh in Suffolk on 4 August 1577. Black Shuck is said to have burst in through the doors of Holy Trinity Church to a clap of thunder. He ran up the nave, past a large congregation, killing a man and boy and causing the church steeple to collapse through the roof. As the dog left, he left scorch marks on the north door which can be seen at the church to this day.

In 2014 archeologists discovered the skeleton of a 7 foot long dog in the remains of Leiston Abbey in Suffolk and some are claiming that they are the remains of Black Shuck. There have been movies made about him and, in fact, another Black Shuck horror movie is being released in October 2018.

Although the Black Dog is generally considered a death omen, there are stories where they are simply protectors of the weak and innocent.

black german shepherd

The Gurt Dog of Somerset is an example of a benevolent dog. It is said that mothers would allow their children to play unsupervised on the Quantock Hills because they believed the Gurt Dog would protect them. It would also accompany lone travelers in the area, acting as a protector and guide.

Guardian Black Dogs refer to those relatively rare black dogs that are neither omens of death nor causes of it. Instead they guide lost travelers and protect them from danger. Stories of this type became more widespread starting around the early 1900s.

In different versions of one popular tale a man was journeying along a lonely forest road at night when a large black dog appeared at his side and remained there until the man left the forest. On his return journey through the wood the dog reappeared and did the same as before. Years later two convicted prisoners told the chaplain that they would have robbed and murdered the wayfarer in the forest that night but were intimidated by the presence of the black dog

And last, but not least, Hairy Jack, said to haunt the fields and village lanes around Hemswell. Ethel Rudkin, who claimed to have seen Hairy Jack herself circa 1938, formed the impression that black dogs in Lincolnshire were mainly of a gentle nature, and looked upon as a spiritual protector. Hairy Jack was also said to haunt lonely plantations, byways, and waste places where it attacked anyone passing by (which doesn’t sound all that gentle to me).

I am currently in the process of putting together the third novel of my series. I hadn’t planned on using the Black Dog as the supernatural foe in that book, but there are so many intriguing stories about them that I may do a little more research and see if I can’t fit one into my storyline. After all, if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could make it work in The Hounds of the Baskervilles, then so can I.

In the meantime, I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind. Is the Black Dog a shape-shifting sorcerer, a death omen, the devil incarnate or a just gentle creature, looking only to protect and guide us? 

Black dog collage

Thanks for joining me.

 Debbie Boek
debbieboek@yolasite.com