Otherworldly Vampires by Brian McKinley
This is, admittedly, a catch-all category for vampiric creatures of several varieties with the common element being that they originate from a non-human source. Demons, ghosts, spirits, gods, and even fairies are found here. Yes, I said faeries, so we’ll start there. Most of the cutesy, Tolkien-esque fae of our modern folklore come to us thanks to people like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and a general romanticizing that took place throughout the Victorian age. In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. In my post on “Irish Vampires,” I discussed the Leanan-Sidhe and Baobahn-Sith as well as the White Ladies. Our final example of vampiric fae comes from Germany and it’s perhaps the most surprising.
The Alp is also considered a demon in Germanic lore, but in a lot of ways their fae and demons are closely related. A creature described in many ways due to its ability to shape-shift, its one consistent feature is the white hat, or cap of concealment, it wears because it is the source of its power. The Alp is known for creeping into beds of women at night and drinking blood from the nipples. It also enjoys breast milk if the woman is lactating. The crushing weight of the alp on the chest causes horrible nightmares to the victim. These dreams even had a name: alpdrucke or elf dream. That’s because the alp is the basis for the English word elf. The resemblance can be seen a bit more in some of the alp’s more mischievous attributes.
In addition to its’ bloodlust, they were also known to be responsible for knotting people’s hair while they slept or re-diapering babies with soiled diapers. Not even livestock were safe from the terror of the alp, as it was also known to attack horses, geese, and rabbits—crushing them to death under its weight. This fearsome creature was rather easily warded off, however, by such methods as keeping your shoes beside the bed and pointed at the door while you slept, protective wards, prayers, and pentagrams, or keeping a mirror on your chest while you slept. If you could manage to steal the hat off its head, the alp would lose all its power could be killed by putting a lemon in its mouth.
That’s right. A vampire destroyed by citrus, you heard it here. The alp has a female counterpart called the Mara, the basis for the term nightmare. It attacks men in their sleep, also crushing their chests and drinking their blood, but the Mara’s attacks tend to be more fatal. However, you probably noticed a similarity between the Alp and another famous pair of demons: the succubus and incubus. Which brings us to my next sub-category of otherworldly being vampires: demons, ghosts, and spirits.
The Greeks gave us the Lamia and the Empouse. With the upper bodies of women and lower bodies resembling snakes, the Lamia lived in deserts and cemeteries, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of infants. Later Greek storytellers gave the Lamia a tragic backstory, saying that the first Lamia was a queen of Lybia. Her beauty attracted the attention of Zeus who took her as a lover. Par for the course in these stories, Zeus’ wife Hera became terribly jealous and punished Lamia by destroying her children. In some versions, Hera tricks Lamia into eating her own children. This drove Lamia insane with grief and she went on a horrific murder spree, killing the babies of her people. Additionally, she lured men into secluded alleys for sex and drank their blood. Over time, her terrible crimes transformed her into the hideous creature that her name became synonymous with. However, by aligning herself with the Empouse—more on them in a second—she learned to shape-shift and disguise her appearance with illusion, as did her progeny.
The Empouse were the vampiric demon spawn of the witch goddess Hecate, who acted as her attendants. Red-haired, they possessed the legs of mules and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. As with many other varieties I’ve described, they possessed the ability to appear as beautiful women in order to seduce men, who they would drain of their life energy during sex before consuming them. Luckily, if a man was able to resist the allure of the Empouse’s disguise, it was easy to run away from them as their legs made them very slow. The half-woman, half-beast theme appears in several types of vampires, including the original Mermaids who dragged shipwrecked sailors below the waves and drank their blood.
Similar to the demon women in Greece and India, the Japanese have the Yuki Ona (Oo-key Own-a), or “snow woman.” Appearing as a beautiful woman in a white kimono with pale skin, the Yuki Ona only hunts in the winter where her appearance gives her the perfect camouflage. Like the Lamia or Empouse, it is known to lure men into sex so it can drain their life energy, but just as often is said to simply lead travelers astray until they succumb to the elements or freeze them with her icy breath. On occasion, they are also said to appear to parents in search of a child, appearing to hold it in her arms. When the parents come to claim it, of course, the snow woman freezes them. Unlike most of the others, however, legends do say that if a potential victim is able to plead for his life pitiably enough to melt the cold heart of the Yuki Ona, then she will spare him.
Then there’s the K’uei (GUAY) of China, which looks like a translucent, dark humanoid with black hair and dark eyes. It is created when a person’s lower soul doesn’t leave his body because he led a dishonest life or committed suicide. The K’uei feeds on the emotions of evil people and is somewhat harmless by the standards of most vampires. Agile and intelligent, it’s also a somewhat cowardly creature and, as long as it’s left alone to feed, it generally doesn’t harm anyone. Should they be interrupted while feeding, the K’uei usually resorts to using its magic to curse that person. They love battlefields and the chaos of war, but holy artifacts and holy ground will repel them. There are several types of K’ueis in Chinese lore who all feed on different things, including the Hsi-Hsue- Keui (Zi-Zu-Guay) whose name translates to “suck blood demon” so you can guess what that one feeds on.
This same idea appears in Japan as the Gaki and in India and its surrounding regions as the preta. The souls of those who were exceptionally greedy or evil in life return, condemned to consume blood or other, even more repugnant, substances. In many stories these creatures are invisible while in others they take the form of monstrous humanoid figures with sharp teeth and claws, but a narrow neck; gaunt and starved like the Native American cannibal spirit, the Wendigo.
Even stranger than demons and ghosts are the strange and unique vampires that don’t fall into any neat category. The monsters like the famous goat-sucking Chupacabra of Mexico, which has taken numerous forms over the centuries but preys almost exclusively on livestock, to the Nabeshima (Nob- BAY- she- ma) of Japan. That one is a magical cat with two tails which can shape-shift into a specific person its victim knows in order to get close. Then it strangles its victim unconscious and drinks their blood.
Back in Africa, the Sasabonsam (Sa-so-BUN-sum) snatches up passers-by from the branches of cotton trees where it hides. A bat-like creature the size of a man with huge wings and a body covered in hair, it pulls its victims up into the trees where it tears their heads off and drinks their blood. These fearsome beasts are sometimes commanded by witch vampires I mentioned earlier, making them even more dangerous. Then there are less terrifying specimens like the Spanish hellhound called The Dip, which has black hair and glowing red eyes and … a lame leg. Don’t ask me why that’s scary…
Another amusing creature from Japan is the Kappa, little green child-like turtle people who live in lakes and ponds and can be appeased with cucumbers…and blood! Normally, they attack livestock who come to the water to drink, much like alligators and crocodiles. However, these most Japanese of monsters are also sticklers for courtesy and if one comes out of the water to attack a human, the person should quickly bow to it. The kappa will pause to return the bow, at which point the water will pour out of its bowl-like head and render it powerless. As mentioned before, you can also give them cucumbers, even going so far as to write your family name on a cucumber to gain protection for all the members of your family. Far from mindless, ravenous killers, they are also reputed to be skilled in medicine and teaching and is known to honor contracts made with it.
Two of the strangest, though, have to be the Filipino Aswang and the Australian Yara-Ma-Yahoo. The Aswang is another vampire that hides in a human guise during the day and then transforms—this time into a bird—in order to hunt. It flies to the house of its intended victim, usually a child, and perches on the roof directly over the spot where its prey lies sleeping. Then it sends its long, tube-like tongue into the house. Using a barb on the end of its tongue, it pierces a small hole in the flesh and sips its meal. When the Aswang has finished, it then flies back to its home where it will breastfeed its own children. You can come up with your own joke for that one.
For me, though, the prize for oddest vampire goes to the Yara-Ma-Yahoo and not just for its name. Like the Sasanbosam, it’s an ambush predator that hides up in a tree, but that’s where the similarities end. Described as a very short, red-skinned man with an enormous head and suckers on its hands and feet, it hides from the sun and generally attacks at night. Once it grabs its prey, it sucks their blood through its hand and foot suckers. Then it swallows the body whole. But here’s the best part: Sometime later, it vomits the person back up, completely whole and alive! They say that if it happens to you enough times, though, you get a little shorter each time until you become the same size as the vampire, and then your skin turns red, and then you become one yourself.
Well, that’s enough for this time. Join me next time when I unearth the Animated Corpses of folklore!
Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.