While the word “vampire” usually conjures images of foggy European forests and crumbling gothic castles, vampire legends don’t start and end with Dracula. Blood-sucking monsters exist in the shadows of cultures all over the world.
Today, I’ll introduce you to five vampires from black cultures.
From the Western Cape region of Africa, comes the impundulu. This creature takes the form of a beautiful woman and serves as the familiar of a witch, doing her bidding (and potentially becoming her lover). But the impundulu has a voracious appetite for blood and if the witch fails to keep her fed, she’s just as likely to turn on her mistress.
The sasabonsam lives in the forests of Togo and Ghana, waiting for unwary hunters or travelers to pass underneath. When they do, the sasabonsam scoops them up and takes them into the canopy to feast. The sasabonsam looks like a human with one distinct difference: it has short, stubby arms that turn into monstrous, batlike wings. With a wingspan of twenty feet, it’s truly a terrifying sight, even before it eats you.
From southern Togo comes the adze. The adze’s favorite food is children—specifically their hearts, livers, and blood. Normally, this creature takes the form of a firefly, sneaking into homes to suck blood, but when it’s captured, it transforms into a hunchbacked figure, black as ink, with sharp talons.
The Obayifo of West Africa is considered both a vampire and a type of witch. While traveling at night, it emits a bright green phosphorescent light. Like the adze, the Obayifo’s favorite food is the blood of children. Legend says that you can tell someone is an Obayifo by their shifty eyes and obsession with food.
The soucouyant hails from the Caribbean islands. She is a shape-shifting, blood-sucking hag. She looks like an old woman during the day, but at night transforms into a ball of fire to find her victims. Interestingly, the soucouyant shares some similarities with vampires from European folklore: 1) if her victims don’t die, they become a soucouyant themselves and 2) she can be trapped by scattering rice on the ground, forcing her to pick the grains up piece by piece.
Want to discover even more vampire myths? Check out my previous post: Five Blood Drinking Monster Myths from Around the World