Jólakötturinn: The Killer Yule Cat from Iceland


Arguably the first ever Fashion Police, Jólakötturinn or “Yule Cat” has his roots traced back to the Middle Ages, most likely a combination of a few other folklore worthy animal deities (such as the yule goat). But it was not until the 19th century that we have written record of our sweet cuddly pal. The Yule cat was tasked with going around on Christmas and eating those who did not receive new clothes on Christmas Eve. This cute and cuddly little kitty is also house pet to folklore heavy-hitter Grýla the blood thirsty ogress who is also the mother of the 13 very mischievous Yule Lads who are tasked with giving gifts and rotten potatoes, depending on if the recipient was good or bad (good for you Grýla). Besides being a bloodthirsty kitty belonging to the a true OG on the Christmas folklore scene Jólakötturinn looked like a regular cat, except for the enormous size, claws the size of a cow, eyes that shone like beacons, oh and it’s needle sharp whiskers. Besides that, completely normal. The Yule Cat was not a killer in every story however, in some versions our pal Yule Cat would peer in windows and simply eat the Christmas meal of those who had not received new clothing. In others he would eat lazy children. You’re probably asking yourself “why would this enormous cat worry about new clothing?” well it all goes back to farmers. In the autumn harvest sheering sheep was one of the many tedious jobs to do. Yet wool was so intensely necessary that the hard work was often rewarded with clothing spun from the very wool that farm-hands helped harvest. So it can be assumed that the farmers created Yule Cat as a way to basically say “Work hard or there will be consequences” the consequence just happened to be a giant cat eating you right before Christmas.


In the Dark Air

Monsters Here and There

Christmas Cat Poem


The Case of Peter Blagojevich


The town of Kisiljevo is hoping that their hometown vampire can begin to rival the likes of Dracula. In 1725 Petar Blagojević a peasant from the small Serbian town of Kisiljevo passed away and was laid to rest in an unassuming grave. Within 24 hours of his death, his wife claims she was visited by her late husband and a fellow villager was dead after being as they claimed “suffocated by Petar” Another 24 hours went by. Another death. For 8 more days one villager died. Petar’s wife and family reported more disturbances. Some sources say that Blagojević requested his wife’s shoes and she had to flee the village for safety afterwards, while others say that the undead Petar requested food, and when his son refused Petar brutally murdered and it’s assume that he also drank his son’s blood. By the 9th day of death the village requested a town officer and local priest to examine Blagojević’s corpse for evidence of vampirism. Once exhumed it was recorded that Petar’s body was much more supple than it should have been at the time in the decomposition process. Nails were long, beard growing, and flesh had a pink tint. Blood could even be seen in the mouth of the recently dead Petar. With this discovery his heart was taken and staked (a wooden stake driven quickly through) and the body was burned. The village that had been beset with dread was free of the nightly hunt. The story of Petar was part of the vampire craze of the 18th century. While the “unnatural” state that the body was found in has now been found to be a common occurrence, Kisiljevo hopes to create a healthy tourist center with the legend of the Serbian Vampire Petar Blagojević.


Bigfoot in Big Bear

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The state of California is being sued for not recognizing Bigfoot as a species.
“I ran into a Sasquatch — a Bigfoot.  We were face to face.  He was 30 feet up in the tree,” said 46-year-old Cynthia Ackley.  She and her two daughters, 11 and 14, encountered a Bigfoot (or Kissel) last March in Lake Arrowhead, CA.
“He looked like a neanderthal man with hair all over him. He had solid black eyes. He had no expression on his face at all. He did not show his teeth. He just stared at the three of us,” said Cynthia.  She thought he looked about 800 pounds.  Her younger daughter also reported seeing two more identical cryptids on the ground.
Cynthia Ackley has been a Bigfoot enthusiast and researcher for over two decades, so she was quite disappointed when the park ranger told her she’d probably seen a bear.  So she teamed up with Bigfoot documentary filmmaker Tom Standing and sued the state in San Bernardino Superior Court on the 18th of last month.
The San Bernardino Sun reported:
“The lawsuit alleges the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Natural Resources Agency have been derelict in their duty by not acknowledging the existence of the Sasquatch species, despite a mountain of documented and scientific evidence. It has had a chilling effect on the study of the Sasquatch, considered illegitimate and relegated to the category of paranormal research. It has damaged Ackley’s ‘livelihood, public image and credibility,’ as well as others dedicated to the study of the bipedal hominid, according to the lawsuit.”
Cynthia Ackley is apparently concerned about the public’s safety, since 800 pound humanoids can probably do a great deal of damage.  “People have to be warned about these things. They are big.”  According to Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan, Bigfoot is not a recognized species by his agency.  Safety warnings cannot be issued for nonexistent beasts.  I'm sure Ackley is crossing her fingers that this case could be a big step forward for cryptozoology.
This is Cynthia Ackley’s third Bigfoot sighting since 1997.
-Rachel Hsu

Science: Mirror Monsters

An old wives’ tale says that if a young unmarried woman carries a candle into a dark room and looks in the mirror on Halloween night, she’ll see the face of her future husband.  The Troxler  Effect tells us we can see something far worse.
In a 2010 experiment by Dr. Giovanni Caputo at the University of Urbino, 50 test subjects were told to watch their own reflections in low light for 10 minutes.  33 subjects reported seeing massive deformations of their own face.  People reported seeing their faces transform into one of their parents’, animal faces, or monsters after just ten minutes of observation.  These changes would last for seven seconds on average, and the deformations didn’t stay put in one place.  The longer their brains got accustomed to the same image, the more fictional information bled into their perception.  For most of the subjects, these effects began in about a minute.
It makes sense to filter out extraneous sensory perceptions; there’s no reason for your body to constantly be conscious of the contact lenses in your eyes, your clothes against your skin, or the way your tongue rests inside your mouth.  Our eyes constantly make micro-vibrations so that we don’t filter out visual information as easily as we can ignore a repetitive noise or pervasive smell.  But if you stare long enough, the Troxler Effect starts to take form. 
Dr. Caputo’s experiment is easy to replicate.  First, get comfy in front of a mirror.  Make sure you can see the details and fine lines of your face, but that the light is low enough that it’s hard to see color.  Make sure the light source is not visible in the mirror so that the only thing you’re focusing on is yourself.
Then just wait.

Primer: Vampires

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In Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, vampires are pale, fanged creatures who create no reflection and cast no shadow.  The count is immortal, with enhanced strength and senses, with the power to shape shift into a wolf, a bat, dust, and fog.  Decapitation, a stake to the heart, or fire can kill him, but not sunlight — in fact, he’s strengthened by the midday sun.  Surprised?
Vampires are classic monsters, easy halloween costumes, and pop culture sex icons.  Throughout their history in literature and folklore, there’s not much consistency as to what makes a vampire.  Their traits, rules, and powers often vary from story to story, even things as established as pale skin, pointy teeth, or drinking blood.
In traditional European folklore, vampires were splotchy, unattractively bloated, leaking blood and bodily fluids from the nose and mouth.  Their nails were overgrown and they were thought to attack by night so that in the day they could retreat to their coffins.  If these vampires sound a lot like decomposing corpses, it’s because they are: suspected vampires were exhumed and inspected, and since bodies were often buried as soon as possible, what we now know to be usual signs of decomposition were seen as supernatural events.  The buildup of gasses in the stomach looked like a bloated gut after a night of feasting.  The desiccation of skin made nails appear longer and claw-like.  Frightful peasants formed a narrative around these unsightly corpses and the notion of vampires were born.
The Count in Sesame Street is purple-skinned, enjoys sunlight, sleeps in a bed at night, and casts a shadow (though still has no reflection).  There’s no implication that he drinks human blood.  His entire character is based around a fairly obscure vampire trait of arithmomania, the compulsive need to count, which is found in the original folklore but not Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice, Buffy, D&D, or Twilight.
Stephenie Meyer’s approach to vampires in Twilight has been widely mocked.  They’re pale, but lack fangs.  The main characters of the series are “vegetarian vampires” and drink animal blood instead of human blood.  Sunlight doesn’t hurt them but does cause their skin to conspicuously sparkle.  But Stephenie Meyer does her research: most of her vampires are gifted and possess one special talent cribbed from other vampire mythoi.  The main couple both possess telepathic links, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  One has telekinesis, like Nosferatu and Anne Rice’s vampires.
To be a vampire, you don’t have to drink blood, have fangs, or be pale.  The only thing that’s clear about vampires is that they’re cryptids without necessary distinctive traits.  If you really love counting, who knows?  You might be one too.
-Rachel Hsu