Tag Archives: Real-Life Chillers

Butatsch Cun Ilgs


Okay. It’s okay. I’m okay.

Well. This one is…terrifying. I’ve discussed my fear of water monsters before, and this thing…what with the eyes, and the entire lack of a head, and the resemblance to a cow’s guts…this is a thing that is Just Not Right.

But there’s more to it than that. This is more than a simple lake monster. Between the biology that shouldn’t work and the arsenal of magic powers – to say nothing of the sheer, landscape-shaping strength of the thing – I think we may be dealing with a minor Old One here.

Naturally, I’m already thinking of ways to use this in a story. The most obvious, of course, is another starmentusa notg – straight up, kaiju-style action. And of course, there’s the Lovecraft option, to have the Thing in the Lake corrupting the entire landscape around it. One idea that struck me right away was the idea of some monster hunters finding much more than they hoped to find. I’ve already got something similar on the back burner, but who said I could only ever use an idea once?

We shall see…

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Butatsch-ah-ilgs (erroneously, apparently a typo in Rose’s encyclopedia)

Butatsch Cun Ilgs

The Lüschersee, a small Swiss alpine lake nestled in the heather-covered hills of Graubünden, seems tranquil enough on the surface. Yet it is said that the lake’s waters reach down to the center of the Earth, where eternal fires rage. This is the home of the Butatsch Cun Ilgs, the “Cow’s Stomach”.

Long ago, during a more feudal time, the shepherds of Graubünden were in a constant struggle for freedom from the cruel barons and lords of the land. Their masters were prone to treating them unjustly, and even harming them for sport. A group of noblemen once returned from an ibex hunt to find herds of cattle and sheep grazing peacefully by the Lüschersee. Naturally they decided to kill them. With loud whoops and peals of laughter, they drove the animals before them, hacking at them with their swords and…

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Lavandière de Nuit

Now this is interesting. I was familiar with the wailing Irish harbinger of death, the banshee, but I’d also heard snippets of stories referring to them washing shirts, and I was wondering where those came from. This explains it. No surprise that there should be some cross-pollination between wailing spirits of death, though for the banshee it’s the wailing itself that’s the omen of death, while for the lavandières the wailing and singing is incidental to the washing, which is the actual omen.

I must confess myself surprised about one thing: I had no idea that the lavandières were so powerful. Banshee are generally satisfied to herald death; the washerwomen are willing and able to inflict it.

Perhaps there’s a story there…

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Lavandière, Laveuse de Nuit (French); Kannerez Noz, Cannerez Noz, Gannerez Noz (Breton); Bean nighe, Bhean Nighe, Caoineachag, Nigheag Bheag a Bhroin (Gaelic); Washerwoman, Night Washerwoman, Washer of the Ford, Little Washer of Sorrow (English)


The lavandières de nuit (“washerwomen of the night”) are present in some form or other from Scotland to Provence. Their exact nature is uncertain; sometimes they are ghosts, other times members of the fairy kingdom. Their best-documented haunt is Brittany.

Lavandières are female, and can be seen washing laundry in the odd hours of the night. They usually take the form of tall, gaunt, and withered crones, but the Gollières a Noz of Romandie are as beautiful as they are cruel. Some of them sing as they wash, earning them the name of kannerez noz (night singers). Their song is sadder than a De Profundis. Those of Morbihan have had their song recorded as…

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Auñ Pana

This is a nasty one. Not only do these things hit some of the phobia buttons I’ve discussed before, but they’re smart enough to understand basic engineering (one of the scariest things you can say about any monster is “it can think”), and reasonable enough to work together with other monsters that share a common interest (the scariest thing you can say is “they’re working together”).

Honestly, given all that, the ability to cast Baleful Polymorph just seems gratuitous.

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Pehiwetinome

Aun Pana

The Auñ Pana are evil man-eating fish from the folklore of the Yanomami of Brazil and Venezuela. They are large, have arms, and are covered with hair. Apparently they also have some degree of magical power. The auñ pana live in deep water and school with Pehiwetinome, which are equally large and anthropophagous.

A group of auñ pana and pehiwetinome once tore down a bridge that the Yanomami were crossing by biting through its wood. The bridge collapsed and became a raft, and the surviving Yanomami were turned into monkeys and pigs.


Albert, B.; Becher, H.; Borgman, D. M.; Cocco, L.; Colchester, M. E. M.; Finkers, J.; Knobloch, F.; Lizot, J.; and Wilbert, J.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1990) Folk Literature of the Yanomami Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

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Another creature from A Book of Creatures that seems to have been imported directly from my nightmares.

It’s all too easy for me to imagine being out in the open water somewhere – shipwrecked, perhaps? – treading water, no land in easy reach, then looking down to see those huge shining eyes rising up beneath me. Then that beak, big enough to take me whole and already wide open resolves out of the murk…

Chills. It’s bad enough to have a monster after you. But when it’s a sea monster, you can’t even run.

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Ziph, Ziphio, Ziphij, Xiphia, Xiphias, Zyffwal


The Ziphius is a huge and horrifying sea monster, reportedly found in northern seas and near the Scandinavian coast. It resembles a whale in shape and size, but with a viciously sharp beak and terrifying bulging eyes. The beak and bristly hair around the head and neck combine to give it an owlish appearance. The ziphius also has a pointed dorsal fin, paw-like flippers, and horizontal stripes down its length. It is a carnivore, feeding on seals and sailors alike.

The Ortus Sanitatis gives it four fully-formed legs and tail, making it look more like a beaked lion or even a hedgehog. Olaus Magnus describes its hideous, beaked head, comparing it to an owl (or a toad in the French translation). It has a deep maw, horrid large eyes, and a knife-like dorsal fin used to tear holes in ships. Gessner compared it…

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Davy Jones

Once again passing along one of my favorite creatures from A Book Of Creatures. This one is more horrifying in appearance than most (at least in the form shown here), but then, spirits and demons like Mr. Jones don’t need to even pretend at functional biology.

I do wonder where Davy Jones fits into the demonic hierarchy relative to Leviathan, whom I’d been given to understand was Hell’s admiral. Since the sailors who believe in Mr. Jones probably have few theologists among them, I suspect they don’t have an answer for me.

A Book of Creatures

Variations: David Jones

Davy Jones final

Where there is the sea, there will be Davy Jones. He is the demon of the ocean, the proprietor of Davy Jones’ Locker where all drowned sailors go. Originally from British tales, he has since been expanding his influence across the ocean; as long as sailors fear the deep, this “blackguard hell’s baby” will continue to exist.

There is no limit to the shapes Davy Jones can appear in. He is the whale, the shark, the whirlpool, the giant squid, the hurricane, all the fears of sailors. He has been described with huge saucer eyes, triple rows of teeth, a tail, and horns, with blue smoke pouring from his nostrils. When the sailors of the Cachalot landed an enormous, barnacle-crusted bull sperm whale with a twisted lower jaw, some of them declared they had killed Davy Jones himself.

Davy Jones rules over the lesser demons and spirits…

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Why have I not heard about this monster before? This thing is awesome.

I need to write a story incorporating Baxbakwalanuxsiwae sooner rather than later. He would make a great (and terrible) elder god, and might be even better than the better-known wendigo as the source of a plague of zombies/vampires/cannibal madness, and his terrifying lieutenants would make that story even more interesting.

(When I write this story, will Baxbakwalanuxsiwae be the same entity as the wendigo? If so, which set of legends is closer to the truth? If not, are they allies or rivals? Imagine the world torn between two zombie plagues as two gods of hunger fight for dominance. Hmm.)

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Baxbaxwalanuksiwe, Baxbakualanuxsi’wae, Baqbakualanusi’uae, Baqbakualanosi’uae, Baqbakualanuqsi’uae, Baqbakua’latle, Cannibal-at-the-North-End-of-the-World, He-Who-First-Ate-Man-at-the-Mouth-of-the-River, He-Who-First-Ate-Humans-on-the-Water, Ever-More-Perfect-Manifestation-of-the-Essence-of-Humanity, Man-Eater


Baxbakwalanuxsiwae is the greatest and most terrifying of beings in Kwakwaka’wakw folklore. His name is alternately translated as “Cannibal-at-the-North-End-of-the-World” and “He-Who-First-Ate-Man-at-the-Mouth-of-the-River”; “Ever-More-Perfect-Manifestation-of-the-Essence-of-Humanity” is a more sanitized and euphemistic version. “Man-Eater” succinctly describes him. He is the central figure of the enigmatic Hamatsa, or “Cannibal” ceremony.

The appearance of Baxbakwalanuxsiwae is horrifying. He is anthropomorphic or bearlike in appearance. His entire body is covered in gaping, snapping, bloody mouths, and his call is “hap, hap, hap” (“eat, eat, eat”). His house is covered in red cedar bark, with blood-red smoke pouring out of the chimney.

He is attended by a number of equally vile creatures. His wife Qominaga, wearing red and white cedar bark, and his slave Kinqalalala, bring him his human meals. Qoaxqoaxualanuxsiwae, the “Raven-at-the-North-End-of-the-World”, pecks out his victims’ eyes. Hoxhogwaxtewae, “Hoxhok-of-the-Sky”, a giant crane, cracks skulls with…

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Binaye Ahani

Continuing my archive crawl through A Book of Creatures. Most of the creatures I’ll share with you are ones that I find particularly scary or evocative in some way.

These ones I’m sharing because it struck me that they would make really neat monsters for D&D. They might be some kind of magical genetic engineering experiment involving ropers and beholders, probably created by the latter to defend the borders of a hive-city.

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Bina’ye Ayani, Nayie A’anyie, Bina’yeagha’ni, Eye Killers, Evil Eyes

Binaye Ahani

The Binaye Ahani, or “Eye Killers”, were among the many Anaye that were slain by Nayenezgani. As with the other original Anaye or “Alien Gods”, they were born from human women who had resorted to unnatural practices. Their “father” was a sour cactus.

The Binaye Ahani were twins born at Tse’ahalizi’ni, or “Rock With Black Hole”. They were round with a tapering end, no limbs, and depressions that looked like eyes. Their horrified mother abandoned them on the spot, but they survived to grow into monsters; as they were limbless, they remained where they were born. Instead of hunting prey actively, they could fire lightning from their eye sockets and fry anyone who approached them. In time eyes developed in the depressions on their head, and they could kill with their eyes as long as they kept them open. Magpie…

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