©05 The Media Desk
It was a good idea, so you know it could not have come from the Desk itself.
This one was from Number One Daughter.
Her idea was to apply standards from the Federal Government to that most neglected minority (no Political Action Committee, no study groups, no grant money, no lawyers suing everybody within reach on their behalf, no special protective laws being passed by Congress, nothing)... Monsters.
Ah yes. The Monsters.
They are both feared and respected, admired and despised. Monsters.... ...
... MONSTERS are part of the folklore of society.
There may not be a New Jersey Devil, or at least there may not be one anymore, the beastie having died of old age after two centuries of thrashing about the Pinelands scaring the daylights out of people. BUT! There is a chance that once upon a time, something inexplicable did happen.
If were not for a certain other critter nobody would have ever heard of a geologically interesting but otherwise unremarkable lake near Inverness in Scotland. But because of Nessie, Loch Ness is recognized world wide.
Vampire Bats have gotten a bad rap that they only partially deserve primarily because the good Count's press agent had them written into his contract. Yes, vampire bats do bite cattle and feed on the blood so produced, but none of them have ever transmuted into a rather dapper gentleman with greasy kid stuff in his hair and a really cool medallion around his neck.
So anyway, with all that said. Let's take a look around and identify them as best we can and maybe attach a little meaning to exactly what they represent to 'us' as a society.
Of course, if there really is a 'Nessie' out there, what she would represent would be rather simple: "We simply don't know everything there is to know, do we?"
We'll start with those that might have used to be 'just like us' and go from there. And then we'll attempt to define the group and any sub-groups the way the Census Department would. You know, those people who brought you the ethnic group called 'White Traveler of Irish Heritage' among others.
For more information about any of the below 'people' and others, drop their name into a search engine and see what comes back.
Ethnicity: HUMANS, Humanoid, and 'used to be' humans:
Category: Oops and others.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo
These guys are still on this side of the River Styx. Dr. Jekyll simply ordered the wrong cocktail at happy hour and now he's having a really bad hair day. His malady was self inflicted, even if it was unintentional, so a lot of people don't have a lot of sympathy for Jekyll, however, many of those same people feel quite sorry for the brutish Hyde. And in a very real sense, Hyde, while not somebody you would want to invite to your next wine and cheese party, is actually as much a victim as those poor unfortunates he encounters in the dark alleys of London.
The Phantom, according to the classic work of terror, or would that be the work of classic terror, suffered an industrial accident. His injury and the resultant deformity that left him 'a monster with a grudge' was not of his own doing. Which makes him a slightly more sympathetic figure than Jekyll.
The Hunchback is standing in for all those with physical deformities that the rest of the population would consider 'monstrous'. Until recently those who are massively obese would have been shoved into this category. He's mad at the world for rejecting him solely on his outward appearance. Well.... aren't we all? At least those of us who didn't make the cut as an extra on 'Baywatch' or knew better than to even try.
Since they have a definite physical deformity or in a couple of cases, a physical ailment and a mental condition they would be fully covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Therefore you would have to make a special effort to design your bell tower so Quasimodo wouldn't have any difficulty at all in getting in or out of it with his companion over his shoulder.
A special case: Doctor Frankenstein and friend.
So who's the monster here? Everybody refers to the Monster as Frankenstein. But that's actually the surname of the Doctor who did the bodywork to put him together. The 'daemon' as one of the terms he is referred to by in the book and simply 'The Monster' in other works including several movies, is often portrayed as a embodiment of everything evil in the medical and biological sciences as they dehumanize us into mere animated corpses. Are we merely soulless automatons clumping around with stiff knees killing and maiming even while we wax philosophic about it? (as the monster did in the Shelley book after having read an interesting assortment of classic texts)
Victor, if we may assume the familiar here and use first names, is more monstrous given almost any measure of civilization than his creature. First and last; he played God by trying to imbue Life into something Dead.
Most likely the Good Doctor would be eligible for retraining and occupational therapy to find him something else to do. As for his 'patient', Daemon would qualify under the ADA and could probably get a job in Vegas that comes with a suite in a hotel.
Category: The Grateful unDead
Count Dracula, Mummies, Zombies, and the Headless Horseman
Now we are talking about some serious monsters. And just for the sake of discussion, lets refer to the 'living dead' in the following light (pun intended): A Zombie is an UN-embalmed dead body that is up running around, a Mummy is an EMBALMED corpse that is out for a stroll, bandages or no.
We could nit-pick about whether or not the Count belongs here or somewhere in the last category under 'Humans' with Jekyll and friends since he's technically not back from the dead, but something in between. But with on eye on folklore we'll leave him here. Maybe vampires can be a subgroup under the undead. Of course the legend or our man in the cape goes back to Romanian Prince Vlad Tepes, AKA the Impaler in mid fifteenth century Transylvania. The tales of his cruelty have been somewhat exaggerated in the intervening five hundred years, but the conclusion is inescapable, Prince Vlad was not a benevolent despot. Among those he executed in some of the most horrific ways ever inflicted included the elderly and poor. Any infraction of his rule of order and honesty was met with ever more painful death, including minor instances of petty theft. Vlad reigned off and on for about a dozen years between about 1450 and 1462 when he was finally overthrown by his little brother who was supported by the Turks. He was killed in 1476 during yet another war between the factions in the Ottoman-Turkish Empire.
But the existence of a real character for Bram Stoker to borrow from simply underlines the much older legend of those that feed their existence off the life's blood of the living. Some tales talk of them stealing the souls or life force of their victims, others were content with the blood. In either case, it wasn't a pleasant experience for the donors. Other stories talk about the victim being 'possessed' by the vampire (vampyre) and unable to refuse their demands to 'recruit' fresh victims or for more and more blood until the subject died. Demons in the jungle, wraiths that stalk villages by night, lost souls with insatiable thirst for blood have all paraded through the nighttime tales retold to young and old alike world wide.
Zombies and their distant cousins- Mummies, seem to go back into the collective unconscious and predate any concept of popular entertainment at their expense. Voodoo rituals aside, tales of the dead, even up to entire armies of them (remember the Valley of Dry Bones that turned into a living legion in Ezekiel?) have been cited in tall tales and legends world wide. Popular belief is that Haiti controls the international trade in Zombies, and that all the really cool Mummies have Egyptian addresses, but that's not quite true. Yes the 'Z' word itself may be associated with the impoverished island nation, but reports of the walking dead can be found in every mythology you can name.
Mummies seem to have always had a mission in life, or in unlife, or whatever. They are usually out to exact revenge for their being disturbed or some treasure having been plundered. Theirs are not random acts of mayhem. If you go dig up some Pharaoh, the mummy of his court jester may just smash through your hotel room door, but once you've joined the Pharaoh in the afterlife and the king's body is returned to its resting place, the mummy will go back to his tomb and resume his uneasy sleep until next time. A Zombie on the other hand may or may not have a purpose to what it is doing. Unless some Priest of Vodun is pulling its strings the Zombie may simply be out wrecking havoc for something to do.
Now a word about 'real' Zombies. There are reports from Haiti and other places of a sort of Real Living Zombie being used as manual labor. They may well be people who have been drugged into a stupor to labor in fields and factories under sometimes insufferable conditions. Most of these cases surface when Uncle Moise suddenly turns up two years after he was reported missing with no memory of where he's been or what he's been doing. That or one of the cousins sees ol' Moise out working in a landfill when he was supposed to have been lost at sea off a fishing boat. Accounts vary, but there seems to be a thread of truth running through the stories. Somebody with some knowledge of the old ways seems to be turning a profit and not reporting it on their taxes, but then again 'Zombie Master' may not be a recognized profession either.
The Headless Horseman may have made a name for himself in Sleepy Hollow. But there are tales of him, or his Union Brothers, far and wide. While Washington Irving's original story from the eighteen teens is a tough read now, its imagery is undeniable as you wade through it. Irving did NOT invent the terrifying rider, he just described him better than anybody else had to that point. Ghostly horsemen and sometimes even Satan on horseback had been reported back as far as Roman times, and probably before. Reports of eerie hoof-beats when no horse can be seen, tracks through the countryside that pass through fences, walls and sometimes homes, even wispy sites of entire cavalries have been reported in the UK through the mid east and even into Asia throughout history. They may be a half-remembered dream of a particularly graphic description of the Four Horsemen from Revelation heard in childhood. Or. Maybe there are horses being ridden through the night that haven't seen a blacksmith in several hundred years.
Believe it or not there is a Church of the Vampyre. There are chat rooms full of people who believe, or at least claim to believe that they ARE real bloodsuckers. And you can even sign up for a newsletter or two that cover issues raised by those that have been raised. It would seem that the undead are a thriving minority, probably with a special interest lobbyist in Washington DC that keeps various Congressmen up to speed about their issues. The Animal Rights People may wish to have a word with the Horsemen about the way he treats his mount, but we're sure that once he throws a flaming pumpkin or two at them they'll see things his way.
Category: Suffers of a Social Disease
"Pardon my Drool" Werewolves and other were-creatures.
Part of the problem with dealing with werewolves is deciding if they are a monster, or a victim. If the individual did some dastardly deed to an old Gypsy woman and was cursed to turn from a person into something that needs a flea bath on the full moon (a la 'The Beast' from the story Beauty and...), well then we are less inclined to be sympathetic. As with Dr. Jekyll. But if the poor unfortunate caught the Lycanthropic disease through no fault of their own, then they deserve at least a good round of pity.
Were-cats, were-apes, were-whatevers are far less common than the Wolfish variety. But there are scattered reports through the ages of were-jaguars and other felines. The causes of the transformation are most likely similar so the treatment/defense/extermination procedures are probably the same as well. Since it is notoriously difficult to reason with a werewolf or any varieties thereof, most people seem rather disinclined to invite them to conference groups for their mutual defense. Since the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals haven't started a petition drive to ban silver bullets they must not be too worried about Were-Creature Rights.
And oh, by the way, some have speculated that our next group are were-bigfeet.
Category: Real Social Outsiders
Abominable Snowman/ Yeti, Bigfoot (a.k.a. Sasquach) and Etc.
"Just don't call me a Skunk Ape"
Reports of huge 'wild men' or 'man-like creatures' range across the world. The Yeti and Bigfoot are the most publicized. But creatures equally as mysterious and every bit as large range across South America under various names like Mapinguary, in Australia as the Lo-an and his kin. In China and some Pacific Islands they are the Xueren. And the Almas live and work in Central Asia into Western Europe. They are reported as hairy and bad smelling, have no skills with tools or weapons, and are sometimes loud and obnoxious, if they weren't something on the order of seven feet tall, we'd think they were simply French and be done with it.
Some of the things the Creatures (not the French) have in common wherever they are reported are that they are usually extremely shy, move quickly through brush and overgrowth that is otherwise impenetrable, and when enraged or startled can inflict massive damage with just their bare hands. One report from South America reported cattle being ripped apart by something that didn't use tools or weapons. The French have to use a fancy kitchen knife to cut up a cow. end of slurs against France... ... for today.
Stories about the mysterious creatures go so far back into history they predate the Inca. When European explorers questioned the locals in places like Peru and Brazil and parts of North America the natives reacted with the attitude of 'Oh yeah, they're out there, we leave them alone'. Whoever or whatever these 'creatures' are, they've evidently been here long enough to be called the Original People in some of the languages used by stone age tribes in some places.
But are they 'monsters' under the general definition of the word that we've been working from? One would have to answer 'Yes', then think about it and answer 'Maybe'.
An imaginary or legendary creature, such as a centaur or Harpy, that combines parts from various animal or human forms.Then we'd have to look at the implications of a world-wide minority population of sort-of humans with no recognized association to protect their rights. Like there are for Whales or Migratory Waterfowl. Part of the problem would be what to call it, but the Desk is sure one of the groups of people with too much time on their hands can come up with something clever. Maybe they could push to have a representative Yeti get a seat on some UN committee to oversee their interests. Maybe there should be some territory set aside on every continent as their homeland. In the US we could designate New Jersey as the Sasquach Reservation and then they could all move over there and open a Casino and serve something better than French food in the restaurant, like roast rattlesnake. sorry, couldn't resist
A creature having a strange or frightening appearance.
An animal, a plant, or other organism having structural defects or deformities.
Category: Them that's from Earth- we think
Sub categories: Movies and Not Movies
The Firm of Nessie, Chupacabra, the New Jersey Devil, Godzilla, the Creature from Black Lagoon & Co. PA
What kind of Cryptozoology or Cryptobiology is called into play to produce some of these things is open to speculation. Godzilla and his cohorts were the unintended repercussions of nuclear explosions in the Pacific. The Creature from the Black Lagoon and similar individuals came about from industrial waste being dumped into otherwise pristine bodies of water. In any case, WE are the reason THEY are upset, and THEY are going to make US pay for it. To a sociologist, they are a force of nature, and we're idiots. To a movie producer... well, it comes down to about the same thing as long as you have some good looking woman in a tight sweater who is real good at screaming.
The New Jersey Devil seems to have been here when the settlers arrived and took exception to their form of civilization. Nessie may have been living in Loch Ness before there was a Loch Ness and once the neighborhood developed, she just stayed on, the same goes for copy-cat lake monsters elsewhere.
And then we have the Chupacabra.
Well, you can have one if you want one, the rest of us will stay clear of it.
Something. Yeah, some Thing is attacking and killing animals, and some say people, in Latin America and elsewhere. Fresh mangled corpses of farm animals are found without a drop of blood in them. Something can eat a whole chicken in a matter of minutes and leave only skin and feathers and bones for evidence. It scares otherwise ferocious farm dogs until they cower under the table and appears not to even fear men on horseback with guns. Some make it out to be a mutant or crossbred coyote or similar animal, others claim it's a demonic being with spectacular powers. What it isn't is something that is easy to trap or shoot or take a picture of. While there have been some tracks and the occasional tooth or bit of fur, nothing identifiable has been produced to document the things.
Assuming they are real critters- Whether Nessie and the Devil are single long-lived creatures or a colony of something yet to be identified (Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that the Mega-Mouth Shark was thought to be a tall tale of the sea, and nobody has captured a living Giant Squid yet) is something best discussed by academics. If they are not real, well, they should be. Nessie has been seen by a lot of people, a few at a time. The New Jersey Beastie has been seen by a few groups of sometimes a hundred or so people at once. Both creatures have been reported off and on for hundreds of years throughout their area, both have left some physical evidence that is routinely cited as gospel and dismissed as a hoax, sometimes in the same sentence.
Category: Them that's from... well... elsewhere, maybe
Moth Man, The Blob and 'little green men'
Mothie is one of those things that happen, get reported, then are forgotten about because it's uncomfortable. Again, SOMETHING happened. A lot of people saw something they could not explain, then the reports stopped, and it the whole thing gets filed as a curiosity. "Another isolated incident."
We'll use the ubiquitous 'Blob' as a stunt double for all those Extra Terrestrial monsters and aliens with bad hair and lousy attitudes. The most effective use of terrifying aliens in movies are the ones we never see. Instead of a guy in a monster suit with a zipper up the back, you see a menacing shadow and the reactions of the really stupid humans who just had to go open the warehouse door to see what was making all the racket inside. It doesn't matter what it is, it's from outer space, and its hungry, or just really ticked off about being stuck here.
In truth, unless an alien wanted to be hunted down and shot at by everything the resident military has that can be fired in anger, they would most likely take up digs somewhere in the Canadian Rockies and spend their time brewing homemade wine and watching the Northern Lights instead of attacking anybody that walks home down a lonely street after a dance at the high school. Face it, if THEY are smart enough to get HERE, even if their flying saucer breaks down and they have to coast in from somewhere out by Titan, they are smart enough to know that we are dumb enough NOT to leave them well enough alone.
Of course if the alien is simply a land shark with a nylon fetish then some of the Martian screaming splatter-movies might be what you'd expect. In that case, have the Pentagon on stand by the next time you go check out the noises at the old warehouse.
And this would not only include the Blob, but your list of usual suspects including Gray Aliens and Little Green Men and all those guys from Star Trek with greasy hair and wardrobes that look like last year's Mardi Gras... and maybe the French.
Category: Them that may not be at all, but should be-
The Jabberwock and other Dragons.
The great dragon Tiamat, according to the Babylonian creation myth, was the embodiment of the Universe from which, after the usual battle between the gods, the Earth was created. And ever since then dragons have been part of the story of our world.
In China and the East they are seen as forces for the good, and in the West they are at best something to be left alone and at worst, a representation of nearly primordial evil. And everywhere, even where they were worshipped, they were feared as something greater and more powerful than us humans.
If dragons were really dinosaurs that didn't check out during the Great Dying and were around on the edges of civilization and ancient men happened upon them... well, they wouldn't be magical and they wouldn't have super powers, and killing one wouldn't be any more extraordinary than a whaling expedition. But. There is always an outside chance that they Were something Special and they were much more than a big lizard. And furthermore our encounters with them did shape who and what we are. And if they are all gone, then we are definitely the poorer for it.
Be that as it may, IF dragons are real and still here, they are most definitely an Endangered Species and must be protected at all costs.
Now, having said that, let's look at one in particular.
Lewis Carroll may have been right on the edge of sanity when he used nonsense words to describe in excellent detail the Jabberwock.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,Through the Looking Glass, and etc, 1872
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!"
A Final Thought:
Many of the creatures and people we have discussed are simply that. Names and faces on that unknown terror. Calling it Frankenstein's Monster simply makes it easier to deal with. And once we see the zipper up Godzilla's back, we're not as afraid as we used to be.
In any case.
Monsters, in all their many flavors, are part of US. Facing that THING under our beds is something we all share in one way or another. It is part of our joining the mundane world where Zombies do not play poker in the garage at night and there really isn't a giant winged snake just behind the next mountain.
Once in awhile....
It sure is fun to imagine that just maybe... there is
Back to the Desk Main Page.