Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Brush with the Netherworld

A Brush with the Netherworld: Improbable Entities
By Scott Corrales

"See those eyes so red/red like jungle burning bright..." sang David Bowie in his song to the 1982 remake of the classic horror film Cat People, in which humans turned into were-panthers to feast on human flesh.

The existence red-eyed, felinoid entities, however, can hardly be relegated to the cinema of yore and has few points of contact with the lycanthropic traditions held by nearly every culture on this planet of ours. Strange felinoid entities have been reported throughout history, and continue to make their presence known right up to our Internet-saturated early 21st century.

Whenever accounts of this nature surface in journals or online, skeptics decry the simplistic assumptions of the untrained, pointing out that the eyes of most animals tend to glow red under certain conditions. This argument is brought to bear even in cases where witnesses stress the phosphorescent, self-luminous properties of the entities' eyes. The dispassionate approach of "experts is a small consolation to the person who has just had a run-in with one of the hairy hominids collectively known as "bigfoot" or "yeti", or to the householder who has lost beloved pets to the crimson-eyed predator known as the Chupacabras.

Field researchers and journalists have speculated, over the past 30 years about how such visitors came to be among us. Some theories suggest that they were dropped off by alien spacecraft in the same manner in which Spanish explorers of the Americas dumped cattle on uninhabited islands, in the hopes of returning and finding an abundant supply of work animals, while others believe that they represent survivals of species considered extinct, ranging from the elusive Gigantopithecus (known to us only through its impressive dental work) to pterodactyls and other life-forms of the Age of Reptiles. That some creatures may possess the gift or ability of roaming in and out of dimensions has also been thrown into the mix, to the dismay of the paladins of rational thought.

Unlikely Hominids

Bigfoot researcher and journalist Peter Guttila mentions a case which occurred in Texas Canyon, California from October 1974, during which a group of teenagers driving through the canyon were suddenly faced by a dust cloud, similar to one raised by a motorcycle or dune buggy. To their dismay, behind the cloud was no desert joy rider, but a trio of "tall, hairy creatures with dog-like faces, human bodies and eyes that glowed." The teens added that the creatures threw sand and pebbles at the car as it went by, making noises they categorized as "monkey chatter". Perhaps more ominous was the fact that some of the vehicle's occupants got the impression that similar creatures--visible only by the points of light that were their eyes--were running down the canyon's side to join their fellows. Surprised at the fear evinced by their offspring, some of the parents visited the canyon but could find nothing aside from the smell of rotting eggs that usually accompanies monster sightings.

Guttilla also discusses a case involving a Bigfoot-like entity engaged in the theft of a pig. Accounts of the shambling creature appeared in the Saugus Newhall-Signal and included an interesting detail: the oversized, hairy thief was wearing a "glowing blue belt". Most descriptions of these frightening entities fail to mention any accoutrements whatsoever. It is interesting that a similar description would emerge during the course of a conversation between this author and Puerto Rican UFO researcher Willie Durand Urbina regarding high-strangeness events in the island's El Yunque rainforest. Durand mentioned that sightings of hairy manimals were nothing new in Puerto Rico, and certainly not in El Yunque. However, in the wake of the Chupacabras apparitions of 1995-96, there were now reports of Bigfoot-type entities wearing cinturones de luz (belts of light) emerging from the rainforest. The researcher added that these creatures tended to be more violent than their unadorned counterparts. Other investigators of the unknown in Puerto Rico have mentioned cases in which human-sized hairy monsters have committed acts of violence against eyewitnesses.

The Spawn of Anubis?

Perhaps our own biases toward the humanoid shape cause us to pay more attention to cases involving the more manlike entities and ignoring others which are equally important. These would be the creatures described as feline or canine, walking on four legs and sometimes on two, and clearly different from anything known in our world. One of the earliest reports involving these paranormal creatures, known as the Beast of Bungay, has been cited in a number of books and magazines. Elizabethan printer Abraham Fleming consigned the account in a black-letter brochure, describing the incident occurred in the month of August, 1577: "The parish church at Bongie (Bungay) did quake and stagger under the violence of a storm, such as never before hath been seen [...]. Immediately thereupon, there appeared in the most horrible shape and similitude to the congregation...a thing like a black dog...This black dog, or devil in such a likeness, running all along down the body of the Church with great swiftness...". Perhaps Mr. Fleming would be surprised to learn that such events are still occurring five centuries later.

According to Brazilian researcher and author Carlos Machado, director of the CIPEX group, the city of Sumaré in the state of Sao Paulo was visited by a number of bizarre entities between April 27 and May 10, 1997. One case involved a manicurist named María Vera, who was returning home at around 11:50 p.m. afer a having spent the evening at her sister's house. As she crossed an empty field to reach her house, she ran into a "horrible monster" described as an enormous, swift-moving ape that moved on all fours with large red eyes. Despite the initial simian description, María Vera likened it to a colossal dog that reeked of carrion. It towered over the woman when it stood before her on two legs. "It was a great work of evil. I didn't faint only because my faith is so strong," referring to her pentecostal beliefs.

Confirmation for María Vera's sighting came from Irene Rodrigues do Mata, a fellow churchgoer who would also describe the entity as "a giant dog". Even the local night watchman, Luis Carlos, claimed having seen the aberration five times during the same night. "The critter's already killed two cows," he told reporters. "Dead dogs have been turning up in the wilderness, and the living ones are making such a racket like I'd never heard before."

On April 29, 1997, Sr. Alirio, the gardener for the Prefecture of Sumaré, would be treated to a sighting at five o'clock in the morning as he headed for work. Again, the description offered was that of a "very large dog" with a slender body.

But the strangest of these reports from the Sao Paulo vicinity involves one such monster dog followed by a horde of normal dogs. According to eyewitness Anisio Cacheta, whose sighting occurred on May 17, 1997, the creature was black and hairy and had simian rather than canine features with spine-like formations running down the length its body.

The suggestion that whatever force is at work in these animal mutilations has a "protean" quality that allows it to change shape has also been debated, and there have been more than several cases in which such transformations have been reported. Perhaps none of them is quite so vivid as the event involving Mr. and Mrs Lew Lister of Point Isabel, Ohio, retold by the late Leonard H. Stringfield in his classic Situation Red, The UFO Siege (Doubleday, 1977).

In 1964, the Listers had been sitting in their car talking around 11:00 p.m. with the headlights off when a figure took "large hops or leaps" over to their vehicle. Passing with uncanny ease through a barbed wire fence, the entity lunged toward the car's windshield as the frightened couple tried to roll up the windows and make their escape. Retelling the story to Stringfield in 1975, Mrs. Lister had been hesitant to disclose what happened next: the attacking creature had changed shape, its hands transforming into paws and running away, vanishing into thin air.

Dennis Pilichis, author of Night Siege, a monograph about northern Ohio's rash of Bigfoot sightings in 1981, cites a case from Lewiston, NY, involving police efforts at finding the party responsible for killing a horse by snapping its neck and leaving a deep gash along its side. A police officer allegedly interviewed a man who reported seen a creature squatting, "sitting [in the snow] on its haunches as if it was eating." Feline footprints were also found along a ditch: the cat tracks suddenly vanished when they approached the ones made by the strange entities. "What happened to the cat?" asks Pilichis. "Was it eaten by the critter? Did it change into the creature? Who knows..."

The Felinoids

Perhaps the most frightening of the creatures encountered are the felinoids: during the course of a conversation with Spanish parapsychologist Eduardo Gregorio, he mentioned that a successful summoning of some nameless entity had produced the materialization of a hideous feline shape that darted into the surrounding darkness, much to the dismay of the would-be warlocks. Their dismay is quite understandable, given the fact that the very same thing had occurred to a famous occultist of the past. In his book The Goblin Universe (Llewellyn, 1987), cryptozoologist F.H. "Ted" Holiday describes the efforts made by the infamous Gilles de Rais, Joan of Arc's companion-in-arms. Rendered nearly penniless by his profligate lifestyle, the French nobleman sought to find wealth through sorcery. A necromancer named La Riviere seems to have conjured "a demon in the form of a leopard" which could allegedly be heard by servants as it walked on the castle's rooftops.

The United States has had its own felinoid cases: in the summer of 1996, a caller to The Laura Lee Show mentioned seeing a thin, shadowy figure like that of "a human cat" race across her backyard. In 1991, Strange Magazine ran a letter from a reader in Maryland concerning a creature known as "The Cat Man" which allegedly haunted a dumping ground near the city of Salisbury. The entity was described as black, hairy and having claws or hook-like fingernails; glowing yellow eyes completed the nightmarish ensemble.

Encountering one such entity is bad enough. Who could remain sane in the face of an infestation of said creatures? The question is not rhetorical: in 1985, residents of the communities of Rafael Calzada, Quilmes and San Francisco Solano (suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina) were forced to contend with precisely such a phenomenon.

According to researcher Gustavo Fernández, accounts of the felinoids' attacks were initially circumscribed to the police blotters of local newspapers. "One or more persons in feline disguise," standing almost 6 feet tall, had sexually accosted a number of local women. Victims and eyewitnesses had coincided in their descriptions, stressing the speed and agility of these figures.

As the number of cases increased, the police was prompted to take action. Over 40 law-enforcement agents at a time tried to capture one of the swift, shadowy figures without any success. On one occasion, the policemen converged upon one of the perpetrators in an empty lot, believing it to be hidden behind some shrubbery. When they ran toward it, the figure disappeared.

Fernández states that the number of creatures believed to prowl the suburbs was almost one hundred, and multiple reports were coming in from locations separated by considerable distances. As would occur with the Chupacabras sightings in Puerto Rico a decade later, locals began taking their own measures upon seeing the police's inability or unwillingness to capture or slay the creatures. During one incident, relates Fernández, two men "opened fire against a thin, black, hairy silhouette at a distance of 5 meters" and saw it fall to the ground following the bullets' impact, only to rise up to its feet once more and run away.

Fernández found himself drawn into the situation when his expertise in the occult was requested by locals who complained of the inordinate number of "possession" events taking place in the community. Catholic and Protestant clergymen were being called in to exorcise homes and individuals more than ever before. Although Fernández believed that the "cat people" were probably human terrorists, he was interested to learn that the appearance of the bizarre silhouettes coincided with the opening of several Umbanda temples (terreiros, in Portuguese) in the local woods.

The occultist investigated the case of a local family whose daughter, Elena, would awake every night at two o'clock in the morning screaming, weeping and convulsing. Standing guard outside the girl's room while she slept, Fernández was startled to hear her cry at precisely 2 a.m.. Barging into the room, he became aware that "something" had dropped off the roof of the house and onto the ground outside the open bedroom window, "a shadowy shape darker than the night sky".

Instinctively, Fernández --a practitioner of the martial arts--thrust himself at the window and rammed his left fist at the hairy figure. This is how he describes physical contact with a non-human entity: "The fact is that I felt a repugnant sensation under my left hand. Its body was very cold, colder than its mammalian exterior would suppose, and was soft. The best tactile image I can give you is that of a leather bag filled with jelly. Its bristles were hard and almost perpendicular to the skin, or at least so it seemed to me." The entity turned and ran as the researcher leapt out the window to chase it to no avail.

The paranormal infestation ended as abruptly as it had begun--a constant in most cases involving entities of this description. Reflecting on those utterly strange days sixteen years ago, Gustavo Fernández believes that the felinoids were the "byproduct of goetic activity" in the area and that their activity was strongly reminiscent of the Medieval incubi, who would materialize physically to sexually accost humans or disturb their spiritual harmony.

The reader would do well to pause and reflect after reading such an account. What were these slender shadows doing roaming around suburban Buenos Aires in 1985? Collective hallucinations by members of a society beset by economic and political woes? Or to make the story more palatable to UFO believers, saucer crewmen engaged in activities incomprehensible to the human mind? Perhaps, in the final analysis, the supernatural answer fits best.

The Quest for Answers

In the summer of 1996 this author was approached by parapsychologist and lecturer Peter A. Jordan, well-known for his even-handed and thorough research on the cattle mutilation phenomenon in the 1970s and for unmasking the "Amityville Horror" fraud. Jordan had become interested in the manifestations of the paranormal predator known as the Chupacabras or "Goatsucker" and sought to repeat an investigative approach that had served him well during the cattle mutilations in the Western U.S.: submitting physical evidence and photographs to psychics and psychometrists in the hopes of coming up with a solution to the mystery.

A number of photographs of farm animals mutilated by the Chupacabras provided by the Puerto Rican Research Group were made available to Jordan, and these were forwarded to psychometrists with a background of law enforcement and academic work in parapsychology. The experiment's results were startling.The impressions from the six photographs presented to a psychic collective known as the United States Psychic Rescue Squad suggested that some kind of ritual was involved in the animal mutilations. One sensitive received "fleeting impressions of men in white clothing resembling Santería [practitioners] or Mau-Mau." The focus of the ritual was "revenge and hatred" of an unspecified source. Another sensitive felt that "a reborn witch doctor" was involved in the mutilations; still another felt that "a type of devil worship was involved, yet not necessarily of an organized type," adding that the person at the center of the situation "believes he is the hand of God."

Other psychometrists flatly refused to handle the material, feeling that the negativity of whatever had caused the animal deaths. The late Ron Mangravite sensed that the creature took great pleasure in killing, showing that the entity behaved in malicious fashion, betraying a keen intelligence. The image of the creature which formed in the psychometrist's mind had been that of a feline with "an elongated neck", adding the curious observation that the earth-energies in the place where the mutilations had taken place (in the vicinity of Puerto Rico's mysterious El Yunque rainforest) were "immense...strong enough to generate tulpas (the Tibetan thought-produced entities) or Tulpoid phenomena."

What these psychometrists did not know--could not possibly have known--at the time of the experiment was that veiled references were being made to a "Yoruba temple" (or more properly, a place of Santería worship) in Mameyes, a small town on the foothills of El Yunque, perhaps being responsible for the summoning of the Chupacabras. A lucky guess?

How Can These Things Be?

In his book Investigating the Unexplained (Prentice-Hall, 1972), zoologist Ivan Sanderson presents a cogent explanation for the question "how can these things be?". After stressing the fact that many so-called "intangible" creatures present clearly "tangible" aspects, he propounds the existence of an entirely new set (or sets) of dimensions separated from what we understand to be our normal space/time, but "so close to ours in either respect that bits and pieces fall through from one to the other, and then possibly back again..." Perhaps more important is the great researcher's assertion that we are increasingly surrounded by measurable evidence of these other dimensions in touch with our own, inhabited by denizens of unsuspected natures, ranging from "abysmal idiots to godlike entities."

Sanderson ends his exposition on the matter by postulating a number of concepts: that there are other universes intertwined with our own, that the number of these may be infinite, that intelligent life may be common in some of them, and more importantly, that some of these intelligences figured out how to make round-trip sorties from their home universes. Less consideration has been given to another possibility: the likelihood that these manifestations were forcibly brought into our reality--summoned--through the practice of sorcery.

It is understandable how such an possibility would receive short shrift from the outset. To believe in the summoning of entities involves a belief in ceremonial magic that not many are willing to concede, since the laws of the physical world demand that a given input be provided to obtain the desired output. No human has the ability--we would like to believe--to command the elements, coerce others to take action, or draw strange creatures from other realities for unsuspected purposes, but the record would appears to indicate otherwise. Indeed, journalist Ed Conroy, in writing about Whitley Streiber's abduction experiences (Report on Communion, p.249), suggests that one of the ways in which the issue of "visitors" may be approached is through the analysis of Western ceremonial magic practices, with their extensive tradition of contact between humans and non-humans.