In this episode I wanted to tie in with the recent movie ‘Prey’. The movie itself is a lot of fun, and as I enjoyed working on Close Encounters of the Nope kind to tie in with Nope I am today bringing you a Predator and Prey episode. We’re going to look at a Comanche myth mentioned in the movie, then go on a hunting themed folklore journey around the world.
SECTION BREAK – Devourer of Naughty Children
Since this is an episode inspired by ‘Prey’, it more than makes sense to begin with the Comanche and their bogeyman the Mupitsl. This figure of folklore gets very briefly mentioned in the movie as the protagonist struggles to describe what she has seen, and at its simplest Pia Mupitsl is a giant human eating owl. Some descriptions get a little more unusual, with the Mupitsl described as an owl feathered cannibal. To be a cannibal eating other humans would make them a human too, although this could be a translation oddity, there are a lot of instances of nuance going out of the window when a Native American language gets put through a Eurocentric wringer.
Pia Mupitsl lives on the south side of the Wichita Mountains, stealing away bad children in the night to feast upon, with each meal growing only stronger. Should a child be unrepentantly naughty Big Cannibal Owl would come in the night carrying a burden basket over their shoulder with a long, sharp spike inside awaiting the bad child who would be thrown struggling within. With so many naughty children to grow ever stronger eating, there’s no way to fight Pia Mupitsl. Your only choice is to behave so you don’t become the next meal!
A cultural bogeyman with such a strong identity is always fascinating when encountered. The Mupitsl has an important use in the daylight hours, when it comes to getting children to behave themselves. Among the Comanche, children are viewed as a precious resource and aren’t usually given harsh direct discipline, which could lead to over-boisterousness. If children got too out of hand it would usually be down to an older sister or relative slightly more distant to try and get them to calm down, and one tool to make use of would be warnings of the hungry Big Cannibal Owl. Older members of the tribe would also at times dress up in a sheet to scare the younger children into behaving.
All of which lends to interesting speculation about how stories are used as moral guidance among all people’s around the world, but then has a worrying chicken-and-egg implication that the stories might be for the children’s own good, and there’s something in a cave on the Wichita Mountains with a taste for ill mannered children…
Best behave for your own sake, kids!
SECTION BREAK – The Mimics Watch Us Watching Them Okay. I don’t like mimics. Most listeners will know this. New listeners? Hello! Mimics creep me out, because it’s worrying what they may be up to. They’re hiding in plain sight, in such a way they can get close to people. It strikes me as predatory, and stories of mimics can make my skin crawl. So, let me paint you a picture. You’re out in the remote wilderness. Maybe you’re a hunter. Maybe you’re a hiker. Maybe you’re really lost. Then, you spot a lone deer. Heck, it’s just a deer, it’s basically a rat on stilts, a timid prey animal that will avoid humans. Maybe there’s a little feeling of magic here, hey there little fella, you don’t need to be scared! And it isn’t. It’s not scared, or even a little timid at all, as you blithely wander over to it. Something is off. It looks you square in the eyes, something which occurs to you shouldn’t be possible, as don’t deer have their eyes on the sides of their head? It smiles a big toothy grin, which you’re reasonably sure a deer can’t do, then stands up on two legs. Oh. Those front hooves are, in fact, claws. Whatever this thing is, it’s not the one running away. You take a moment to wonder about the hundreds of people who vanish in the wilderness each year, and how many of them might have final moments exactly like this one. You have just encountered a Not-Deer. The Not-Deer is a cryptid best known from the Appalachian mountains, but has had sightings all across the North America anywhere it’s a remote part of nature you may find deer. There’s a somewhat grim acceptance of them in certain areas, you can report seeing something weird to a local and all you’ll get is a shrug and the helpful comment “Yep, that was a Not-Deer.” They do what they say on the tin, really. It looks like a deer. It isn’t. The description I just gave is an amalgam of multiple Not-Deer traits you may only see one of. Add to that they may be twitchy and weird, like they’re the local fauna you may find chilling around Silent Hill, and they can be mixed in with herds of deer which can’t seem to recognise the stranger pretending to be one of them in their midst. While it may only have one of the symptoms of a Not-Deer, could be it’s just twicthy or some facial features may be off, when the rest of the deer run away you’ll be left with the Not-Deer staring you down daring you to try something. A Not-Deer is not a skinwalker or other shapeshifter, as they don’t seem to have any obvious ulterior motive beyond being a freaky imitation. Other figures of folklore pretending to be deer tend to be better at it too, much more convincingly disguised. After some initial confusion a Not-Deer should be pretty clearly not a deer. There’s a theory that a Not-Deer is a regular deer that has a case of Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD can really mess a deer up, leaving them unafraid of humans and physically altered. Especially advanced cases. But then there’s the alarming alternative that it’s some sort of a cryptid chilling out not quite managing to be a convincing copy of a deer. What is it doing? Why is it weird? WHY ISN’T IT AFRAID OF US? Mimics. Urgh… SECTION BREAK Hello everyone. Just taking a quick break to highlight something about the movie ‘Prey’. It got quite a lot of production value out of being so immersed in the Comanche culture, and when you’re caught up in the fun you may overlook something obvious. It does bear remembering though that this is a real life still existing culture and not a fantasy setting. If you enjoyed how the story was told this way, definitely check out the Comanche Museum. In person if you’re ever in the area, or otherwise pop on over to their website. There’s a lot more about their culture to explore out there, more monster stories too if you enjoyed hearing about the Mupitsl. Off the soapbox now, and back to the show. SECTION BREAK – Get Ready To Run Across the North of Europe has an interesting, and highly variable, shared folklore story that has spread pretty far. Not least of all throughout pop culture, so I expect everyone to have at least heard of this one: The Wild Hunt. Well, I say “The”, it may well be “A” Wild Hunt. A tradition that many a god and monster may share. Around Winter - any time from it starting, ending, or around Yule at the turning point of the darkest times – it may be possible to hear the sounds of a hound led hunt when it should otherwise not be possible. In the dark. In the cold. Maybe up in the sky, possibly just somewhere it should not be possible for a mortal to lead a chase and survive. Winter storms are especially likely to hold a Wild Hunt. If a Wild Hunt rides it can vary wildly from region to region. Most commonly it seems to be the souls of the dead riding out, baying hellhounds leading the charge, although if you’re up in the British Isles it may be a fairy host. A Wild Hunt popping up in Germany has a high chance of werewolves, although in these circumstances they don’t seem to attack people and instead raid homes for food and beer to run off with. Sometimes there will be a specific victim being chased, anything from an innocent woman to an outcast demon, quite often someone guilty of unpunished crimes or broken oaths. Sometimes the Wild Hunt will be chasing the Wild Hunt, as spectral figures clash together only pausing to attack bystanders foolish enough to get too close to the battle. The Wild Hunt will tend to have a noteworthy leader. Older gods and goddesses such as Berchta, Holda, or Herne the Hunter. Heroes of myth or historical figures may be seen. King Arthur, Wild Edric, the trickster hero Gwydion, or Fionn mac Cumhaill. Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa, or even Sir Francis Drake have been reported as leading a Wild Hunt at times. Historical figures may just be enjoying a special day release from beyond the grave, or could be cursed due to their misdeeds in life. One stand out odd case is Hans von Hackelnberg. Von Hackelburg loved hunting more than anything else and was said to have successfully killed a boar during his last living hunt, only to go and stand on the tusk of the porcine corpse promptly poisoning himself. So, basically a draw there, good revenge job that piggie. On his deathbed Hans rejected heaven as he wanted to keep on hunting, some would say being cursed to continue his brutal hobby never actually getting to move on and be with God in the hereafter, although for his part Von Hackelburg seemed okay with the eternal sport situation. A Wild Hunt can even be from the Christian Hell led by Herod, Cain, or The Devil himself (I would expect this is one of the Wild Hunts to REALLY avoid). Deities and Demigods linked to the dead are prominent in tales of The Wild Hunt. Gwynn ap Nudd, Welsh Lord of the Dead. Mesnée d’Hellequin, a Goddess of Death from the region that is now Northern France. I suppose Lucifer counts towards this one too. One pagan god is above and beyond the most common in tales of The Wild Hunt though, and this is Woten or Odin. Here firmly in his aspect of one of the gods of the afterlife, riding out from Valhalla with his Einherjar. While always being dangerous if crossed, when out on a Wild Hunt Odin is in his most brutal aspect. Whatever Wild Hunt you get, the consensus is to not be out at all if you can, and to keep your head down if they’re passing down. Diving on to the floor is especially recommended if it is Odin riding out, as the yoke on his oxen driven chariot has a notorious reputation for taking the heads off of the unwary. The Wild Hunt isn’t anything a mere mortal should be messing with, when one passes by should you be foolish enough to be out you’re a rabbit in the headlights. All you can do is freeze and hope the car passes overhead without a wheel clipping you. Anyone unfortunate enough to be caught up a Wild Hunt can end up dead, chased, or conscripted to join as a hunter who may then end up returning to their new home in the underworld at the end of the chase. To encounter one of these Wild Hunts is not only something you may not survive, they tend to be more likely just before times of disaster. Heralding great wars, famines, or times of plague. This… turned out to be an impressively messy segment. There is a LOT going on with tales of The Wild Hunt. This is merely the cliffnotes edition! Wild Hunts extend across Europe into Slavic countries, and on top of the already impressive list of possible figureheads can also get special Yule Monster versions led by figures like Krampus, giving an extra festive portent of the apocalypse you may not even survive to see should the Hunt catch you. This is such a rich vein of folklore individual Hunt stories may yet turn up in future episodes for a more focused exploration. SECTION BREAK – Don’t Trust Strange Women In The Dark To end today’s exploration of Predator and Prey, let’s head over to Japan for a Yokai with a taste for human flesh. Travellers at night on the mountain roads between the Mie and Wakayam Prefectures have something more to fear than a fall in the dark or a bandit attack. There’s something out there stalking the pathways the unwary may use, especially young men. Should you be travelling alone at night, where you really should know better not to, there may be something hungry watching you come too close. Sadly the overconfidence of youth here will directly imperil the favourite food of this Yokai. What appears to be a young woman, late teens yet not quite twenty, will appear from the dark. Unnaturally pale, but in a way that you could convince yourself may only be make up, they will flirt and flatter as they come closer. They will spin a tale of having lost their light, and ask their victim if they can please borrow their lantern. She’s a good looking woman who is interested in you in the most alluring possible way, so why not be chivalrous and give her the light? You can try your luck in offering to escort her home, she’s so obviously friendly and clearly interested in That Way. So the poor fool will then hand over the lantern, which with a laugh the Yokai will extinguish. In the dark, she will be powerful, the young man will be helpless. She will bite down on her meal, latching on with an unbreakable grip, and suck out all the meat from the unsuspecting fool who was just hunted by the Nikusui. Just skin and bones will be found left lying on the roadside after dawn breaks, snuffed out light nearby the remains. Nikusui roughly means “meat sucker”, you may actually have heard the name in reference to certain Japanese meat dishes. Nikusui the Yokai is a worrying seductive kind of vampire who goes a fair brutal step further than mere blood sucking. It seems as though they cannot attack unless cloaked in darkness, so the most common counter to them is to make sure you have a spare light with you if you find yourself with no choice but to cross their territory at night. This way you can in good conscience offer a light to what may be a stranger in need and still not get your meat sucked out, unless you’re really dumb and fall for an “Oops, dropped this lantern, can I have the other one?” gambit. Carrying smouldering coals can help keep a traveller safe too, as throwing them at a Nikusui can drive them away. This has the disadvantage of also driving away a traveller in distress too, though, so may be better form to stick with the two light technique. If there are slim pickings on the roads at night, the Nikusui may attempt to break into the bedrooms of young men with promises of sex, seducing her victim into extinguishing all lights in the room so she can come in and have her way with them. The good news is you may get sex! The bad news is it will be to weaken you ahead of the Nikusui taking their time to enjoy sucking all the meat out of your body. The worse news is that some tales may tell of what the Nikusui may really look like behind their teenage seductress disguise… So the story goes a hunter named Genzō was out doing his thing at Mt. Hatenashi at night. This seems less stupid when you realise he was carrying a special blessed bullet for his hunting rifle with a prayer to the Amida Buddha inscribed on it as a back up plan for any supernatural shenanigans. Without warning a beautiful woman only 18 or 19 years old appeared out of the dark, giving a creepy laugh after startling him and asking if she could borrow Genzō’s light off of him. Being in Nikusui territory at night with a surprise creepy beauty, Genzō decided something was up and loaded the blessed bullet to threaten her with. She immediately fled, which is a rational response when a rifle is pointed at you - so still may have only been an unfortunate traveller who just got one hell of a firearms related fright. Except for what happened a short time later… Having wisely given up on night time hunting in a notorious Yokai haunt, Genzō had his rifle ready with his holy bullet as he retreated for shelter, which saved his life as a screeching monster over 6 meters tall charged him from the darkness. Whether skill, luck, or the divine providence of the Buddha watching over a dumb young man the bullet hit the monster dead on, giving Genzō the chance to illuminate the true form of a Nikusui with the lantern he didn’t surrender. The giant unnatural Thing looked like a bleached white skeleton covered by loose folds of skin. There’s no meat on the “meat sucker”, just loose pasty white flesh on a terrifying giant. A grotesque animate version of what it would leave the remains of its victim. If you absolutely must travel the mountains between Mie and Wakayam, make sure you have at least one back up light and feel free not to fall for an incredibly obvious seduction act. It’s really not worth pushing your luck with. Especially if you have the misfortune of crossing paths with a Nikusui who wants to take their time to savour their meal… SECTION BREAK That’s all for this topic. For now, anyway, all sorts of assorted monstrosities enjoy hunting humans. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, I do recommend watching ‘Prey’, and you now can go in armed with context for what the Mupetsl is. It was a weirdly hard to research story even armed with multiple spellings of the name, as the Internet either spat out a load of unrelated ‘Prey’ articles or thought I had spelled “Muppets” wrong. Worth the extra effort for such an interesting bogeyman though. LukeLore is a Ghost Story Guys production. If you do want to contact me there’s the show’s dedicated email firstname.lastname@example.org, and the general show email email@example.com. 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