Monster Monday: Hydrus

Photo from the British Library

Old maps are amazing. They show a much different version of the world than what we know. Prior to the further exploration into the interior of new countries there were writers like Pliny the Elder who wrote about the new creatures and people that he had heard about. One of the beasts Pliny wrote about was the Hydrus, this is not to be confused with the hydra.

The Hydrus was a snake type animal that lives in the Nile river in Egypt where it was considered a crocodile killer. The hydrus would allow the crocodile to roll it in the mud while it slipped into the crocs mouth. While in the crocs stomach the hydrus would eat it’s way through the side of the croc. Thus killing it.

The interesting fact about the hydrus is how it is described. Pliny states that it is type of river otter whereas Isidore of Seville lists the Hydrus as a type of snake. In Isidores description of the hydrus that caused those that it bit to swell up. But you would be able to cure the swelling with Ox dung. Isidore also noted that the smell of the beast is healthful. However; you wouldn’t want to put the hydrus in your food as the meat is poisonous.

I find the hydrus to be really interesting. In that there are two different descriptions of the hydrus that are widely different. Was it a otter or a snake? This was a new monster for me and I am interested in seeing if any of the other ancient writers wrote about the hydrus. I personally have only found the two descriptions of the hydrus. If you have seen another ancient author writing about the hydrus please let me know. I reviewed a few of the ancient maps that are online but I didn’t see the hydrus listed in Egypt.

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

I love monsters; from Dracula to Godzilla; from the mummy to zombies. Throughout my life it was something that I hid from most people unless you really knew me. I feel in love with the drama and the chills that monsters are able to cause. I’ve watched Creature From the Black Lagoon more times then I would like to admit. I’ve always found the story of the Gill man to be sad just like I have found the story of Frankenstein’s monster to be sad. I never really thought about the people that designed the monsters just the story. After reading The Lady from the Black Lagoon that is all going to change.

Synopsis: Non-fiction biography of the woman that designed the creature from the black lagoon.

What I liked: Dear loard….this book gave me all the feels. I was mad and fascinated and sad all at the same time. I wanted to take to the internet to scream about this book as loud as I possibly could. I wanted to thrust it into the hands of my nearest and dearest and tell them to read it. O’Meara’s writing is conversational and flows through the book. You can truly feel O’Meara’s feelings about Milicent and monster movies through her writing. Some non-fiction books feel like a slog to get through but this wasn’t the case with The Lady from the Black Lagoon the anecdotes and the way that O’Meara wove Patrick’s life with her own made me want to keep reading. If you don’t read any other book recommendation that I make this year please please pick this up. Especially, if you are woman that is in the horror realm.

What I didn’t like: There is nothing in this lovely book that I didn’t like.

Star Rating: All the fucking stars!!!

My thoughts: I have a lot of thoughts about Milicent Patrick and lots of feels about her as well. But I want to start out by saying that a lot of what O’Meara says about herself was a lot like listening to my own inner voice. This is a book that is so much more then just about Milicent but it is for all us spooky girls and creative types. Growing up I took a lot of flack for wanting to be home early on Saturday Nights to watch Friday the 13th the series, Monsters or the fright night features. My friends never have been able to understand my love for horror movies and books. It is easier now with the advent of the internet and the fact that I have a great group of horror loving female friends and I don’t feel so alone in the world.

Folklore Thursday: The Man with the Chicken Feet.

The definition of Folklore is traditional beliefs, customs and stories of a community; passed through the generations by word of mouth. I grew up in the American Southwest where American and Mexican folklore intersect. One of my favorite stories is the man with chicken feet. If you haven’t heard the story before sit back and enjoy.

Many many years ago there were community dances. Young people would dress up in their finest clothes and dance the night away. On the night of one of these dances. Against her parent’s wishes a girl dressed up in a beautiful red sparkly dress snuck out of the house to attend one of these dances.

When the girl arrived the dance was in full swing; people were dancing and having a great time. From across the room the girl spied the most handsome man. She watched as every woman in the community center danced with the handsome stranger. The women were enthralled by the man and stood in small clumps talking about how handsome he was.

After a couple of hours the stranger made his way to the girl and asked her to dance. The young girl and the stranger twirled and whirled faster and faster. The dancing couple were a blur to those around them. Something must have startled the girl because she looked down at her dance partners feet. The handsome stranger no longer had the legs and feet of a man but the feet of a large chicken. The girl screamed and fainted. When the girl finally came around the man was gone.

The girl returned home and told her parents about the stranger with the chicken feet. Her mother crossed herself and explained the handsome stranger was the devil and if she hadn’t screamed and fainted he would have taken the girl’s soul.

There are many different variations of this story throughout the American Southwest and Texas. This was the version of the story that I was told when I was growing up.

Monster Monday: Elephant eating Dragons

I decided to open up my weird little world a bit and I am going to be writing a couple of different weekly columns Monster Monday and joining in for Folklore Thursday. I believe that my love of horror really stemmed from my love of monsters, mythology, folklore and fairytale. They are all scary in their own ways and are usually the first “horror” stories that we are told.

Most of us love dragons. The wing creatures that take flight with large leathery wings that can scorch the earth or hide deep underneath the mountains on hills of gold. But did you know that India had a dragon that fought elephants? The Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote about the Indian dragons in The 8th Book of the History of Nature chapter XI.

Pliny stated that the elephants and the dragon’s were continually at war with each other. The dragon would hide in the foliage of trees along the route the elephant would take to get food or water. It would drop down on the elephant and wrap itself around the packaderm’s legs and attack their vulnerable eyes and trunk. In Pliny’s manuscript there was no mention of the dragon breathing fire or being venomous however; Hugo de Folieto added to Pliny’s description of the Dragon’s of India. Folieto added indeed the the dragons are indeed venomous and attack ships that are sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Today we may think elephant fighting dragons are ridiculous. However, during this time it would have been common for the local mythology to be included in histories of areas of the world that hadn’t been explored by the author.

Without Condition A Novel By Sonora Taylor

What is it about the horror genre that lends to stories about serial killers. Is it the horrific things that some serial killers do? Or is it the idea that there is someone out there that doesn’t have the same respect or empathy for human life that the rest of society “should” have. I have read quite a bit of true crime and horror about serial killers. But….it is very rare to read a story about a female serial killer. Which is why I was so happy to read Without Condition by Sonora Taylor.

Synopsis: Coming of age story with a murderous twist.

What I liked: I really appreciated the multifaceted way that Cara was written. She was well written and three dimensional. She may have been a serial killer but there was a lot more to her. There was some many different sides to her character. I appreciated Cara’s story in general. For me it was more of a coming of age story with murder. It was more about Cara and growing up and how her relationship with her mother changes as she is maturing and falling in love. The ending really surprised me. I really enjoyed how the story ended. I wasn’t left feeling lost or empty.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like.

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My thoughts: I truly enjoyed this story. I think that Taylor really hit on something with this story. Even though Cara was a killer you felt for her. You felt for the child that she was….the woman that she was growing into. I really can’t wait to see what else Taylor has up her sleeve. If you don’t haven’t gotten this in your brain you are missing out.

A big thank you to Sonora for sending me a copy for review.

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison

Over the last year, I have really gotten into collections. Short stories with a smattering of poetry makes my black heart sing. I had seen Ms. Addison perform spoken word on line at a writers event and I loved the way he wording flowed. A couple of my friends reviewed How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and naturally they had good things to say. So when I had the opportunity to meet Linda Addison I grabbed a copy and took it with me. I didn’t make it to the panel that she was moderating but I did get to meet her in a signing line. I was so thrilled to meet her.

Synopsis: Collection of horror short stories and poetry.

What I liked: I loved the whole thing. It made me so happy just reading through the stories and poems. The darkness and the horror that is bubbling under the surface of so many of the stories. Many aren’t in your face but rather a slow burn that creeps under your skin. There are short stories that I would love to see expanded. Addison is also such an amazing poet. The poems are complex, heartbreaking on one hand and horrifying on the other. AND….the best part

What I didn’t like: There is nothing I didn’t like about this collection.

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts: There is something very special about this collection. Two of the stories are linked. I loved this because the first story was so good and I wanted more of the two characters. I enjoy how Addison uses language. From her word choices to the voice in which she writes. It is uniquely hers. I read a lot of horror and the cadence in which she writes is different then many of the authors that I have read before.

Witches by Donna Lynch

My dad is a believer. He believes that we as people have the ability to be magic. Not like Magic that was in The Craft but rather magic that is fluid and calls upon nature. Over the years he has had the most amazing library of books about natural power that I have always been a believer. Recently my father had a small surgery. Nothing earth shattering but just enough to worry me. He came out of surgery fine. At his post op appointment later that week his doctor remarked on how fast my dad heals. My dad just chuckles and tells the doctor “I told my body to heal”. My dad just seems to get it; he always has. I was was really stoked when Raw Dog Screaming Press asked if I would review Witches by Donna Lynch.

Synopsis: A illustrated horror poetry collection about witches.

What I liked: I loved the mixed media used through out the book. I have a deep love for mixed media art and it’s use in a literary context. The poetry was viscera and I loved the history that was sprinkled throughout like little gifts. What I really enjoyed was that the book was like a graphic novel or comic book with horror poetry!! The first poem gripped me by the eyeballs and kept me reading through it. Lynch is very talented and I can’t wait to read more from her.

What I didn’t like: There was nothing I didn’t like

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts: I want to hug this poetry collection. I have revisited a few of the poems and they still give me the feels. I really appreciate the time that went into this collection. The thought that went into the illustrations and how well they worked with the poems. Lynch’s writing is like a gut punch. Pretty words that are meant to make you feel something that isn’t necessarily pretty. Which we all know is the way to my heart.