Any writer will tell you that the best way to keep your reader’s attention is to build on the drama that hooked them in the first place. So far I’ve given you a wolf-demon that tore peasants limb from limb, a worm that can kill through electricity and a warning from the deep sea that we’re soon all going to be trampled into giblets by an enormous land-stomping kraken. So how do I build on that? By bringing the fear closer to home. So, dear readers, I present to you the murderous dobhar-chú, scourge of Ireland’s waters:
I’ll just give you all a minute to recover your wits.
Naturally, the legend of the dobhar-chú goes a little further than the adorable little bastards we’ve all seen holding hands by some kelp in that picture that made you go awwwwh for so long that you passed out through joy-induced hypoxia. Also known as the king otter or master otter, the dobhar-chú is a damn sight more murderous, which I find inherently hilarious and enough to justify its inclusion in this blog. I doubt that there were many Irish life insurance claims in 1722, but if there were, there’s a chance that one came over the desk that read “cause of death – torn to shreds by a giant fucking otter”.
Grace Connolly was a recently-married young Irish woman, having a lovely time being Irish and doing lovely Irish things. She lived by Glenade Lake in County Leitrim with her husband Terence, who was also having a lovely time being Irish and doing lovely Irish things. One day in September 1722, Grace went down to the shore of the lake to either wash clothes or bathe, and promptly did a thing that was neither particularly lovely or Irish – she got torn to bits by a monster that rose up from the depths of the lake.
Terence came across her body later that day and was distinctly pissed off to find the murdering shit-bastard of an otter responsible casually lounging over his wife’s corpse and having a nap. Now in a thoroughly unlovely mood, Terence killed it, but not before its death cries roused a second bigger and angrier dobhar-chú from the lake; the story goes that Terence and his brother fled on horseback for as far as twenty miles with the second screaming monster in hot pursuit. When they reached the fort at Cashelgarran their horses gave out and collapsed; placing their exhausted mounts across the entrance, the brothers waited in terrified ambush. When the vengeful dobhar-chú attacked it did so with such force that it burst through the chest of one of the horses Alien-style, at which point Terence did the sensible thing and stabbed it in the heart.
The king otter is a popular part of Irish folklore, and just about every description outlines an enormous otter-like creature up to ten feet long with the powerful legs of a more hound-like animal. The story of Grace’s death might seem like little more than folklore but it’s given some credibility by the fact that both her and her husband’s tombstones are still very much intact and visible, complete with carvings of the monster that apparently killed her.
Nor are the sightings confined to County Leitrim or the 18th century. As recently as May 1968 by Sraheens Lough in County Mayo the king otter has been spotted, often running toward or into stretches of water, described with the familiar characteristics of the enormous otter-like body on four powerful legs. Some sightings even claim it to be white with a crucifix of darker fur across its back, which can presumably mean only one thing – Jesus is back, he’s pissed off, and he’s a fucking otter.