#29 – Popobawa

It’s not unusual for cryptozoology to cross over with all sorts of other paranormal pursuits, some far more ridiculous and unbelievable. While there are plenty of proper zoologists who take the search for undiscovered animals very seriously indeed, and rightly so, it’s a field often discredited by paranormal enthusiasts muddying the waters with hoax or poorly researched supernatural ‘evidence’ that bears little relation to scientific pursuit. Unfortunately, as I’m writing a comedy blog and not a research paper, it’s pretty much inevitable that I will be one of those bastards every now and then, because some stories are just too bizarre and hilarious to not include here. I give you exhibit A – the Popobawa, a shape-shifting entity from Tanzania:

Be grateful you can't see the bottom half of this picture.

Just be grateful you can’t see the bottom half of this picture.

So far, so standard right? It’s just another flying monster-bat, right? I’ll just lock the windows and doors, ignore that funny smell and the scraping on the roof and tuck myself up in bed and everything will be fine, right? WRONG, pal. Unless of course your idea of ‘fine’ involves a glass of Chardonnay and a distinctly unpleasant evening spent figuring out the most comfortable way to accommodate an oversized demonic penis in your Bovril-chute.

The Popobawa is a shetani (a Swahili word for ‘evil spirit’), and the name translates literally to ‘bat-wing’. This doesn’t necessarily relate to the actual form of the creature, which can apparently shift and often presents itself as human, but to the shape of the dark shadow it casts when it goes romancing unsuspecting victims at night. By the way, you should take it as a given that for this entry I’m using the John Leslie edition of the Oxford Dictionary, where ‘romancing’ equates to ‘forcibly sodomising’.

ALLEGEDLY. Jesus Christ.

ALLEGEDLY. Jesus Christ.

In terms of legendary creatures, the Popobawa is a curiously recent phenomenon and only dates back around forty years or so. It first emerged on the island of Pemba following its political revolution, and periods of mass panic caused by apparent attacks have come and gone with the election cycle in Zanzibar ever since (presumably because efforts to encourage voter apathy in that part of the world go a little further than Russell Brand belching a thesaurus of ideals into Jeremy Paxman’s rage-contorted scrotum of a face). Sightings have been reported in the daytime but ol’ Pops generally attacks homesteads at night, often going through all the sleeping members of a family one by one before moving on to the next. Said attacks vary in severity from poltergeist-like activity right up to forceful bum-raping if you’re unfortunate enough to be the adult male in the house.

As a general rule of thumb, anal rapists of any sexual persuasion tend to be less than savoury people, but in a truly dick move the Popobawa is said to become enraged and intensify its attacks if its existence is denied. Meaning that the best thing you can do if you find yourself a victim is tell all your friends about it, making the Popobawa a sort of demonic curse that you have to pass on. Which is basically The Ring, ironically the one bodily muscle you won’t have following an attack.



Although obviously not likely to have any biological basis in reality, the Popobawa still has very real and definite effects on the human psyche in Tanzania. Reports of the shetani’s activities periodically spark mass panics that have spread from Pemba throughout the Zanzibar archipelago on to urban centres on the East African coast. During such panics whole families sleep outside around large fires, thought to be the best protection against the monster, as well as placing charms at the bases of fig trees and making animal sacrifices in an attempt to preserve the integrity of their fudge-tunnels. Because nothing says “please don’t bum me!” better than a dead goat.

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