Thursday, February 1, 2018

Women in Horror month - 1

We started doing guest blog spots for Women in Horror month a few years ago. We're continuing it now.

The first guest blogger is Elaine Pascale - enjoy. And do check out Elaine's Amazon page.

Another year, another Women in Horror Month…I do love WIHM and greatly appreciate all of the opportunity that it allows.  Each WIHM serves as a catalyst for not only establishing writing goals for the year ahead, but also for looking back at the year that was.  2017 was a year that, for me, contained more terror than horror.  Some of that was of my own choosing, as I had tasked myself with doing things and exposing myself to things that frightened me.  In doing so, I realized that most of us (especially non-horror writers) spend the majority of our time trying to avoid fear: real-life fear.  Some of us (and the people I most like to talk to) avoid that real-life fear by escaping into fictional horror, especially the world of monsters.
We need monsters.  They give us a place to “hide.”  They provide us with opportunities to dispel anxiety by preparing for non-real threats that, in practice, may help us in the unfortunate case that a real-life emergency happens.  Preparing for a zombie apocalypse contains a process similar to preparing to deal with hijackers on an airplane or shooters during a concert. Monster stories help to dispel that extra adrenaline that builds up after a stressful week or during a time when the world seems particularly inhospitable. Monster movies and stories also remind us that the good guys always outnumber the bad guys.
Like the people who tell monster stories, the monster tradition is not gender specific. There are plenty of female monsters to fear.  We check beneath our beds for the “bogeyMAN” but that name is simply a placeholder for the variety of monsters that have long captivated our imaginations.
I want to focus this WIHM/monster discussion on the female vampires of Asia.  They embody a fear of female sexuality and reproductive power which has long been a part of the human narrative.  Like most vampires, this subgroup is highly desirable, with a siren-like allure. These vampires have a common theme of attacking pregnant women or infants and children: a plot that also occurs in Western vampire lore.
A few favorites:
Mandurugo (Philippines): an attractive girl by day, she has wings and a long hollow tongue by night.  She uses this tongue to suck fetuses off pregnant women.  Mandurugo is also told as a “Black Widow” story, with her marrying men only to have them wither away while living with her.  In these stories, she is exacting revenge over a lost love.  She will always remain young and beautiful while she has a supply of fresh blood to drink. She is interesting because of that proboscis-like tongue that has the ability to enter homes while her body remains outside.
Manananggal or Wakwak (Philippines): a beautiful woman who rubs her body with an oil in order to grow wings and to detach the top half of her body at the waist.  Her top half flies round looking for victims, most often pregnant women. Her ability to control her transformation marks an unusual level of power in monster lore.
Penanggalan (Malaysia)/Abs (Cambodia): a beautiful woman, most often a midwife who made a pact with the devil.  She can detach her fanged head, but typically detaches the entire top half of her body.  The head/torso flies around looking for pregnant women so she can suck their blood.  She sometimes appears around women giving birth in order to drink the birth blood.  Her “tell” is that she keeps a vat of vinegar in her house so that she can shrink her entrails small enough to fit back into her body when she is ready to return to human form.
Langsuyar (Malaysia): a beautiful woman who suffered the loss of a stillborn baby.  A woman who died during childbirth could become a Langsuyar.  A Langsuyar can live a normal human life is someone cuts off her hair and nails and stuffs them into her neck.
Pontianak (Java): a beautiful woman who died a virgin or while giving birth.  She attacks and emasculates men before turning them into vampires.  She also attacks babies because she is jealous of their happy mothers.  The Pontianak will announce her presence by making the sound of a crying baby. One way to protect yourself from the Pontianak is to never leave your clothing outside overnight to dry; the smell of drying clothing is like catnip to her.
There are plenty of places to find more vampire or monster stories from various cultures, if this is of interest.  Comparing monster stories from different cultures shines a light on the values of a particular place, as well as the influences that may have happened during empire shifts and colonization.
During the 9th WIHM it is important to use these monsters to consider our views on gender and the stereotype of the devouring mother or jealous matriarch/female lover. If that is an unappetizing intellectual exercise, then the stories can be used in the way that they are used best: a diversion from the real-life terror that causes sleepless nights.  Monster stories are preferable to the news, and remind us of what is good about being human.  

Elaine Pascale had been writing her entire life.  She lives on Cape Cod with her husband, son and daughter.  Her writing has been published in magazines and anthologies. She is the author of the soon to be released Blood Lights, and If Nothing Else, Eve, We’ve Enjoyed the Fruit.  Elaine enjoys a robust full moon, chocolate, and collecting cats. Find out more at,, or, or

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