The Famocantratra (as Flacourt describes it) or Famocantraton (in Dapper and subsequent works) is a small lizardlike animal found in Madagascar. Its name means “leaper at the chest”.
The famocantratra’s back, chin, and top of its neck, legs, and tail are made of small paws or claws which allow it to adhere to trees like glue. It is almost impossible to see as it sticks to trunks. Its mouth is always open to capture insects and other small invertebrates.
It will leap onto the chest of anyone who passes by, and it holds on so fast that the skin has to be sliced off with a razor. For this reason it is feared and avoided by the natives of Madagascar.
Dapper, O. (1686) Description de l’Afrique. Wolfgang, Waesberge, Boom, & van Someren, Amsterdam.
de Flacourt, E. (1661) Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar. Francois Clouzier, Paris.
According to the Huron, the Angont is the source of death, disease, and all the misfortunes of the world. It is a monstrous snake that lives in a number of dark and secluded areas, including lakes, rivers, deep woods, under rocks, and in caves.
When sorcerers wish to kill someone, they rub items – hair, splinters, animal claws, wheat leaves, and so on – with angont flesh. Any such object becomes malevolent, penetrating deep into a victim’s vitals down to bone marrow, and bringing with it agonizing pain and sickness that eventually consumes and kills its host. Only the discovery and removal of the cursed object can prevent and cure this.
Vimont, B. (1858) Relations des Jésuites, v. II. Augustin Coté, Quebec.
Nyanza is home to the Lukwata. The deeds and misdeeds of this great sea-serpent
are told on both sides of the lake, from Uganda to the Kavirondo (Winam) Gulf
in Kenya. The lukwata is commonly lumped with the dingonek, but the lukwata’s
pedigree is far older. Lukwata is also the name of a Baganda clay charm which,
when hidden in the king’s house, presents theft in the village, but this seems
has been around from time immemorial and makes occasional appearances. It is a
huge and terrifying lake demon, a serpent, a cetacean, or perhaps a giant fish.
It is associated with whirlpools in the lake. Ja-Luo fishermen have tales of
the lukwata attacking their canoes. The Baganda, Kavirondo, and Wasoga of the
north shore of lake Nyanza used to sacrifice livestock to it. The lukwata’s
disappearance coincided with the sleeping-sickness epidemic, and it was
believed that the muzungu
(foreigners) caused the disease by killing the lukwata, thus bringing its wrath
upon the people.
Provincial Commissioner of Jinja, saw a lukwata swimming down the Napoleon
Gulf; its head was out of the water but it was too far to make out its
features. Clement Hill of the Foreign Office had a far closer encounter when a
lukwata off Homa Mountain tried unsuccessfully to seize a man on the bow of
Hill’s ship. He saw a lizard-like head, roundish and dark-colored, on a
four-foot-long neck attached to a large, rounded mass that formed the body.
Some sort of tail seemed to be trailing behind.
Wayland, head of the Geological Survey of Uganda, claimed to have heard the
lukwata’s distant bellowing. He was shown pieces of lukwata bone, and was told
that the lukwata fought epic battles with crocodiles. Pieces of skin lost in
those struggles were used for potent amulets.
complete account of a lukwata’s appearance is recorded by H. Bell, who shot one
on the western border of Uganda near the Semliki River and Lake Albert. The
creature, which was identified as a small lukwata by a native boy, was deemed
to resemble Hill’s serpent. It had a snakelike head, a neck several inches
long, a tail a few inches long, and flippers like a sea turtle’s. Instead of a
hard shell, the lukwata had a thick, soft, rubbery carapace. Bell believed that
the lukwata – evidently an odd species of turtle – would, at the surface, give
the impression of a bulky, long-necked animal.
are not particularly smart. A Baganda folktale tells of the friendship between
a lukwata and a monkey. It came to pass that the King of the balukwata took
ill, and his wizard told him to eat the heart of a monkey as a cure. The King
offered great rewards to any of the balukwata who would bring him the heart of
a monkey. So the lukwata went to the home of his friend the monkey and hailed
him. “How are you? You should come visit me, my wife and sons want to see you”.
“But I cannot swim”, said the monkey. “I’ll carry you on my back”, said the
lukwata, and they were off. Halfway across the lake, the lukwata, having a
crisis of conscience, decided to tell the monkey the truth. “I’m really sorry,
but our King is sick and needs your heart”. The monkey thought fast. “You silly
thing”, he told the lukwata, “I don’t have my heart with me. I leave it behind
so I can jump through the trees. Take me back and I’ll fetch my heart from the
branch where I left it”. Of course, the unsuspecting lukwata swam back, and the
monkey escaped to safety in the trees – but not before mocking his erstwhile friend’s
(1948) Witches & Fishes. Edward
Arnold & Co., London.
B. (1910) In Closed Territory. A. C.
McClurg & Co., Chicago.
Cunningham, J. F. (1905)
Uganda and its peoples. Hutchinson
& Co., London.
Hattersley, C. W. (1900)
An English Boy’s Life and Adventures in
Uganda. The Religious Tract Society, London.
B.; Garnett, R. trans. (1958) On the Track of Unknown Animals. Rupert
W. (1913) On Some Unidentified Beasts.
The Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society, III(6), pp.
H. (1902) The Uganda Protectorate.
Hutchinson & Co., London.
G. L. (1911) A Hand-book of Luganda.
Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London.
is one of several familiar spirits associated with sorcerers and witchcraft in
Zambia. Malomba appear as snakes with human heads and share the features and
emotions of their owners. As malomba are obtained through deliberate sorcery in
order to kill enemies or steal food, anyone suspected of having an ilomba is up
to no good. That said, powerful chiefs and hunters are said to have their own
malomba to protect them from witchcraft. Owners of malomba are usually male.
sorcerers can make malomba in a number of ways. Most commonly, a mixture of
certain medicines and water is made and placed on a piece of bark. Five duiker
horns are placed next to this. A plait of luwamba
or mbamba (spiky grass) is made to
about 15-18 inches long and 0.5-1 inch wide; the duiker horns are placed at one
end of this plait. Fingernail parings from the client are put in the horns, and
blood taken from the client’s forehead and chest are mixed with the medicine.
Some of the concoction is drunk by the client, while the rest is sprinkled onto
the plait with a second luwamba
plait. After the first sprinkling, the plait turns ash-white. The second
sprinkling turns it into a snake. The third gives it a head and shoulders that
resemble the client in miniature, including any jewelry present. The shoulders
soon fade away to leave only the head.
then addresses its master. “You know and recognize me, you see that our faces
are similar?” When the client answers both questions in the affirmative, then
they are given their ilomba.
obtained, an ilomba will live wherever the owner desires it to, but usually
this is in riverside reeds. Soon it makes its first demand for the life of a
person. The owner can then designate the chosen target, and the ilomba kills
the victim. It kills by eating its victim’s life, by consuming their shadow, or
by simply feasting on their flesh or swallowing them whole. Then it returns and
crawls over its owner, licking them. People who keep mulomba become sleek and
fat and clean, are possessed of long life, and will not die until all their
relatives are dead. This comes at a steep price, however, as the ilomba will hunger
again, and continue eating lives. If it is not allowed to feed itself, its
owner will grow weak and ill until the ilomba feeds again.
unnatural death toll will be noticed, and a sorcerer is called in to divine the
hiding place of the ilomba. To kill an ilomba, a sorcerer will sprinkle nsompu medicine around its suspected
lair. This causes the water level to rise and the ground to rumble. First fish,
then crabs, and finally the ilomba itself appear. The snake is promptly shot
with a poisoned arrow – and its owner feels its pain. They die at the same
H. (1923) In Witch-bound Africa. J.
B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.
(1975) Revelation and Divination in
Ndembu Ritual. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
White, C. M. N. (1948) Witchcraft, Divination and Magic among the
Balovale Tribes. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute,
18(2), pp. 81-104.
The Kongamato, “overwhelmer of boats”, is a river-shutter of Kasempa District in northern Zambia. It is known from Kaonde folklore, and the Jiundu Swamp is one of its favorite haunts. The fact that the Jiundu has historically been a haven for thieves, murderers, and assorted lowlifes is probably relevant.
A kongamato is a kind of bird, or rather a lizard with the membranous wings of a bat. It has a wingspan of 4 to 7 feet across and lacks feathers, its body covered in skin. It is mostly red in color. The beak is armed with sharp teeth. Claims that the kongamato is a surviving pterosaur are best forgotten.
Kongamatos live downstream of river fords. There they cause the river to stop flowing and the water level to rise, overwhelming and tipping over canoes. Sometimes a canoe will slow down and come to a dead stop despite the paddler’s best efforts; this is because a kongamato has seized the boat from underneath the water.
Few people see a kongamato and live, and the kongamato itself is invulnerable and immortal, eating any projectile thrown at it and leaving no physical trace of itself behind. When it kills people it devours only the two little fingers, the two little toes, the earlobes, and the nostrils. That said, four deaths attributed to the kongamato in 1911 did not record any such mutilation; more likely, then, that a kongamato caused their deaths by the flooding of the Mutanda River near Lufumatunga.
To ward off kongamato attack, the charm known as muchi wa kongamato is used. This consists of mulendi tree root ground and mixed with water. The resulting paste is placed in a bark cup. When crossing a dangerous ford, the mixture is sprinkled onto the water using a bundle of mulendi bark strips. This wards off the kongamato and its floods.
Melland, F. H. (1923) In Witch-bound Africa. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.
The Velachif is a giant and hideous snake found above the lake of Tenochtitlan. It is amphibious like a crocodile, and extremely venomous; death is virtually certain if bitten by one. A velachif has a rounded head, a parrot-like beak, and a colorful, predominantly red body.
The inhabitants of Mexico frequently hunt it. Its flesh is of excellent quality.
Thevet, A. (1575) La Cosmographie Universelle. Guillaume Chaudiere, Paris.
Some creatures are too bizarre for even the most credulous and dedicated of cryptozoologists. The Row of Western New Guinea is one of those. Even Bernard Heuvelmans could not accept this particular testimony.
Its name is derived from the sound it makes – rooow, roow, rroow, row! – a hissing roar, or perhaps a roaring hiss. It is a hump-backed, massive reptilian creature forty feet long, with a snaky neck and tail. The small, beaked, turtle-like head is adorned with a bony frill and armed with a sharp beak. The front legs are shorter than the hind legs, allowing the row to rear up. The bulky body is a light brown-yellow, blending in with the reedy swamps it lives in, and is covered with uneven scales like armor plate. Along the back is a line of triangular plates. The long tail is tipped with a single twenty-pound keratinous spike. In cross-section the spike resembles a series of stacked cones; it is 18 inches long and six inches wide at the base. One side of the spike is worn down as it drags along the ground.
The row was encountered by Charles “Cannibal” Miller and his wife Leona during a whirlwind honeymoon in the New Guinean jungle. Considering that they lived with the Kirrirri, an as-yet-undiscovered tribe of cannibals, and were served roasted babies to insure fertility, seeing a living dinosaur was just another event for them.
It started when Leona noticed the Kirrirri using implements that resembled elephants’ tusks. These proved to be row horns, and Charles managed to make it understood that he wanted to see the creature it came from. The Kirrirri obliged, and the journey took a few days to get to the row’s habitat.
They found a row in a swampy, reedy delta between two arid plateaus. The sight of it was enough to paralyze Miller with fear, but not long enough to prevent him from filming. The row’s head rose from the reeds on the end of a long neck, and its tail lashed as it called out. It reared several times, glancing in the direction of the whirring camera, before slithering away and disappearing behind a stand of dwarf eucalyptus.
That was the first and last written account of the fabled row. Miller did not bring back or photograph any of the row’s tail-spikes. The film he took of the row was allegedly shown to select individuals, but there was no word of any saurian creature in it. Even the Kirrirri, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, do not exist. And, taken at face value, the row appears to combine features from sauropods, ceratopsians, and stegosaurs – all unrelated dinosaur lineages.
Heuvelmans, B.; Garnett, R. trans. (1958) On the Track of Unknown Animals. Rupert Hart-Davis, London.
Miller, C. (1939) Cannibal Caravan. Lee Furman Inc., New York.
The Nguluka or Siani can be found in Malawi’s Chitipa district, specifically in the Mafinga Ridge and the Matipa Forest in the Misuku Hills. Anyone who sees it dies.
A nguluka is a flying snake that looks like a guineafowl, complete with feathers and wings. In fact, only its fanged head is that of a snake. It makes a crowing call that sounds like “yiio, yiio”.
Ngulukas live in caves and tree branches in the deep forest. Their lairs are strewn with the bones of their victims. These snakes feed on figs and like to roost in fig trees. They are most active at night, especially on moonlit nights when the figs ripen.
Hargreaves, B. J. (1984) Mythical and Real Snakes of Chitipa District. The Society of Malawi Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 40-52.
The Nyuvwira is an enormous snake restricted to the Chitipa District of Malawi. It is found in association with minerals, especially precious minerals of monetary value. It can also be found in the mines of South Africa. It is known as Inifwira in Sukwa.
A nyuvwira has eight heads and is the largest snake in the world. It generates electricity and lights at night. It lives underground, which is fortunate as it is extremely toxic. When it moves (about every 200 years) it causes death and disaster. Airplanes flying over a nyuvwira crash.
The skin of a nyuvwira, held in one’s pocket, prevents planes from moving and is a powerful charm for wealth. To kill a nyuvwira one must construct a spiral hut and line it with razors, then entice the snake in by ringing bells. It will crawl over the razors and cut itself to death.
Hargreaves, B. J. (1984) Mythical and Real Snakes of Chitipa District. The Society of Malawi Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 40-52.
The Falajitax snakes are both violent ogres and benevolent rain-bringers. The Makka of Paraguay believe that they come from humid areas and bring the water with them wherever they go. Most falajitax live in the Chaco forests.
A falajitax has a head like that of a rhea. When it rears up with its body out of sight, it looks exactly like a rhea, and fools many hunters into coming too close. It wears earrings. Its massive serpent body is beautifully colored with eye-catching stripes. But a falajitax need not stick to one form, as it can assume any appearance it wishes, including human and equine guises. A falajitax disguised as a horse can tempt people into riding it, galloping with them into a lake where they drown.
At best, the falajitax are intelligent creatures that can be reasoned with by shamans. Falajitax often protect sources of honey in the forest, and the shaman can placate them by singing and soothing them with a sort of balm. A group of Makka and their shaman were permitted to harvest honey, and the falajitax next guided them to their secret stores of honey. The snakes finally appeared in the shaman’s dreams, telling him that they would live in peace with the Makka.
The falajitax that chased a rhea-hunter was much less friendly. With its head raised, it would beckon him to approach, then lie down and roll up as he came closer. When he discovered the deception, he rode off at full speed, with the falajitax following close behind, jumping from branch to branch like a monkey. When the hunter reached a burned field, the falajitax stopped moving, for such places are unpleasant to the snake. The man returned with other villagers and killed the helpless falajitax, taking its beautiful skin, but after they hung it out to dry it started to rain. The torrential downpour stopped only after they had thrown the skin away.
At worst, the falajitax are little more than anthropophagous monsters. They often swallow people alive, but victims can escape by cutting out the serpent’s heart from within – a difficult proposition, considering that a falajitax has multiple decoy hearts around its neck, with the real heart located in its tail. It took two days for one hunter to find the falajitax’s heart and slay it; by then, his hair and clothes had been dissolved and his skin was decomposing. Fortunately for him, his wife’s magic comb restored him to health. But if the falajitax decides to kill first, then there is no escape. The snake constricts its prey to death and then introduces its tail in its victim’s anus, making it walk like a macabre puppet.
Arenas, P.; Braunstein, J. A.; Dell’Arciprete, A. C.; Larraya, F. P.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1991) Folk Literature of the Makka Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.