Jungle Stories

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”—Joseph Campbell


So last Thursday, my site’s theme (template) broke – a thing that I didn’t even know could happen – which is why for three days my normally cool website looked generic and crappy. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, and I couldn’t find another one that was even remotely as good. You would not believe how hard it is to find a theme in basic black that actually gives you more than a smattering of flexibility in formatting your own site. I’m beginning to think that most web developers are control freaks. It’s like they don’t want a gaudy logo and a picture of a ninja in a foil hat wielding a rubber chicken spoiling their design. Go figure.

I did finally manage to get the original theme back up, but I’m still trying to put everything back together the way that it was.* How appropriate that this happened on the same day that I posted my article on Discordianism. Eris, you little scamp!

Anyway, since I spent most of the weekend trying to get this mess fixed, I had very little time left for writing. So I threw together two short stories about a couple of things that I think are interesting, but neither of which are long enough to stand on their own. They also have something in common: they both take place in remote jungles, albeit on opposite sides of the world.


The Sulawesi Hustle

In May of 2010, Whitley Strieber received an email sent to his unknowncountry.com website from a man named Alan Lamers, a specialist in creating self-powered radio stations for secluded, rural communities. While working in Indonesia, he was scheduled to set up a station in the tiny village of Wala Wala on the island of Sulawesi. Before he left for this assignment, he was told not to wear any brightly colored clothing, only black and white, or he would Sulawesidisappear in the jungle. He assumed that this was just a local legend, but he had enough sense to know that it’s best to honor regional customs. One of the other members of his team was not so culturally sensitive and wore a pair of yellow socks, because what man doesn’t have a pair of yellow socks to wear while trekking through the jungle?

When they arrived at the village, everyone there was wearing nothing but black. They said that it was to protect them from being abducted, but they wouldn’t elaborate. While Lamers’ party was out in the jungle that afternoon, yellow socks guy was attacked by something that he couldn’t see which injured his leg. When the wound was inspected, he had what appeared to be large scratches on his calf and thigh. The locals said that he was lucky to have only been scratched. Most people who wore bright colors into the jungle never came back.

That night, the man became violently ill. He had a high fever and was projectile vomiting and they feared that he might not make it through the night. They thought that he might have malaria, but by later the next day he was fine.

When Lamers returned to the nearby city of Palopo, he visited a friend and told her about this. She then told him about a far more serious case of people disappearing in the jungle which involved two of her cousins.

One of the cousins and four of his friends went on a three day camping trip in the mountains about an hour outside of town. When they had not returned a week later, the other cousin hired a search party to look for them because it’s a poor country and the government does not send teams out to look for lost hikers.

This woman and her search party looked for the missing campers for a month. They did find her brother, but the other four people remain missing. The young man was emaciated and traumatized and did not speak for two months. When Lamers met and questioned him about the incident, he had no memory of what had happened to him or his friends.

When Lamers asked his friend what she thought had happened to him, she said that he had been taken by the jin kurcaci – little devil people. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, and the jinn are roughly equivalent in Islam to the Western concept of demons. When Lamers spoke to another friend about this, he was told that these disappearances were so common that the entire region was filled with villages whose residents wore nothing but black because they believed that this was the only safe way to move through the jungle, although sometimes even people wearing all black still vanished. Sometimes these people returned; more often they did not. This was so prevalent in the area that the natives there had just come to accept it as part of life. People were sometimes taken by these beings and that was just the way it is.

Some memories did begin to return to the young man who was missing for a month later on, and he spoke to Lamers about some of them. What he remembered and was willing to talk about was remarkable. As they were hiking, they had seemed to enter another world. They saw animals that none of them recognized, including herds of creatures that looked like horses but had huge antlers. He had also seen the jin kurcaci lurking nearby, seemingly stalking them, but EvilSmiley Facenone of the others were able to see them. He described them as others have: with tiny noses and small, black eyes and broad mouths that extend across the width of their faces. When they smile, which they apparently do fairly often, their faces take on a particularly demonic and disturbing appearance, like a real life jack-o-lantern. He did not remember what happened to his friends, but he vaguely remembered being given food by some of the jin kurcaci who seemed concerned for his health and apparently wanted him to survive and be found so that he could warn people about the dangers of the jungle. Possibly some of these creatures do not agree with the abduction of humans by their own kind, or maybe it’s just not a place that’s safe for people to be.

The fact that the only one of the hikers who saw these beings was the only one to return may not be an accident, although I don’t propose to know what the connection might be. Whether the others could not physically detect these creatures or if they were being careful not to be seen by anyone but the lone survivor we have no way of knowing. One of the sketchy details that the young man did remember was that they were somehow trying to help him save one of his friends. Whether they were trying to save his life due to an illness or injury or save him by helping him return home is unknown.

In my article on the Jersey Devil, I proposed the possibility that there may be places of spatial or dimensional instability where the veil between realities is sometimes torn and could be passed through involuntarily. And anyone familiar with the folklore of Europe will undoubtedly recognize the similarities between the jin kurcaci and stories of people being taken by fairies to their realm and then being returned, sometimes years later, and sometimes with little or no memory of where they have been all that time. It’s hard to believe that this is just a coincidence. Maybe someday some very confused Indonesian villagers will come wandering out of the jungle not knowing where they have been all this time. It might have happened already. These places are so remote that it’s doubtful that any outsiders would know about it. Alan Lamers seems to be the only Westerner who’s even aware of and willing to talk about it.

To conclude on a more positive note, Lamers also told a story on Streiber’s Dreamland podcast about a man in this area who was attacked by a crocodile and dragged from his boat. He had been missing for two weeks and had been given up for dead when he stunned his whole village by showing up one day in perfect health. He said that he had been healed by the jin kurcaci and then sent home. Some of the things in these stories do mesh with the Muslim belief that not all jinn are evil, but that it’s still best to keep your distance when possible.



Something dark and evil lurks deep in the forests of South America, or maybe it’s something cute and cuddly…if not for the smell. People who don’t know any better have called the mapinguari (pronunciations vary; pick one that you like) the South American Bigfoot. Actually, Bigfoot is the South American Bigfoot since these creatures have been reported from the southern tip of Chile all the way up to Alaska and on every continent but Antarctica. The Mapinguari arvingmapinguari is its own creature and deserves to be recognized as such. And since they weigh in at an estimated 500 pounds and have long, sharp claws, I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell them otherwise.

You cryptid fans who think that all of these creatures are just undiscovered species probably just roll your eyes at people like me who think that there’s something paranormal about them, despite the facts that no one has ever managed to catch one and some giant lake monsters live in lakes that are only 10’ deep. In this case, however, not only do I think that the mapinguari isn’t paranormal, I also don’t think that its species has yet to be discovered.

Mapinguari are described as being six to eight feet tall when standing erect and are massively built. They are covered with long fur, either red or black or both in most cases, and have a short, wide tail. They usually walk on all four backward-facing feet, but they sometimes stand upright and walk on just their hind legs. They have long claws and are said to be able to move silently through the forest, although it’s doubtful that they would be able to sneak up on you. They are said to give off a powerful stench that some have described as being a combination of feces and rotting flesh, so people usually smell them coming before they ever see them. They also have a fierce and distinctive roar that sounds like a deranged man screaming in the jungle.

The reason that the natives are so afraid of them, other than their size, seems to have more to do with the superstitions that surround them than with anything that they have actually done. In fact, there is no indication that one of them has ever attacked a human. They seem to be more fierce looking than actually aggressive. Nevertheless, the locals consider them to be magical, evil creatures, mostly because they are said to have the ability to confuse and disorient people, sometimes to the point that they fall to the ground paralyzed and helpless. In addition, they are said to be impervious to bullets and arrows due to their thick, scaly skin, although how anyone has seen their skin through all of that fur remains a mystery to me. Some also claim that they have only one eye in the center of their forehead and an extra mouth on their belly. Those last two are probably just myths and/or embellishments made to make these creatures seem more diabolical, although there may be more to it than that, which we’ll get to later. Their power to paralyze is more widely accepted and has been reported by numerous witnesses, including some who never saw the beast at all and only knew that it was nearby from its powerful smell.

Enter biologist Dr. David Oren. He had spent a number of years living in the Amazonian rainforest and had heard many stories about the evil mapinguari. For a long time, he considered these to be nothing but a silly superstition, but one day a light clicked on in his brain and he had a revelation. It occurred to him that what people were describing sounded a lot like a megatherium – a giant ground sloth that had once been common throughout the Americas but was thought to have been extinct for 13,000 years. Once he started looking into the stories more closely, he became convinced that this was the case.

The physical descriptions (minus the one eye and extra mouth) fit the megatherium to a tee. Even the backward-facing feet made sense when he considered that these sloths walked on their knuckles, just like apes do with their arms when they’re on all fours. Their long claws, while intimidating, were used mainly for digging up roots and peeling off vegetation. They are believed to have been herbivores, which would also explain why they have never harmed anyone, even those who were temporarily paralyzed.

Megatherium SkeletonAnd yes, Dr. Oren does believe that they can paralyze people, but it has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with biology. He thinks that the powerful smell that they emit contains scent molecules that act as a relatively mild neurotoxin which confuses and sometimes paralyzes predators – a very effective defense mechanism for a slow-moving creature that lived in a time of much larger and fiercer hunters than any that we have today. A hammered sabre tooth would be much easier to get away from than a sober one. And although I still can’t figure out how anyone knows what mapinguari skin looks like under all of that fur, it does turn out that skin remnants of megatheriums reveal that their hides contained ossicles—little bone chips similar to that found in alligator skin which provided them with a sort of natural armor. If the mapinguari are actually megatheriums, this could explain why bullets have no effect on them. The similarities between the two just kept on piling up, and one might even suspect at this point that Dr. Oren was starting to use his brain as something more than a file cabinet, which almost never goes over well with the established scientific community, especially when it comes from a field operative doing actual work in the real world.

When the experts argue that the megathrium has been extinct for thousands of years, generally believed to be the result of having been wiped out by human hunters, Oren counters that the deep jungles of South America have always been sparsely populated and that it isn’t too difficult to believe that some of them could have survived. It seems to me that Oren’s detractors are only so quick to scoff at his ideas because they have already made up their minds as to what is possible and impossible. For those of you who agree with them, I suggest you look up the coelacanth and then consider that they were supposed to have disappeared millions of years ago. And that’s not the only creature that was supposed to have been extinct and turned out not to be.

The one discrepancy that I haven’t been able to make sense of is that the megatherium was supposed to have been the size of an elephant. To the best of my knowledge, no one who has seen a mapinguari has described it as being anywhere near that large. Conversely, none of the photos of the skeletons of megatheriums that I’ve been able to find indicate that it was that big, although some of them do look much larger than what the witnesses in South America have reported. It sounds to me more like it might be a mylodon, but what do I know? I’d never heard of a mylodon until yesterday.

As for the alleged extra mouth on the mapinguari’s stomach, sloths do have a powerful scent gland, and it’s possible that the megatherium’s is/was on its belly. Maybe, but not likely. It’s supposed one eye on the forehead could be nothing more than a marking on its fur. I’m just spitballing here, but a creature with long black fur and black eyes like a sloth could appear to have no eyes at all. A light spot of fur on the forehead could be misinterpreted by an astonished witness as an eye, but I’m still more inclined to believe that both of these are just fabrications to make the mapinguari seem more demonic.

Giant Ground SlothA couple of parting thoughts:

I don’t know whether these creatures were named sloths after the cardinal sin or if the sin was named after them because they seem so lazy, but the title of this article is probably the first time that an exclamation point has ever been used in connection with one of these animals. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone could be afraid of a creature that moves that slowly, even one 8’ tall. One of these even made a cameo appearance on a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. So just like on Halloween, please remember that not everything that looks like a monster necessarily deserves that label.

And finally, because I just can’t resist, I have to point out that the scientific name of megatherium is Latin and simply means “great beast,” which is, by the way, almost identical to Aleister Crowley’s magickal name of To Mega Therion, The Great Beast, as in the Beast from the Book of Revelations. I can’t help but wonder if Crowley would still have chosen this as his occult appellation had he known that it could also be interpreted as “giant ground sloth.” See what happens when you give yourself a grandiose title, kids? More often than not, you just end up looking silly.


*Most likely the break was caused by the theme’s last update. I remain convinced that most software updates are designed to take something that wasn’t a problem and turn it into one.

and all the devils are here


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