Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Things That Go Bump in the Night–Popobawa

Most of the creatures we’ll look at during this A-Z blog have their roots in ancient history. Except this one.

According to the story, an Arab sheik released a Djinn sometime in the 1970s. The sheik planned to use the Jinn to take vengeance on the sheik’s neighbors, but Djinns being Djinns and sheiks being sheiks, nothing worked out as planned. The Djinn escaped from the sheik’s power, but continued to wreak havoc.

Popobawa is a fairly local phenomena, causing panic mostly on the island of Pemba near Tanzania in Africa. The name means bat-wing and the shadow of the creature is supposed to look like a giant bat. But he’s a shapeshifter and can take on human or animal form. He attacks at night, though he has   been seen in the daytime.


His M.O. varies from slaps and lesser physical aggression to sexual assault on men, women, and children. He seems to prefer men—men who are loudly skeptical of the paranormal in general and Popobawa in particular. A sulfurous odor often accompanies the attacks and the victims sometimes hear the scuffling of claws and wings on the roof prior to the attack.

The Popobawa encourages his victims to tell the wide world about what happened and threatens a more violent attack the next night  if they fail to do so. The beast is also said to become the most angry when his existence is denied.

Panics occur most often in Zanzibar, throughout the island of Pemba and in the north and west of Unguja (Zanzibar) island, including Zanzibar town. Episodes have also been reported in Dar es Salaam and other towns on the mainland coast of Tanzania.

In 1995, the Popobawa allegedly caused a major outbreak  of assaults which spread from Pemba the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago, and across to Dar es Salaam and other urban centers on the East African coast.

Sightings occur regularly, some say rising and falling with the country’s election cycle. Whatever the motivation, sightings come in waves with no reports for years and then a number of them within weeks. The latest wave of assaults attributed to the Popobawa was in 2007.

So we are overdue!

Tomorrow–The Questing Beast

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