Teeny Haunts: The Dark Watchers

The Dark Watchers are shadow people who materialize in the mountains of Santa Lucia California. Many people have witnessed these strange folk, often singly but sometimes in groups. I read of one account where two motorists were surrounded by these glowing eyed figures.

Steinbeck wrote about them in his 1938 short story “Flight”.

“Pepe looked up to the top of the next dry withered ridge. He saw a dark form against the sky, a man’s figure standing on top of a rock, and he glanced away quickly not to appear curious. When a moment later he looked up again, the figure was gone.”

Short Story Collection: The Long Valley

This experience of the dark watchers vanishing when you look away is a common one. People glimpse them while driving or walking only to have the figures vanish upon closer inspection.

The poet Robinson Jeffers also commented on the shadowy observers:

“He thought it might be one of the watchers, who are often seen in this length of coast-range, forms that look human to human eyes, but certainly are not human. They come from behind ridges to watch. He was not surprised when the figure turning toward him in the quiet twilight showed his own face. Then it melted and merged into the shadows beyond it.”

“Such Counsels You Gave Me” from 1937

I used the idea of them melting into the shadows for the illustrations.

One theory posits that swaying trees cast against fog create these specters. Our pattern-seeking brains misinterpret the image (a phenomenon is known as pareidolia). This is similar to how a Rorschach test works.

Yet the accounts of people who have witnessed are too varied to be simply a trick of the brain. One eye witness stated that the dark watcher waved back and smoked a cigar.

Whoever these mysterious figures are, they seem to not want to harm us. Still, let’s leave them be. Just in case.

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: The Night Hag

The idea that some hideous creature slinks into your room at night to suffocate you both enthralls and terrifies me. Obviously the myth grew up around the sin of gluttony — don’t gorge yourself or else! But it also has some science behind it. People who stuff themselves will have breathing problems, especially if they sleep on their backs.

Digging down into the legend, I found that many cultures have this scream-stealing monster. In Moroccan culture it’s known as Bou Rattat — a demon that presses down on the sleeper’s body so they can’t move or speak.

Slavic mythology calls it the Notsnitsa (or the Night Maiden). She was known torment children as well, so that would make a frightening bedtime story. (Hey kids, if you wake up with the Notsnitsa in the room, don’t bother screaming… because you can’t.) Apparently a stone with a hole in the center serves as protection. (Where would you find one of those?)

In Spanish culture you have the Pisadeira, a demon woman who sits on your full stomach while you doze at night. Her victims are always people who have eaten too much. This is where I primarily pulled from for the illustrations.

In England, the creature is the Night Hag. In fact the word nightmare was coined to describe the shortness of breath you have awaking from such a terror.

Scientifically, there is a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, in which a person wakes to consciousness, but cannot move their body. Laying in bed, totally immobilized, some people feel a chilling presence in the room.

Maybe this Night Hag is real and sneaks into our bedrooms at night, slurping up our fear and screams of terror. Now where did I put my stone with a hole in it?

Happy haunts,

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: The Crows

I have always been attracted to birds, crows especially. Many of them flock around my house and in the mornings, I can see the crows “commenting” on the kids trudging to school. It’s like they are a bunch of gossiping people.

I am always polite to crows. I read about a study where scientists donned face masks (the plastic Halloween type) and one scientist was mean to the birds while the other was neutral. Well the crows didn’t the like mean one much, dive-bombing him constantly.

Here’s the catch. The scientists came back every year or so with the masks. Thirty years later, the crows still didn’t like the “mean-naked” figure. Despite the fact that the original crows who experienced this were long gone. So the crows have taught their children to recognize and attack people they don’t like.

Message: be nice to crows.

Happy haunting.

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: The Demon Car of Proctor Road

I had no idea I lived so close to such a haunted road. Apparently the dirt road that connects my city to Jamul has all sorts of haunts associated with it — a ghost lady, a goat man and of course a demon car.

Digging into this legend, I can’t help but wonder if it was inspired by the 1977 film The Car, where James Brolin has to defeat, you guessed it, a demon possessed car. The movie has a few problems, but the car design is exceptional and I used it as a basis for the illustration of the Proctor Valley version.

The mouth that opens up at the end was inspired by the cartoon Regular Show, specifically the episode Ello Gov’nor. This is where a British taxi chases Rigby down, but it’s grill opens up into a mouth.

There are also elements of Stephen King wrapped up in the Proctor Valley legend. Not so much Christine, but rather Salem’s Lot. The movie did the best they could, but I recall in the story, King describes the car in much the same way it was depicted in the 1977 Car movie.

I haven’t yet experienced the Demon Car myself. It’s supposed to happen to travelers who embark on the dirt road at night. Once, I did travel down the bumpy path at sunset and behind me loomed a pair of headlights. They never sped up to my number.

All the same, I pushed my car as fast as it would go. Just in case.

Stay haunted…

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: Mad Mary part 2

The counselors decided that on the night we should camp out of doors, in the woods by the lake, that would be an excellent time to continue the story of Mad Mary.

They explained that she had long, needle-like fingernails and would rip open the stomachs of cows, gorging on the innards. They even added flourishes about missing cattle from nearby farms.

I don’t know why they chose to torment us poor kids. I guess they thought we would sleep better?

Not me. I lay awake all night, startled by even the slightest rustle in the woods.

Thus Mad Mary became a permanent part of my psyche.

Stay Haunted…

Tim