(Creature Feature Playlist)
She comes out of the woods and from the moment you catch her eye, you can’t look away. Dark hair, so long it hangs about her naked body like a cloak. As your eyes are drawn to roam her bronze skin, you notice that her legs are twisted.
They point behind her.
In that instant, the spell is broken and her smoldering eyes grow wide in anger. You run through the dark, as she follows on jerky backward legs. You have met La Ciguapa.
La Ciguapa is one of the most recognizable folklore figures in the Dominican Republic. It has been the subject of books and movies, the stories around it are fascinating and diverse.
Some speak of the Ciguapa as a timid and shy being, one that runs from humans and communicates through chirps and twitters, mimicking birds. They hide in the deep wood, where they are seldom seen.
However, the more common myth paints a much darker picture.
A Flesh-Eating Siren
La Ciguapa is said to lure men with their bewitching gaze and seductive bodies. They either mesmerize their victims or simply entice them with their looks. Once the poor man is in their lair, it is not a night of passion that awaits them. Instead, La Ciguapa kills them, if they are lucky, or begins to eat them alive.
Depictions here start to differ. Some tales have La Ciguapa transforming into a bird-like creature and rending its victim with powerful claws. Others show a gentler side, one where the creature simply abducts the men to use as mates. Though that gentleness is short-lived because once the men have served their purpose, they are served as a snack.
That ties into an interesting story around a poor man who was unfortunate enough to meet this creature. A man was wandering deep into the woods around his town when he came across La Ciguapa. The monster did not rush him and he avoided her eyes, having heard that once you look into them it is all over for you. It tugged at his clothes and began to make chirping sounds. As the sounds grew louder and more insistent, he felt a strong urge to follow the creature, to touch it.
Instead, he turned and ran back to his home, to his wife and child. La Ciguapa followed him and upon seeing his wife, flew into a rage. Attacking the woman and killing her. This myth and its variations warn how jealous the creature can become if it takes a liking to you.
La Ciguapa isn’t the only being with backward facing feet to show up throughout history. The ancient Greeks told stories of the Blemmyes, a race of malformed creatures. They were depicted as either having the heads of dogs, no heads at all but a large mouth on their bellies or with feet that pointed behind them.
In Brazil, there is a cryptid known as the Curupira. It is regarded as a diminutive mischief maker, also with legs turned the wrong way around. The other traits of La Ciquapa echo the succubus, a female sex demon. Luring men away through seduction or a kind of hypnosis, so that they can be eaten.
And of course, there is the obvious connection between La Ciquapa and the myth of the Siren. The Siren of Greek and Roman legend would sing to men as they sailed past, hypnotizing them to walk off the boat and drown. Other tales about them described the Siren as birdlike women, just as some describe the Ciquapa.
My take on La Ciquapa is one of fascination, much like those who grew up listening to tales of the creature. Even if it is used as a warning for men who might stray, it does make you wonder about what might be watching you from the shadows of the woods.
(If you enjoyed La Ciquapa, please feel free to check out other fascinating cryptids under the Creature Feature category.)