Friday 21 August 2009

The Popobawa , hysteria or reality?

The Popobawa, the name is derived from the Swahili words for "bat" and "wing", was first reported to have appeared on Pemba, Zanzibar , in 1972. More attacks were reported in the 1980s, again in April of 1995, and more recently in 2000, 2001 and 2005.. Attacks appear to coincide with political turmoil such as elections. The attacks in 2001 though were not at the time of an election.

This creature is described as being small like a dwarf or goblin with a single large Cyclops eye, small sharply pointed ears, wings that resemble those of a giant bat and talons. It is said to have an acrid smell and attacks and rapes men in their beds.
Sceptics claim that these experiences are a result of a hypnotic type hallucination during a "waking dream". Paralysis, a sense of being weighted down, floating sensations, and encounters with otherworldly beings are often all unifying characteristics of this sort of experience.

Article from 2001:

Fear has struck residents of the Zanzibar Islands after rumours of the re-emergence of a sexually voracious ghost that attacks people while they sleep in their beds at night.

Many Zanzibaris are now refusing to sleep in their houses as they believe it only preys on people in the comfort of their own beds.The ghost or genie goes by the name of Popo Bawa and people believe that it sodomises its victims, most of whom are men.

In recent years the residents on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian islands claimed that Popo Bawa only visited the islanders during voting, such as in the contentious general elections in 1995 and 2000.But to the surprise of many this current ghost has reappeared when there is no polling of any kind. In the latest panic, he is said to be striking in the north of Zanzibar island as well as in central Pemba. Zanzibar has semi-autonomous status. People claim his presence in a house is revealed by an acrid smell and a puff of smoke. Victims then speak of being in a trance or dreamlike state as they are molested.

And, so the story goes, if they do not reveal what has happened then Popo Bawa will strike the next night. A previous ghost, known for attacking children, was reported to have terrorised the islands for six months. Source:

And this article from 2005:

Men in parts of Tanzania's main city, Dar es Salaam, are living in fear of a night-time sex attacker. A BBC correspondent says the attacks are being blamed by some on a demon called "Popo Bawa" meaning winged bat. Some men are staying awake or sleeping in groups outside their homes. Others are smearing themselves with pig's oil, believing this repels attacks. Reports of the demon's existence have been common for many years in Zanzibar, where locals claim it originated. The BBC's John Ngahyoma in Dar es Salaam says not many people actually believe that the demon exists and there have been no sightings. But Mbaruku Ibrahim, who hails from Zanzibar, says the story of the demon is common there and people in his village on Pemba island sleep beside a huge fire outside their houses whenever it is said to appear. The story goes that the bat is able to transform itself into a man at night and it has also been blamed for rapes of women. Sheikh Yahya Hussein, a prominent astrologer in Tanzania, claims that the demon is a spirit that is unleashed by witches to torment their opponents. Belief in witchcraft and superstitions is widespread in Tanzania, especially in rural areas. Source:

In the last report it also attacks women and it apparently tells it’s victims they must tell others about the attack or it will come back. It sounds like a brutal form of electioneering to me and a dash of hysteria thrown it. However you cannot dismiss people’s beliefs so easily as I have seen evidence of people believing they will die , actually die. The mind is a strange thing and we can often convince ourselves of things that have not happened are real and pass a lie detector test based on it. Being afraid of ghosts does not mean you are stupid, but are convinced they exist. I wonder also if any medical examinations were undertaken on the victims, I can find no record of that, and it would prove if they had been attacked by a person(s) or unknown creature.

An academic paper on the history of the Popobawa which says it first started in 1965. Does not come to any definite conclusions.

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