Wednesday, December 09, 2009

These are your Monsters

One of the earliest scariest stories I heard when I was a kid in the '80s was about the slasher of Broadway Centrum.

I'm sure you've heard of this one: a couple was walking to their car parked at a dark section of the street at night after watching a show at Broadway Centrum. Unfortunately, when they got to the car, they saw all four of the tires had been slashed. So the boyfriend decides he'll find some help while the girlfriend stays inside the car for him. The girlfriend waits... and waits... and waits. But no sign of the returning boyfriend.

Finally, she sees a returning figure but it's not the boyfriend. She's nervous but she ignores the guy, thinks it's somebody passing. (Obviously, she makes sure the car doors are locked.) But the guy heads toward the car and starts knocking at the window. Freaked, she starts honking the horn to attract attention. The guy is scared off and runs away-- but not before he throws something at the car. The object lands on top of the car's hood and the girl sees its the boyfriend's severed head.

Sound familiar? It should be: it's even listed in Snopes, and even made into a movie.

It's fascinating to see though, how a Western urban legend has managed to make to Asian shores and even managed the trick of adapting itself to local cultures. Reminds me of the concept of 'memes as viruses'.

As part of myths and legends that seem to translate from one culture to another, I've come across a WW2-era story about the Kumakatok (i.e. 'Those who Knock') in this book while doing research. It's strange because, among all the mythical monsters and legends in the book, the kumakatok is the only one that has a different cultural aspect from the rest. In fact, aside from the seemingly non-Filipino flavor to this legend, this one seems to be the only urban-related mythical beings in the lot as well.

To wit: the kumakatok is a trio of supernatural women dressed in robes that would knock on the doors of a number of random houses in Metro Manila at night. Usually those houses the trio would visit, some terrible incident would befall a member of that household.

One night during WW2, most of the houses and buildings in the city were visited by the mysterious beings before they disappeared. The battle of Manila soon followed, which killed 100,000 men, women and children and destroyed most of the buildings.

Looking back, these beings in comparison seem a reversal of of the Angel of Death that visited Egypt and slew those whose doors were not painted with lamb's blood. Reversal because rather than saving those whose doors were marked, those people actually die.

It does make me wonder though why the kumakatok don't feel like Filipino monsters for me. Anyone else know a mythology that involves the marking of doors?

What do you think?

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