Search This Blog

Friday, December 29, 2023

Decemystery (2022.3) 29: The Vampire Caterpillar of Scotland


A needless bit of detail: I’m listening to “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith while I write this. A lovely piece of music for a story like this; it’s my specialty to have inappropriate background noise while writing about absolute silliness.

As I have said countless times, I pick some stories solely for the name. It’s just how I operate; I know that plenty of folks gravitate toward eye-catching titles. Trust me; I have friends I talk to—they’re just Internet friends. Nonetheless, if I ask them which story piques their interest more, ones like The Space Penguins of Tuscumbia will be chosen over The Kecksburg UFO Incident nine times out of ten.

Names carry a lot of weight, and that’s one reason I chose today’s story. With a name like The Vampire Caterpillar of Scotland, how could you not want to learn about it? Vampires are awesome, and caterpillars are interesting. Put them together, and you have an unbeatable duo! Right? Well, the only way to find out is to dive into this enigmatic tale of vampirism in the form of a giant creepy crawly! Also, I choked on a piece of a chocolate chip cookie shortly before writing this part. Still listening to Aerosmith, by the way.

Blood For the Blood Caterpillar, Skulls For the Skull Butterfly!

So, here’s something quirky about today’s story. I found it on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki, which you should be familiar with if you’ve read this blog before. While snooping around the web for more information, I found that this was on that Wiki not once but twice. It’s under two different names; the first is Vampire Caterpillar, and the second is Giant Vampire Caterpillar. For some reason, the former gives a different name to the eyewitness (Godfrey). I have no idea why that is, so I’ll be using the more commonly given name (Geoffrey). The latter of the two links has more information and was made five years after the not-as-giant vampire caterpillar. So I’m guessing whoever made it was either unaware of the first article or didn’t want to edit it (or didn’t know how to).

Now then, onto the story proper! Our story originates from the 1978 book Creatures of the Outer Edge by Jerome Clarke and Loren Coleman. If you’re curious, I did not buy this book to find additional information as I have no money to spend. You can thank Google for not letting me run ads on this blog.

Anyways, within the pages of the aforementioned book is a very peculiar little tale from Edinburgh, Scotland. If you’re curious as to where the story was first found, we’ll get to that later. Now, reportedly, on November 23, 1904, a 23-year-old man named Geoffrey Anderson was walking home. It was dark outside, though the exact time isn’t known; the most detail I could find was on a blog called Bridge to Magonia that says it was “evening.” So I’ll pretend it was a foggy, foreboding Scottish evening.

That spooky atmosphere didn’t deter Geoffrey, but that was about to change. As he made his way by a shop, he saw a horse and carriage, which was about 20 yards (18 meters) away. That guess was apparently given by Geoffrey, and I want to say that I have absolutely no idea if they use yards in Scotland. I tried to look it up, and I was unable to get a concrete answer. Regardless, the horse stood across from the previously mentioned store. Nearby was a gutter where, as Geoffrey said, “it falls into the drain.”

Then, everything in the septic truck hit the fan. According to Geoffrey, a “vague black shape” roughly 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and 2-and-a-half feet (76 centimeters) “high” rose out of the gutter. It lacked any noticeable legs. Topping things off, it had an hourglass shape to it.

All of that makes me envision this creature as more of a slug rather than a caterpillar, which I don’t need, given we’ve already covered two slug cryptids this month. God, I can’t stand slugs. They’re so disgusting looking.

Unlike a slug, though, this creature was quick. It also moved like a caterpillar—a “huge one,” as Geoffrey put it—towards the horse. Then, out of nowhere, it jumped. Out of curiosity, I decided to look up if caterpillars can jump, and to my nonexistent surprise, they can. I also checked if slugs could, and, to my surprise, they can! Take a look at the videos of the two critters jumping down below.

Okay, so the slug is thrashing more than it is jumping, but
KUOW (a part of the NPR network) had an article on if they can jump and claimed they can! So now my nightmares will be plagued with jumping caterpillars and thrashing slugs. Just what I needed. My love for writing will be why my dreams continue tormenting me.

Anyways, let’s get back on track. Yes, the giant caterpillar-like creature jumped. It leaped towards the horse’s throat and clung onto it “like a Limpet.” Then, within a second, it vanished. What is it with stories of giant insects and them disappearing this December? Also, if you don’t know what a Limpet is, it’s a type of aquatic snail; its teeth can be thirteen times stronger than regular steel. Pretty incredible stuff.

Although the creature had disappeared, the horse’s fear had not. It reared up and threw its hooves around, trying to strike whatever had landed on it. Hoofy Balboa is gonna go places, I tell ya!

At some point, presumably in the immediate aftermath, a passer-by came along. Seeing the spooked horse, they went up to the horse’s head and, with Geoffrey’s assistance, calmed it down.

Geoffrey ends his report with a couple of interesting details. The first is that, despite the evening having been dark, the streets were well-lit. Amplifying this was the shop windows, which “rendered the illumination greater.” In spite of this light, he was unable to provide any clear description of the creature’s appearance.

That leads us to the second and arguably more important detail. Geoffrey said that his mind was preoccupied at the time of the sighting with “simple, everyday objects of no great moment.” This is exceedingly important, so keep it in mind for later when we get into the theories.

It’s here that the story comes to an end. I’m unsure as to who Geoffrey reported his encounter; none of the articles have that information (nor did Geoffrey say who he went to). So whether he went to a police station or simply sent a letter to someone who specialized in the field of weird stuff is up for debate.

That said, I do want to make a note of one odd quirk in this story, so let’s jump into it.

A Vampiric Hunt For More Info

As is the case when it comes to doing these write-ups nowadays, I almost always have the “research” section. I don’t know why I feel obligated to say that like it’s something new, but I always imagine that each write-up could be someone’s first.

Looking up this story isn’t going to yield a whole lot of results. There are a few results for some Wikis, like the ObscUrban Legend Wiki, Paranormal Strange Wiki (which is where I got the header image from), and Urban Legendpedia Wiki. There’s also a result for a website called h2g2 (which is named after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and was posted in 2007). All of these sites were in line with one another. Well, aside from Geoffrey’s name being Godfrey on one of the ObscUrban Legend Wiki pages. I still don’t understand where that detail originated from. Still, it’s nothing but consistency when it comes to more information and dates.

However, there’s one website that has a significant discrepancy from all of those sites. One of the first places I visited when doing research for this write-up was Exemplore, which had an article on “Scottish Vampire Legends.” It’s a pretty interesting read, especially if you’re big on legends involving vampires. 

That said, we aren’t here to go over the bigger picture. No, we’re here to make a story needlessly complicated. Nothing can ever be simple because if that were the case, my mental health would be significantly better. The version of the Vampire Caterpillar that Exemplore tells took place in either 1899 or 1900. So the year this took place is inconsistent; the date is still the same, though, as are the other initial details. Geoffrey was walking home, the street lights and shops illuminated the area, and there was a horse and carriage.

The differences don’t stop there. According to the article, Geoffrey saw the entity come out of the drain as opposed to the gutter. Admittedly, this may have been the case with the original story, but the way it was worded made it sound like it emerged from the gutter. Here’s that part for the sake of transparency:

Suddenly from the gutter, where it falls into the drain, rose a vague black shape about four feet long and two and a half feet high, but without any visible legs.

To me, it sounds like the entity emerged from the gutter and not the drain.

Moving on, though, the entity was what Geoffrey described as a “black mass,” which isn’t that much different than a “vague black shape” in my eyes. What is different, however, is how Geoffrey claims the “mass changed into a shape similar to that of an hourglass.” In its new form, it was “about four feet [1.2 meters] long and two feet [0.6 meters] wide.” Our glorious vampire caterpillar no longer has any apparent height; now, it has width.

The next few details are the same as the version we went over before. The entity lacked any noticeable legs and moved in a manner akin to a caterpillar but was faster than one. Then, it leaped onto the horse’s throat and clung to it.

Now comes the most significant variation, and it’s one that completely changes the whole story in my eyes. Once this happened, Geoffrey and a passer-by ran to the horse to assist it. However, as they did, the black mass disappeared before their eyes. Thankfully, the horse wasn’t hurt, and the two men calmed it down after a couple of minutes.

That change, above all the others, obliterated the theory I had on this story. Lucky for me, I cannot find any other websites that tell this version of events. Unlucky for me, the author of the article—Helen Murphy Howell—is from Fife, Scotland, so I imagine she would know the story better than most. It’s possible this version of events is noted in that book I mentioned at the start of this write-up, but given she doesn’t make a note of it (but h2g2’s 2007 article does), I cannot say for sure.

Nevertheless, the version I went over appeared to be a direct quote from Geoffrey, so it’s possible the version Helen told was a retelling she heard. It could have also been embellished. Or maybe the version Jerome Clarke and Loren Coleman wrote about was a retelling. I honestly have no idea, but for the sake of consistency, the theories will be centered on the one we went over. I will give my personal thoughts on the one Helen told after them. Before we get to the theories, though, there’s one last thing I want to make a note of.

i like to lik the bluud

This really has no business being mentioned, but I’m going to do it nonetheless. The entire time I was writing about this, I kept imagining the caterpillar as the insectoid version of the creepypasta character Funnymouth. It was funny—in my humble opinion.

i like to become the butterfly.

Okay, onto the theories!


1. It was a cryptid

Kicking off our theories is a rather obvious one: that it was a cryptid. As we’ve discussed this month with the story of the giant beetle (I hope I remember to add a hyperlink there once that story goes up), giant insects (heck, giant creepy crawlers in general) are by no means novel. Reports of them exist from all over the world.

However, in this case, the ability to vanish is not something I find often in cryptid reports. Usually, when it comes to that, it’s less a cryptid and more of a straight-up ghost (more on that later). However, in some other instances, they have odd supernatural powers. I should probably do a write-up on that someday.

Still, it would be wrong to exclude this theory entirely because of that one detail. So, who knows, maybe it was a more enigmatic-looking cryptid that had wings, and Geoffrey didn’t see it fly off. Or maybe, just maybe, it was less of a cryptid and more of a supernatural entity.

2. It was a hoax

Ah, what’s a story about some kind of cryptid without the theory that it was a hoax? It’s the quintessential theory for these stories!

In this case, the idea is that Geoffrey made the whole thing up. For what reason, I sadly cannot say with any degree of certainty. It may have been a prank to try and scare people, a bored youngster wanting to cause a bit of mischief. That isn’t unheard of, and it’s been done before.

However, this theory becomes a bit harder to prove if the version where Geoffrey and another person both saw the entity is true. Unless the two were friends and were both in on it. Alas, I have no idea if that’s the case. Still, it’s possible.

3. It was an alien

If I had a dollar for every mystery that featured a theory about aliens, I would be a Washington, DC, insider. For that reason, I’m glad I don’t have that kind of money.

This is admittedly a theory of my own, but I’m including it because the United Kingdom and its surrounding territories have had a lot of UFO sightings. Also, weird, indescribable masses being seen and then disappearing have often been blamed on extraterrestrials.

So, is there any evidence to back this up? Well, no. I don’t believe there was a rash of UFO sightings around this time, and as far as I can tell, this thing was only seen once. Still, I thought it was worth mentioning. You can never go wrong with aliens!

4. It was a hallucination

This ObscUrban Legend Wiki has this as a theory, and I honestly don’t know how it would work. Regardless of which version you go with, the horse was very apparently spooked and tried to attack the creature.

I digress, though. Hallucinations are a common explanation for a lot of strange experiences. Whether caused by mental health conditions, carbon monoxide, or illegal substances, you can count on them to provide strange sights.

With this, however, it’s flimsy at best. Unless Geoffrey left out a part where he tried to attack the mysterious entity and then scared the horse, it doesn’t seem likely. It’s even less likely with the version where both Geoffrey and the passer-by saw the creature. Still, collective hallucinations are a thing, but I’m unsure if they work like this.

5. It was a ghost

Animal ghosts aren’t novel by any stretch of the imagination. I remember seeing my

yellow lab the evening after he was put down in 2020. My mom also swore she saw him in the backyard that night.

In this case, though, we aren’t talking about seeing the ghost of someone’s pet. Rather, we’re talking about something known as a “Zooform.” I had never heard of this until I was writing about this story.

Apparently, back in 1990, a man named Jon Downes coined the term. Zooforms are “entities and apparitions which adopt or seem to have a (quasi)animal form.” So, in other words, ghosts that take on the guise of an animal. If you want to know more, check out an article Loren Coleman wrote called “Are Zooforms Cryptids?”

It’s a pretty interesting theory, but I have no idea why a ghost would take on such an odd form. Surely it would be more practical to take on the guise of a dog or something else like that. Though I guess if this was a demon or something, it would make sense to be an incomprehensible abomination. The sins of Edinburgh have been made manifest; it’s going to steal your bagpipes!

6. It was a “bio-phantasmal manifestation”

The ObscUrban Legend Wiki has it listed as a theory. I’m not going to pretend I know for certain what a “bio-phantasmal manifestation” is. Up until this story, I’d never heard of it, and if I had, I sure as heck don’t remember what it is.

If I had to guess, based on the definitions for “biological” and “phantasmal,” it would be a living figment of one’s imagination or living illusion. That makes this theory sound like a needlessly complicated way of saying, “It’s a tulpa.” Of course, I may have gotten the definition of one word wrong (or maybe both), so I could be magnificently dense.

Assuming I’m right, though, that would mean someone—or a group of people—more or less willed an entity into existence. Whatever this creature was was its vessel—or the entity. That’s my understanding of tulpas, at least; I don’t have the best grasp on them.

The simplest version I can give, for those who found that explanation too complex, is tulpas are things you will or think into existence. It’s a very popular theory when it comes to supposed sightings of Slender Man and The Rake. In this case, though, I don’t know of any being that looks like this. But I guess it isn’t the most absurd idea out there.

7. It was a nature spirit/spirit animal

I went over what these are—albeit briefly—when I talked about The Spectral Moose of Maine back in 2021. Basically, they’re guardians of nature and the wilderness. Sometimes, they help those who are in need of it if they become lost in the forest or woods. Other times, they exact vengeance on those who harm nature, be they poachers or some other evil person.

I’ve heard some stories of these spirits out in more urban areas, but I can’t remember any exact details. They’re nowhere near as common, and on top of that, I can’t name a single one where they tried to harm another animal. I guess it’s possible it was a malevolent spirit, but I wouldn’t imagine them taking on such an obtuse form, like an hourglass-shaped caterpillar.

That said, I’m no expert in the field of nature spirits and spirit animals, so I could be wrong. Maybe this was some evil entity that wanted to harm nature. If someone who is much more well-versed in this kind of stuff happens to read this, I welcome any and all information since it could help in future write-ups I do. God knows I need it after covering both this and those ghost cows.

8. It was a misidentification

I initially had this as an offshoot of the first theory but gave it its own simply because I thought it was way different enough for a few reasons. Cryptid sightings can, and usually are, explained as cases of misidentification. Even the most ardent cryptid enthusiast (like yours truly) will concede to this. When your adrenaline is pumping, and your fight-or-flight instinct has kicked in, you’ll be hard-pressed to say that what you saw—and were possibly being pursued by—was what you believed it was. 

That would apply here in its purest form: Geoffrey would have been caught completely off guard and, after reporting it to whoever he went to, couldn’t remember what he saw. So, with the imperfect thing known as “human memory,” he filled in the gaps as best he could. The end result was something that is now known as “The Vampire Caterpillar of Scotland.”

The question then becomes, what could Geoffrey have seen that he mistook for a 4-foot-long, 2-and-a-half-foot-tall vampiric caterpillar? Well, I have my own theory, but I’ll save that for when I give my personal take. As far as I can tell, though, there aren’t any theories presented on any website that covered this story. 

9. It was a “bogey story”

This was a theory I saw on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki, and it stuck with me—more than the majority of the other theories. Mostly because it explained a lot of the oddities; unfortunately, it created a few other questions.

For those unfamiliar, a “bogey story” is a story meant to scare children into behaving. There are a ton of them that exist in every culture around the world. I’ve heard of ones about monsters that go door to door looking for kids who don’t eat their vegetables or disrespect their parents. If the parent says they have, it takes them away. In other cases, there are monsters that lurk in the forests and come out at night to take kids away.

These stories serve one purpose: to keep kids in line so they obey their parents and any curfews set by them. Sometimes they work, other times they don’t. It depends on the child. I personally never had any bogey stories told to me, but then again, I had so many health problems when I was doing that I doubt I would have really cared if some gremlin tried to take me away. I would have been too much of a medical hassle for it to deal with.

That said, this theory does have a bit of weight to it. It could definitely be used to scare kids into not staying out late or the giant vampire caterpillar kill them. It would more than likely scare children since the prospect of being drained of blood by a giant insect is quite terrifying.

However, there are a few issues with this story. For starters, I don’t know why a newspaper would run a bogey story. Second, I can’t find any documentation of a bogey story like this existing. The closest is a story that the ObscUrban Legend Wiki page for the giant vampire caterpillar references: the Awd Goggie. According to that article, the Awd Goggie is a creature that parents around Yorkshire told their kids about so they wouldn’t wander into woodland orchards on their own.

If they did, they ran the risk of being devoured whole by the Awd Goggie, a monster that typically appeared as a massive caterpillar. It would “move invisibly through the trees and descend on any children who tried to steal the tripe fruit he protected.” If he caught the child, then they were his meal. Man, European children were told some messed up stories. Here I was taught if I disobeyed my parents, I’d get grounded. European kids? If they disobeyed their parents, they would be eaten by giant insects. No wonder they’re always so miserable.

10. It was Funnymouth


My Take

I’ll go through the theories and give my personal take on them since there were so many.

I don’t think it was a cryptid. It’s interesting, but I’m not entirely sold on it. I feel if this was a cryptid, it would have been seen by more people and would have a bigger presence in Scotland’s folklore.

I don’t believe this was a hoax. Unless the story was fabricated for Creatures of the Outer Edge, I’m skeptical. Even then, I think you’d be better off making up a story that’s considerably less absurd.

I’m not feeling the extraterrestrial theory. Not this time, anyway. Stories of insectoids from another world are fascinating, but I don’t think vampiric alien caterpillars are a thing. If they are, I must know where I can read about them because, holy smokes, I’d love to write about them!

The hallucination theory is probably the weakest of all of them. Even the meme theory holds more weight. While collective hallucinations are something I’ve heard about, this feels way too preposterous. Especially given the horse’s reaction.

I actually don’t think the ghost theory is that crazy. Granted, I believe in the paranormal and am definitely biased, but I don’t think it’s the wildest thing to ever be presented. That said, if it was a ghost, I don’t get why it would appear once and then never do so again. I’ve heard of one-time hauntings, but this feels far too random. Unless one of Geoffrey’s family members passed away, and this was their way of saying goodbye. If that were the case, what a bizarre way of saying “so long.”

I’m indifferent to the nature spirit/spirit animal theory. If there are malevolent nature spirits, then I guess this would technically make sense. But I don’t get why it lunged at the horse and not Geoffrey. Unless the specter despised horses. In that case, what a jerk. Horses are graceful animals!

I think the bogey story theory is plausible, but I question the lack of documentation. Still, I think it holds enough water to be possible.

The Funnymouth theory is my favorite, and I am totally not biased.

Now for my theory on what this might have been. Honestly, I think Geoffrey did misidentify it. Personally—and I must stress that this is purely what I think since this will likely sound absurd—is that it may have been a bat. From what I know, the largest bat found in Scotland is “The Noctule.” They grow to have a wingspan of 15–16 inches (37–40 centimeters) and can fly upwards of 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour). Here are three pictures I found of The Noctule for your viewing pleasure.

What a cute critter.

Continuing on: if Geoffrey was caught completely off guard, I would bet my bottom dollar he didn’t get anywhere close to a clear look at it. This isn’t unprecedented either; a story I covered in 2021 called The Red Devil-Bat of Chester involved a supposed bat with a wingspan of 3 feet (0.9 meters) flying into a home. Like with this story, it was nighttime, though the creature didn’t disappear into the aether. Instead, the residents rolled the fiend up in a carpet, beat it, and then threw it out of a window.

That said, I don’t think the monster necessarily disappeared in this case. I think Geoffrey was so shocked by the sudden appearance of the creature he simply missed it flying off, especially if the horse reared up and made a fuss.

There is one thing that does put a hole in this theory, and it’s one thing that I can’t precisely counter. In my eyes, bats running do not look anything like caterpillars when they move. Take a look at this gif below.

Yeah, I won’t lie: if you look at the video from earlier of a caterpillar moving (and then jumping) and compare it to that gif, the two don’t look anything alike. The only argument I can give is the same one I’ve given: human memory is imperfect. Though even that, I think, can only be used so much. Sure, a bat (if it was one) darting out and scaring a horse would definitely take anyone (or almost anyone) aback, but the two are definitely different enough.

On top of that, Geoffrey did say the creature was 4 feet long. That’s also quite hard to counter with “human memory.” However, in this case, I will stick to my guns for one reason and one reason only: I have, in the past, mistakenly remembered plenty of small animals as being considerably bigger. House centipedes, spiders, and beetles are the most common culprits. When I look back, I swear that one house centipede I saw was the size of something like a dinner plate. It’s simply the memory, especially since I saw it when I turned my head, and it was scurrying down the wall. I was on the computer, I was caught entirely off guard, and I ran away from that monster (house centipedes are monsters, and you can’t change my mind).

I should also mention that the time I saw that house centipede was during the day; I can’t remember the exact time, but I want to say it was around noon or so. This leads me to what I believe is the elephant in the room: Geoffrey’s statement that it was “well lit.”

Look, I have no idea how “well lit” it was, but light does not immediately mean you can discern how big something is. Especially when you aren’t focused on the world around you. Remember, in Geoffrey’s own words, his mind was preoccupied with “simple, everyday objects of no great moment.” When I noticed that house centipede, I was on the computer. I only saw it out of the corner of my eye.

Assuming the lighting was good enough, I think he may have seen a shadow cast by the bat, been fixated on that, and then been more preoccupied with the horse since it freaked out.

Because of my own personal experience, I can easily believe mistaking a bat for something borderline otherworldly. That may sound ridiculous—and believe me, I understand if you think that—but it makes perfect sense to me.

To round this bit of rambling off, I want to circle back to what I said during the eighth theory. Mental clarity is one key aspect you need to convey an experience. It’s something that becomes dubious at best when reading—or hearing—reports of cryptid encounters. If Geoffrey really did see something, I sincerely doubt it was what he thought it was, especially if it leaped out in front of him and caught him completely by surprise. For that reason, if he truly did see something, I’d say it was more than likely a Noctule Bat. Of course, it is possible the whole thing was something else entirely. But I lean more towards a bat being mistaken for something it most certainly wasn’t.

But What If Exemplore’s Version is True?

First of all, for this theory, I’m going to hold the mindset that Jerome Clarke and Loren Coleman got it all wrong, and the way they told the story isn’t true. Frankly, I don’t think they did, but I want to at least give my thoughts on this variation because if I don’t, I’ll kick myself until the day I die.

With that said, truth be told, I cannot rationalize this version. Geoffrey may have embellished it, though that’s impossible to be certain about. There doesn’t appear to be any statement from the passer-by, despite them apparently being an eyewitness too.

Assuming it was a bat like I speculated above, it’s possible the two didn’t notice it fly off. However, I feel it’d be hard to not see it take flight. I also think the whole shape-changing aspect really puts a damper on that. While sure, a bat stretching its wings out would change its appearance, it wouldn’t give it an hourglass shape.

Honestly, I’d have to say this sounds like a ghost. Of course, it’s entirely possible this version isn’t accurate—or is a hoax. But, if I were to treat it as the true version, I think it’d be some ghost animal. I mean, it’s that, or I shrug. For that reason, I greatly prefer the version where I had what I felt was a concrete answer to it all.


I never could have imagined a story about a giant vampire caterpillar would be this long. It’s always the most unsuspecting ones that end up being the lengthiest—and occasionally the most fun.

In this case, I had a pretty good amount of fun. It definitely became rather frustrating when it came to the variation from Exemplore, but that didn’t ruin it for me. Though I wish that site had cited a source. Unless I’m blind and missed the citation. Feel free to tell me if I did; I know for a fact that my eyesight is atrocious.

Also, have a clip of my favorite Scotsman ever: Groundskeeper Willie.

Now then, stay happy, stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment