The infamous Popobawa has struck again causing panic in the Zanzibar islands off the coast of Tanzania in Africa. The "creature", described as a cyclops dwarf with bat-like wings and ears, and sharp talons, is feared for its nasty habit of sodomizing men while they sleep in their beds. The presence of the often invisible Popobawa can be detected by an acrid smell or a puff of smoke. Sometimes, the Popobawa is visible to everyone except the terrified victim. It is believed to take human form by day, but with pointed fingers. After doing its vile deed, the Popobawa instructs its victims to spread the word about their ordeal or it would be back.
The Popobawa, its name derived from the Swahili words for "bat" and "wing", first appeared in the neighboring island of Pemba in 1972. More attacks were reported in the 1980s, again in April of 1995, and recently in 2000 and July 2001. Attacks appear to coincide with political stress such as election. The 1972 attacks followed the assassination of the country's president. Interestingly, the recent attacks have come without any political turmoil.
Hospitals in Zanzibar have treated numerous broken ribs, bruises, and other injuries attributed to the Popobawa. One mentally ill man was hacked to death after confessing that he was the troublesome demon. During times when the Popobawa terrorizes the islands, whole families will often sleep arm-in-arm in front of their houses, seeking safety in numbers.
Mjaka Hamad, a peasant farmer in his mid-50s and a victim of the Popobawa's attacks in 1995, has related his ordeal to the media. "I could feel it," Hamad said. "...something pressing on me. I couldn't imagine what sort of thing was happening to me. You feel as if you are screaming with no voice. It was just like a dream but then I was thinking it was this Popobawa and he had come to do something terrible to me, something sexual. It is worse than what he does to women." Hamad claimed that he did not believe in the Popobawa or other spirits before the attack and suggests that is the reason he was attacked. "I don't believe in spirits so maybe that's why it attacked me. Maybe it will attack anybody who doesn't believe."
The Popobawa appears to be an African version of the wide-spread Mara phenomenon. Joe Nickell, an investigator with CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), has compared the Popobawa to Medieval legends of succubi (female spirits) and incubi (male spirits) who sexually molested their victims in bed at night. In Newfoundland, an ugly old woman sexually molested men in a phenomenon known as Hagging. Other similar reports from around the world describe vampires, formless black blobs, and extraterrestrials among other bizarre entities.
Skeptics claim that these experiences are a result of a hypnogogic 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 the phenomenon.