Bad guys in horror movies usually can’t hide their identities for long because the directors like to give them neon red eyeballs. Vampires, werewolves, demonic doggies, they all get the same treatment. But is this stereotyping? Is there any basis for assuming all things evil should have eyes redder than a baboon’s bottom?
Whilst looking for other occurrences of evil red-eyed beings, I unearthed a story about a particularly evil statue known as Black Agnes, or Black Aggie. An allegedly murderous statue by this name used to live in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Rumours that the statue harboured murderous intentions were cooked up by kids and used as part of initiation ceremonies to scare the life out of their friends. The story went that Black Aggie’s eyes would burn bright red at night and would blind anyone who looked into them. Other versions of the story say that part of the initiation ceremony was to sit on the statue’s lap all night, but the last person who was brave enough to take up the dare was found dead the next morning, still sitting on the statue’s lap but with marks on her body apparently from the statue’s deadly embrace. The statue was moved twice to put an end to the rituals and ended up in the Smithsonian Institute where it was finally made teenager proof.
Another creature of the night that regularly has red eyes is the Black Shuck, a demonic dog that roams around the Norfolk and Suffolk coastlines. Some say it is as big as a Great Dane, others that it’s as big as a horse. The Shuck may have been the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles. There are confusing reports about the Shuck and its motives for making an appearance. Some say that if you see the beast then someone close to you will die. Other say the Shuck sometimes accompanies women travelling on their own and acts as a protector. Personally, unless it comes with a sturdy muzzle, I’d rather take my chances alone… Some graveyards are reputedly prowled by a Shuck but the beast also enjoys lurking down side roads, snuffling around at crossroads (popular places to bury suicides), and, of course, slinking around dark and foreboding forests.
One of my all time favourite places also comes with a resident red-eyed ghost. Highgate Cemetery, London, is famous for its vampire stories from the early 1970s but it is not the vampire that I’m interested in here. There is a recent report (alas, I don’t have the exact date for the report) of a pedestrian who was walking down the lane that runs through the cemetery. I can only assume they mean Swains Lane which runs between the east and the west cemeteries. The pedestrian reported seeing a tall apparition with glowing red eyes and wearing a long black cloak. The apparition whispered ‘good evening, sir,’ as it glided past and disappeared through a stone wall. Perhaps it was the vampire that allegedly haunted the cemetery in the 1970s, but I understand Sean Manchester pounded the life out of that particular entity with a hammer and stake many years ago.
Going back to the theme of beasties with red eyes, I recently came across a story posted on Phantoms and Monsters about a couple who were on their way home to Illinois. Just south of a place called Fuller Cemetery (unfortunate name), the husband thought he saw a large bird of some description by the side of the road. He didn’t think much of it but his wife began to scream. He pulled over into the entrance to the cemetery to calm her down, telling her it had only been a big bird she’d seen, but apparently that wasn’t what the wife had seen at all. She had seen a large animal running along by the side of their car – it was so big its head had come to the top of the window! She was sure the creature she had seen was a huge bear with red eyes but the area is not known for being a home to bears and certainly not ones with red eyes.
It would seem that although most people would rather not have an encounter with some red-eyed creature of the night, not all are deserving of an evil reputation, for example the Shuck who likes to protect lone, female travellers. Although it might be advisable not to go and annoy graveyard statues, just in case.
©Nicola Kirk and http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2010