Throughout history and throughout the world, people have reported sexual contact with various supernatural creatures. Many people believe that “sex demons” were born out of the need to explain topics that are generally considered taboo. Usually, unintended pregnancy, miscarriage and promiscuity can cause anger and persecution.
Popobawa (meaning “bat-wing” in Swahili) is said to be a large, bat-like creature with one eye and a very large penis. It is said to stalk the men and women of Zanzibar, Africa, and surrounding islands. It is a shapeshifter, often taking the form of a human or animal. It usually visits households at night, and it doesn’t discriminate against men, women, or children, often sodomizing an entire household before moving on. Popobawa warns victims to tell others about the attack or risk it returning.
Popobawa first appeared on the island of Pemba in 1965, and sightings have been reported as recently as 2007. There are several different theories about Popobawa’s origin. Some say it is an angry spirit created by a Sheikh to take vengeance on his neighbors. In 2007, Researcher Benjamin Radford investigated Popobawa and found that its roots are in Islam, the dominant religion of the area. According to Radford “holding or reciting the Koran is said to keep the Popobawa at bay, much as the Bible is said to dispel Christian demons.”
Others argue (perhaps more realistically) that Popobawa is an articulated social memory of the horrors of slavery. How Popobawa is said to sodomize its victims may also have something to do with the fact that homosexuality is still illegal in Zanzibar.