Black Cats

Black cats are a Halloween staple, iconic representations of the spooky season just as much as bats, witches, or sheet ghosts. Thanks to a long association with witches, black cats have long been regarded as sources of misfortune and agents of evil. Worse yet, Instagram influencers think they don't photograph well. While it might be easy to assume that spooky black cat legends are the work of witch-obsessed Europeans, the fact is that magical and terrifying cats can be found in folklore from all over the world. Sometimes they're ghosts, sometimes they're fairies, and sometimes they're demons. But in all cases, they're full-on spook machines.

Legendary Black Cats

The Matagot

A matagot, also spelled "mandagot" and otherwise known as a chat d'argent (money cat), is a magical creature from the folklore of southern France. According to the BrianaDragon blog, a matagot most often takes the form of a black cat, but it can also take the form of other animals, such as a fox, rat, dog, or cow, any of which are typically in the service of a witch or other magic practitioner. While matagots were considered to be evil in nature, if captured and properly cared for, they could provide great benefit for their captor. For every meal, the matagot's master had to feed the first bite of food and first sip of drink to the creature and provide a suitable place for sleeping. If the magician could manage to maintain this practice, the matagot would provide wealth and good fortune to its owner, usually in the form of a gold coin every day (hence the name "money cat").

The other important condition to owning a matagot is to release it from its servitude before your death. If the matagot is still bound to you as you lie dying, it will make your final days miserable. If you think you can agree to these conditions, you can lure a matagot out of hiding with fresh chicken. If you can scoop it up and walk all the way home without looking behind you, you just scored yourself a money cat.

The Ghostly Cat of Killagee

In 1968, Margaret O'Brien and her husband bought a run-down house near Dublin with the intention of renovating it and opening it as a center for the arts. What they may not have known is that the house they had bought next to the Killakee Estate was formerly used by the notorious Hell Fire Club and was widely thought to be haunted. According to Paranormal Encounters, the O'Briens had the men working on the renovation live in the house in order to complete the job more quickly, but soon the workmen were reporting eerie sounds coming across the estate grounds at night, most notably a growling like that of a wild animal. Deciding to inspect these claims herself, Mrs. O'Brien soon found herself face to face with an enormous black cat with glowing red eyes standing in her hallway. She said that it glowered at her with a hateful and menacing look but disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

After a few more encounters with the spectral cat of Killakee House, Mrs. O'Brien called a local priest to perform an exorcism to drive out the ghostly cat-beast. Afterward, there were no sightings of the cat, the arts center was able to open, and guests were able to stay unharmed. That is, until a group of drunk actors decided to hold a séance, after which the cat, as they say, came back.

The Giant Cat That Nearly Drowned King Arthur

Welsh legend tells of an enormous black cat known as the Cath Palug, whose name is traditionally said to mean "Palug's cat" but which might derive from a word meaning "clawing" or "scratching." According to Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia, Cath Palug was born from a giant white pig (normal cat stuff) and had as siblings a wolf and an eagle, all of whom were sources of terror for the British Isles. The pig's owner saw the giant monster cat and threw it into the sea, where it swam ashore at Anglesey. In the Welsh poem "Pa Gur" ("What man?"), Cath Palug is said to have killed 180 warriors before it was (presumably) killed by Cai, aka Sir Kay, King Arthur's jerky older foster brother. We have to say "presumably" killed, because the poem is fragmentary, and we never see what happens after Cai goes to Anglesey to kill lions and encounters a different kind of cat.

The Cha Kla

According to The Journal of the Siam Society, Thai ghost lore tells of spirits known by the general term pi, which can be either good or bad. These can range from the pi ruen, which is basically a guardian angel of a house, to the pi kahang, which looks like a person with bird's feathers and eats poop, to the pi pong kang, a black monkey that sucks blood from a sleeping person's big toe. One such spirit is the pi cha kla, or just cha kla, which looks like a cat with completely matte black fur. Cha kla are typically under the command of jungle sorcerers who send the cats out to attack their enemies.

Besides being completely black, a cha kla can be recognized by the fact that its fur grows back-to-front as well as its blood-red eyes. Despite the fact that this ghost is meant to be a shaman's killing machine, it is nevertheless skittish around humans. It only comes out at night, and if it sees a human, it will dig a hole and hide in it until the person goes away. That said, the cha kla can kill with just a look or a touch. Anyone who sees or touches a cha kla will die. Siam Society tells of a village elder who attributed the death of his son by dysentery to contact with a cha kla.

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