Last week, the Brooklyn Paranormal Society had the honor of hosting the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival’s after party at Cherry Tree, with free tarot and psychic readings, a Stranger Things trivia challenge and prizes. At midnight, we hiked over to Fort Greene Park on a “Paranormal Safari” where we roasted marshmallows over a camp fire, listened to ghost stories and conducted a paranormal investigation.
It was two years ago, right around this time, close to Halloween, when Sonja and I found ourselves walking down Atlantic Avenue and, a mimeographed advertisement hanging on a street lamp caught our attention. It was a flyer for a drunken ghost hunting event with the Brooklyn Paranormal Society. Both drinking and ghost hunting are remarkable pastimes, each in their own right, but the combination seemed irresistible.
Helen Mirren has wrapped production on a scary movie called Winchester and it looks like it will be spooky AF. Based on the story of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, who was advised by a medium to build a labyrinthine mansion in order to escape the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester Rifle, invented by her dead husband. Sounds pretty juicy to us, and better yet, it is based on a true story.
As a means for communicating with the dead, the seance has a dicey reputation. The history of spirit channeling is mired in controversy and fraud. As a form of entertainment however, few things can surpass the seance for drama and theatrics. This ceremony of spirit-calling combines mysticism, showmanship, audience participation and, when done right, can offer spooky excitement.
Brooklyn is infested, no doubt, with its fair share of paranormal activity but, when we at BKPS get the chance, we love to investigate the weird goings on from other parts of the world as well. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the mysterious island of Mallorca where once lived the dreaded Dragon of Na Coca.
Palma, capital of Mallorca, was founded by the Romans back in 124 BC and, being an ancient city, is chock full of myths and creepy legends. One such legend regards the Dragon of Na Coca. This story concerns a cryptid who, bearing a similar M.O. to Stephen King’s Pennywise, lived in the sewers beneath the city and had a blood thirsty penchant for killing children. Unlike Pennywise, however, this “dragon” actually existed in real life and, there’s proof of it inside the Diocesan Museum of Palma. So they say. Certainly, the matter required our full attention.
The legend of the Dragon of Na Coca begins in 1776 when rumors began spreading of a great dragon lurking in the sewers and prowling the streets at night. Disturbing sounds were heard in La Portella neighborhood, right in the shadow of the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma. Cats went missing and animal remains found strewn about. Then, things began to get weird.
Some witnesses claimed to have seen an enormous creature so hideous that it “froze the blood of even the most courageous.” This behemoth was covered in scales, had rows of razor sharp teeth, and crawled through the winding streets on its four feet whilst dragging its twining tail behind it.
At first, the creature was content to feed on small animals but as it grew larger, so did its appetite. Soon after, children and elders alike fell victim to this beast. That was the situation in Palma at the time and locals lived in constant terror of being dragged off the streets and into the labyrinth below, only to become some crazed lizard’s main course meal.
One fateful evening, Captain Bartomeu Coch, Governor of Alcudia, arrived in town to pay court to his mistress. He swung the knocker of the Portella of the walled city then walked over to his lover’s home. There, in the dark, as the couple whispered words of love, the scaled beast reared its hideous head.
The Captain, being a knight of no ill repute, drew his sword and dispatched the creature after a fierce battle, then placed the dead lizard beneath his lover’s window as proof of his love. The remains of the dragon were subsequently embalmed and placed on exhibit inside the Diocesan Museum of Palma where it can be seen to this day.
I wasted little time in purchasing a ticket to the museum to see this exhibit. Turns out the “dragon” was a crocodile, though certainly one of the ugliest you may happen to come across. Most probably, the creature was smuggled on board one of the trading vessels at the time as a pet, then left to fend for itself as the sailors moved on to their next destination.
As it struggled to survive, it most probably preyed on small mammals and may in fact have taken down some humans as well, as crocodiles and alligators are known to be proficient killers. Just recently, in fact, there has been a spate of humans killed by crocs (you can read about that here).
Even though a crocodile lies at the heart of this mystery, the paranormal angle cannot be readily dismissed. Turns out the Coca (or Coco) is a mythical ghost-monster found throughout Spanish culture, originating in Portugal and Galicia. Interestingly, the term coco comes from the Portuguese côco and refers to a ghost with a pumpkin head, or a dragon. The Irish cognate of the term is clocan, meaning “skull.” In Brazilian folklore, the Cuca refers to a female humanoid alligator.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this legend regards the Coca’s behavior – it is a child eater and a kidnapper. It may devour the child completely or, it may take the child to a place of no return. Also, it has the power to shape-shift into a dark shadow, and hangs out on rooftops looking for disobedient children to spirit away to its nowhere land. It is viewed as the opposite of a guardian angel and, certainly not someone you want to friend on Facebook.
Throughout the centuries, many lullabies have evolved about the Coca. The oldest, composed by Juan Caxés in the 17th century goes like this:
Duérmete niño, duérmete ya
Que viene el Coco y te comerá.
Sleep child, sleep now
Here comes the Coco and he will eat you
A Portuguese version of the song goes like this:
Vai-te Coca. Vai-te Coca
Para cima do telhado
Deixa o menino dormir
Um soninho descansado
Leave Coca. Leave Coca
Go to the top of the roof
Let the child have
A quiet sleep