DIFFERENT regions and countries have their own urban legends - tales that seem fantastic, strange and bizarre to the ears.
Urban legends involving cryptids, elusive demons and shape changers are common worldwide.
People believe that shape changers are entities who exist in both the spirit world and the physical world.
Their true form is in the spirit realm and they can easily change their forms in the physical world we inhabit.
In Papua New Guinea, a popular urban legend speaks of the shape changer known as the botol meri.
The botol meri is either a spirit woman or water nymph masalai or a composite of both. She is a shape changer and takes on the form of a beautiful woman the would-be victim could have sexual intercourse with. This is done with the intention of maiming or killing the man after the sex act.
The legend of the botol meri was popular among boys and young men at the time I was growing up. People familiar with this urban legend can identify locations in their areas that are said to be frequented by the botol meri.
People who believe in the legend relate that the botol meri will usually attack an unsuspecting male by seducing him, engaging in sex and then injuring or killing him by mutilating the penis when the two are having intercourse.
According to this legend, the vagina of the botol meri is said to enclose a sharp toothed implement similar to jagged glass from a broken bottle that will sever the penis causing heavy bleeding and eventually death for the victim if help is not sought quickly.
Usually she lures and attacks her victims at a secluded location. Her favourite spot is a forested area or the bush near a stream where people take short cuts instead of following the main track. Her victims are always lone unsuspecting male travellers on foot.
When she is active, she will either follow the man or the man will chance upon her when taking a short cut. She will then flirt with and seduce him.
The legend warns men not be tricked when they come across a woman who flirts with them and asks for sex. The man also should not fall for her charm.
They are also warned that the shape changer can also take the form of the man’s wife or a girlfriend.
This deception by the botol meri can only be exposed if, instead of casually walking or jumping over a stick or log lying on the track, she walks around it.
The legend explains that if she walks over or jumps over a stick or log lying on the ground in her path, the sharp implements in her vagina will cut her from the inside and she will die.
The legend also advises men that if they chance upon a woman that they are suspicious of, they should put a branch or stick on the ground and ask the woman to walk over. They can also secretly place a stick in her way and observe what happens.
If she refuses or walks around the stick, she is surely a botol meri, and the man better start running in the opposite direction.
There are even tales of the botol meri chasing men who saw through her deception and escaped. In her anger of being rejected, she will hurl profanities at the men and tell them how lucky they were to have escaped unscathed from her clutches.
The botol meri when caught out will change shape back to her original spirit form. Sometimes, she is described as a middle aged or old woman in rags with long finger nails and long hair covering her face.
The occasional tall tales of close encounters with the botol meri were school yard tales that played around with my imagination and brought fear to me.
They also caused fear in the minds and hearts of young boys and men, similar to the urban legend involving female shape shifters in boarding schools.
These urban legends probably served a purpose and whether shape shifters are real or not, I will leave it as that.