The gloomy forests of West Africa are little studied scientifically and are home to an array of strange creatures. Many of these entities are regarded as myths by Western observers, but to the local people they are flesh and blood creatures with the power to destroy not only the body but also the soul.

The Creature

The Kikiyaon is one of the most terrifying and at the same time one of the least seen of all the forest creatures. Its very name can conjure a look of horror. It is described as resembling a large owl, especially its head. It has a huge beak and raking talons on its arms and feet. In many respects it is a mixture of bird and human. The Bambara people say it has a huge pair of feathered wings which grow from its back; the shoulder joint of which is tipped with a sharp spur, a deadly weapon if its talons fail. The most terrifying feature is the presence of razor sharp talons, much like those of a large owl, at the end of well muscled legs. Kikiyaon is said to be covered in short greenish grey hair and some reports speak of it having a short tufted tail.

A Fearsome Sound

The call of the Kikiyaon is often heard. In fact it is correct to say the creature has several calls. The most commonly heard is a deep throated grunting which carries for miles across the savannahs. To an ornithologist, this call could come from the giant Pel’s Fishing Owl, but having twice tracked the caller to small trees, researcher Owen Burnham was unable to see it on both occasions. The other call, which can’t be attributed to any known owl, is the strangled cry it utters from deep in the throat. This then becomes a screaming moan that drifts in the night air. It is a terrible sound which has been likened to that of a man being strangled slowly. The calls are most often heard in the rain season (July to September).

Strange Habits

Kikiyaon is the denizen of the darkest forest. It rarely ventures from the gloom and despite its ferocious appearance, it contents itself with ambushing travellers who are desperately trying to get home before darkness falls. Kikiyaon is usually heard before it is seen and those who see it and live, usually die of some lingering illness if not shock at the time. Kikiyaon is a deadly adversary, being capable of outrunning a man or even swooping down on its prey. At the same time, it is an ephemeral being, seemingly able to move between the physical and spiritual realms with ease. It is equally feared in both spheres, though in the latter there appears to be more chance of escape. Local people tell of dreams where the Kikiyaon has appeared and chased the dreamer but failed to catch them. In these situations it appears unable to smell its victim, much like a bird of prey in our world.

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