Episode 52: Plumbing The Underworld…

May 7, 2021

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Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that sometimes tells you thoughtful, relevant, insightful stories… then there’s today.

I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me are:

I’m Shea, and this week I learned that you matter… Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light, then you energy.

I’m Steve and I don’t make jokes.

Dumpy Gods

As mentioned previously to patrons, I have been planning a bathroom remodel.

Turns out there’s a lot that goes into a bathroom remodel, plumbing, electrical, no small amount of design, insulation, appeasing angry poo-gods, cabinetry, paint, fixtures.

You know, construction stuff.

Oh, yeah, angry toilet gods. Turns out there are a lot of them. Without poaching delightful segments like Graveyard of the Gods from friend of the show, Atheist Nomads, or How Bullshit Is It from Scathing, I’m going to dive (phrasing) into the terrible world of supernatural, Devine, and demonic creatures who will pull you down to hell, tea-bag first.

The ancient world was, it seems, fairly obsessed with the idea that where you do your business is something else’s Olympus. One man’s trash I guess…

Still, like most gods these are blatantly useless, except, of course, if you’re willing to have a bit of a laugh while we dredge this sewer. This isn’t going to be a most thoughtful show, but I promise it’ll be fun.

To begin our story, we start… at the beginning! The time, way long ago. The place, Babylon! Home of a number of OG gods, demons, and myths Babylonia was rich with otherworldly creatures to appease. Like the Sulak, or just “Sulak”, I’m unclear on that being a name or a kind of creature. Anyway, Sulak!

In the Diagnostic Handbook written by chief scholar Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa, we find the Sulak. Sulak hides in dark places wherein he is likely to find victims alone and, according to the beliefs at the time… and reality… their most vulnerable. I mean, I’ve heard stories of people defending the castle in one direction… and defiling in the other, but I doubt they were operating at 100% eh. Half human, half Lion he would wait in the lou until some poor Babylonian sat on the wrong throne. With no regard for bathroom standards or modesty, he would strike you down with plague or worse! So common was Sulak that most diseases were referred to in some way as the “hand” of Sulak. As for how he killed you quickly, well, he can cause strokes and seizures… if you strain too hard.

Ancient Babylonian Jews called heim the “Lurker of the Latrine” or the “Demon of the Privy.” He actually comes up in the Talmud as Shed Bet Ha-Kise. The Jewish legends expand on his terrible tale and add a few new rules. You can avoid the horrible fates he inflicted through showings of respect like going to the john on your own (which, why does that need to be an exclaimer) and by keeping quiet during poopy times. No one wants to hear that anyway. Finally, just to be safe, after doing your business you must walk at least half a mile away before having sex.

Yep.

Up next is a category of spirit common in Japanese folk lore, the Kami. Specifically, Kawaya No-Kami, or the Japanese toilet god born from the excrement of Izanami—the goddess of Earth and darkness. Talk about not burring your stuff deep enough eh.

Kawaya No-Kami wasn’t all bad news though, if respected Kawaya would provide protection for people using super-gross, yee-oldie, terrible toilets… and I imagine anyone using a Porta at SXSW or whatever the kids are into these days.

People would often “dine” with the god to gain his favor. Which is, basically, just having lunch on the crapper which strikes me as being a lot more about multiplying your work-breaks rather than respecting a god. Still, it behooves you to have a shower-beer every once in a while (assuming those count) because if Kamaya is offended by your lack of reverence, or the grossness of your bathroom, he’ll curse you to have ugly children.

Also, he’s typically shows as the floating head of an old blind man who hides in your bowl with a magic spear and… well… let’s just say it’s in your best interests to appears Mr. toilet spear ok?

Keeping in Japan we should talk about the Aka-Manto, not to be confused with Ai-Moto, the cellphone provider… or something, they do phone stuff. Anyway, Aka-Manto on the other hand, does butt stuff.

Typically found in women’s bathrooms at schools, Aka-Monto is a red-clad evil spirit—a common theme it would seem and one Patrons will find out more about in a bit. Wearing a white mask and carrying extra TP, the Aka is said to be irresistible to women. No further explanation on that from the article… so… I guess… yeah…

Popular in Japan and Korea, you’ll find a number of variations of Aka-Manto but nearly all involve the theme of color (typically red), a choice with no good answer, and horrible toilet-related murder. For Aka-Manto, the question is “red or blue toilet paper?” which it will, politely, offer you. Unfortunately, if you say “red” it will immediately cut your throat and remove you head, to give you a red blood-cloak. Which might make you think the answer is “blue”, but it’s not. Choosing the latter will cause Aka-Manto to choke your ass out until you’re blue in the face and dead.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “ask for green, or polka-dot” right? Wrong. If you try to get cute and answer in any way other than “red” or “blue” it will grab you by whatever dangles and drag you straight to hell…. through the pipes.

The only exception being if you answer “yellow”, causing it to give you a swirly. Gross, but survivable.

That said, this is the only reference I’ve found to a non-red or blue color that results in anything other than death and the source is listverse, so that’s not great.

Most lore seems to agree that with Aka-Manto and other color-based crapper-quizzes the only sure-fire way to survive is, a la War Games, not to play. If you somehow ignore the creature making awkward eye contact with you while you do your business, it will get bored when you flush and wander off. Still, that’s a tuff row to hoe when… well… it’s creepily watching you, and as is its MO, has stolen all the TP before you got into the stall.

The moral of the story, is to run away and live to go another day… even if that run is more of a waddle because you’ve got survivors’ mud-butt.

Speaking of running away, lest I be accused of harping on Japan’s massive lead in the “who has more gross toilet demons” game, let’s talk about Cloacina, Stercutius, And Crepitus—one guess whereabouts they’re from.

The Greeks and Romans knew how to get the most out of their gods. The trick is to have enough to go around, and so it is with the sewers—which is Cloacina’s domain by the way.

Cloacina, goddess of sewers and, I imagine, never getting invited to parties, presided over the Cloaca Maxima, or “Greatest Drain”, the… hub, if you will, of the Roman sewer system. The Cloaca Maxima, begun by Tarquinius Priscus, one of Rome’s Etruscan kings—super duper interesting the Etruscans—and is almost certainly the historical detail used to cement some nonsense you’ve heard about Rome into your head. The site marked the end of the conflict between Rome and Sabine with a ritual using myrtle, near an ancient Etruscan shrine to Cloacina. So, you know, when you build a sewer drain over top of a Goddesses shrine to peace and prosperity, the least you can do is put a statue of her over the biggest hole amIright?

Stercutius was the god of dung and odor. The end. Seriously, he’s mentioned once in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. Also, he doesn’t really count, he was the god of a agricultural process, of which there were many, fertilizer not at all being the least important. Linking him to human sewage is a modern, click-bate, kind of thing… [cough]… moving on.

As for ol’ Crepitus, well, he’s more made-up than most gods. Technically the Roman god of flatulence, Crepitus wasn’t worshiped. The only reference to deference here is an old Christian satire that inspired equally silly French literature.

Also, Crepitus is also, conveniently, the god of transitioning podcast segments to Christian mythology.

And so… Bephlegor!

The demon בַּעַל–פְּעוֺר or Belphegor as depicted in Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, 1818.

And no, Shea… I assume… I don’t mean the Australian “diabolic death metal” band formally known as Betrayer!

It does make me wonder if they know they named themselves after the god of lazy poops…

That said, Belphegor is no joking matter, he’s OG evil. Twin brother of Beelzebub and elder brother of Lilith and one of the seven princes of Hell. Apparently, he seduces people with plans or inventions designed to earn easy money because sloth is his game and tricking people into being lazy is how he plays it.

He’s also Hell’s ambassador to France. No relation to the rest of the story, just, France.

Originally the Old Testament as the god of the Moabites he was latinized, updated, associated with the number 666—turns out that’s no specifically a Satan thing—and of course, is the demon god of feces. There’s a “Belphegor’s Prime” that is a prime number, a palindrome\, and includes 666: 1000000000000066600000000000001.

“Pe’or,” as in the Hebrew root of Baal-Peor or Belphegor, is usually translated as “opening.”

Rashi, a French rabbi who wrote commentary on the Old Testament said:

“Peor was so named because before it they bared their anus… and relieved themselves. This was the manner of its worship.”

Quite the visual image there, Rashi.

Belphegor, which means “Lord of the Opening” when translated from Hebrew (Baal = Lord, Peor = Opening), is sometimes seen with his mouth wide open. Some also translate it from “Phegor,” meaning “crevice” or “split.”

According to ranker.com, this makes sense because he worshipped in caves but… I’m gonna guess the missed the obvious crevice/split jokes.

Speaking of splitting things up, let’s head back to Japan for one last monster and what we can do about it!

The Kappa is a fairly popular Japanese monster. They’re basically lizard people. About the size of child they have a bowl on their head that must stay filled with water, so you’ll find them… near water… and bowls… see where this is going?

Kappas are considered to be malevolent creatures that have a tendency to direct their anger towards people and livestock, they hate horses and cows and will just mutilate them for fun—often blaming aliens or something.

Some Kappa are pranksters that like to make offensive jokes like farting loudly from their three butt holes or looking up a woman’s kimono. They’re also a bit murder-rapy, but we’ll gloss over that.

What they are into, is ripping your soul out of your butt.

There’s an object called the Shirikodama which they forcibly remove from humans, unfortunately killing them. The Shirikodama is a, mysterious jewel thought to contain a person’s life force… in their butt. A literal translation is small anus ball. The best and fastest method for extraction is with a Kappa hand reaching up your ass and ripping it out, and maybe your liver with it, as Kappa love liver.

That said, they’re polite. Too polite. If you encounter a Kappa, bow to it and in returning the gesture it will spill it’s head-water, paralyzing it. If all else fails, you’re best bet is to pull its arms off. Like Arm Fall-off Boy, Kappa arms are easily detachable. Once taken the Kappa will negotiate to spare you or your village in exchange for its arm.

The best way to defeat the Kappa is, you guessed it, not to play. Unlike other, creepier, toilet demons the Kappa is easy to keep out of your crappa. You just have to feel him occasionally.

Unlike other ick-demons the Kappa isn’t interested in what comes out of you, your throne is just a good place to find water and a butt to pull a sole out of. So if you want to keep it happy with you, flush its favorites like Soba noodles or cucumbers.

It is, somehow, common practice to write the names of your kids on a cucumber, then put it in the toilet and flush it so the Kappa will know who to, you know, not murder.

This has caused no shortage of cucumber removal services in Japan. Though most sources I found agree that if you’ve got a demonic cucumber stuck in your john the easiest way to deal with that is by pouring baking soda and/or vinegar into the bowl and letting it speed up the cuce’s decomposition. There are also special, bendy, toilet knives that you can use to chop up an already flushed cucumber. And of course, specialty plumbers if you’ve flushed and entire bushel… or however cucumbers grow.

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Interesting if True, Shea, interesting if true…

For my entry into today’s archive of horror I give you… a cute anime girl!

Well, kinda cute.

Hanako-san - WikipediaHonestly, picture One Punch Man dressed as a 12-year-old Gogo Yubari and you’ve got it—and if you haven’t got it, good news!

What you do have is two solid Trantino movies and … well, honestly, one solid and one semi-flacid season of One Punch Man to catch up on.

Enjoy.

Hanako-san is a young girl with a bobbed haircut, a red dress or skirt, and she’s a Japanese urban legend. The story goes that there was once a young girl named Hanako-san who died tragically. Of course the cause of her death had changed with time and location, but the most popular versions are murder, suicide, and war crimes.

The first legend of Hanako-san’s demise is of a child murdered by a crazed stranger, or an abusive parent. In other versions she’s a young girl who commits suicide but the reasons or circumstances never seem to be listed. Finally, and this seems to be the most pervasive, is the version wherein Hanako-san is a young girl killed in a WWII air raid while playing hide-and-seek.

Regardless of the origin story, she always goes out the same way, like a king… or, the King as it were. Because really, what better reason to become a vengeful spirit do you need than “forever known for dying on the shitter.”

Like most girl-spirits who died on the shitter, Hanako-san is said to haunt the girls’ bathrooms at Japanese schools. Much like her western-sister from another specter, Bloody Mary, she can be summoned by daring school kids. By visiting the 3rd stall of the girl’s bathroom, on the third floor of a school, and knocking 3 times then asking “Hanako-san, are you there” you might hear a faint reply of “yes, I’m here” indicating that Hanako-san has come to visit.

After that things get a little vague. Apparently, based on… stuff… you’ll see a bloody hand come out from under the stall, if you open the stall door you may see Hanako-san herself crawl out of the toilet like a shittier version of the girl from the Ring, or worse still, you may get eaten by a three-headed lizard who hunts children by pretending to be Hanako-san. Which is pretty fucking harsh by toilet-ghost standards eh!? I mean, Mertal just watches you shower and Bloody Marry only wants to make you a disgusting, viscus, adult beverage that people willingly garnish with salad scraps and hot sauce, because fuck you that’s why.

Most accounts of Hanako-san, from the 1950’s book by Michael Dylan Foster The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore to the 1995 film, Toire no Hanak-san, or Hanako of the Toilet, say that encounters usually end the same way—with Hanako-san pulling your soul down the can and into Hell. Which really sets the gold star for worst, swirly, ever.

Sometimes there’s a quiz involved, be it demon-lizard or toilet-girl in origin you had best know the right answer.

If the bowl-ghost of a dead Japanese girl asks you what color paper you like best, the answer is any color but red. If you say red, she’ll jump out of the tank and kill you with a fucking toilet-knife.

And if that isn’t scary enough, you don’t even have to be in the third stall for Kashima Reiko to get you. Kashima is another Japanese bathroom ghoul-girl. The legend goes that she died when her legs were severed by a train. Remember, don’t play on the train tracks kids… unless you’re a real pain in the ass, then, you know, whatever.

Naturally, instead of haunting a trainyard or scaring kids away from crossings, Kashima took up visiting girls bathrooms in Japan to ask her awkwardly-captive audience where her legs are.

The correct answer is “On the Meishin Expressway”, get it wrong, and she’ll rip your fucking legs off.

See, getting creeped on my Murtle doesn’t seem so bad now does it?

Closing out our terrible trifecta of toiletry terrors is the Aka Manto.

Finally proving that in 2020, toilet haunting isn’t just a little girls club anymore damnit, the Aoi Manto or Akai-Kami-Aoi-Manto is a spirit said to resemble a person in a red or blue cape. He appears to people most commonly in the last stall just as they’re about to wipe and begins to ask strange questions. Sometimes he will ask “red cape or blue cape?” or offers similar color choices in other materials such as paper.

As with Hanako-san, never choose red least the beast spring up from the toilet and flay your back. Don’t get clever either, if you choose a color not mentioned by the creature he will suffocate you and pull you down into the pipes… into Hell!

Like any Wargame, the only way you’ll be allowed to wipe after—or survive—the battle of the bowl, is not to play.

Outro

I’m Aaron and this week I learned that the “look before you sit” lesson is important for everyone, not just Australians and women with inconsiderate husbands.

I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.

Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.

Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.

The opinions, views, and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms.
All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.

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