Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vampire Leopard

Now believed by historians to be the inspiration for the Egyptian sun god Ra, the Vampire Leopard was already a part of mythology as early as 3150 B.C.! The leopard, which has the head of a vulture, no ears, and a distinctive paisley-like pattern on its midriff, is native to the remotest sections of Africa in what is now the Sudan but was once part of the Egyptian Empire. The Leopard was long thought to be an Egyptian myth or an extinct species only found on glyphs and wall paintings in the tombs of the Pharaohs. In the modern era, the existence of the incredibly rare Vampire Leopard was first documented by Lord Stanley near Lake Tanganyika during his search for Doctor Livingstone in 1871.

Despite the beak, the Vampire Leopard is a large cat. It's a scavenger that feeds on just about anything that is dead, rotting, or smells bad. The name comes from the odd paisley-like spots on its mid-section and the creature's weird, glowing eyes, which made Lord Stanley, who first gave the Leopard its name, think of a blood-thirsty demon. Little is known of the Vampire Leopard's mating habits or its social hierarchy. Attempts to study it in the wild have met with frustration and disaster, as have all attempts to capture and study it in captivity. This difficulty has been called "The Curse of the Vampire Leopard" by more than one observer and the Leopard's razor sharp claws and beak have sent more than one zookeeper and scientist into the halls of the dead. Today, despite increasing civilization and a wide variety of wars, both civil and un-civil, the Vampire Leopard continues to maintain its obscure existence in the heart of Africa.

In literature, Anne Rice's book Blood of the Ra deals with an innocent zookeeper who is asked to take charge of a Vampire Leopard, with horrific results. Jackie Gleason called his wife a Vampire Leopard during an episode of The Honeymooners because she is wearing a paisley house dress and not listening to what he is saying. A painting of a hissing Vampire Leopard with strangely glowing eyes was found on the walls of the tomb of King Tutankhamun when it was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. Eight of the archaeologists were dead within a few years, the supposed result of a curse from staring into the eyes of the Leopard. You can see a representation of this painting on the walls of the tomb in the 1932 film The Mummy, with Lon Chaney.

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