Tatterdemalion (race)

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Tatterdemalion, Ragamuffin, Black-Eyed Child

Origin: American Folklore


The "tatterdemalion" is a vampire-like creature of Ozark folklore (possibly from Scottish folklore, via Scots-Irish settlers), said to take the form of a lost, hungry child encountered in the forest; the tatterdemalion will play on its victim's sympathy to take it out of the forest and allow it into the victim's home, as the tatterdemalion, similarly to a Vampire, cannot cross the boundary of the forest without being invited and carried home by the victim. Once brought into the victim's home, the tatterdemalion will drain the life, health, spirit, and/or youth away from its victims, who do not realize the cause of their mysterious illness until it is too late, when the victim no longer has the strength to rise from her sickbed. The tatterdemalion can be repelled with salt, iron, and magical wards (e.g. the Elder Sign (symbol).

A variation on the legend of the tatterdemalion are the "black-eyed children", so-called because their eyes are perceived to be completely black, either obscured in shadow, or jet-black in colour, or missing completely in empty sockets, in otherwise pale skin. The black-eyed children variant of the story is perhaps newer, originating in the 1980s or 1990s, where is has been associated with UFO lore. In this version of the legend, the children knock on doors of lonely houses by night, or hitch-hiking by the side of the road, or otherwise asking people in remote, rural locations for help (such as borrowing a telephone, or asking for a ride, or asking to wait inside for parents, or asking for hand-outs); if the black-eyed children are invited inside the home, they are usually said (depending on the variant of the legend) to disappear somewhere in the house, where they will haunt or otherwise bedevil the owner in any of a variety of ways (perhaps in an invisible form, like a Poltergeist), with various stories reporting mysterious illnesses, missing or killed pets, unnerving hallucinatory or ghostly figures (of the children, Shadow People, Grey Aliens, Men in Black, etc.), and disturbing pranks such as things being moved or disappearing or things that do not belong in the home appearing where they shouldn't be, etc.

There is also enough similarity to relate this legend to a popular Ghost story in which drivers pick up a young woman hitch-hiker on a lonely stretch of road, usually dressed in white or in some other distinctive clothing; the girl might ask for a ride "home" - which in some variants of the story will be a graveyard, or in others might be to an abandoned house or to the driver's home, where the woman disappears, leaving only an article of clothing which the driver will try to return to the woman's "home", only to learn of the woman's death long ago. In this version of the story, the girl is generally portrayed as relatively benevolent, though there are versions in which the driver is haunted by the ghostly woman after giving her a ride. The implication might be that the black-eyed children and tatterdemalion, like the similar vampires, ghouls, and faeries, are undead dwellers in tombs, restless spirits in human form crossed over from an alien nether world of horror to walk the earth in the form of people long dead, to exist like parasites upon the living.

These children in any form are usually described as wearing weirdly outdated clothing, and - when/if they talk at all - speaking in a peculiarly formal and outdated manner, suggesting that they have either waited in isolation in the woods for a very long time (making them decades or even centuries older than their apparent age), or else that they have emerged onto Earth from a place where time runs different (either possibility might link these entities with traditional legends of Faerie folk, from which this story might well have originally derived, suggesting by extension a connection to the Changeling legend.)

A common theme to this legend is that the tatterdemalion children play on the sympathy or hospitality of their victims; the idea of there being a different etiquette in the natural world compared to that of the unnatural world seems to run in common with that of legends of vampires and faeries; for example, a common aspect of the vampire myth is that a vampire cannot enter your home without an invitation, and thus should not be extended the polite invitation to enter a home, while a common aspect of the faerie myth is that one should not accept the faerie hospitality of any offered food or drink, lest you be trapped in the faerie world and be doomed to either become a slave of the faeries, or a faerie yourself....

Keeper Notes

Associated Mythos Elements