Since I have been “a bit” unpredictable with my posts, I had to change the title of my series from Monster of the Week to a showcase for weird, interesting, and terrifying monsters.
The creature showcased is one from India, the Anchheri.
Illustration by George Mathen (Appupen) from “Ghosts, Monsters, and Demons of India.”
The Anchheri are malevolent mountain spirits, typically the ghost of a young girl who suffered a traumatic death due to murder, disease, or abuse. This would explain their emaciated appearance and the hollow eye sockets. Stories tell of how a group will often come down from the hills or mountains to “play” near water or in meadows. Upon first glance, the spirits seem innocuous and good-natured. Yet, they bring disease and death to those who interact with them. Legends tell that the mere shadow of a Anchheri is deadly. If the shadow falls upon a victim, typically the very young or very old, the person will be infected with a fatal respiratory illness.
A couple of tactics can be used to protect oneself or one’s family from the ire of the Anchheri. The first is to bribe the ghost with gifts such as jewelry, clothing a young girl might enjoy, or a traditional Indian eye ointment called “kajal” (which makes sense considering the ghost’s eye situation). Much like other associations of ill-repute, the ghosts need to be “bribed” on a regular basis to ward off their cruelty. The second tactic is to wear the color red. But like the previous strategy, it does have a drawback. Some believe that wearing a simple red ribbon is enough to keep the Anchheri away. Too much red, however, could cause rage to well up in the creatures, leading them to attack with more ferocity.
Perhaps like many other mythical and legendary creatures, the Anchheri have a basis in reality. Not the creature itself, but the invisible dangers of disease that can sneak up on the vulnerable like a silent shadow. When considering the horrific treatment of women and girls around the world, it makes sense that the Anchheri would represent such abuse and mistreatment. They have been unfairly targeted simply because they were female, so vengeance from beyond upon other innocents is the spiritual response.
Although the Anchheri is a relatively unknown spirit for most people, it is worth further study in a cultural context.
This leads to an internet misunderstanding I have found while researching this entity. For some reason, this creature is also associated with the Ojibwe culture, but I could not find any such creature in their myths and legends. Perhaps there is some ghost/spirit/entity that represents a child and causes suffering, but I was unable to find it in my research. It is unfortunate because one of the creepiest pictures of the Anchheri had its theme based on the Native American form of the creature. You can see it here.
If someone is able to find the connection between the Indian Anchheri and a similar creature associated to the Ojibwe nation, please point me in that direction and I will amend this post. Until then, check out one of my resources: https://www.bestiary.us/bestiary/acheri/en