Monday, May 13, 2024

Scary “Momo” first seen, by children, in July (allegedly)

The day before yesterday, May 11, I taught an English class, and a reading comprehension exercise in the textbook had an article about the “Momo Challenge” phenomenon. This was a scary-looking character that would reportedly pop up unexpectedly in children’s videos on YouTube and tell the children to hurt themselves. YouTube insisted that there was no proof that such videos existed, and the received opinion now is that the whole thing was a hoax.

Momo is an extremely typical cutesy Chinese name — I can think of several companies and characters in Taiwan that use it — and the textbook is Taiwanese, so I had assumed the Momo Challenge was a Chinese-language phenomenon. Having looked it up, though, I see that it was global in scale and that reports of the videos began in July 2018.

Today, May 13, I read in John Keel’s book The Eighth Tower about Momo, short for Missouri Monster, a menacing Bigfoot-like creature repeatedly sighted in that state in the 1970s. According to Keel, “Momo was first seen on July 11, 1972, by the three Harrison children.” Of course, the received opinion is that, sightings schmitings, monsters don’t exist.

This is a pretty impressive coincidence, I think. Although the two incidents are completely different in nature, in each case the creature
  • is called Momo
  • has a frightening appearance
  • was first seen in July
  • was first seen by children
  • is widely dismissed as a hoax or urban legend
And, while the incidents themselves occurred 46 years apart, I happened to encounter one almost exactly 46 hours after the other.

Update (4:15 p.m., same day):

Trying to think what relevance Momo might have for me personally, I thought of how the syllable mo represents Mormon in various slang terms in common use on the Internet -- exmo, progmo, nevermo, mopologist, etc.

This made me think of how Ed Decker, the notoriously sensationalistic anti-Mormon, used to claim that Mormons worshiped a dark spirit called Mormo. Looking that word up, I found that mormo (plural mormones) refers to female spirit in Greek folklore, used as a bugbear to frighten children into behaving. The longer form mormolyce is also attested, suggesting that mormones were imagined as werewolf-like creatures. Since one of the things the two Momos in the sync have in common is that they frighten children, this seems relevant.

But, pace Ed Decker, none of that has anything to do with Mormons, right? Actually, there may be a connection. Mormons are so called after the Book of Mormon, which is named after the ancient prophet Mormon, who was named after a place. And how did the place get its name?

And it came to pass that as many as did believe him did go forth to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts (Mosiah 18:4).

Doesn't this suggest that the name Mormon had something to do with the "wild beasts" that from time to time infested the place?

On a more personal note, "a bugbear to frighten children" may remind my longtime readers of one of this blog's predecessors, which, before being renamed Boisterous beholding, was called Bugs to fearen babes withall and had as a header image an anatomical diagram of a cicada. This is a line from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, where bug is used in the sense of "bugbear," but I had deliberately misread it in the modern entomological sense. (The cicada is considered a "true bug.") The reference was to certain big-eyed nocturnal visitants who terrorized me as a very young child and whom I thought of sometimes as "monkeys" and sometimes as "bugs."

Cicadas in a Mormon context have recently appeared on this blog. In my March 18 post "Skeletor, hieroglyphic-bearing arthropods, and the Judgement," I reference the fringe Mormon Goker Harim, who claims to have translated the writings of the Brother of Jared from the markings on the back of a cicada. This was jokingly referenced by William Wright just a few days ago in his post "02/22."

1 comment:

jason said... Reminds me of this episode of Angel, Btvs spinoff.

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one

I was listening to an audio recording of the Book of Mormon, and when it got to the part where Nephi says they "did live upon raw meat ...