Encyclopaedia of the Impossible: Cow Head

steer skullPreviously: The Blind Maiden Website.

Type: VV (Verbal Virus)

Period/location of origin: Unknown, Japan. Some accounts state that subject dates back to the Meiji period or before; others, however, suggest that subject may have emerged during the 1960s. The truth of subject’s origin has not yet been determined.

Appearance: Subject is apparently a story called “Cow Head” which is so terrifying that it drives anyone who either hears it or tells it insane; targets may also expire shortly after either hearing or telling it. Subject’s details — that is, the substance of the story, etc. — remain unknown.

Subject may alternatively be known as “Ushinokubi,” “Ushi no kubi,” or “Gozu.” Subject should not be confused with the Ukranian folktale of the same name.

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Modus operandi: During periods of uneventfulness, waiting, or boredom when two or more targets are present, one target (hereafter termed “storyteller”) may begin, unbidden, telling the story. Regardless as to whether or not any other targets present request that the storyteller not proceed, the storyteller will continue to do so until the tale has reached its conclusion. During the telling, the storyteller will appear to have vacated his or her own body; it is unknown what force spurs the storyteller onward, but it suspected that subject takes control of the storyteller’s body during this time.

The storyteller will find, upon finishing the tale, that any other targets within hearing distance will have lost consciousness, begun frothing at the mouth, and/or broken out into cold sweats and fits of shivering. Any and all targets involved in the incident, including the storyteller, may cease to exist before the week is out.

It is unknown how subject achieves this effect on its targets, and frankly, no one really wants to volunteer to find out. Furthermore, given subject’s tendency to eliminate any target who might hear it, it is unknown how subject proliferates. It may be assumed that subject is able to transmit itself directly into the brains of select targets via some as yet undetermined process. The criteria used by subject to select storytellers also remains unknown.

Containment: Should someone within earshot begin telling the story, the simplest method of containment is simply to remove oneself from the area. Should one find oneself beginning to tell the story, regardless as to whether or not one had previously knowledge of it, it is recommended that one find some way to halt one’s mouth immediately. If drastic measures must be taken, so be it — although it is possible that targets will not be aware of what they are doing at the time.

Additional notes: According to some reports, subject originates after an unnamed emperor of the early Meiji period in Japan ordered a census. One of the government officials dispatched to conduct this census, however, found some unexpected circumstances when he arrived at several town. One town, for example, was deserted, with nothing but bundles of bones from what the official assumed were animals scattered about. At the next town, the official asked the innkeeper whether he knew what had happened to the previous village; the innkeeper reported that during the recent famine, the townspeople had become so desperate that they had begun consuming each other.

The official bedded down for the night in the inn, only to witness through his window a man wearing a cow’s head running around outside while a crowd of villagers gave chase. When the official asked the innkeeper what had gone on the previous night, the innkeeper told him only that it was part of the town’s “Cow Chasing Festival.” No further details were offered.

It is unknown how the official later determined the final piece of the puzzle, but by the time he returned to the capital, he had not only verified that the deserted village had been the result of desperate cannibalism during the famine — but moreover, that the second village had played a hand in it as well. It was determined that the second village had consumed the inhabitants of the first village; furthermore, when times were especially lean, they would elect one of their own villagers for sacrifice. Whoever was chosen would be butchered to provide food for the remainder of the townspeople — but before the butchering could take place, the chosen sacrifice was required to wear a cow’s head. The idea was to make the sacrifice look less human.

Other reports state that science fiction writer Sakyo Kumatso (January 28, 1931 – July 26, 2011) had once circa 1960 written either a short story about subject, or had actually written subject itself. Due to the horrifying nature of the work, it allegedly never saw print.

Still other reports describe an incident in which subject was told. During a long bus ride, a school teacher had seemingly been entertaining his students by telling scary tales. However, when he began telling subject, his young charges all pleaded with him to stop. Regardless, he continued on; upon completion of the story, he discovered that everyone on the bus, including the driver had passed one. The fate of all targets involved remains unknown; in some reports, they were all dead within a few days, but in others, they simply remain incapacitated. All reports, however, agree on one thing: The teacher never told the story again.

It should be noted than none of these reports has been verified. Still, though — they’re worth bearing in mind.

Recommendation: Plug your ears. Stop your mouth. And run.


Cow Head.


5 Japanese Urban Legends That Are Actually Scary.


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[Photo: The Blackthorn Orphans/Flickr]


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