Are psychic gifts inherited? Does depression trigger demonic interest? What is a Strzyga, and how can you protect yourself from one? Geneticist Bill Presley may have inherited “the gift” from his Roma/Polish grandmother. He tells us about some things he’s experienced, sprinkled with some teasers from Polish folklore.

Episode Summary

Like most of us, Bill stayed in some questionable lodgings during college. Every night at that apartment, a shadow figure emerged from Bill’s closet to stare at him. And hold it just one gosh darned minute before you jump to a sleep paralysis diagnosis…Bill knew he could move, but he was absolutely certain moving was a very bad idea.

The entity he’s seeing in his bedroom closet is starting to make him groggy. It induces brain fog and even manifests physical illness. As a self-proclaimed horror-freak and the offspring of generations of Roma people with inherited psychic gifts, he is open-minded yet rational about the paranormal. Eventually, he wonders if he might be seeing a demon. But by the light of day, Bill is able to convince himself there’s nothing too bad happening. That is, until his roommate and friend see it, too.

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Episode Show Notes

About Bill Presley

Bill Presley is a geneticist who studies the molecular basis of pathogenesis in Mendelian diseases. These type of studies allow clinicians to diagnose patients with new and mysterious inherited medical issues. Although patients suffering from rare genetic conditions benefit from the work he does at his day job, our listeners might be more interested in his side gig as a horror fiction writer. Or…is it fiction?

Bill Presley, whose family has a history of inherited psychic gifts
Bill Presley, our guest for today’s episode

Bill (@AnotherPresley on Twitter) straddles the line between skeptic and believer, analytic and creative. He grew up hearing stories of inherited psychic gifts from his grandmother. Does his strong belief in the paranormality of his experience run counter to his values of rational empiricism? Does one have to be wrong for the other to be right? His true story of demonic oppression is part of an anthology published by Timber Ghost Press. He also crafted the story into his fictional novella Aniela, which serves as the prelude to the series entitled The Apprentice’s Notebook, published by Little Demon Books and available on Amazon.

Who is Bonbibi?

In the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans in the West Bengal area of east India and Bangladesh, and a deity named Bonbibi protects the forest and those that live there. However, residents of the area who would exploit the lands and the forest for more than they need will anger the goddess and lose her protection. The tigers that roam these woods will likely eat these greedy souls if they do not learn to change their ways.

What is a Strzyga?

As Bill said, vintage monsters from Polish folklore are so extra because the horror stories had to be more horrible than the misery of daily life. After reading even a little Kosiński, we are inclined to say “could the strzyga really be worse than that?” To which the answer is a resounding “dayum, I guess so!”

strzyga is basically a Polish vampire. The strzyga trait is not contagious, like the Western vampire, but congenital and inherited. Actually, perhaps we should call it a Polish manananggal.

Strzygi might be born of human parents, but upon closer examination may have 2 hearts, 2 souls, and 2 sets of teeth, no armpit hair, and may sleepwalk. Strzygi die young, but one of their two souls comes back from the dead to prey upon the living, eating their insides and sucking their blood. Unwitting onlookers may mistake them for owls, nocturnally flying low over inhabited areas, seeking prey. 

How can you protect yourself from a Strzyga?

When a strzyga dies, it is wise to take some precautions to keep it from rising to prey upon the living, like:

  • Decapitation, or burying the body face down with a sickle around its head. Maybe it’ll cut its own head off trying to arise, and never see it coming.
  • Hammering stakes through the body. Classic vampire move.
  • Burning the body. Classic just-about-any-monster move.
  • Placing a flint in its mouth. Perhaps it lights itself on fire when it tries to bite you?
  • Slapping it across the face with the left hand. Or as we like to call it, The Sinister Hand of Vampire Intimidation. Just doff your glove so you don’t accidentally challenge it to a duel.
  • Burying it outside of the village, pinned down with a large rock. Don’t come back now, y’hear?
  • Placing poppy seeds in a cross shape in the corners of the house. And not having pets who will promptly walk through them.
  • Exhumation in the presence of a priest (for safety, perhaps). Then, re-burying with a piece of paper with the word “Jesus” written on it under the strzyga’s tongue. Paper cuts in the name of the Lord sting the worst.
  • And if all else fails, try my personal favorite: putting many small objects in the strzyga’s grave. The monster will feel compelled to count and sort them all before rising to terrorize the countryside. Classic haint move, which would also work on at least half of my OCD family.

Oh and just to be clear, we ALL have 2 sets of teeth inside our heads at some point in our lives. Dental xrays of children are indistinguishable from those of great white sharks (or strzyga).

What does it mean when a dwelling never seems to have enough light?

Bill felt like, no matter how many curtains he opened or lights he turned on, his apartment was always dim and grey. Diana feels the same about her current house…also her childhood home, also apparently haunted. Could haunted places just feel perpetually dim? And what does that mean?

Researchers have long known that dim lighting plays such a significant role in feeling haunted. Studies designed to replicate a haunting almost always include dim light as a prerequisite. But is there anything real about the correlation? Are ghosts attracted to dimly lit spaces? Does a haunting cause the haunted to perceive the space as dim? We can’t find any help answering these questions, let us know if you know! But, just in case you thought there wasn’t a joke in there somewhere…here are some dim sum ghosts. Aww!

Does depression trigger demonic interest? Or the other way around?

We’ve heard that being depressed can weaken one’s faith, leaving them more susceptible to dark forces that might seek to possess them. We’ve also heard that one of the symptoms of demonic oppression or possession (2 stages of the same process) is depression. This feels like a “chicken or the egg” kind of logic problem…which came first? Can anyone really know, for sure?

Are psychic gifts inherited?

Another causality dilemma to think about is the nature vs. nurture of familial psychic gifts. Many people we’ve spoken to believe that “the gift,” (e.g. clairsentience/clairvoyance/clairaudience) passes from generation to generation within families. Others believe that psychic abilities are something anyone can develop given enough time, energy, and proper training. This could mean that what we see as an inherited psychic ability might simply be a result of the traditions one experiences growing up.

Familial valuation of psychic gifts may make us more confident or determined to develop our own. Having psychics in the family would also logically make us less likely to suppress our natural psychic talents just to fit in. If that’s true, it also makes sense that there would be more psychics within cultures that embrace rather than eschew the concept itself.

Still, there’s something romantic about the idea that certain cultures and families have a higher number of natural-born psychic mediums due to genetically inherited psychic gifts. Is there an unbiased way to determine the source of psychic gifts? Will we ever determine that a specific set of genes can predispose a person to having “the gift”? If anyone is going to, we’re putting our money on Bill. Until then, have a spooky day!