When you live in the western world it’s easy to lock yourself in a bubble and forget there are other cultures out there that have their own very creepy demons. For instance, this demon from the island of Zanzibar is one of the most treacherous creatures to haunt the Earth, yet no one seems to know about it outside of Tanzania. The Popobawa demon legend says that anyone who doesn’t believe in this creature will succumb to a horrible fate, and villagers who live in areas where this demon is said to live are incredibly open about their belief in this terrible creature.
The Popobawa may be one of the only cryptids that attack nonbelievers. When it finds out that someone doesn’t have faith in its evil ways the Popobawa sneaks into their homes and commits unspeakable acts. There are plenty of shapeshifting cryptids and a vast array of mythical creatures from Africa, but none of them are as gruesome and terrifying as the Popobawa.
The Popobawa was allegedly the cause of an outbreak of mass hysteria that spread from Pemba to Unguja in 1995. All of Zanzibar was affected when the shapeshifting bat creature was said to have swept through the area and started attacking unsuspecting men. One after another, villagers began to report being attacked in their sleep by this mysterious creature.
Soon, entire villages were sleeping outside to avoid attack. The mass hysteria reached a fever pitch when a mob of villagers attacked a mentally ill boy they thought was harboring the demon. After his death the panic subsided.
It's worth noting that the most widespread reports of Popobawa attacks come during the Tanzanian general elections. The elections of 1995 - when Zanzibar faced a wave of Popobawa attacks - was one of the most contentious elections the islands ever faced. According to Ben Rawlence, an author and researcher for Human Rights Watch, no matter what happens in the elections the outcome is disputed.
In 2000 the elections were such a nightmare that they were actually canceled, restarted, and boycotted by those opposing the redo. While the Popobawa has been seen in between elections, it makes sense that sightings of demons increase during times of civil unrest.
In Swahili, "Popobawa" translates directly to "bat wing," and while one of the forms that the Popobawa takes is that of a large bat, that doesn't mean this creature doesn't take on even more horrifying shapes. The creature can take on multiple shapes - animal or human - although it prefers to exist unseen in the shadows.
This evil spirit is more akin to a shadow person than it is to a large cryptid creature like the Mothman, although it's more likely to get physical with its prey than most creatures.
Due to the Popobawa's ever changing nature, there's no one way of knowing when the creature is setting its sights on you. However, one way of detecting this shadow monster is by its acrid smell. People who have come close to the Popobawa claim that sometimes it has an intense sulfurous odor which is followed by a smokey presence.
This isn't always the case, but if you smell sulfur you should probably get out of your house as quickly as possible lest you draw the ire of the Popobawa.