Many cultures have myths about animated skeletons. Whether it’s a skeleton spirit with a personality and a name or legions of the dead called up to fight, skeleton stories are found throughout the world. If you want an angry, glowing skeleton that can shapeshift and pass through windows, though? You need to go to Lithuania for that, and find a ziburinis.
Long before DC comics debuted second-tier Batman villain Dr. Phosphorous, there were stories about glowing skeletons that roamed the forests. Stories tend to change over the centuries, so it’s uncertain as to whether their presence warned of someone’s imminent death or if they simply liked to cause someone’s death, but either way they were, in their Lithuanian banshee way, not the most welcome of visitors.
The most popular ziburinis story tells of one approaching a group of farmhands, one of whom scared the creature off by shooting at it. That night, as the farm workers slept, the ziburinis came to the building where they were sleeping. Though the workers were asleep and the farm owner was out working in the barn, his wife saw it pass by. It then came in through the closed window and turned into a glowing woman, which caused the owner’s wife to faint. The ziburinis touched each of the sleeping farmhands in turn, then left. In the morning, all of them awoke, except the one who shot it, who was dead.
Why did it bother to turn into a glowing woman, when there’s no discernible reason? I’m thinking it was showing off for the farm owner’s wife. Think about it: nobody wants you around and you’ve got this cool shapeshifting ability. You’re going to want to show it off every once in a while.
But, generally? Don’t shoot at one. They don’t seem to like it. And if they hang around too long someone’s going to be dead. Most importantly, if you’re not hanging around with a bunch of Lithuanians, it’s very likely that nobody else will know what to do (except, if you’ve got a Batman fan in your group, make Dr. Phosphorous jokes.) If it sticks around, maybe invite a truly evil person over and try to get them to shoot the thing. Just a thought.
Another thought, a question of the night: What’s your favorite comic book villain?