Sometimes ghosts blur the line between spirit and monster. Once such ghost is the Churel of Southern Asia and India. Also known as churail, chudail, and chudel, the Churel is a female spirit that preys upon men in a manner similar to a vampire. Churel is also a word for “witch”, and they are considered a very dangerous type of ghost.
The Churel is the ghost of a low caste woman who died while she was pregnant, in childbirth, or while having her menstrual cycle. If a pregnant woman dies during the five days of the Diwali festival, she will surely rise as a Churel. Most Churel are Soshi Churel, women who were neglected in life and now stalk men to drain their blood and semen. Often they will be particularly fond of the blood of their own relatives.
Churel are shapeshifters of a sort. Their natural appearance is that of a horrible, ugly woman with a pot belly and, weirdly enough, backwards feet. They have long, serpentine like tongues and their hair is also snake-like, moving on its own. They also have sharp fangs in their mouth, again like a snake. However, the spirits can change their appearance to become that of a beautiful woman. Often the backward feet remain, so they conceal their lower legs. In this form they lure young men into having sex, and while copulating will drain the man of his bodily fluids by sucking them dry with their fanged mouths.
The Churel sometimes doesn’t kill her victim all at once. She may take a man and capture him in a cage. She will then feed on his blood and semen for several days, bringing him food and water to keep him alive. Sometimes, if the man has particularly sated her lusts, the Churel will let him go, and he will return to his family looking much older, with gray hair and and aged appearance.
There are two other types of Churel other than the Soshi. Some Churel specifically target and molest children. Known as Poshi Churel, they only feed upon children and are submissive to their husbands, should he still be alive. An evil spirit, it can still be brought to heel by the man it once loved. A very few Churel are Toshi Churel, and are kind and beneficial to their families. They often become protectors of their family and serve their husbands after death. However, like attempting to make a pet of a cobra, the spirit could turn evil at any time.
Once a Churel has risen, it is very difficult to put down. Exorcisms may work, as well as exhuming the body and performing ritual cleansing, but no method is completely fool-proof. A Churel can seem to be vanquished, only to return years or decades later to resume haunting a town or family. The best solution is prevention, and any women who have died and are thought to possibly rise as a Churel should be bound in a coffin nailed shut with iron nails. The corpse’s hand and feet must be bound with iron wire or nailed together with iron nails. Red flowers should be planted all around the burial site. Iron nails driven into the threshold of a home may also prevent the spirit from entering.
Some Churel eventually join the ranks of the Dakini and serve as Kali’s handmaidens, sowing death where their mistress wills.