Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Who is afraid of Madam High Heel? Ghanaian myths, legends and spooky stories

On the way home from work yesterday, the conversation turned to Ghanaian myths. One of my friends told us about a figure, whose head is supposed to be made from bofrot, and who entices people in a scary voice to bite the head. Apparently, whether you bite the bofrot or not, you will be killed by this bofrot-headed character. lol!

That led me to think about Madam High Heel (often pronounced madam high hill). Thing is, I never quite got what was supposed to be scary about Madam High Heel. Does anyone know the story there?

Then several years ago, there was the scare about people in town who touch you and you lose your "thing". Pretty scary for men, I bet.

And how could we forget Maame Water, the mermaid who is what? the devil's servant? And who will catch you if you go to the beach at night? Don't they even say that the hair extensions that women use to braid their hair comes from Maame Water? hehe.

I'm fuzzy on all the details of these myths, but they still scare me. I'm not sure what exactly is supposed to be scary about them but somehow, I just know that you don't want to mess with these characters.

Can anyone supply the details? Do you know any other Ghanaian myths, legends, and spooky stories?


  1. Things I never knew about Maame Water:

    "Dr. Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, a research fellow of the Institute, said the female Manatee looks like a woman when they surface to inhale fresh air at night. "When spotted in night, its scaly body against the moonlight creates the impression of half fish and half woman," adding that the female manatee has two breasts with teats and dwells in tropical waters, whether fresh or saline. "Because they are mammals, they have lungs and hence the need for them to take in air through their lungs."

    Entsua-Mensah, said "�because of the breast with teats, when people sight the mammals jumping out of the sea in the night to take in long deep breath of air, they are perceived as half woman, half fish." Studies conducted in Ghana by the institute and the Wildlife Department indicate that the manatee could be found in the Abbey lagoon and the Volta estuary. "They are also found in such rivers in Ghana as Dayi, Asukawkaw, Obusum, Sene and Oti within the Volta Lake. "

    for more, see here: http://www.sirenian.org/westafrican.html

  2. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA, BOFROT HEAD FIGURE. This is too hilarious! hahahahahaha. i just read it again and I cant stop laughing.

  3. Yeah, I remember mmotia/dwarfs too. They are supposed to live in the forest. My all time fave was what my people called "kum kansai"! Its supposed to be a very tall man with one wooden leg - which makes the sound "kum" and one metal leg - which makes the sound "kansai". Hence his name. When I was little I was deathly afraid of going upstairs alone because of him.

  4. The bofrot headed figure is known as kabi we (bite some and chew), its a bofrot headed man who creeps up on you and offers you a bit of his bofrot head, mind u, you are only allowed one bite.

    there is also the beautiful lady who used to have very neat braids/cornrolls,in the secondary schools, apparently she used to plait it herself, nothing new there, what was amazing was she would actually dislocate her head from her neck and do the plaiting...

    oh yeah there was also the thing called fire ball, apparently it used to circulate around the cape schools, dont know what it did in particular, but it was to be feared..

    as for madam high heel, i heard she lost one of her red heels and shes searching for it, you know in naija shes referred to as madam koskos.

  5. The bofrot guy was called Ka-bi-we..lol

  6. I've got one! lol. They exist in every country but Ghana seems to have a lot of them. Loud men, love to shout, & when in a discussion, 90% of what they bring to the table are attacks laced with insults. Very scary stuff. (could not resist).

    When I was a kid, I loved stories about dwarfs and wanted to meet one. There used to be pictures of them with their feet backwards.

  7. lololololol @ Mike

    Yeah I've always wondered why Ghanaian men sound so angry whenever they are in a discussion. My friend and I were discussing it sometime last week while listening to the radio.

  8. I vaguely remember hearing about madam hight heel as a kid, but can't remember the details. I do remember being terrified from other myths and legends for eg: Not stepping into a pothole because it would make you develop a limp, not picking up coins on the street because you might turn into yam, not sweeping at night for some reason or the other...probably related to dwarfs. Can't remember. But yeah...there was a whole bunch of them that terrified the heck out of me at the time. Good times :)

  9. The bofrot woman made me spit out my drink! Hahaha! The only myth I remember being told as as child in Koforidua was to stay away from the dreadlocked man in town because if I touched him I would go mad... yeah.

    @Mike I hope Esi doesn't mind me posting a link in her comments section but you just have to see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbvyJrrpsEc

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  11. asomdwe all!

    maame water cults are still in existence all over western africa: liberia, sierra leone, ghana, benin and togo--perhaps a few more. just last month a colleague of mine's was in ghana and benin comparing the maame water shrines. apparently the ones in ghana have begun to deviate a bit from what one normally expects to find there. also, maame water is an interesting example cultural "mixing"--many of the maame water symbols are hybrid or influenced by european contact. you can see an image of mame water (or mermaid) on an american brand of tuna, called "chicken of the sea." i think i have seen the brand here in ghana: http://chickenofthesea.com/index.aspx

    as for the motia, they are alive and well!! i have seen them in klikor, v/r, not far from the aflao. short, backwards feet, dreadlocked. they only want us to respect our culture. you can read up a bit on the motia in burkina faso/northern ghana among the dagara or lobi people (spelled several different ways). the book is called of water and spirit by malidoma some. according to malidoma, the motia frequently appear during the dagara/lobi rites-of-passage rituals. kzs

  12. Sankofa, Lawd hav mercy! That's exactly what Im talking about. Sad thing is, Parliament is full of these typa characters. That is why I ask "where do they learn this from?". We all have something to contribute but immediately you hurl an insult, the other person gets defensive and anything else you say is totally written off. It is one country. It is one world. We can all get along if we just stop & listen.
    Smoke or cot or eat whatever it is that calms your nerves & simmer down already!

    (im)perfect black; You saw dwarfs in Klikor? Seriously? After reading your post, I made a call to a family friend that lives there & is in his 70's. No info on mmotia sightings. Share any pictures or details you have. Will be very educative.

  13. Are Mike and Sankofa twee-ing current or it's just me? lol! I just needed to use that word. current:)

  14. Okay, i really need to start a whole new blog post for discussions on things like "conning", and "tweeing current" but speaking of current, one of my work colleagues says there's a related term: obi ehye wo bulb (someone is burning your light bulb) which is the advanced form of tweeing current. Ao, Ghana! The life dey jom kEkE.

  15. o Esi, thanks so much for this blog. You must NEVER EVER end it.

    LOL at Nasa! I'm cracking up about the woman who takes her head off to braid. For reals, I never heard that one but LOL!

    In Secondary school there used to be a loud 'moo' that we heard at night. In the deep dead of the night you would hear this lound soulful 'Mooooooooo'. Apparently it was a woman crying for her dead daughter. She visited our school because she hoped to find a replacement for her daughter there. Many of us drew closer to God in those days of the Moo. As soon as we heard it, lying in our mosquito nets deep in the dark night, we woke up and prayed ceaselessly to God that we would not be the one chosen to replace the dead daughter.

    Love this post Esi!!

  16. @ mike,

    alas, the mmotia are a bit camera shy as are most spiritual beings. its an article of faith as is the belief that jesus arose on the third day and ascended into heaven...

    why not go to klikor (or dagara/lobi land) and see for yourself :O)

  17. Esi Woarabae, if you don't "see" me here anymore, it is because I listened to (im)perfect_black and went looking for mmotia. Do they eat bofrot? I will have to take some with me.
    I'll have to patent everything I said to Sankofa before I leave since I get the impression it was good con.

  18. @mike


    p.s. when i at klikor i stay at the compound of one of the major shrines. so i see lots of unusual things. last time i was there i attended a funeral for dale massiasta, who was sort of an organic intellectual in the community. dale ran a cultural institution called blakhud. at the funeral dale's body was place in what i call an "action pose." he was seated in a chair dressed in white, with christmas lights draped across his lap. if you didn't look closely you would have thought he was just relaxing and not actually dead. unfortunately i took no pics of this event either. kzs



  19. guys... madam high heel was feared because she was an invisible lady that wore high heels.

    the only way you knew she was there was the clack-clack-clacking of her 6-inch heels and the hovering chalk that started writing on the blackboard right after.

    the strange thing about madam high heel was that she never came to YOUR school, only to the neighbouring school.

    Madam high heel was always rumoured to be in Datus but us at Ewit were not deemed worthy enough of her see-thru presence

    i think anyone with a little bit of sense can figure this thing out already

  20. Hey Esi... reading your blog got me all excited since i recently started one. Its nice to know that Ghanaians are blogging on stuff about Ghana.

    Anyway I thought you may want to know about the goat that said ya te abre when someone saw it in the girls bathroom (in secondary school)and started saying Blood of Jesus.LOL

    Maybe you should visit my blog enyos-place.blogspot.com for some stuff too.

    And there is the one with a goat who irons in the ironing room of some schools at 2am.

  21. @Anonymous, wow, these stories get more interesting everyday. A goat paaa who said ya te abrE! followed by blood of jesus. Charlie, Ghana goats have gone all spirito on us. hehe/

    Congratulations on starting the blog. I visited and tried to leave you a comment but blogger would not let me :( Will visit again. Just do you. Welcome to the blogosphere.

    Come laugh with us again:)

  22. @ Esi... anonymous just told the story wrong.

    it's a ghost that said "y'ate abre" in response to someone trying to exorcise them.

    i know because i was there when it happened

  23. There's this one that NEVER whistle at night because you may invite [spirits/dwarfs] who will whisk you into thin air.

    ****And another where we were told that never walk in between two people, you must always go around them or you may be possibly tying yourself up in the spirit.

  24. And you must never use a pestle (the one for fufu) to pound the ground because you will be pouding your mohter's head. On days when I was pissed off at that old bat, I'd go outside and pound away!

  25. LOL @ Malaka, that was Hilarious. The version I know is that you should never pound an empty mortar because youd be pounding your mother's breast.
    Esi, I knew about Kebi we, but I was told about "it/him" as a funny "late;" never heard of the killing part.
    @Nasa that comment about being allowed only one bite got me laughing till I had "stitches" and tears in my eyes.
    I'd never heard of "kum kansai" or the woman who took of her head to braid her hair and thank God for that! I a laughing now at all these stories but I am sure I'd have been terrified as a child! Heck "Nightmare on Elm Street" terrified me for over ten years after I'd seen it. I was quite the imaginative child and I could imagine till I was genuinely frightened and start to cry lol! I still hate having pictures in my room for fear of what they'll look like in the dark.
    So when on one of my holidays I went home and mum had put a large enough! picture of herself in a wedding hat (she's fante you see) on the wall right in front of my bed, I promptly removed it and placed it behind the wardrobe till I was leaving.
    This is the funniest blog I have ever read! I have had a good laugh :-) Thx Esi

  26. Motia or Dwarfs are very real,they can take you anywaywhere.I mean astral travelling.Morelike vanishing to london for day and back.These friendly beings are good,get to know them and they would be with you as you please.You wont know poverty,even if you don't have KOBO to spend they would supply.They like money(coins),sweet toffees,biscuits,banana,ginseng liquor,akpeteshie etcccc..

    From Nick...East-Legon

  27. hilarious, well i fink every high skul had some like dat too. In Peters there were stories of the statue of St. Peter Claver the patron saint of the school stepping of his pedestal and taking a walk around the school. and there was the fire ball and the unicorn(which i'm sure was fabricated by someone who had ODed on some good mpraeso weed)

  28. @Faf, EsE woara.

    @Malaka...lok@pounding away. That made me laugh:)

    @1st anonymous...sounds like you had a jolly time reading everything. Me too. Next time, tell us your name so we know who you are when we chat again. You can choose a name like "Kebi we's manager" lol. Glad you like the blog. I'm still fascinated by it and i've been reading it longer than you:) Hopefully you'll like it even more as time goes on. This is a proper love affair, not a one night stand:)

    Ei, Nick. looks like you and Imperfect black will really get along seeing us you both seem to
    know so much about dwarfs.Do you happen to have a photo of one of them, or are they camera shy?

    @you cracked me up with your mpraeso weed comment. Looks like you're new on here so welcome! Stay a while. Hopefully you'll find plenty to keep you entertained.

  29. @Ms Cleland Eh Sis never try that,you would get your face burnt in a flash when you try taking pictures of the great spiritual DWARFS.Cos the camera would burn up in just a flash,let's say in a second please please please.Even with their human affiliated Priest taking care of them,you can never ever take a picture of him either without his permission.No Lie k,do the research yourself and see what am talking about,peace out and take care.


  30. There was the one about not playing ampe when it is dark because spirits would come get you or snakes or something like that. It was probably only because they wanted you to do work and not stay up playing all night.

    Oh and also don't but both of your hands on your head because you're parents will die lol.

  31. About madam high heel when i was in nursery the story i heard was that she was a teacher who wore red from head to toe...very stylish i hear. some two evil twin students didnt like her and murdered her and put her in a cupboard. and till today she walks around preying on school kids, especially twins. where do these stories come from anyway?

  32. i remember i was told not to put my left hand on the floor when eating or all the food will enter the ground. why?

  33. lool these stuff are hilarious but still kinda scary. i'm a bit of a wimp..but i believe maame water might be real (mermaids) there's a lot of astral beings we can't see with the naked eye..not sure about the others though. The one about a man losing his "thing" was hilarious

  34. Esi,just discovered your blog this afternoon and you can guess what its done to my day.nice work,read some intellectually stimulating comments too.i just had to comment on this hilarious one.i remember one fine day in primary school,madam high heel was rumored to be heading to my school and the warning was if you had anything red on you,she'd kill you,so there was this girl who turned herself into colour identifier,so almost the whole school had sort of queued for her to identify whose ribbon,bag,pen,exercise books or whatever had red or closely related colour,blah,blah...i remember crying the entire day cos my bag was wine in colour and the girl said madam high heel could kill me...now it just cracks me up.

  35. Love this blog, the stories are funny, interesting and somewhat complex. O ghana ye be ye ni dyeng