Halloween Double Feature: The Lowenmensch and Brain-Eating Amoeba

I like to watch horror movie double features on Halloween.  My favorites are the movies made by Hammer Productions, a British company that produced horror movies from 1958-1976.  Turner Classic Movies often airs these every October.  For my annual Halloween blog article I am offering a scary double feature.

The Lowenmensch is a 1 foot tall figurine found in Hohlenstein-Stedelgre Cave, Germany during 1939.  Lowenmensch means Lion-Man in German, and the sculpture depicts a half-man, half lion.  The artifact is estimated to be between 35,000 years-40,000 years old.  Archeologists attempted to reproduce it, and they discovered that it took 370 hours to sculpt.  The artist could have spent 1 hour a day for about a year to make it.  Archeologists suggest this means other people were taking care of him, while he worked on this object because life during the Stone Age consisted of constant subsistence hunting and gathering.  I disagree with this notion.  People didn’t hunt and gather at night when they might be in danger from unseen predators.  Instead, I believe they likely hung around the campfire where there was more security within a crowd of other humans.  The artist probably made this sculpture at night by the light of the campfire.

The Lowenmensch.  Just imagine a beast that was half-man, half lion…a kind of werelion instead of a werewolf 

Who knows what this object symbolizes?  Lions (Panthera spelaea) were a common species that co-existed with humans in Europe 35,000 years ago,  and humans infrequently interacted with them.  The 2 species likely avoided each other most of the time.  Apparently, humans anthropomorphized animals tens of thousands of years before Disney and Warner-Robins.

The 2nd part of this double feature is scarier because it is real.  There is a species of amoeba that eats human brains.

Computer-generated representation of the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which causes deadly brain infections.

The brain-eating amoeba (Naeglerea fowleri).

The brain-eating amoeba lives in the bottom sediment of warm freshwater lakes and ponds.  Normally, they eat bacteria.  But if a swimmer gets amoeba-filled water in their nose, the amoeba enter the olfactory nerves and penetrate the brain.  The amoeba can’t find bacteria in the brain, so they begin eating brain cells instead, and in response the human immune system fights the invasion, causing the brain to swell.  Symptoms of amoeba meningoencephalitis include headache, fever, nausea, stiff neck, disorientation, and hallucination.  The brain swelling stops the brain’s signals to the spinal cord.   The symptoms mimic bacterial and viral meningitis, often delaying the diagnosis.  The disease has a 97% mortality rate.  There is no sure known cure, but use of an experimental drug known as miltefosine saved 1 girl’s life.  Fortunately, this disease is extremely rare.  Just 146 cases have been recorded since 1962.

The crew of the U.S. Enterprise battled a giant space amoeba in 1 of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek.


One Response to “Halloween Double Feature: The Lowenmensch and Brain-Eating Amoeba”

  1. ina puustinen westerholm Says:

    Do enjoy the double features..of horror and such..on all hallows. It seems all those I know..have had such an attraction..to them…varying degrees. At age 14..my gal friends had talked me into payin’ moi money..at a local cinema..to see a MUMMY type film. There was a western..across the street..dang it. I went with them..and by the time the credits had stopped rolling, thecoffin lid..began to rise, and creeeekkkk..I was outta there! I got my money back..good talker that I was, went across the street..and enjoyed..a western! I am thinking that our idea of thinking that ONE artist..did all the work..on lionman..is faulty. All around those fires..over time..others..helped..add their ‘take’..as to size/eyes/lionskin ‘drape’..etc. Yes our modern experience is..’an artist’..does his-her..own work. IF..one steps back..walls, huts..and food gathering..were..COMMUNAL. My guess..those who ended up helping..watched-learned..how to push clay, or sculpt wood or patch holes..and signed..no individ. work..but..sighed together..as they enjoyed..their fancy statue..in their ..living room. 😉 ina

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