The Yara-ma-yha-who is a little vampiric furry creature from the Australian Aboriginal folklore.
The Yara-ma-yha-who looks like a little red man, approximately four feet tall, with a very big head and a gaping mouth without teeth. The tips of the creature's fingers and toes are shaped like the suckers of an octopus. But these suckers are used for more than grappling onto victims or other objects. The Yara-ma-yha-who can also use them to suck its victim’s blood.
The Yara-ma-yha-who lives in big trees and does not hunt for food, but waits until an unsuspecting traveler rests under the tree. It then drops down from the tree, surprising the victim, and drains his blood using the suckers in its fingers. It leaves enough blood in the victim to keep him alive, although too weak to escape, while it goes off walking to work up an appetite. Later, the creature returns to its victim.
It lies down on the ground facing the victim, crawls to him like a lizard, and swallows him whole. The Yara-ma-yha-who then stands up on its two feet and does a sort of dance to jiggle all of the living body of its victim down into its stomach. But then, after some more time, the Yara-ma-yha-who drinks water and spits up its victim, who is still in one piece. If the creature fails to do this, it is itself killed by the spirit of the fig tree it inhabits and transformed into a glowing fungus.
The person is by then usually still alive. The victim then does best for himself by pretending to be dead. The Yara-ma-yha-who will test the victim by walking away from the body and then quickly turning around, by poking him with a stick, and by tickling him under under the chin and arms.
If the live victim has still been successful in feigning death, the Yara-ma-yha-who may then also walk off to some distance where it then sits and watches its victim for signs of life. But the creature will then eventually need to seek a bush and fall asleep. The victim, if indeed still alive, can then make his escape. If the Yara-ma-yha-who suddenly awakes and gives chase, the human victim still has a good chance of escaping. The creature has a slow, wobbling gait, like the cockatoo.
If it happens that the human victim does not escape from the Yara-ma-yha-who after being regurgitated, he is swallowed whole a second time. Again he is vomited out afterwards, but now he is shorter and more red than he was before.
If he is still alive but cannot escape, he is swallowed and regurgitated for a third time. If still alive, the victim is not only even closer in height to a Yara-ma-yha-who but also now has smooth skin like the creature. If the process of being swallowed and vomited alive is repeated enough times, the victim becomes a Yara-ma-yha-who himself.
In other stories, the Yara-ma-yha-who only regurgitates its victims twice and leaves, but will return to consume victims whose taste it likes repeatedly until they are transformed.
The Yara-ma-yha-who is a bogie created to frighten children away from wandering off on their own.
The creature lives mostly in thick, leafy trees, especially fig trees. It lurks in the branches of the trees to prey upon human beings that walk beneath, unaware of the danger.
Smith, William Ramsey, Myths and Legends of of the Australian Aboriginals, London: George G. Harrap, 1930. (Reprinted as Aborigine Myths and Legends, London: Random House/Senate, 1996).