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Tokoloshe: The Air Quality Demon

Air quality often seems a mysterious and baffling topic. Changes in its quality are imperceptible yet can have a significant impact on our health. Carbon monoxide (as featured in last year’s Halloween post) for instance can be lethal despite it being clear and odorless. Today, we have carbon monoxide detectors and other air quality sensors to inform us of the invisible components of our surroundings. However, our predecessors were ignorant to these particles, leading to countless tales of mysterious, invisible monsters that we now understand stemmed from airborne threats. The tokoloshe is one such monster.

Monster Under Bed Image

Imagine this, you’re snuggled up on the floor by the fireplace reading a book one evening. You begin to feel increasingly drowsy, and, unable to keep your eyes open, you drift to sleep. Then, suddenly, you wake up gasping for breath.

Most would chalk this up to a bad dream but, for some of you, the legend of the tokoloshe would undoubtedly drift to the front of your mind. A wicked goblin-like spirit, it’s known for strangling its victims to death while they sleep. Adding to its insidiousness, it can make itself invisible to evade detection and can harass and inflict illness upon its target for months or years before eventually taking their life.

Woman scared sleeping image

However, despite its malicious intent and supernatural powers, the best way to ward off a tokoloshe is to simply place a few bricks beneath each leg of your bed, elevating it above the reach of the short-statured tokoloshe. While this easy fix is certainly a comfort to the more superstitious, it seems like a lackluster defense against such a malicious, supernatural being.

Well, its characteristics may be a clue to the tokoloshe’s true form: invisible, deadly, low-to-the-ground and night-dwelling. You see, the native South Africans who originated the legend, traditionally lived in buildings called rondavels, which are small structures made of mortar and stone with a fire in the middle to keep its occupants warm on chilly nights. As the fire burns at night, it consumes oxygen while also producing toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and acrolein. As the larger of these chemicals, like benzene and acrolein, are heavier than air, they sink to the bottom of the room poisoning those sleeping on the floor and causing respiratory distress. Even when not inhaled in lethal concentrations, these chemicals can slowly degrade the health of victims over time. Now, the simple solution of sleeping on an elevated bed begins to make sense. By sleeping above the level where these chemicals pool, one can avoid the worst of the consequences.

Child looking under bed image

While the tokoloshe may not be real, like many monsters it reflects real world dangers that are difficult to identify or explain. So, how can you avoid the curse of the tokoloshe? Keep your home well ventilated and preserve your indoor air quality. Air quality sensors, like the Wynd Halo can notify you if chemical levels in your home rise too high, and air purifiers with carbon filters, like the Wynd Max, can remove any chemicals that may be lingering… a few bricks under your bed also couldn’t hurt. You know, just in case…

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