Monster of the Week: The Brainiac


Baron Vitelius attacks! Cinematográfica ABSA

We've discussed sexy Mexican vampires already, but today's entry takes us into rather unappealing waters.

," a 17th century Mexican aristocrat who escaped the Holy Inquisition by hitching a ride on a passing comet only to return to Earth three centuries later with a vastly inhuman physiology.

Meet the true, vampiric from of Baron Vitelius, AKA "The Brainiac," a 17th century Mexican aristocrat who escaped the Holy Inquisition by hitching a ride on a passing comet only to return to Earth three centuries later with a vastly inhuman physiology.

As you can see, this bestial humanoid boasts three monstrous features of special note. First of all, his thick hair serves as a protective layer against the cold and radiation of outer space (a subject we've covered before).

Secondly, his long, forked tongue enables him to suck brains right out of the skull.

Thirdly, it's hard to ignore the weirdly phallic fingers -- especially if you're Frank Zappa.

Brainiac Fingers

Given the creature's alien origins, those brainiac fingers could be anything -- but suckers seem a more likely theory than penises. Much like the suckers of an octopus or gecko, these would allow the creature to grasp prey or scale sheer surfaces. Plus, you might wonder why the Baron would have four penises? Well, consider for a moment that the echidna boasts a four-headed penis and that male cephalopods have a specialized sperm-carrying arm called a hectocotylus. Factor in the alien on top of that and anything's possible.

Brain Sucker

What a tongue! The creature's forked proboscis is reminiscent of a certain modern strain of vampire, but it also reminds one of a natural-world organism: Anoura fistulata, the tube-lipped nectar bat. This Ecuadorian mammal boasts a tongue more than one and a half times its body length. As to the tongue's sucking power, I leave you to consider whether the tongue sucks the victim's brain out by raw vacuum power or if it injects a liquifying agent before slurping the cranium dry.

While plenty of animals feast on brains, obligate cerebravores are a rarity. As explored in this Mental Floss article, creatures such as the tree kangaroo and the common chipmunk are not above slurping down some fatty head cheese, but to depend on it exclusively? It's unheard of in animals so large. Why would they waste the rest of the body? How would they avoid the risk of prion disease?

While prions typically pose a threat to brain-munching organisms, it's worth noting that genes evolve to protect against prion disease and that prion-related mechanisms provide beneficial functions in nature. As such, especially given the extraterrestrial aspects of the Baron, we have to give him a pass on prions. As for his diet, he presumably needs high quantities of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). If only he'd had ready access to fish oil...

Now let's see this brain-sucking devil in action:

http://youtu.be/W1tS1N1KL1E?t=1h5m36s

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens is of our monster-haunted world. Sometimes we'll focus on the cultural aspects, but mostly we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend. Be sure to explore the Monster Gallery as well as the Monster Science video series.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.