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La Sagenas de Diable, the Devil's Snare

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Lake Nicaragua on the Isthmus of Nicaragua

The Devil's Snare (Spanish: la Sagenas de Diable), also known as the Vampire Vine, is an appellation for a cryptobotanical carnivorous plant that reputedly exists in the lands around Lake Nicaragua in Central America. According to an account of the vines, first published December 1889 in New Orleans (and later in other American papers and periodicals), and later re-circulated by William Thomas Stead in the October 1891 issue of Review of Reviews (which he, in turn, credited to Annie Besant's Lucifer), a Leroy Dunstan encountered them when his dog became entangled and had to be cut free, and, based on observed evidence, concluded that the vines were possessed of suckers that allowed them to drain the blood of their prey (similar to the Arbor Diaboli, the Devil Tree of Mexico).

Dramatis Personae

The Account

The Original Story of 8 December 1889

A BLOOD-SUCKING PLANT. Strange Vegetable Growth Found in Central American Swamps.

As published in The Times (Philadelphia, PA): 2, 1889-12-09 

Special Telegram to THE TIMES.
NEW ORLEANS, December 8. Leroy Dunstan, the well-known naturalist of this city, who has recently returned from Central America, where he had spent nearly two years in the study of the flora and fauna of the country, relates the findings of a singular growth in one of the swamps which surround the great lake of Nicaragua. He was engaged in hunting for botanical and entomological specimens in this swamp, which is known as San Sebastian's, when he heard his dog cry out as if in agony from a distance. Running to the spot from which the animal's cries came, Mr. Dunstan found him enveloped in a perfect network of what seemed to be a fine, rope-like tissue of roots or fibres, the nature of which was unknown to him.
The plant or vine seemed composed entirely of bare, interlacing stems, resembling more than anything else the branches of the weeping willow denuded of all foliage, but of a dark, nearly black hue, and covered with a thick, viscid gum that exuded from the pores. Drawing his knife, Mr. Dunstan endeavored to cut the animal free, but it was only with the greatest difficulty that he succeeded in severing the fleshy, muscular fibre. To his horror and amazement the naturalist then saw that the dog's body was covered with blood, while his hairless skin appeared to have been actually sucked or puckered in spots, and the animal stagged as if from weakness and exhaustion.
In cutting the vine the twigs curled like living, sinuous fingers about Mr. Dunstan's hand, and it required no slight force to free the member from its clinging clasp, which left the flesh red and blistered. The gum exuding from the vine was of a grayish dark tinge, remarkably adhesive and of a disagreeable animal odor, very powerful and nauseating to inhale.
The native servants who accompanied M. Dunstan manifested the greatest horror of the vine which they call la sagenas de diable, the devil's seine, or snare, and were full of stories of its death-dealing powers. One of these stories was of an Englishman residing in Managua, who, while hunting in the swamp a few years before, lay down beneath a tree where a large and powerful specimen of this singular plant was growing and inadvertently falling asleep, awoke to find himself enveloped in its web, and in spite of every effort made to extricate him, perished in its deadly embrace.
Another story was of an escaped convict who had hidden in the swamp, and whose bones had been found in the folds of the sagenas only a short time before Mr. Dunstan's visit. These stories, remarkable as they may seem, are firmly believed in by the people, but the only three specimens which Mr. Dunstan was able to find were all small ones, though the meshes of the largest would probably, if extended in a straight line, measure nearly, if not quite, one hundred feet. He was able to discover very little about the nature of the plant, owing to the difficulty of handling it, for its grasp can only be torn away with loss of skin and even flesh, but, as near as Mr. Dunstan could ascertain, its power of suction is contained in a number of infinitesimal mouths or little suckers, which, ordinarily closed, open for the reception of food.
The gum exuded seems to serve the two-fold purpose of increasing its tenacity and of overcoming a victim by its sickening odor. The plant is found only in low, wet places, and usually beneath a large tree, and while dormant seems only a network of dry, dead vines covering the black earth for several feet, but coming into contact with anything will instantly begin to twist and twine upward in a horrible, life-like manner, breaking out with the gum-like substance spoken of before, and enwrap the object with a celerity that is almost incredible.
If the substance is animal the blood is drawn off and the carcass or refuse then dropped. A lump of raw meat being thrown it in a short time of five minutes the blood will be thoroughly drunk off and the mass thrown aside. Its voracity is almost beyond belief, it devouring at one time over ten pounds of meat, though it may be deprived of all food for weeks without any apparently loss of vitality. Mr. Dunstan attempted to bring away a root of the sagenas, but it died during his return voyage, growing so foul with a strong odor of real animal corruption that he was obliged to get rid of it.

The 1891 Abridgements

A Curious Story

As published in Lucifer 9 (49): 20, 1891-09-15, https://books.google.com/books?id=4C7YAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA20 

Mr. Dunstan, naturalist, who has recently returned from Central America, where he spent nearly two years in the study of the flora and the fauna of the country, relates the finding of a singular growth in one of the swamps which surround the great lakes of Nicaragua. He was engaged in hunting for botanical and entomological specimens, when he heard his dog cry out, as if in agony, from a distance. Running to the spot whence the animal's cries came, Mr. Dunstan found him enveloped in a perfect network of what seemed to be a fine rope-like tissue of roots and fibres. The plant or vine seemed composed entirely of bare interlacing stems, resembling more than anything else the branches of the weeping willow denuded of its foliage, but of a dark, nearly black hue, and covered with a thick viscid gum that exuded from the pores. Drawing his knife, Mr. Dunstan endeavoured to cut the animal free, but it was only with the greatest difficulty that he succeeded in severing the fleshy muscular fibres. To his horror and amazement the naturalist then saw that the dog's body was blood-stained, while the skin appeared to have been actually sucked or puckered in spots, and the animal staggered as if from exhaustion. In cutting the vine the twigs curled like living, sinuous fingers about Mr. Dunstan's hand, and it required no slight force to free the member from its clinging grasp, which left the flesh red and blistered. The gum exuding from the vine was of a greyish-dark tinge, remarkably adhesive, and of a disagreeable animal odour, powerful and nauseating to inhale. The native servants who accompanied Mr. Dunstan manifested the greatest horror of the vine, which they call "the devil's snare," and were full of stories of its death-dealing powers. He was able to discover very little about the nature of the plant, owing to the difficulty of handling it, for its grasp can only be torn away with the loss of skin and even of flesh; but, as near as Mr. Dunstan could ascertain, its power of suction is contained in a number of infinitesimal mouths or little suckers, which, ordinarily closed, open for the reception of food. If the substance is animal, the blood is drawn off and the carcass or refuse then dropped. A lump of raw meat being thrown it, in the short space of five minutes the blood will be thoroughly drunk off and the mass thrown aside. Its voracity is almost beyond belief.

THE VAMPIRE VINE

As published in Review of Reviews 4 (22): 391, October 1891, https://books.google.com/books?id=4Ch3NPZiYvkC&pg=PA391 .

Every one has read Victor Hugo's description of the octopus, which has hitherto been regarded as the most hateful and horrible of all created things. According to Lucifer, however, there has been discovered in Nicaragua a plant which is as horrible as the devil fish. This is a vine called by the natives "the devil's snare," which seems literally to drain the blood of any living thing which comes within its death-dealing touch.

(With the same story of Mr. Dunstan, verbatim, as the earlier Lucifer account.)