Although folk tales from around the world can be happy and heartwarming, they can also be exceptionally scary. Sometimes featuring characters that are far more terrifying than ghosts and goblins, the myths and legends from around the world were often invented to scare listeners.
At least we can take comfort in the fact that creatures like the banshee and the Kraken aren’t real. They’re just fictitious creatures that are supposed to scare children … or are they?
Read on to find out about these 10 figures from folk tales that are totally spine-chilling.
10 South Africa: Grootslang
Sometimes referred to as Grote Slang, this creature is like a cross between a snake and an elephant. Can you imagine anything more terrifying? According to legend, the grootslang lives in a deep cave in South Africa and is as old as existence itself. It is said to live on a diet of elephants, which it lures to its cave.
South African folklore claims that the gods realized they’d made a serious blunder after creating this creature. They gave it far too much strength and cunning, and so decided to split it up and create snakes and elephants instead.
9 Philippines: Manananggal
How do we describe the manananggal of the Philippines? Blood-sucking. Evil. Man-eating. And Vampire-like, but not in the glamorized sparkly way. Just in the creepy way. In particular, these flying creatures are said to have a taste for pregnant women who are asleep. Just because pregnant women don’t have enough to worry about!
The manananggal is able to sever its torso and sprout wings. To kill it, you must crush garlic or ash on the lower torso so that the upper body will not be able to join it again.
8 Ireland: Banshee
Of all the creatures to come from Celtic folklore, none are so horrifying as the Banshee. An omen of death, this spirt will wail if someone is about to die. Definitely not a sound you want to hear! In Irish mythology, the banshee is described as a fairy woman. In Scottish Gaelic folklore, she washes bloodstained clothes and armor belonging to those who are about to lose their lives.
Although the banshee sounds like a scary story invented to entertain the Celts, there have been several sightings of the creature. Many of them have taken place in the 20thcentury.
7 Scandinavia: The Kraken
Often appearing throughout pop culture, the Kraken of Scandinavian mythology is the mother of all sea monsters. Said to reside in the waters surrounding Greenland and Norway, this creature is a giant squid that’s so large it was sometimes mistaken for an island by sailors.
Traditionally, the Kraken lived beneath the surface of the water and sometimes attacked ships. It was foretold that it would rise to the surface at the end of the world. Some believe that the legend of the Kraken actually stems from early sightings of colossal squids.
6 Australia: The Bunyip
One of the scariest figures of Indigenous Australian Dreamtime stories is the bunyip. Said to reside in billabongs, which are still bodies of water branching out from rivers, the bunyip terrorized early European settlers in colonial times. The descriptions of this creature are varied, with some sightings claiming that it has scales or fur. It has also been likened to a hippopotamus.
In the language of the Wemba-Wemba people, bunyip means “evil spirit” or “devil”. The creature is said to live in the water and gobble up anybody who treads too close.
5 United States: Wendigo
The tale of the Wendigo comes from the Algonquian-speaking Native Americans of Canada. It is said that is cannibalistic creature closely resembles a zombie and has been known to be both the size of a human and up to 15-feet tall.
The humanoid creature is said to be able to turn its victims into Wendigos too, which is why the Native Americans feared it so much. They are believed to hide among the human population and then return to their real zombie-like forms and lust after human flesh.
4 China: Nian
If you’ve ever celebrated Chinese New Year, you would have seen depictions of the Nian. This dragon-like creature is said to live in the sea and in the mountains and terrorize humans on Chinese New Year. That’s why the occasion is so often celebrated with red firecrackers. The creature is believed to hate loud noises and the color red.
One version of the legend says that people now light fireworks on Chinese New Year to celebrate the death of the beast, which was killed after it collapsed from exhaustion.
3 England: Black Annis
Sometimes referred to as Black Annie, this bogeyman figure is well-known in English folklore. Residing alone in the Dane Hills, Black Annis haunts the Leicestershire countryside looking for children to eat. Of course, the tastiest children are those who have misbehaved.
According to myth, she would also come to village shacks and pull children through the open windows with her long bony arms. They could prepare themselves for her visit, though, by listening out for the sounds of her howls and sharp teeth grinding together.
2 France: Lou Carcolh
Just when you thought that mollusks could never be scary! The lou carcolh of French folklore is a cross between a mollusk and a serpent. It is said to boast slimy tentacles that can reach out for miles and grab unsuspecting victims. It also carries a huge shell on its back, just like a snail, and lives in underground caves in the southwest of the country.
The legend of the lou carcolh states that once it had grabbed a victim, it would swallow them whole. Much larger than any real snake, the beast is also described as being hairy.
1 North Korea: Pulgasari
While Japan is home to Godzilla, North Korea is home to Godzilla’s counterpart, Pulgasari. Right out of the 1980s Korean film of the same name, Pulgasari started as a figurine of a monster before coming to life. After eating farmers' tools, the creature grows to an enormous size. At first, the creature helps the peasantry by killing the evil king. But then his hunger for metal tools becomes too much.
Realizing that the monster is out of control, the blacksmith’s daughter who brought him to life sacrifices herself to get the creature to stop wreaking havoc across North Korea.