Eight creepiest mythical creatures from around the world

A mix of celebration and superstition, Halloween, also known as “All Hallows’ Eve” is believed to be the time when ghosts return to the earthly world. In many countries, many mythical and supernatural creatures originating from traditional folklore are associated with this occasion. Stories about these strange and terrifying entities have been passed from one generation to the next, connecting people to their past.

We’ve put together a list of the creepiest creatures from different countries that may either terrify you, amuse you, or inspire your costume this Halloween:

1. Ushi-oni (Japan)

With its fair share of strange monsters (yokai) and gigantic beasts (kaiju) like Godzilla,  Japanese mythology and folklore are known worldwide. Ushi-Oni (“ox demon”) is one of the mythical monsters that once haunted Japan and particularly terrorized fishermen out in the sea. This mysterious yokai is depicted differently depending on the region. In Shimane, it looks like a crab with the body of an ox, while in Shikoku, the ushi-oni has tusks and flying squirrel-like wings.

2. Manananggal (Philippines)

Popular in the western provinces of the Philippines, the manananggal (from the Tagalog word “tanggal” meaning “to split”) is a hideous, vampire-like creature. When it transforms at night, it grows wide, bat-like wings and can sever its upper torso from its lower body. Legend has it that this monster preys on people sleeping and pregnant women then sucks the heart of fetuses and blood of victims with its elongated tongue. It can be killed by sprinkling salt or putting crushed garlic on its severed lower torso.

3. Bai Ze (China)

A supernatural beast from Chinese mythology, the bai ze (“white marsh”) resembles a white ox with six horns and nine eyes – three on its head and three on its broad sides. Though its appearance can give kids nightmares, it’s actually considered a good omen and symbol of good luck, only appearing in countries where the leader is wise and virtuous. It can also speak human languages and is believed to have had an encounter with Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor of China.

4. Baba Yaga (Russia)

In Slavic folklore, the baba yaga is portrayed as an old, skinny witch with dark magic and flies on a mortar instead of a broom. Also known as a forest spirit, she offers guidance to those who seek her help respectfully. Stories about baba yaga teach children about reverence to nature and its spirits. On the other hand, some people see her as an antagonist that kidnaps and enslaves those lost in the forest. Parents sometimes use her name to frighten their children from wandering far from home.

5. Chupacabra (Puerto Rico)

Back in the 1990s, the legend of the chupacabra (“goat sucker” in Spanish) began when goats and chickens turned up dead in Puerto Rico with their blood completely drained. The folk tale spread through Mexico and the U.S., where deaths of livestock also occurred. The chupacabra apparently looks like a coyote with mange, a horrible skin disease. Other accounts describe it as a gray, lizard-like creature with large eyes, fangs, and muscular hind legs that help it walk upright.

6. Chimera (Greece)

In Greek mythology, the chimera is a three-headed, fire-breathing hybrid monster with the head and body of a lion, the head of a goat on its back and a tail that ends with a head of a snake. The legendary beast is the child of Typhoeus, the mightiest and deadliest monster, and Echidna, a half-snake, half-woman creature. Ancient Greek and Roman art have often shown this beast being slain by the hero Bellerophon while riding the winged horse Pegasus.

7. Alp (Germany)

Originating from German folklore, the alp is a malevolent, vampiric spirit that has the ability to shape-shift into cats, dogs, snakes, butterflies and pigs. This male demon appears in the nightmares of men, women, and children, and in the old days, people believed alps caused sleeping problems, such as sleep apnea, sleep paralysis, and sleep walking. Unfortunately, it only resides in dreams, making it almost impossible to kill.

8. Banshee (Ireland)

The bearer of unfortunate news, the banshee (bean-sidhe means ‘faerie woman’) is a fairy from Irish folklore that wails outside a home to warn the imminent death of a family member. She’s also depicted as an old, deathly woman with a pale face covered by a veil. Despite her spooky appearance, apparently, she means well and foretells death to give other family members a chance to prepare. But whatever her intentions are, we think no one would like a visit from her anytime soon.

Are there other frightening mythical creatures from folklore in your country? Tell us about them and have a spooktacular Halloween!

Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

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