Twisted Tuesdays: Monsters of Urban Legend & Folklore
by Tracy Vanity
The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books made me obsessed with urban legends as a kid. I loved thinking that KFC chicken could be made out of rats and a serial killer could call you from upstairs while you’re babysitting and murder all the kids you’re supposed to be taking care of. The monsters in these books were of particular interest since they could be from anywhere and take on various forms…
These spooky tales, originally told flesh-to-flesh, can now spread to millions of people through the internet. Slender Man has surely taken off and now he has a quite entertaining twitter account, as does The Rake. You should follow them at your own risk!
Every country and culture has many of their own scary stories and urban legends, but here is a highlight of monsters found in urban legends and folklore from around the world:
-In the 19th century, the Bell Witch was a brutal poltergeist who haunted the Bell family, assaulting and cursing them.
–The Black Dog is a hellhound found in the British Isles and even Latin America. This ghost is said to be the harbinger of death.
–Bloody-Bones is usually said to live near ponds, but according to Ruth Tongue in Somerset Folklore, “lived in a dark cupboard, usually under the stairs. If you were heroic enough to peep through a crack you would get a glimpse of the dreadful, crouching creature, with blood running down his face, seated waiting on a pile of raw bones that had belonged to children who told lies or said bad words.
–The Brosno dragon is basically the loch ness monster of Russia. He also looks like dinosaur.
-There are many variations of The Bunny Man legend which spread around the U.S. but basically he runs around wearing a bunny suit and murders people with an axe.
–The Bunyip is an Aboriginal creature which deals in water-based areas of Australia. It doesn’t seem to do much but this video that Carlton Mellick posted before makes this monster seem a lot creepier:
–El Cipitio is some kind of ghost or paranormal entitity from El Salvador of a boy with a giant belly and backwards feet who flies and throws pebbles at people. He is said to be the child of some “illicit” couple.
-The Crawfordsville Journal described the Crawfordsville monster as being “about eighteen feet long and eight feet wide and moved rapidly through the air by means of several pairs of side fins. It was pure white and had no definite shape or form, resembling somewhat a great white shroud fitted with propelling fins. There was no tail or head visible but there was one great flaming eye, and a sort of a wheezing plaintive sound was emitted from a mouth which was invisible. It flapped like a flag in the winds as it came on and frequently gave a great squirm as though suffering unutterable agony.”
–“According to the book De Kinderen van Het Bezeten Bos which was written in 1937 the legend of Deogen is said to have began when area nuns began finding the burned bodies of young children in the Sonian Forest in Belgium, near Brussels. It is said in the book that 80 children were murdered and the bodies dumped throughout in the forest and set ablaze but a more accepted number was only 8. Very little is known of the case excepting that which is found in the book which is believed by many to have been a work of fiction.”
–Draugar are pretty metal. These undead creatures from Norse mythology possess superhuman strength and come up out of their graves as wisps of smoke, increase in size, and kill people by crushing them, drinking their blood, and driving them insane.
-In Scandinavian folklore, Gjenganger are like ghosts in that they have died and come back from the dead but are in full human-like form and can cause damage if they’re pissed off or evil.
–“According to legend, Goatman is an axe-wielding, half-man, half-animal creature that was once a scientist who worked in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The tale holds that he was experimenting on goats, the experiment went awry, and he began attacking cars with an axe, roaming the back roads of Beltsville, Maryland. A variation of the legend tells of Goatman as an old hermit who lives in the woods, seen walking alone at night along Fletchertown Road.”
–“A hidebehind is a nocturnal fearsome critter from American folklore that preys upon humans that wander the woods, and was credited for the disappearances of early colonial loggers when they failed to return to camp. As its name suggests, the hidebehind is noted for its ability to conceal itself. When an observer attempts to look directly at it, the creature hides again behind an object or the observer and therefore can’t be directly seen: a feat it accomplishes by sucking in its stomach to a point where it is so slender that it can easily cover itself behind the trunk of any tree. The hidebehind uses this ability to stalk human prey without being observed and to attack without warning. Their victims, including lumberjacks who frequent the forests, are dragged back to the creature’s lair to be devoured. The creature subsists chiefly upon the intestines of its victim, and has a severe aversion to alcohol, which is considered a sufficient repellent. Tales of the hidebehind may have helped explain strange noises in the forest at night. Early accounts describe hidebehinds as large, powerful animals, despite the fact that no one was able to see them.”
–“In 1893 newspapers reported the discovery of a Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It had “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end”. The reports were instigated by well-known Wisconsin timber cruiser and prankster Eugene Shepard, who rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal. The group reported that they needed to use dynamite to kill the beast.”
-In Chilean folklore, Imvunche is a deformed, hairy monster boy with a snake-like tongue that protects the entrance to a warlock’s cave.
-There have been many sightings of The Jersey Devil even to this day:
–Kuchisake-onna is a Japanese spirit, mutilated by a jealous husband and said to torment little Japanese children. She is known to wear a surgical mask and goes up to kids, asking if she looks beautiful. If they say “yes” she removes her mask and reveals her mouth which has been split open from ear to ear. If they say “no” she chops them up. Creepy shit.
–La Llorona is well-known in Latin America. Spanish for “The Weeping Woman,” the version I was told was that she is the ghost of a woman who was abandoned by her lover and ends up drowning her children and herself in the river. Her ghost is seen crying in the middle of the night looking for her children. In Thailand there is a similar ghost called Phi Tai Hong.
-The Lambton Worm is a huge dragon-looking beast that terrorized a village in the UK and has a song which I can’t really understand but the pictures of the “worm” are cute:
-“In the folklore of Bali, the Leyak (in Indonesian, people called it ‘Leak’ (le-ak)—the Y is not written or spoken) is a mythological figure in the form of flying head with entrails (heart, lung, liver, etc.) still attached. Leyak is said to fly trying to find a pregnant woman in order to suck her baby’s blood or a newborn child. There are three legendary Leyak, two females and one male.”
-The Manananggal of the Philippines is a vampire-like creature, typically depicted as a woman who has bat wings and long straw tongue to suck blood from people and fetuses out of pregnant women.
-The Melon heads were deformed children from a Michigan insane asylum who were mistreated, went feral, and escaped into the forest.
-A Nachzehrer is a German vampire ghoul, who eats the dead and is created when a person dies by suicide or accident. It apparently loves munching on grave clothes.
-Like the name suggests, the Owlman of the UK is a giant owl-like man with claws, wings, and glowing eyes.
–“In most accounts, the Pope Lick Monster (named after the Pope Lick Creek below the Pope Lick Train Trestle) appears as a human-goat hybrid with a grotesquely deformed body of a man. It has powerful, fur-covered goat legs, an alabaster-skinned face with an aquiline nose and wide set eyes. Short, sharp horns protrude from the forehead, nestled in long greasy hair that matched the color of the fur on the legs.
Numerous urban legends exist about the creature’s origins and the methods it employs to claim its victims. According to some accounts, the creature uses either hypnosis or voice mimicry to lure trespassers onto the trestle to meet their death before an oncoming train. Other stories claim the monster jumps down from the trestle onto the roofs of cars passing beneath it. Yet other legends tell that it attacks its victims with a blood-stained axe. It has also been said that the very sight of the creature is so unsettling that those who see it while walking across the high trestle are driven to leap off.
Other legends explain the creature’s origins, including that it is a human goat hybrid, and that it was a circus freak who vowed revenge after being mistreated. In one version, the creature escaped after a train derailed on the trestle. Another version claims that the monster is really the twisted reincarnated form of a farmer who sacrificed goats in exchange for Satanic powers.”
-In 1930’s Chicago, a young female hitchhiker dressed all in white, was picked up by several drivers only to vanish once the car stopped in front of the cemetery. One of many variations of the vanishing hitchhiker stories, Resurrection Mary was said to have been a young woman who had stormed out of a ball when her boyfriend pissed her off and was killed by a hit and run driver while on her way back home.
–Robert the Doll was a super creepy doll owned by painter in Key West who was said to move, talk, giggle, knock over furniture, and do other scary shit. The painter kept the doll until he died and now the doll resides in Fort East Martello Museum and is said to curse anyone who takes photos of him.
–“Rokurokubi (轆轤首, rokurokubi?) which are related to Nure-onna are yōkai found in Japanese folklore. They look like normal human beings by day, but at night they gain the ability to stretch their necks to great lengths. They can also change their faces to those of terrifying Oni to better scare mortals.
In their daytime human forms, rokurokubi often live undetected and may even take mortal spouses. Many rokurokubi become so accustomed to such a life that they take great pains to keep their demonic forms secret. They are tricksters by nature, however, and the urge to frighten and spy on human beings is hard to resist. Some rokurokubi thus resort to revealing themselves only to drunkards, fools, the sleeping, or the blind in order to satisfy these urges. Other rokurokubi have no such compunctions and go about frightening mortals with abandon. A few, it is said, are not even aware of their true nature and consider themselves normal humans. This last group stretch their necks out while asleep in an involuntary action; upon waking up in the morning, they find they have weird dreams regarding seeing their surroundings in unnatural angles.”
–Shadowpeople are dark paranormal entities seen all over the world, scientifically explained to be caused by a psychological disorder or sleep paralysis.
–“The Sihuanaba, La Siguanaba, Cigua or Cegua is a supernatural character from Central American folklore. It is a shape-changing spirit that typically takes the form of an attractive, long haired woman seen from behind. She lures men away into danger before revealing her face to be that of a horse or, alternatively, a skull.”
–Spring-heeled Jack, aptly named, is known for his bizarre appearance and giant leaps. He was first spotted in the UK in the 1800’s and is said to either look like a beastly man with long claws and fiery eyes or like a complete gentleman.
-If you read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, you will already be familiar with the Wendigo. In Algonquian legend, the Wendigo is a demonic cannibal spirit which came out especially during winter. Anyone who resorted to cannibalism was believed to become a Wendigo. In Scary Stories, a Wendigo carries a man up into the sky until he become a pile of ashes.
Are there any favorite legends I left out? There are so many! Now I’m off to bed. Sweet dreams Bizarros!