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Nightmare Fuel / Mythology and Folklore

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Everybody loves a good story. Humans have been telling stories for millennia — and many of them are horror stories.

Folklore pages:

Other examples:

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    African Folklore 
  • The Eloko (plural Biloko) is a dwarf-like being said to live in wooded areas of the Congo Basin region. They have great hypnotic powers, which they use to control the minds of humans to make it easier to devour their flesh.
  • Although kids have often heard of these other cryptids, don't tell your kids about the Popobawa. A one-eyed, bat-like ogre from East Africa, it's said to sodomize its victims in the middle of the night. This demon has been blamed by hysterical villagers in Zanzibar, Tanzania for raping people since the 1960s.

    American Folklore 
  • Aztec Mythology is certainly a source of horror. The Aztec's religion (and also that of other Mesoamerican cultures) believed that large amounts of gruesome Human Sacrifice were necessary just to satisfy the gods, and ensure that the world remained functional.
    • The Tzitzimimeh are a race of minor female deities that look like skeletal demons with sharp claws and nails made of steel and with living snakes as penises, despite them being female. They had a double role in folk tales. One on hand, they were associated with fertility and as such were worshipped by midwives and pregnant women. On the other hand, they were particularly dangerous during times of cosmic instability and often threatened to destroy the Sun with the intent of descending to Earth and devour every single living creature. In fact, the Tzitzimime were the main reason as to why Aztec society had Human Sacrifice as a major part of their religion, since they believed that giving the Gods (minus Quetzalcoatl of course) constant nourishment was the only way to keep the deities strong enough to keep the demons at bay.
  • The Wendigo of Algonquin folklore is what happens to people who engage in cannibalism. After they've eaten another human, they turn into a tall, gaunt corpse-like being with sharp fangs that have shredded the former human's lips to nothing, bloody stumps where its feet would be (possibly due to frostbite), and transparent skin through which you can see its icy blood and heart of ice. Descriptions do vary somewhat between cultures — sometimes it will be many times larger than a human and grow with every victim it eats; sometimes it will a hideously thin, fleshless being, twisted and hunched and with a deer's skull where its head should be. It can turn invisible and ride on the wind to pursue prey, and it is ALWAYS hungry...
  • The Skinwalker, or yee naaldlooshii of Navajo mythology, is basically a cross between a werewolf and a warlock. To become a skinwalker, one must cross the Moral Event Horizon by killing a member of your family. After you become one, you can change into any animal you desire, gain the ability to cast powerful and deadly curses on anyone, and mimic the voices of your victims' loved ones.
  • Fearsome Critters, despite their name, tend to be mildly silly if not absolutely Adorkable at best and somewhat spooky at worst. The same cannot be said about the Hidebehind. A creature that hunts and eats humans who get lost in the woods. It gets its name because it hides behind its prey... and can keep hiding until the time is right. It can hide behind its prey and no matter how fast its prey turns around, it is faster and can keep hiding behind their prey until the right moment. And at that moment, it kills and eats them.
    • The Jersey Devil is more than just the namesake of a hockey team. This demon is a slayer of livestock who was reportedly born when its mother wished that her thirteenth child would be a devil. It then killed its family, and sightings of this monster have endured from the 1700's to the present day.

    Asian Folklore 
  • The Mongolian death worm, or allghoi khorkoi, is a two-and-a-half-foot long Sand Worm that's said to live in the Gobi Desert. It's called the allghoi khorkoi since it resembles a blood-red cow intestine, and the death worm because it can spit deadly venom and electrocute its prey.
  • Philippine Mythology have some of the nastiest (and weirdest) monsters out there, but nothing can really compare to the horror that is Filipino vampire lore:
    • The Aswang, which shapeshifts, eats people (especially babies) and makes a noise that gets louder the farther it is from you.
    • The Manananggal, which flies by separating its upper body from its legs and eats fetuses by sucking the life out of them with a proboscis.
      • Similar to the Manananggal, Penanggalen from Malaysia. It's an undead monster who separates her head from her body an flies around with her entrails glowing like fireflies. As slight-Nightmare Retardant, Gaia Online has her as a very Moe Moe as a flying severed head can be...
    • The Ekek, a monstrous birdlike creature that eats in the same way as the manananggal.
    • The Wakwak, which cuts people open with its wings so it can eat their hearts.
    • The Tiyanak, the reanimated corpse of a baby that died before being baptized and returned as a vengeful, undead beast.
    • And last but not least, there are the Tamawo/Engkanto, the Philippines' own version of The Fair Folk. Common English translations range from 'faerie," to "elf," to "nymph." They live in trees and caves, and take offense to their homes being desecrated my humans. They'll take people away and replace them with banana leaves enchanted to look like the person's deceased corpse. If they fancy a human, they'll try to lure them into their homes and trick them into eating their food, thus condemning the person to live with them forever. The one place they cannot stand, however, are church grounds. The reason? They are actually fallen angels who were cast out when Lucifer lost against God. These aren't your typical, Tinkerbell-esque fairies, people. Not at all.
  • The concept of the Jiangshi may seem silly — what's so dangerous about Qing Dynasty-era officials who are also bouncing vampires? Well, first of all, they're nearly invincible. Bullets? Nope. Buckshot? Nah. Explosives? Knocks them over, but soon they'll be up again. Second, they are deadly enough to wipe out whole villages. Third, they can kill you by breathing. Fourth, they don't just suck your blood, they rip your throat out. Fifth, with one well-timed bounce aimed at you, they can knock you over and turn you into them. And last of all, as long as you're breathing — they will find you.
    • Of course, depending on certain interpretations of the myth, this just gets worse. Jiangshi's bouncing sounds silly, unless it becomes jumping. Jumping high enough to leap over fortress walls and land silently behind any traditional defenses. They are also said to be covered in what looks like white fur. This "fur" turns out to be white, stringy mold. Finally, one of the few ways to actually stop a Jiangshi? Take a sacred piece of paper and nail it to its forehead. Meaning you would have to get really close to one of these monsters to even pull it off.
  • The monsters of Japanese Mythology are pretty damn horrifying, too. Like the Gashadokuro, a skeleton created from the corpses of dozens of victims of famine, standing fifteen times the height of a normal man and eternally hungry. As if that is not enough, not only are they silent, but they can turn invisible. The only thing you hear before a Gashadokuro strikes is a ringing in your ears, before it grabs you and tears your head off with its teeth.
    • The Jubokko. If a tree takes root in soil where a great battle or massacres took place, where the blood of thousands saturated the soil, it will develop an appetite for human blood. Whenever an unsuspecting traveler passes beneath a Jubokko, it will snatch them up with finger-like branches and drain them of all fluids with jagged, tube-like twigs. Worst of all, aside from the bones lying beneath its roots and a few twisted-looking branches, a Jubokko is indistinguishable from a normal tree.
    • Japan also brings us the story of the Vampire Cat of Nabéshima. To make a long story short, a huge cat (or cat-like demon) sneaks into the room of a prince's favorite concubine one night and kills her with a bite to the neck. Then it buries her corpse under the veranda and assumes her form, draining the prince's lifeblood each night while pretending to be his lover. No doctor is able to find a treatment for his illness, and the retainers assigned to watch him at night are put into a magical sleep by the cat. Eventually, a soldier agrees to guard the prince while he sleeps, and can only stay awake by stabbing himself in the leg. When the impostor concubine confronts him, they get into a fight which forces the cat to revert to its true form, and it flees due to its secret being found out. One might think that the end of the story, but the cat starts terrorizing villages in the mountains until the (recovered) prince orders a great hunt where it's killed.
  • Hindu Mythology has a story where Kali, having worked herself into a bloodthirsty frenzy during a battle against some Asuras she just won, goes on an epic killing spree where she destroys everything in sight. She only stopped because Shiva disguised himself as a log and waited for her to step on him, turning back into his normal form as she did so to snap her out of it.

    European Folklore 
  • Black dogs are recurring creatures in various British folktales. They are described as being demonic dog-like beasts with black fur and glowing red eyes, and are usually considered an omen of doom. Some of them are even directly dangerous and attack humans; such as the Black Shuck, which according to a 16th century legend, broke into the Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, England and killed two people in the congregation.
    • Then there are the dips, dogs of Catalan mythology, who chase drunks to suck their blood.
  • Even though they're a bit old-fashioned now, the traditional werewolf isn't a slouch, either. There are many ways to become a werewolf, whether intentionally (selling your soul to Satan) or unintentionally (being bitten by a werewolf, being born on Christmas Eve, or merely drinking from the same water wolves drink out of.) Once you do, you become a bloodthirsty beast every full moon.
    • One myth was that Werewolves hid their fur under their skin in human form. This would just be mildly creepy if it weren't for the fact that in ancient times many people believed this myth. The result? People accused of lycanthropy being skinned alive in an attempt to find "proof" that they're werewolves!
  • Most people today think of faeries as dainty little pixies who fly around granting wishes. However, the people of the Middle Ages feared the wrath of the Fair Folk, and few were more vile than the Nuckelavee. A formless specter living off the coast of Orkney, this foul faerie would rise from the depths of the ocean and take the form of a massive, skinless, black-blooded, yellow-veined, fin-footed, man-eating horse with its "rider" fused to its back from his waist down. The horse head had a single blazing red eye and a gaping mouth full of vicious teeth, while the "rider" had an oversized head that rolled about on its undersized neck, and long, muscular arms that ended with razor sharp claws. This monster was an Omnicidal Maniac of the highest order, rising from the sea to deliver a plague called the Mortasheen that would kill livestock and crops, and it reserved a special hatred for any unfortunate humans it came across. Its one consistent weakness was fresh water, which it could not cross (although some versions mention an aversion to burning seaweed).
    • Another vaguely equestrian fairy is the Irish Dullahan, a man riding a black horse and carrying his own head around. That head has a literal ear-to-ear grin and is very firmly rotting, often described as looking like moldy cheese. The dullahan has a basin of blood that he throws at people as an omen that they're going to die. And if he comes through town, no doors or gates can stop him. The only thing that he hates is gold.
    • The Fair Folk as a whole can be quite horrifying. Some of the stories which deal with them can be terrifying in one way or another. In one story, two friends are walking back to the village, when they hear the most beautiful music. One elects to see what it is, while the other goes back to the village to see his fiancee. His friend ends up going missing for over seven months, and he himself is suspected of murder. His fiancee implores help from one of the other villagers who has experience with fairies, and they go back to the spot he was last seen. They eventually find him dancing in a circle with the faeries themselves, laughing and having the time of his life, but when he gets pulled out, the faeries all vanish. When the man is told he has been gone for over seven months, he refuses to believe it, claiming that it couldn't have been more than five minutes. The story is rather chilling the longer you think about it.
    • And in some stories, when the faeries are being benevolent and trying to right what they see as a wrong, they go about in truly disturbing and horrifying ways. For example, a young man whose father is very rich, lives a carefree and playboy lifestyle without his dad's knowledge. However, when he gets a girl pregnant and his dad finds out, the father confronts him one night tells him that he must marry the girl or be disinherited. The son has until morning to give him an answer, and goes for a walk to think it over. However, as he is walking, he starts to hear voices, laughing and giggling, and the sound of something rather large being dragged across the ground. The son starts to walk faster, trying to get away, but the noises just keep getting closer and closer, until eventually, the dragging sound stops... and a human corpse is thrown at his feet. The faeries tell him that he either buries the corpse, or when morning comes, they will take him away. The son tries to get away, but is tripped up and the corpse lunges onto his back, its arms wrapping around his neck and locking together. And he can't get it off. So, he runs to the nearest cemetery, finds a shovel, starts digging... but when he slices into the flesh of another corpse, it gets up and tells him he cannot bury the corpse there. He runs to another graveyard, tries again, and the exact same thing happens. Every cemetery he goes to and tries to bury the corpse in, another one already buried there gets up and says he can't. Eventually, just as he can see the first signs of the sun rising, he finds a cemetery with an open grave, with a shovel and a pile of dirt next to it. The corpse slides off him into the grave, and quickly buries it, barely finishing before the morning starts. He goes back home and agrees to marry the girl, but if that is how the faeries act benevolently, one shudders to imagine what they do if they become malevolent...
  • Icelandic folklore gives us the illhveli, evil whales that take sadistic pleasure in death and destruction. If you thought Moby-Dick was scary, you haven't heard the stories about these monsters.
  • The Alp-luachra from Irish folklore is a newt-like creature that crawls into the mouth of somebody sleeping outdoors and enters their stomach. The entry is painless, but the aftereffects are harmful. Like a tapeworm on steroids, the Alp-luachra devours the food the person eats, causing insatiable hunger. As the Alp-luacra grows, it eats more and more, eventually causing the victim to starve to death. Once that happens, it moves out, searching for another host. Oh, and they have a glamour that prevents them from being seen while inside their host. Still want to go on that camping trip?
    • One story tells of a farmer who suffered from constant hunger pangs despite eating normally. A hermit tells him to eat a large quantity of salted beef and then lie down with his mouth above a stream. He did so, and after a few minutes, a female Alp-luachra crawled out of his mouth, followed by her twelve young. The idea of something like this happening in reality is horrifying and disgusting in equal measure.
    • Being able to exorcise them by eating large quantities of beef somewhat mitigates this, but still...
  • Romani Mythology: Some Romani populations in parts of Eastern Europe (particularly Slovakia and Romania) believe all the diseases and ailments that plague humanity can be traced back to an abusive and unnatural union between good and evil. The story goes that the King of the Loçolico (former humans twisted into demonic entities) became obsessed with Ana, a princess of the Keshalyi (good fairies). After she refused his advances, he started a genocidal war against the Keshalyi, forcing her to marry him to spare her people from utter annihilation. Understandably, she was reluctant to sleep with him, so he forced himself on her multiple times, resulting in a brood of horrifying children that would go on to cause illness among humans. While the King eventually agreed to divorce his wife, the ordeal she suffered harmed her so badly that she has to drink a dose of nymphs' blood every day in order to stay alive, and left her so traumatized that she scarcely ever leaves her isolated mountain castle.
  • Norwegian folklore is no slouch either. Two creatures with a lot in common was Fossekallen and Nøkken. Both were water dwellers (Fossekallen lived in waterfalls, and Nøkken lived in lakes) who would use their magics to lure people into the water to drown them. Fossekallen would play his fiddle so beautifully that any who heard it would be drawn to it, eventually drowning in the waterfall while listening to the music. Nøkken was even more sinister. A shapeshifter, its true form was similar to a log or weeds floating in the water. It would take the form of a beautiful man or a white horse so beautiful that everyone wanted to mount it. Once people had climbed atop it, it would jump into the lake, pulling people with it. If you were foolish enough to bathe in lakes with waterlilies ("The Nøkk's Roses" in Norwegian), it would simply grab you from underneath and pull you down.
  • The Sluagh of Celtic folklore, a host of the dead in the form of crows who devour people's souls. How to attract them? Sink into a state of depression or say their name out loud. Go on. Do it.

    Oceanian Folklore 
  • Burrunjor. Descriptions of it say it is a large scaly predator that stands on two legs with two tiny arms. It is 25 feet in length, and eats large animals, like cattle. Casts of its footprints show it has three toes. Yeah, it's a motherfucking Tyrannosaurus rex. AND OF COURSE IT'S FROM AUSTRALIA!

    Other Folklore 
What are Urban Legends but modern folktales? As such, they fit in perfectly here.
  • Many aliens can be nightmarish, as well. Although many of the stranger aliens on this list are Nightmare Retardant, the more infamous aliens on this list are truly creepy.
    • While the Hopkinsville Goblins are Ugly Cute, they're also Nigh-Invulnerable little bastards who allegedly attacked a Kentucky family's homestead, which makes them disturbingly creepy.
      • The infamous Flatwoods Monster is another alien sighting that has actually been hostile to humans. Not to mention its resemblance to traditional depictions of the Grim Reaper. And this... thing is able to shoot venomous gasses from huge tubes on its body!
      • It's quite telling that both the Hopkinsville Goblins and the Flatwoods Monster were used as inspiration for the Alien Abduction Romani Ranch side quest (one of the most terrifying things in the game), in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
    • Although The Greys are usually overdone to the point of Narm in pop culture, just the thought of ineffable, emotionless beings lodged right in the Uncanny Valley abducting people and probing their bodies - perhaps even impregnating them with alien-human hybrids - is just plain creepy.
  • The Chupacabra is the modern vampire, a beast of possibly alien origin who drains the blood from livestock, has supernatural strength and agility, and is feared among Latino populations everywhere. The "coyote with mange" depiction is full of Narm, but the classic Chupacabra, which resembles a mix between a Grey alien and a Velociraptor, is one of the more nightmare-inducing creatures of recent times. And it's apparently spreading. Initially, it seemed to only be found in Puerto Rico, but now sightings occur all over the Americas. Some have even reported seeing the creature as far away as Russia and the Philippines. There are no stories of attacks on humans yet, but who knows?
  • We also have The Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, another strange (allegedly alien) creature that's an infamous harbinger of doom, who may not actually DO anything but silently stare at people and creep them the hell out, but it tends to forbode disasters. Some people even claim that the Mothman's alleged appearances were an omen for the real-life collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967 that killed 46 people (which is actually quite scary, regardless of any crazy tall tales about a Winged Humanoid creature).
    • Similarly to the above creature, we have the Owlman of Mawnan, England, a beast who is far more malevolent than its American cousin.
  • The Goatman, an Ax-Crazy being from the southern United States who brutally murders people and destroys parked cars with an axe.
    • Don't forget the Bunnyman, who's basically Goatman but as a huge, humanoid rabbit with an axe. While that may sound pretty ridiculous, and is probably just a dude in a costume, it's still plenty creepy that a guy insane enough to run around in a bunny suit, vandalizing property for no reason at all, is out free in the world and carrying an axe.


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