Everyone has heard of vampires, werewolves, witches, and zombies, but where did they come from? They are surely more than just figments of our imagination. Are they just legends, or is there really something lurking in the dark? Are you afraid of the Boogie Man? Maybe you should be... Whether any of them actually lives among us, we cannot know for sure.
Once upon a time, terrifying stories of ferocious dragons with razor-sharp teeth, snake-like tongue, venomous saliva, feasting on raw meat, reached the far corners of the world. In 1912, the Komodo dragons were discovered, and they fit the description like a glove. Legends of dreadful monsters are still being told, creatures lurking deep in the waters or forests, on mountain tops, or in remote villages, all camera shy. Perhaps they too will be discovered one day, and the myths will become reality.
Besides witness testimonies, there's no evidence to their existence. Expeditions, high-tech cameras, sonars, they had absolutely no results. Covered in mystery, they have become legendary characters, even if they are the representatives of evil forces. Somewhere at the borderline between fantasy and reality, these amazing mythological creatures are most likely the result of superstitions and fear for nature's wrath.
In 1934, a picture was published in Britain's Daily Mail of a mythological monster swimming around Loch Ness in Scotland. Soon, the whole world went crazy, traveling to the mystical lake to catch a glimpse of the creature for themselves. Nessie and Champ share the same description: a giant serpent. The latter is the monster lurking in the waters of Lake Champlain at the US-Canada border. Both have long black hair, are around 20 feet long, and their head resembles that of a horse. A reasonable explanation would be that they are primitive reptiles that managed to survive the Ice Age. Yet, it has not been decided whether the Loch Ness Monster and Champ are species of Palaeosaurus, a giant reptile, or just an optical illusion.
Legend has it the Seven Seas are haunted by sea monsters, or Naga as Oriental, Polynesian, and North-African cultures call them, gigantic dragon-like serpents, more precisely cobras, that can turn into humans as they please. Naga are considered half-gods, deities of the seas, and are sometimes depicted with several heads. Myths of these terrifying creatures are widely spread in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, standing as proof to sailor's fear and respect for natural phenomena. Cryptozoologists counted over 1,200 such sightings. Japanese believe they come to surface to predict earthquakes or tsunamis. In 1973, American marines caught a giant fish on the Mekong River in Laos, with a striking resemblance to Naga. It was no mythological monster, but a giant oarfish.
The Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, roams the mountains of Nepal and Tibet, seeking shelter on the most remote slopes of the southern Himalayas. Believed to be a primitive man, it is described as a tall, ape-like creature, its body covered in gray or rust colored hair, with prominent chin and no lips, short and powerful legs, leaving large footprints behind. Yeti is a cryptozoology celebrity. First records date from 1925, when English explorer Eric Shipton caught the creature on camera. Soon after, expeditions were held to track down the creature. And they did track it down, but only its footsteps. Local stories talk about a bear who lives in the hard to reach areas of the Himalayas. A plausible explanation would be that Yeti is a species of brown bear, a descendant of the polar bear.
A cryptid with an ape-like figure roams the vast forests to the north of the United States, from Pacific Northwest all the way to Canada. It walks on two feet, just like us humans, it is taller than the average person, has strong legs, large feet, its body covered by thick fur, gray or brown-red colored, smells bad, and has a distinctive scream. Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, does not like people, which is why it stays away from them. First sightings precede European settlements, but it became famous in 1950 through a series of pictures. More than 900 footprints have been tracked down so far. Although its existence has not yet been scientifically proven, chances are it could actually exist.
Wild and hairy creatures, of lilliputian sizes, with pot bellies and ears that stick out, large nostrils, maximum three feet tall, used to roam the island of Flores in Indonesia. Legend has it they once lived together with humans in peace, until they began killing them. Seeking revenge, people started hunting them, and they fled into the forests, where they hid in remote caves. Indonesian mythology talks about the Ebu Gogo, a human-like creature, with a nasty appetite for human babies. It is used to scare children, a sort of local Boogie Man. In translation, Ebu means “grandmother,” and Gogo means “who eats anything.” Not all is legend. Hobbits, just like those in The Lord of the Rings, did exist some 12,000 years ago in Indonesia. The skeleton of a hominid only 2 feet 11 inches tall has been found in a cave on Flores Island. Could some of them have survived to this day?
A terrifying creature resembling a hairless dog, large spikes on its spine, sharp predator teeth, gray skin, and horrible stench drains the life out of goats, sheep, chicken, and cows, sucking their blood until the last drop, leaving distinctive tooth punctures as its signature mark. El Chupacabra, or “the goat sucker,” has been spotted on numerous occasions on the territory of the states to the south of North America, searching for its next victims. A vampire dog some call it, between three and four feet tall, first sighting of the monster was reported in 1995 in Canovanas, Puerto Rico. Since then, numerous photos have been taken of El Chupacabra, but most of them proved to be of coyotes suffering from scab. Nevertheless, it seems the monster is still out there, and no goat can survive its attack.
Brainless and soulless corpses thirsty for blood are sent by Voodoo priests to kill their enemies and avenge their masters. A symbol of Haitian culture, zombies originate from West Africa. They are dead bodies brought back to life, brainwashed, controlled by a powerful wizard who turns them into his slaves. They can move, eat, drink, hear, and talk like a normal person, but have no soul or reason, and therefore cannot think for themselves. They do not remember anything about their lives, and are not aware of the condition they are in. If you feed them with salt, they will return to their graves.
There are many strange aspects about black magic, but zombies are the creepiest. Surprise! Zombies are real. Voodoo wizards poison their victims using a drug that induces clinical death. Afterward, they are administered certain medication to bring them back to life, without any memories, in a semi-permanent psychotic delirium state. These “zombies” were often sold to sugar cane plantations as slaves.
In the 16th century, the German town of Bedburg was terrorized by a demonic creature, slaughtering cattle and kidnapping women and children only to devour them later on. This is the story of Peter Stubbe, the Werewolf in Bedburg, whose crimes terrified the country, and who will forever remain known as the first werewolf in history. Stubbe didn't exactly turn into a wolf, he dressed up in a wolf's skin. At his trial, he declared that the Devil gave him a magic belt, and whenever he wore it, he would turn into a powerful and greedy wolf. He was accused of being a werewolf, and was executed in the same terrible way in which he mutilated his own victims.
A werewolf turns into a wolf under full moon. The word itself is a combination between “were,” a male human being, and “wolf.” It haunts down people, who either die or they become werewolves themselves. It is considered a Satanic beast, evil and blood-thirsty, whose existence has been signaled ever since the dawn of time. First reference to a werewolf, also called wolf-man, belongs to ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who mentioned the terrifying creature in the 5th century BC.
Born in the mists of time, these immortal, nocturnal blood-sucking monsters with translucent skin, no reflection and no shadow, whose weaknesses are garlic and crosses, and who can only be killed by thrusting a stake through their heart, are the first demonic creatures to appear in history. It seems every single culture on the Globe has its own version, but all vampire stories talk about a dead person who can return among the living as a blood-thirsty creature. The body lives on in the absence of the soul. People become vampires if they are bitten, and not killed, by another vampire. They crave human blood, needing it to survive. They do not tolerate sunlight or fire, and spend the day in a coffin, only to come out at night to hunt down their next victim.
Oldest vampire stories are 4,000 years old, and originate from Assyrians and Babylonians in Mesopotamia. However, vampires as we know them originated from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, made famous by writers like John Polidori and Bram Stoker, with his story of Dracula. Recent studies revealed that vampirism might actually be owed to a disease called porphyria, the lack of hemoglobin in the blood. Patients are sensitive to sunlight, with receding gums making their teeth seem unusually long, the condition made worse by garlic. In the Middle Ages, doctors recommended drinking blood for treating the disease. Sound familiar?
Witches have long crooked noses, green skin with warts, scraggly hair, fly around on broomsticks, make magic potions, use spells to curse people, and feed on children. They live in small cottages in remote forests, and made a deal with the Devil in exchange for supernatural powers. Terrifying, right? And they do deserve to be on top of our list because they actually exist, more or less resembling the above description. Two popes in history admitted their existence.
Witch stories are a mixture of superstition and the need to explain certain phenomena that were incomprehensible some centuries ago. Those suspected of practicing witchcraft were usually burned at the stake. The first witch trial in history was recorded in 1022 AD. Witch hunts began in the 14th century and lasted up until the 17th. The most notorious and bloodiest witch trial remains the campaign in Salem in colonial Massachusetts in 1692, when at least 19 persons were executed. We may have records of their existence and trials, but no one can say for sure whether they were guilty of the accusations, or whether their confessions were simply extracted by awful torture techniques. According to folklore, some witches are actually beautiful, quite fascinating and seductive, while others are as hideous as the Devil himself.