Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster may be the best known mythological creatures in the world, but they are far from the scariest–with apologies to the 14% of Americans who believe Bigfoot is real and the one in five Scots who have complete faith in the existence of Nessie.
Ancient Greeks created the most fanciful creatures for their myths and stories, including Pegasus the flying horse; although the world’s religions have also managed to come up with some pretty scary beasts and demons, which are usually used to make sure their believers and followers behave themselves! Folk tales and local legends also take on a life of their own, and parents around the world have a whole catalogue of bogeymen and women that they can employ to ensure that naughty children develop a moral compass and behave themselves.
Some mythical creatures are international, whereas others are very specific to certain areas of the world. But there is no country that doesn’t have its own mythical creatures from legends, religions, or folk tales. The list below outlines some of the creatures featured in myths and religions around the globe. Which one do you find the scariest?
The Pisacha is an Indian vampire of sorts, a creature that feeds on human flesh and even has been known to r*pe drunk women. It is created as a result of human faults; everything from anger to violent crimes. And its very blood is poison, which infects victims with leprosy. Should you want to try and track down a Pisacha, head to your nearest cemetery or crossroads, and if you fancy taking one in battle, make sure you have plenty of holy water. Although, be warned that its effects are only temporary and that the Pisacha will be back to full strength after the water has dried.
One of the most famous creatures from the Greek myths and legends is the Cyclops, a race of giant one-eyed monsters. The most famous of them was called Polyphemus, and he was blinded by the hero Odysseus in Homer’s book, The Odyssey. In the legend, Polyphemus fell in love with a beautiful nymph called Galatea, who rejected his advances in favor of the human youth Acis. In revenge, Polyphemus killed his rival by dashing his body against a giant rock. Other Cyclops mentioned in Greek legend include the storm gods Arges, Steropes, and Brontes, who fought alongside Zeus in his war against the Titans.
The Nuckelavee is a fearsome creature whose roots are in the islands off the northern coast of Scotland. Half human, half horse, but nothing like friendly centaurs, the Nuckelavee can destroy crops and kill livestock just by breathing on them. While it lives in the sea around the Orkney islands, the only way to escape its clutches is to cross a river or a stream, as the demon is unable to live in fresh water. Islanders are still superstitious about the Nuckelavee to this day and will not say its name without adding a prayer for protection.
The Vetala is another mythological creature from India, which is a cross between a ghost and a vampire—quite a fearsome combination. They are thought to be spirits trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead often because family members failed to perform the proper funeral rites. They can inhabit and reanimate corpses and tend to hang around cemeteries and burial grounds for that very reason, but they can be appeased with gifts or even banished altogether simply by performing those funeral rites you were too lazy to do in the first place.
11 Black Shuck
Black Shuck is a mysterious dog-like creature which has been spotted roaming in eastern parts of England for centuries. Those who have reported seeing Black Shuck describe him as a large black dog or wolf, with flaming eyes of either red or green color (or sometimes just one eye) as large as saucers. One of the most infamous sightings of Black Shuck took place in 1577, when the creature was seen to burst through the doors of a local church, killing two men in the congregation; hence, causing the church steeple to collapse and leaving scorch marks on the door as he fled, marks which can still be seen today.
Anyone who has seen the Clash of the Titans movie–either the 2010 version or the much better 1981 film–will recognize the name of Medusa. Medusa was one of the Gorgon sisters, whose signature look was having snakes for hair. Anyone who looked into her eyes would find themselves turned to stone. Medusa was originally a beautiful priestess whose golden hair was turned into snakes as punishment when she forgot her vows of celibacy and fell in love with Poseidon. She was eventually killed by Perseus, who used a polished shield as a mirror, turning Medusa’s curse upon herself.
Abaddon is a fallen angel who makes an appearance in the Book of Revelation, ruling over the demonic horseman who rode out of the abyss in John’s vision of the end of days. He is also known as “The Destroyer” and the “Angel of the Abyss” and is said to be the king of a plague of demonic locusts with a scorpion’s tail that will sting anyone who does not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Abaddon also features in Jewish scriptures and the character has become a common figure in popular culture, with cameos in novels, movies, and even comic books.
El Chupacabra is a mythological creature that has been spotted in various countries throughout Central America since its first sighting in Puerto Rico in 1995. A series of mysterious attacks on livestock were soon blamed on El Chupacabra after eyewitnesses reported seeing a creature with a reptilian body, red eyes, and fangs for teeth—handy, seeing as the dead animals had apparently been drained of blood through two puncture wounds in the neck. The fame of El Chupacabra means that sightings are no longer restricted to Central America, and people have reported seeing it as far afield as Russia and the Philippines.
7 Black Annis
If you live in Central England, then chances are that your parents told you that Black Annis would get you when you were misbehaving. Black Annis is a witch who lies in a cave, lying in wait to steal unsuspecting children as they pass her home. Gruesomely, Black Annis is then supposed to eat the stolen children before using their flayed skin to make her clothing! Although modern housing now covers the area where Black Annis’ cave was supposedly located, that hasn’t stopped the legend, and children still hurry past the area in case Black Annis catches them.
In Judaism, the Dybbuk is a spirit which can possess the bodies of the living. Trapped between the world of the living and the afterlife, the Dybbuk needs to inhabit a living thing in order to survive. In theory, this could be anything–even a plant or insect. But as most Dybbuks have a malicious streak, they tend to prefer inhabiting the bodies of people instead. If you think you or a loved one has been possessed by a Dybbuk, then it will need to be exorcised. And to do this, you first need to speak to the spirit to find out why it hasn’t moved on.
We’re back to Ancient Greece for the next mythological creature–The Minotaur. A monster with a bull’s head and the body of a man, the Minotaur was kept as a prisoner of sorts in the labyrinth but was fed with regular offerings of young men and women to keep it happy and to keep the people of Crete safe from its wrath. Eventually, the Minotaur was killed by Theseus, with a bit of help from Ariadne, who fell in love with the Athenian hero, and gave him a ball of yarn to help him find his way through and safely out of the labyrinth.
The Succubus is a demon which takes the form of a human female, purely with the aim of seducing men. Often portrayed in more modern times as a stunningly beautiful woman (all the better to entice men into bed), in the past, Succubi were usually thought to appear rather hideous, relying on their demonic powers to trick men into having s*x with them. They survive by draining the life from the men they seduce, leading to the death of their victims, and are thought to have collected the sp*rm from their unknowing conquests in order to impregnate women with more little demons.
The Djinni (or genie for fans of Aladdin) are Middle Eastern spirits, which are also mentioned in the Koran, having been adopted by the Islamic religion as their version of the Christian demons. Made from “smokeless fire” by Allah, according to the Koran, these spirits can be good as well as evil. But the bad guys have some awesome super powers at their fingertips if they want to cause some chaos. Not only are they invisible to humans–unless they want us to see them–but they can also fly, take on the shape of any person or animal, command fire, as well as being immune to human weaponry.
No, this is not the bad guys in the Marvel Universe, but a much scarier creature from Ancient Greek and Roman mythology. The Hydra was a multi-headed snake (and the inspiration for the Marvel Hydra’s logo) which lived in the lake of Lerna. It was eventually killed by the hero Hercules in the second of his infamous Twelve Labours, although not without some difficulty. At first, when he cut off each of the Hydra’s heads, two would grow back in its place! Eventually, Hercules figured out that cauterizing the neck stopped the heads from re-growing, and he was victorious.
In Roman times, the Lemures were thought to be the unsettled spirits of the dead—usually those unable to pass to the afterlife because they hadn’t been afforded a proper funeral. They were much feared by Roman citizens who had a number of superstitions they used to ward off these dark and malignant creatures, including making offerings of black foodstuffs, especially black beans, which were thrown over the shoulder in an attempt to keep the Lemures out of the house. If this didn’t work and the house was afflicted with an appearance from the Lemures, then they could be startled away by loud noises.