Monsters are natural forces, yes, but they came into existence with the express purpose of interacting with mankind. They are Gaia manifestations intended to remind humanity that it is but a small part of this complex Earth … monsters were created to force man to know his place.
Robert Hood & Robin Pen
10 supernatural Middle Eastern creatures that are scary
Growing up, we’ve all been threatened by our mothers with “ghoul” or “Efrit.” She said they would come and eat us if we didn’t finish our plate.
Well, these weren’t just tricks our moms came up with to force us to behave. These are actual pre-Islamic Middle Eastern mystical creatures.
Prior to Islam the Kaaba of Mecca was covered in symbols representing a myriad of demons, djinn, demigods, or simply tribal gods and other assorted deities. These represented the polytheistic culture of Arabia.
Here are a few of the most popular creatures.
Known as “genies” in English, djinn have deep roots in Arab culture. The djinn first sprang from stories told by Indian, Persian and Arabian storytellers. They gained international fame when they appeared throughout the tales Scheherezade told in “The Thousand and One Nights”.
It is said that djinn are created from fire and can take on any form they choose – animal or human – and can be of any size. Most of them are hostile, although some can be friendly.
A qareen is a personal djinn that exists opposite you in the parallel djinn realm. In a sense, it is like an immaterial demon that sits on your shoulder and encourages you to sin and do wrong.
This creature is rumored to inhabit the underworld and will come out when the world ends. It looks like a snake, but a huge one! His job is to torture sinners after the world ends.
Nesnas has the form of a man divided down the middle, with one half completely missing, and it has the tail of a lamb. This monster supposedly originates from the Hadramaut region of Yemen.
And we wouldn’t want to come across one, ever!
The name al ghol derives from Arabic “ras al-gul”: head of the ogre. The English name “demon star”, is a direct translation.
Ghouls are thought to be zombie-like djinn, who haunt graveyards and prey on human flesh. They are strictly demonic and incapable of goodness. Often portrayed as nocturnal.
Remind us to never go to a graveyard after dark again … ever!
Intelligent and cunning, the efrit are thought to live in complex societies similar to those of humans. They are said to prefer caves and underground dwellings. Though ostensibly demonic, they are portrayed as being able to change, and are capable of becoming pious and good.
Werehyena are humans who turn into hyenas. Just like werewolves, except with hyenas. However, the mythological creature is larger than a hyena and can stand on two legs. They are also known to be ruthless and brutal.
8. Al Anqa’a
This creature has nothing to do with demons, but it’s also a supernatural creature. It looks like a giant bird and can fly away with anything it can carry, from animals to humans.
The name in Arabic means: “the one with the long neck”. This creature was mentioned in ancient Arab legends and books such as “Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing”.
9. Al Bahmout
Arab legends describe this creature as a giant whale that carries the seven earths on its back. In other stories it is described as an elephant or a seahorse.
10. Al Rukh
This is another giant bird, capable of carrying massive things as big as elephants and rhinoceroses. This mythical creature was mentioned in one of Sinbad’s stories in “The Thousand and One Nights”.
Chinese legendary creatures
► Chinese ghosts
► Chinese dragons
► Four benevolent animals
Chinese guardian lions
Four Symbols (China)
Kui (Chinese mythology)
Lake Tianchi Monster
Mo (Chinese zoology)
Mogwai (Chinese culture)
Ox-Head and Horse-Face
White Tiger (China)
French legendary creatures
Beast of Gévaudan
Black dog (ghost)
The Imp Prince
Jean de l’Ours
Reynard the Fox
Italian legendary creatures
Borda (legendary creature)
Longana (legendary creature)
Monster of Ravenna
Sometimes it seems like the only monsters we talk about nowadays are vampires, zombies, and werewolves. We have more!!!!
1. gremlin: Not quite the furry Spielbergian creatures of your childhood horror films, accounts of these mischievous sprites, who are reputed to wreak havoc on aircraft functionality, first crop up in RAF slang of World War II.
2. Davy Jones: If you’ve ever had dreams of being a pirate, you’ve probably also had nightmares about Davy Jones. In nautical slang, Davy Jones is the spirit of the sea, or the ‘sailors’ devil’. Additionally, Davy Jones’s locker is sometimes used to refer to the ocean, particularly as the grave of those who die at sea.
3. Chupacabra: Sightings of this reputed vampiric creature have been reported all over North and Central America. The name comes from the Spanish chupar ‘to suck’ + cabra ‘goat’, named in relation to its first alleged victims – goats (and other livestock) found drained of all their blood. The chupacabra is thought to be a large, bear-sized creature with spikes running down the length of its body, and thin arms with three sharp fingers.
4. manticore: This bizarre concoction of a monster is reputed to have the body of a lion (sometimes a tiger), the head of a man, porcupine quills, and the tail (or sting) of a scorpion. Ultimately, the word manticore comes from an Old Persian word meaning ‘man-eater’.
5. banshee: From the Irish bean sídhe, meaning ‘woman of the fairies’, a banshee is a supernatural being supposed to wail under the windows of a house where someone is about to die in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.
6. poltergeist: A poltergeist is a ghost or other supernatural being held responsible for unexplained noises and the physical disturbances in a space, especially relating to the movement of objects. The word poltergeist comes from the German Poltergeist, from poltern ‘create a disturbance’ + Geist ‘ghost’.
7. Nessie: The Loch Ness monster – familiarly known as Nessie – is reputed to live in Loch Ness, a deep lake in northwestern Scotland. With accounts dating back to the time of St Columba (6th century) and many alleged modern sightings, many profess to believe in the monster, although there is no scientific proof of its existence.
8. revenant: From a French word referring to a person who has returned after a long absence, revenant is a person who returns from the dead, or a reanimated corpse or ghost.
9. the Jersey devil: A fabled inhabitant of the sparsely-populated Pine Barrens region in the US state of New Jersey, the Jersey Devil is a kangaroo-like creature with a horse/dog head, dragon-like wings, a tail, and horns. The National Hockey League team based in the state – the New Jersey Devils – takes its name from this regional monster.
10. Headless Horseman: Although the headless horseman had long been a motif of European folklore, the Headless Horseman as we know him today first appeared in 1820 in Washington Irving’s spooky short story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, and from there quickly entered into the popular imagination. The thought of the ‘Galloping Hessian’ is still bound to send a shiver down the spine of anyone walking along a lonely country road in autumn.
11. zombie: A more current cultural obsession, the zombie is rarely considered in the singular anymore. Although the concept of the zombie – a corpse without a soul brought back to life by witchcraft or other means – began in the religion of some West African peoples, it has since broadened to generally refer to a person or reanimated corpse capable of movement but not rational thought, and which feed on human flesh. For more information, check out ‘What is the origin of the word “zombie”?’
12. Yeti: The Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, is thought to be a large hairy creature resembling a human or bear living in the highest part of the Himalayas. The name Yeti comes from the Tibetan yeh-teh, ‘little manlike animal’ – a translation that doesn’t inspire much fear.
13. drop bear: Tourists beware! This fabled creature from Down Under is known for having a proclivity for those without an Australian accent. With the form of a larger, fanged koala, the drop bear is known to leap down from its leafy perches onto unsuspecting foreigners.
14. mummy: A famous monster typically associated with ancient Egypt, the mummy usually appears as an embalmed corpse which has been brought back to life. The mummy is usually represented with long, trailing cloth strips which it had been wrapped in. The word mummy ultimately comes from the Arabic mūmiyā, meaning ‘embalmed body’.
15. orc: Tolkien fans are already well acquainted with the devouring monsters that are orcs, an imaginary race of subhuman creatures, small and human-like in form but with ogreish features and malevolent characters.
16. kraken: First spotted off the coast of Norway, the kraken is an enormous sea monster often represented in the form of a gigantic squid. This monster has the distinction of being part of meme culture: Liam Neeson’s dramatic ‘Release the Kraken!’ line of dialogue from the 2010 reboot of The Clash of the Titans has become a popular catchphrase.
17. golem: In Jewish legend, a golem is a human figure made of clay, or other materials, which is supernaturally brought to life. The word comes from the Yiddish gōlem, ‘shapeless mass’. The word also appears in extended use referring to an automaton or robot.
18. werewolf: Everyone’s favorite furry monster, werewolf refers to a person who changes for periods of time into a wolf, typically when there is a full moon. While the -wolf part of the word is obvious, the were- is somewhat elusive – even to etymologists – though were- is usually identified with the Old English wer, meaning ‘man’.
19. Godzilla: Before this monster was ‘Godzilla’ in English, it was ‘Gojira’ in Japanese. The Japanese name comes from a blend of Japanese gorira ‘gorilla’ and kujira ‘whale’. According to the OED, the monster’s name was allegedly adopted from the nickname of a burly film set employee.
20. Cerberus: If there’s a sleeping dog to let lie, it’s this one. In Greek and Latin mythology, Cerberus is the fierce watchdog – often represented as having three heads – who guards the entrance to hell.
21. siren: Probably best known for their cameo in Homer’s Odyssey, these monsters are part woman and part bird and are supposed to lure sailors to destruction with their enchanting singing. In 1819, when French physicist and engineer Charles Cagniard de la Tour invented a machine capable of producing musical tones, he named it a siren, which gives us the sense of siren referring to a ‘device that makes a loud prolonged sound as a signal or warning’.
22. succubus: A female demon imagined to have sexual intercourse with men in their sleep, this monster takes its name from the medieval Latin word succubus, meaning ‘prostitute’.
23. incubus: The confederate of the succubus, the incubus is a male demon imagined to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women. The word incubus comes from a late Latin form of incubo, meaning ‘nightmare’. According to the OED, the existence of these monsters was recognized by ecclesiastical and civil law in the Middle Ages.
24. Cyclops: A member of a race of one-eyed giants, the most famous Cyclops is probably Polyphemus, who was blinded by Odysseus in his escape.
25. Sasquatch: Much sought-after, but never found, Sasquatch (also known as Bigfoot) is the huge, hairy, man-like monster (or group of monsters) supposedly inhabiting the north-west of the US and Canada. There have been numerous sightings over the years, dating all the way back to Native American accounts. The term sasquatch comes from the indigenous Native American language Salish.
26. Nandi bear: An animal imagined to inhabit parts of East Africa, the Nandi bear has been blamed for the killings of humans and domesticated animals.
27. rakshasa: In Hindu mythology, a rakshasa is a malignant demon, especially one of a band of demons at war with Rama and Hanuman. The word rakshasa comes from the Sanskrit rākṣasa, meaning ‘demon’.
28. basilisk: The basilisk is a mythical reptile with a lethal gaze (or breath) that is hatched by a serpent from a cock’s egg. The reptile’s name ultimately comes from the Greek basiliskos, meaning ‘little king, serpent’.
29. changeling: A changeling is a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents’ real child in infancy.
30. Frankenstein: One of the most enduring monsters in literary history, anyone who has read Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is fond of reminding everyone else that ‘Frankenstein’ is the name of the inventor, not the monster. But language usage wins in the end, and if someone were to yell out to you that Frankenstein is hot on your tail, you probably wouldn’t assume that the mad scientist is after you.
31. vampire: Thanks to the cultural phenomenon of Twilight, it’s hard to imagine anyone out there still in the dark about vampires. Vampire has been traced back to the Magyar word vampir, which is ultimately of Slavonic origin. Many of the traits associated with vampires today can be traced back to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, which inspired countless other novels, films, and other works.
Here’s a quick selection of some more lesser-known monsters:
Sounding like a creature straight out of the works of Lewis Carroll or Dr Seuss, the snallygaster is actually a fierce monster known to roam the area around Washington, D.C. and Frederick County, Maryland. The name comes from the German schnelle Geister, meaning ‘quick spirits’.
Windigo: In Algonquian folklore, the windigo is a cannibalistic giant, the monstrous result of a person who has eaten human flesh.
Penanggalan: The penanggalan is a type of female vampire known to prey on children and women in labour. W.W. Skeat provides an alarming description in his book Malay Magic, saying that it ‘is believed to resemble a trunkless human head with the sac of the stomach attached to it, and which flies about seeking for an opportunity of sucking the blood of infants.’
Ogbanje: Among the Igbo people of Nigeria, an ogbanje is a child believed to die repeatedly and be continually reincarnated and born to the same parents. The word ogbanje comes from the Igbo ọ̀gbán̄jé, which literally means ‘maker of several trips’.
Glawackus: This large puma-size monster with a ‘blood-curdling scream’ was first seen in the US state of Connecticut back in 1939. The name comes from the name of the Connecticut town of Glastonbury (where it was first spotted) + the word wacky.
Spanish legendary creatures
Once you get past the better-known gods and monsters of the Greeks/Romans, the Vikings, and the Celts, there’s a ton of cultures in Europe that have mythologies that look pretty damn weird to our modern western eyes. I think few are as weird as that of the Basques.
Why? Well, the Basques are a people who live in the border region of Spain and France, and they have a very insular kind of culture. But not only that: they are different from everyone in Europe. They’re not Latins, Germans, Celts or Slavs. Their language is not related to any European language. In fact, they appear to be the oldest surviving culture in Europe, the last remnants of possibly the earliest (human) people to have moved into Europe. They have lived in the Basque region for at least 7000 but maybe as long as 30000 years.
So they’re a really really old culture, and a really weird culture because of how old they are and how relatively isolated they were for a very long time. And it’s OK for me to call them weird, because I’m a proudly-weird quarter Basque myself. These days, Basques take a lot of pride in their differentness.
The Basques’ religion and myths and monsters are really old too. They’re what academics call “Chthonic”; a mythology that is older than civilization and based on the nature-worship of pre-civilized peoples. And man, are they weird. Let’s take a look just a few:
Mari appears to have been the main goddess of the Basques, and probably the best evidence for those academics who believe in primitive goddess-worship. You know all those weird statues of female “goddess” figures that have been found at ancient sites? Those might just BE Mari.
But Mari isn’t the loving-earth-mother type of Goddess that new-agers and hippies generally envision today. Her traditional appearance was as a woman wreathed in fire; but she could also shape-shift into a goat, tree, or other creatures. She lived in two caves, one during the wet season, the other in the dry season; and her moving from one to the other was what changed the seasons.
According to legend, she would eat stories and lies told by people, and Basque witches would perform magical ceremonies where they would “feed” her lies in exchange for rain. But she also had a taste for cows, which she would be said to frequently steal. On the other hand, if a Basque was lost, legend holds he could shout Mari’s name three times and she would lead him back home. She was a wild nature-goddess who was dangerous to be around but if venerated properly could bring the people the things vital for survival.
When Christianity came to the Basque country, the Basques gradually shifted their devotion for Mari to the virgin Mary, treating the two as the same being, though of course this also whitewashed some of Mari’s darker aspects.
Sugaar was Mari’s mate, but way less important, from what we’ve seen, than Mari. His job was mostly to have sex with Mari, which he supposedly did every Friday. Oh, and he looked like a giant fiery snake. Whenever they met, their intercourse created storms. Like Mari, he lived in caves (not the same caves, though). Stories say that he would sometimes be seen flying through the sky (hard not to spot since he was on fire), just before a thunderstorm strikes. Some stories also claim that Sugaar would also punish naughty children who disobeyed their parents; but that’s probably just something someone’s mom thought up.
Like the ‘goddess’ image, serpents are one of the oldest figures in human mythological symbolism. Note how the two main gods of the Basques lived in caves; this might be because they date so far back as to be from the time that ancient humans did most of their religious stuff in caves, like the paleolithic caves we see all over Europe.
If the first two examples don’t convince you we’re dealing with a stone-age mythology here, Aatxe should. He’s the son of the Goddess Mari. And he looks like a big red bull (though in some legends he could also take the form of a strong young man). Exactly like the kind of bulls we see drawn in ancient cave paintings, including ones in the Basque regions. These cave drawings date back at least 14000 years, and maybe as far back as 36000 years.
Bulls were clearly sacred to paleolithic people, they were an essential part of survival. They symbolized both power and the closest equivalent to ‘wealth’ you could conceive of at the time. They were hyper-masculine, and potentially dangerous.
Aatxe’s job was to hunt down and punish people who had in some way defied or insulted Mari. Of course, he lived in a cave. Legend says he’d come out of the cave at night, especially during storms. When he went out, he’d hunt down wrongdoers, but was also said to protect innocents from danger; like some kind of stone-age Batman (or, I guess, Bullman).
Herensuge is the Basque version of a dragon. Only he’s extra-freaky just like all the other Basque monsters: he has seven heads (reminiscent of the later Greek hydra), and he’s super violent. Of course, he lives in a cave. He comes out of his cave only to devour the flesh of animals or humans.
Unfortunately, there’s little surviving pre-Christian lore about Herensuge. There’s plenty of stories from after the Christian era which put him in the pretty typical European role of ‘evil dragon’; with all the stuff you’d expect, like his stealing away princesses to eat later or fighting valiant knights. In one amusing Basque twist to one of these stories, a princess is kidnapped by Herensuge and no one dares to fight the seven-headed dragon until a Basque shepherd and his dog come along. The shepherd frees the princess while his dog heroically fights off the mighty dragon, biting out each of its seven tongues.
Man, even Basque dogs are weird.
Akerbeltz literally means “The Black Goat”, and he was originally a Basque spirit who protected animals, and took the form of a black billy goat. He was a child or a messenger of the goddess, Mari, and acted as her representative with the “sorginak”, the shaman/witches who were the priestesses of that goddess in ancient times.
The thing is, Akerbeltz looks an awful lot like the very archetype of what would later become the European Christian imagery associated with the devil. So much so that in the medieval period, to the surrounding cultures and the Church, it was seen as proof of the wickedness of the old Basque beliefs. And yet, even after they were all Christian converts, the Basques themselves continued to consider owning a black billy goat as bringing good luck to the farm, and that doing harm to a black billy goat would lead you to be cursed with bad luck.
Basajaun are big hairy men of the forest. They are thought of as the ‘old people’ who were in the Basque lands since even before the Basques, according to legend. They are generally shy but friendly to humans (so in some areas these big hairy men are called “Jentil”, a borrowed word derived from Latin for ‘gentle’). They are said to protect animals, knowing all the secrets of animals and plants, and in some cases have thrown rocks at invaders to Basque lands. They’re even credited with having been decisive in helping to defeat the army of Charlemagne when they were invading, causing the death of the famous knight Roland. They allegedly also throw rocks at churches, because they are from the old religion. Of course, they live in caves.
Now, lots of cultures have the story of ‘old people’ who are very like humans but not quite humans, who live in woods or mountains or caves. They may be a kind of species-memory of when there were other hominids, like the Neanderthals. But with the Basques, there’s one difference: the Neanderthals went extinct, maybe as late as 26000 years ago; and the last place on Earth where they lived was in Spain. Remember how I said Basques may have been living in Spain as far back as 30000 years ago?
That means the Basajaun/Jentil stories might not just be some generic species memory. There’s a tiny little chance that it might just be based on actual times Basques and Neanderthals hung out, which to me at least is just a delightfully mind-blowing thought.
Gaueko was the evil spirit of the darkness and the night. According to legend he was incredibly dangerous, and would hunt down and kill people who dared to go out in the dark of the night, especially people who publicly boasted about not being scared of the dark. The stories go that you’d first sense his presence by a gust of wind and soft noise. Then you’d hear him whispering “the day is for those of day, but the night is for the night-creature”. And then, unless you were very fast or very lucky, you would see him, in his terrible form, usually as a shadowy humanoid figure but in some stories as a black wolf or hound, and he’d hunt you down.
The name Lamiak may be borrowed from the Greek “Lamia”, which in Greek Mythology was a female demon who ate babies and sometimes had snake-like qualities. But in Basque country, the Lamiak were creatures who looked like incredibly beautiful women, who would often be encountered in lonely places near water, brushing their long lovely hair with a golden comb. The only way you could tell they weren’t human was by noticing that they had duck-feet.
Unlike the Greek version of the story, Lamiak were not usually very evil, at least not in the modern sense, but they would often try to seduce men into the sin of lust by becoming their lovers. It was said that hearing the sound of a church-bell would kill Lamiak, which conveniently explains why they’re very rare nowadays.
There was also a male version of the Lamiak, most commonly called a Mairu, who were a bit more creepy. In some stories, they’d go into houses at night and try to have their way with human womenfolk.
The Anxo, sometimes also called the Tartalo (probably a name borrowed from the Greek for “tartarus”), was the Basque version of a Cyclops. He was a cave-dwelling monster (no surprise there) who lived in the mountains, and liked to cook and eat boys. According to legend, the only way to escape the Anxo is by swimming or tricking him into falling into a well, because the heavy monster would quickly sink into the water and drown.
If none of this has yet impressed on your minds just how weird the Basques are, how about the fact that their version of Santa Claus is a crazy monster too? Instead of “Father Christmas” or “St.Nick”, little Basque kids get a visit from Olentzero, who looks like a strong, tall old man (traditionally beardless) in Basque peasant clothes, smoking a pipe with his face covered in soot. In some versions of his legend, he also has glowing red eyes. Nothing ominous about that…
And it gets stranger still: Olentzero isn’t a Christian saint, or indeed a Christian at all. Nor is he a friendly elf. He is, according to legend, the last of the very pagan “hairy men of the woods” I mentioned above. The story goes that one day (on the winter solstice) the ‘men of the woods’ saw a strange star in the sky, and the wisest of their number told them all that it was a sign that Christ was about to be born. So far, pretty typical of a Christmas story. Except then, they all agreed that they didn’t want to live in a Christian world, so they committed mass suicide by throwing themselves off a cliff, all except Olentzero who was left behind.
This story, along with stuff like how they still consider the black goat to be a sign of good luck rather than of evil, reveals a lot about just how tied to a pagan mindset the Basque people remained for a very long time. There were Christian missionaries in the Basque lands since as early as the 3rd century, but by many reports Basque country was mostly still pagan until as late as the 13th Century. They were largely uninterested in becoming Christians for a thousand years. When the Muslims invaded Spain, their 8th and 9th century records list the Basques as being pagan, not Christian; and in Muslim Spain Basques had a reputation for being “wizards”. A Basque cemetery dating to the late 9th century was found without a single Christian (or Muslim) symbol on it. And historical surveys have found that even in the 15th century there were still very few churches in Basque country compared to almost anywhere else in Christian Europe.
Olentzero does give out toys to Basque children just like Santa. But unlike Santa, in Basque folklore he’ll also spend his time hunting down Basque children with a sickle if they stay outside after dark. He’ll also come and cut the throat of any naughty child who doesn’t want to go to bed when their parents tell them to.
Cantabrian legendary creatures
Catalan legendary creatures
The Vain Little Mouse
7 Legendary Monsters of South America
It should be no surprise that a continent with extremely high mountains, extensive waterways, and dense rainforests filled with undiscovered species would have many legends of monsters. This is just a brief overview of some of South America’s monsters. These legends are often known in more than one nation, with different names for the monsters.
1. Yacumama. The Yacumama is an ancient sea monster that lives in the Amazon River. It’s a giant snake with a horned head, sometimes described as up to 160 feet long! The Yacumama engorges itself with water that it uses to spray and stun its prey. In modern times, anacondas in the Amazon rainforest have been described as up to 62 feet long, so there may very well be a real-live version of the Yacumama lurking in the wild. However, anyone encountering such an animal is not liable to stay around long enough to accurately measure it.
2. Cuero. El Cuero means “cow hide.” The Chilean monster of that name lives in Lake Lacar in the Andes, and resembles a splayed hide with a hairless head and backbone. The legend may have arisen from sightings of freshwater stingrays, although El Cuero is larger and has eyes on stalks, as well as claws. It also has a mouth protruding from its midsection through which it sucks blood from its victims. In the Amazon region, a similar monster is called the Hueke Hueke, which is also described as a splayed hide, without the blood-sucking proboscis.
3. Hombre Caimán. El Hombre Caimán (the Alligator Man) haunts the coast of Colombia. According to legend, he was a human in love with a woman whose father, a rice merchant, did not approve. El Hombre ate rice in a restaurant and saw his love swimming in the sea, and left to join her. He repeated this habit day after day, until he became an alligator and the two swam away forever. Better finish all your rice, or El Hombre Caimán may come for your wife!
4. Encantado. The Encantado (also known as the Mohana) is a dolphin, but one with evil powers. From Uncle John’s Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader:
Encantado means “enchanted one” in Portuguese and refers to a special kind of boto, or long-beaked river dolphin native to the Amazon, that can take human form. Encantados are curious about humans and are especially attracted to big, noisy festivals, which they often attend as musicians, staying in human form for years. How can you recognize one? Look under its hat: They always have bald spots that are actually disguised blowholes. Encantados are usually friendly, but they occasionally hypnotize and kidnap young women and take them back to the Encante, their underground city. Sometimes the women escape and return…pregnant with an Encantado baby.
The legend sounds like a tale told to children to warn them away from dangerous waters — and to warn young women away from musicians with bald spots.
5. Maricoxi. The Maricoxi is a South American ape-man, possibly analogous to Bigfoot, described by explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett (before he mysteriously disappeared) as enormous hairy savages that threatened his party with bows and arrows, but could not speak except for grunts. The Maricoxi fled when fired upon. Several types of Maricoxi have been described, ranging from dwarf-sized to 12 feet tall.
6. Huallepen. The Huallepen or Guallipen is a Chilean chimera with the head of calf, the body of a sheep, and twisted feet. The monster lives in rivers and lakes, and will mate with livestock, producing deformed offspring. Even the sight of the Huallepen can cause a pregnant woman to bear a deformed child.
7. Madremonte. La Madremonte (Mother Mountain) is a Colombian spirit reminiscent of the Irish Banshee. This large woman with bulging, glowing eyes lives in the forest. Her clothing is made of leaves and moss. Madremonte controls the weather and causes invaders to her territory to lose their way. The closest most people get to her is to hear her screams and wails coming from the woods on a dark night.
As diverse and heterogeneous as Latin American culture can be, there are a few touchstones that connect nearly all of us, regardless of our nationalities: quinceañeras with drunk uncles, abuelas who take Walter Mercados horoscopes like the word of God, the belief that Celia Cruz should probably be beatified, and – last, but not least – the terrifying mythological monsters and horror legends our families used to scare the shit out of us year round and get us to act right.
Country of origin: Spain
Similar to: Jasy Jatere (Guarani)
Like the Boogeyman, El Cuco – also known as El Viejo del Saco and El Sacomán, on some occasions – targets children. Unlike the Boogeyman, Latino parents use El Cuco to drive the fear of God into their children. El Cuco looks for misbehaving children or baby pataperros to kidnap via his bag.
Spanish legend has it that El Cuco is Francisco Ortega, aka El Moruno. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Ortega was so desperate to find a cure for his tuberculosis that he visited a Curandera. He was told to drink the blood of children, so he kidnapped a 7-year-old boy named Bernardo.
Jasy Jatere similarly preys on children, but Jasy takes them back to a cave and feeds them wild fruits and berries until they become feral.
Country of origin: Guatemala
El Sombrerón may be Khaleesi-level good at braiding hair, since he likes to braid the manes and tails of horses (or dogs when there aren’t horses available), as well as young women with big eyes and long hair. And he may look hella cool – he wears a big hat, dresses in mostly black, and is well-accessorized with his ornamental boots and belts – but he is actually a creep and very short.
If El Sombrerón, who also goes by Tzipitio, Tzizimite, or the goblin, likes a woman, he will essentially mark his territory by tying a pack of mules outside her house. Then, he begins to serenade her, but it’s nothing like John Cusack in Say Anything. He will play his silver guitar to get her to come home with him. Once the woman has followed him, he will feed her dirt so that they can’t fall asleep.
According to legend, when a woman named Susana from La Recolección was being serenaded by El Sombrerón, her parents grew worried. They tried to keep him away, but he just kept up showing up to her place to play his guitar. It wasn’t until they cut her hair and had it blessed that he finally moved on.
Country of Origin: Bolivia
Similar to: Madremonte (Colombia)
As far as legends and monsters go, the Acalica don’t seem too bad. They are said to be fair-tempered creatures that control the weather and are sometimes called weather-fairies. They live in underground caves, and they make sure to stay out of people’s way. The rare times they do appear, they look like small, wizened men.
Colombia’s Madremonte legend can also control the weather. She protects nature, and those who dare mess with it will get punished.
Country of Origin: Mexico
Similar to: La Novia de Tola (Nicaragua), La Sayona (Venezuela)
Scorned women is a trope familiar all over the world, which is probably why there are so many of them in Latino horror culture. Though there are variations in La Llorona’s origins, there are a few things that remain the same: a beautiful woman named Maria drowns her two children once her husband loses interest in her.
In one version, the man leaves her for another woman. After killing her children and herself, she is unable to go to the afterlife until she finds her kids, which is when she starts going after wandering children. Her yells can be heard in the late evenings.
In another, Maria is the most beautiful woman in town. She meets a ranchero that she wants to be with, but only marries him after he spends a lot of time and money courting her. They eventually have two children, and he goes back to his ranchero ways, leaving their family for periods of time and only returning to see his children. One day, Maria finds him with a new woman and becomes so enraged that she kills her children to spite him. By the time she realizes what she’s done, it’s too late. The next day, she is found dead by the river, and after that, her ghost can be found crying, as she roams the river in search of her children.
In Nicaragua, the story centers on Hilaria Ruiz, a young woman who fell for Salvador Cruz, a playboy. Before his wedding, he stopped by his lover Juana Gazo’s house. Juana knew it would be over between the two of them, so she got him drunk enough to miss his wedding. Hilaria, inconsolable, and became La Novia de Tola, a scorned ghost who waits for her beloved forever.
La Sayona is a woman who haunts men in relationships who cheat. She is seen wearing a white dress, and is even called La Llorona sometimes because she is seen crying while holding a baby in her arms.
Country of Origin: Argentina and Uruguay
Similar to: La Luz del Dinero (Peru, Mexico)
Luz Mala is a folkloric myth from the gaucho era. It’s not an actual character but, literally, a fluorescent beam that shines a few feet above the ground during the night.
The peasants who saw the light at the horizon of dry hills were scared of it because they thought those were “lost souls” who hadn’t received a christian baptism. They say that those who dare to look under the light can find metal objects or indigenous artifacts, but of course, looking at the light comes with lethal consequences. Supposedly a deadly gas emanates from the found objects, killing whomever discovers it.
In this way, it’s similar to myths that circulate in the Andes of Peru (and reportedly some regions of Mexico), which believe that a greenish light indicates the sites where conquistadores buried the treasure of Atahualpa.
Here’s a short “documentary” about Luz Mala to put you to sleep well tonight.
Country of Origin: Spain
Duendes are well-known all over Latin America, and each country has its own interpretation of the small, gnome or elf-like creatures. Even our primos in the Philippines have a version (“dwendes”), which makes sense considering that the myth originates with our mutual colonizer, Spain (where duendes became a fundamental component of classic literature and culture). In the 16th century, there was even a law in Spain that said that anyone who moved into a home and later realized it was infested with duendes was free to abandon it.
Beliefs about duendes vary from region to region – some believe they are the souls of infants who died before they could be baptized, others simply portray them as malevolent, naughty spirits that hide in a person’s home and wreak havoc. But most duende variants seem to have a special relationship to children, probably because parents began using them as a tactic to scare their kids into doing their bidding. Hence the stories your parents terrorized you with about how duendes were coming to kidnap and eat you if you didn’t clean your room, clip your toenails, stayed out too late, etc.
Country of Origin: Puerto Rico
Like a Latin American Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster, El Chupacabra(s) – literally “goat sucker” for the Spanish-ly challenged – is a beast whose alleged existence has plagued farmers and the collective Latin consciousness for some time now. Not quite as old as Sasquatch, the Yeti or even the Jersey Devil, the legend of El Chupacabra dates back to just 1995.
The first report of a Chupacabra attack was in March of that year – though some say reports go all the way back to the 60s – in Puerto Rico; eight sheep were killed and completely drained of blood, with three puncture wounds in each of their chests. Authorities attributed the killings to more conventional predators, but many locals suspected a Satanic cult. By August, 150 similar livestock killings had taken place, and by the end of the year the mysterious beast had been blamed for over 1000. Descriptions of the creature varied wildly; in the town of Canóvanas the creature was described as winged, swooping down on its prey. In Caguas, it was said to have hairy arms and red eyes. By the end of 1995, the most prevalent description was gray, alien-like creature about 3 to 4 feet tall that walks upright on its muscular hind legs.
By 1996, reports of Chupacabra attacks were being reported on the mainland as well, beginning in Miami and later in the Southwest and in Mexico. Either the creature had migrated, or the stories had become so popular that reports of sightings and copycat attacks were being carried out here, too. This time, the creature was described as doglike but reptilian. Whether Chupacabra exists or not, reports of bloodless murdered livestock persist. And to date, no satisfactory predator has ever been caught.
El Culebrón or Viborón
Country of Origin: Chile
El Culebrón is basically an Anaconda on super steroids; an enormous, hairy snake with a gigantic, calf-like head. The creature belongs to the rural countryside of Chile, where it is said to come out at night from dark caves or remote forests and eat basically anything in its path. El Culebrón also has a tesoro-radar, and is said to arrive at the sites of buried treasure 40 days after it’s been buried. Anyone wishing to recover the treasure has to douse the ground with aguardiente, in the hopes that the snake will get turnt off the liquor and let its guard down.
In the same way that El Culebrón is attracted to riches, legend also has it that the snake can draw wealth to anyone who is able to “domesticate” it. But trapping a Culebrón is no easy feat: you have to find one in the wild, pluck three of its longest hairs without getting eaten, then put the hairs in a bowl of milk. From that bowl, three baby culebrones will spring to life, and the strongest will eat the other two and become a full-fledged culebrón. From that point forward owners have to maintain the snakes with sacrifices of animals or close relatives (wtf), and leave the blood in a secret location that only the snake knows of. Otherwise, no money for you and you’ll probably get eaten.
Country of Origin: Chile
The Peuchen comes from the indigenous lore of Southern Chile’s Mapuche people. It is a shape-shifting, vampire-esque creature, most frequently described as a flying snake (occasionally descriptions add that it is covered in either feathers or hair – making it similar to the Culebrón. Or really, just a big ass bat).
Much like vampires, peuchens can paralyze their victims by gazing into their eyes, in order to drain the bodies of blood.
The only people who can defeat the peuchen are Machi, Mapuche medicine women.
Country of Origin: Peru, Bolivia
A pale-skinned vampire/bogeyman who roams the Andes and kills peasants in order to drain them of their body fat, the legend of the Pishtaco was basically plucked directly from the real-life horrors experienced by the indigenous communities of Peru and Bolivia during colonization in the 15th century.
The first written account of the creature comes from priest Cristóbal de Molina, a 16th century scholar of Incan culture, who chronicled a spreading native fear in Cuzco that Spaniards were going to kill them and drain them of their fat.
Since then, descriptions of the creature have varied slightly from generation to generation, but as a rule they tend to be versions of white men “invaders,” alternately depicted as priests, doctors, aid workers, tourists, anthropologists, etc. They stand in for five centuries of foreign exploitation, which tbqh is more terrifying than any myth on this list.
Fans of the show Supernatural may remember that pishtacos made an appearance as humans with a proboscis hidden in their mouths (used to suck the fat out of victims, naturally). Except on the show, the pishtacos are Latino characters, which kind of undercuts their whole white devil foreigner deal, smh.
Country of origin: Guyana
The massacooramaan (also spelled masacurraman) is a massive, hairy monster that lurks in Guayana’s rivers and seas, preying on passengers in small boats and eating them. The massacorramaan is a kind of jumbee, a mythological spirit or demon native to Caribbean folklore. Aside from being creepy AF (and one of many water-residing beasts in Latin American folklore), it’s also the namesake of Fade to Mind producer Massacooramaan, aka Dan Quam, whose fragmented and percussive club music pretty much resembles the monster himself.
Country of origin: Dominican Republic
Similar to: La Cegua (Costa Rica/Nicaragua), La Patasola (Colombia), La Tunda (Colombia/Ecuador)
According to Dominican folklore, La Ciguapa is a hypnotic mythological creature that takes the form of a woman with backwards-facing feet. Ciguapas lurk in the highland mountains and deep forests of the island, waiting for the perfect moment to lure men into the woods and make them disappear. Their long, thick manes, tan skin, and feet make them pretty elusive and prone to outwitting followers. You probably remember Chichi Peralta’s “La Ciguapa” from a million of your primos’ weddings. But if you’re like me, your favorite memory of La Ciguapa was Julia Alvarez’s less misogynistic reimagining for kids, The Secret Footprints, which depicted the magical beings as more timid, curious, and less predatory creatures.
The first recorded mention of ciguapas appeared in Francisco Javier Angulo Guridi’s short story La Ciguapa in 1866, which didn’t mention the creatures’ backwards feet. While many think ciguapas are an Arawak legend, scholars have found little evidence to prove the connection, which suggests the legend’s origins are far more likely to have emerged from African religious beliefs brought over to the island during the colonial period.
The ciguapa has a similar one-legged version from Colombia called La Patasola, as well as La Cegua, who eventually shapeshifts into a skull horse head. La Tunda also bears similarities to the quisqueyano legend, although that version of the tale alleges that the creature has the ability to appear in the form a loved one or suck your blood and devour you à la Dementor’s Kiss. *shudders*
Country of origin: Peru, Ecuador, Argentina (reportedly)
The mighty Amazon is home to the legendary yacumama, a horned, snake-like sea monster believed to be the mother of all sea creatures. The yacumama is part of multiple indigenous groups’ mythology, primarily tribes hailing from the Western Amazon in the lowlands of Peru and Ecuador. According to various European colonizers’ accounts from the 19th century, the yacumama is rumored to be as long as 160 feet. Before entering unfamiliar bodies of water, indigenous tribes would blow a horn to warn the gigantic reptile of human presence, and probably so they wouldn’t get attacked, either.
In Argentina, the yacumama is also a goddess of the water, but it takes the form of an elderly human woman that approaches kids who enter the river to collect water in their canteens.
In sum: the yacumama is basically an anaconda with horns. Now I’m just imagining Samuel L. Jackson fighting off yacumamas on a plane. Also, can we get an indigenous rework of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” called “Yacumama?”