Mythical monsters from around the world

Published 11:38 am Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween is a fun holiday not only for people who like costumes and candy, but also for those who enjoy spooky things, particularly stories about scary creatures like vampires and werewolves, witches and ghosts.

Though Halloween has come and gone, fans of the paranormal don’t have to give up on creepy stuff just yet. At least not until we’re up to our knees in eggnog and fruitcake (which, honestly, could be any minute now with how fast we get to Christmas every year).

While I used to be frightened of the idea of supernatural creatures as a young kid, I discovered as I grew up that the myths behind the monsters were pretty interesting. It’s theorized, for example, that the vampire legend originated from stories surrounding people with serious illnesses and superstitions about decaying corpses.

Of course, we’re familiar with the typical monsters we’ve seen on film and in books, but it’s fascinating to see what the rest of the world has to offer in this terrifying subject. I’ve compiled here a few of the strangest ones I’ve read about. (And I threw in a few snarky jokes too because laughter is the best defense against scary stuff, you know.)

Beware: some of these creatures aren’t for the faint of heart!

The Philippines has an array of interesting creatures in folklore, but there were two that definitely caught my eye. The manananggal is quite similar to a vampire except for its strange ability to sprout wings and detach its upper body from its bottom half. They say one way to destroy a manananggal is to sprinkle salt on the legs it left behind, so I assume these guys avoid kitchens at all costs.

The other Filipino creature, the aswang, is also kind of like a vampire, but has the ability to shapeshift and also walk around during the day. The best way to figure out if someone you meet is an aswang in disguise is to look directly into their eyes. If your reflection is upside down, then you’re talking to an aswang and it’s probably in your best interest to find an excuse to leave before they try to eat you!

Norse mythology has an undead zombie-like creature called a draugr. Though unlike the slow zombies roaming the earth for brains like we’re used to in movies, a draugr can increase its size, sometimes do a bit of magic, and usually likes to hang around their graves to guard their treasure. I guess no one ever told them “you can’t take it with you when you go.”

The dullahan of Ireland is the same concept of a headless horseman that we are familiar with from Washington Irving’s “Sleepy Hollow” story. They travel around on a horse carrying their head under their arm. The differences, however, are that a dullahan is afraid of gold, and that you die if he calls out your name. I’d suggest avoiding wearing a name tag if you ever happen to be wandering around the Irish countryside at night.

Some specific caves of France have a purported beastly resident known as the lou carcolh. The giant mythical monster is supposed to be part snake, part snail and likes to swallow its victims whole. Perhaps that’s one kind of escargot to pass up if you’re ever visiting France.

The yara-ma-yha-who (fun to pronounce but probably not fun to encounter) comes from the folklore of the Australian Aborigines. The creature, which hangs out in fig trees, is supposed to be similar to a vampire except its method of attack is a bit more peculiar. The yara-ma-yha-who drains the blood of its victims, then swallows them whole, takes a nap, and then spits the victim back out completely unharmed as if nothing had happened. Except now the victim is a bit shorter than before and probably will want to buy figs from the grocery store in the future.

Japanese mythology contains a variety of different supernatural creatures, but the craziest of all has to be the ittan-momen. It’s literally just a roll of cotton possessed by a malicious spirit which flies through the night to find humans to smother. Imagine basically having to be afraid of soft, fluffy towels!

Of course, none of these spooky creatures really exist, but they certainly make nice additions to any scary story you might want to make up for Halloween next year. It’s never too early to get into the holiday spirit.

Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.