42 Folk Tales To Avoid (Unless You Can Handle Nightmares And Sleepless Nights)

42 Folk Tales To Avoid (Unless You Can Handle Nightmares And Sleepless Nights)

These stories from Ask Reddit are going to haunt you every time you close your eyes.

1. There’s a Japanese ghost of a woman who wears a mask. She approaches young children asking them if they think she is beautiful. If the child answers yes, she removes her mask and asks again. This time her true nature is shown, having her mouth slit from ear to ear. If the child says no, she kills them. If the child says yes again, much in Japanese ghost fashion, she follows them home and kills them.

2. The flying head. In Malaysia we called it “PENANGGAL”. It’s basically a detached head that floats around in the night, seeking the blood of a woman who recently gave birth. The head is floating with its lungs and throat dangling below its neck. When morning comes, the head will fly back and attach to its body.

3. Aka Manto (“Red Cape”). It’s a malicious spirit found in public bathrooms that will offer the unfortunate person either a red or blue paper or cape. If they were to pick red, they would be slashed to death; if they were to pick blue, they would be strangled.

4. Indigenous Australian’s have the Yowie, which is like Bigfoot etc, and in many tales is malevolent and violent. But one clan mentioned a detail I had never heard before and wish I could unhear:

The feet of the Yowie are fixed on backwards. So if you find tracks and think you are safely running away from the Yowie, back the way it came instead of following it, you are actually getting closer.

5. La Xtabai. She’s usually seen at night wearing a white dress and has large black eyes. She lures men and women that are out at night behind a ceiba tree and then invites them to have sex. Once they have sex, La Xtabai will change into a serpent and eat them. She can also be seen under a tree to lure and then throw her someone over a cliff. Once she throws them over, she will rip their heart.

6. La Lorna. She is the ghost of a woman who lost/drowned her children and now cries while looking for them in the river, often causing misfortune to those who are near or hear her. She will lure or kidnap children and bring them to the river.

7. Kelpies are water demons that live in Scottish Lochs. On land they look like beautiful and tame horses, but if you try and pet or ride they they’ll fuse your hands into their hide, transform into their true form and dive into the depths of a Loch (which tend to be deep and very murky), drowning and eating you. Usually you can tell a kelpie has recently made a kill if you see human entrails floating on the surface.

8. An old Japanese lady told me this story. If you have two mirrors facing each other so the reflections make a tunnel, then you light a candle between them. If you look down the tunnel you’ll see a demon putting out the candle in the mirrors as it gets closer by jumping forward a reflection every time you look away, and if it gets to you, it grabs you and pulls you into the mirror to become a demon and pull the next victim in.

9. When I lived in an Australian outback town in the middle of nowhere our Indigenous Studies teacher, who is Aboriginal, loved to tell us stories. She scared all the first graders straight by telling us never to go out into the desert alone, because there lives a monster who is always thirsty. He’s always trying to find water, but never can because it hardly rains. So when plump and juicy children become lost in the desert, he jumps on them and drinks all their blood. All he leaves behind are the dry husks of children for their parents to find.

10. My hometown is named for the freshwater springs that bubble up everywhere in the woods around town. Obviously this was a perk for early people living there, and so the original settlers were surprised to see that the local Ojibwe avoided the area. They did this because they had a folk memory about a bad spirit that possessed members of the tribe (starting with children) and compelled them to enter into the springs and drown themselves.

Naturally they have a prophecy about it, too; one day or another, they say, “the springs will open again.”

11. Orang Minyak – the oily man in Malay. He’s a shaman or a supernatural being entirely covered in tar or black oil. He gains and increases his powers by abducting and raping virgins. While I studied in Malaysia, a few girls were raped on our campus and somehow Orang Minyak was blamed. The rumor spread like fire. One weekend there was literally an exodus of students all in panic because most of them firmly believed we were being attacked by Orang Minyak. Most of the International students were just in disbelief….

12. As a Trinidadian, growing up we were told not to go wandering off into the forests. “Douens” lived in the forests, and were basically children that had their feet back-to-front. Once they learned a child’s name, they would call out to them in the voice of the parents, leading them into the forests. Their footprints would lead the child more astray, losing them in the forests for good. They are said to be lost souls of kids.

13. Tata Duende. A 3ft tall demon that wears a red hat, has backwards feet, and is missing his thumbs. He is interested in children, and if they don’t hide their thumbs he will bite them off. He will also try to lure children into the jungle. The only way to escape him is to hide your thumbs and show only your four fingers. Tata Duende will think you are like him and would let you go.

14. Wendigo (wenddigo, wittiko), an Ojibwe myth to explain cannibalism despite bountiful food supplies.

Stories tend to originate around people either committing cannibalism, or being forced to when lost in the forest. The latter has some story element involving hearing your name being called in the wind and water and creatures in the forest, and if you finally give it an answer, you’ve allowed the spirit of the wendigo in.

It was a law until the mid 20th century that anyone suspected of being possessed by a wendigo should immediately be put to death or risk devouring the entire village/town, or passing the spirit on to another host.

15. Näkki is a spirit that lives in still pools and under bridges. It can appear as a beautiful woman to lure people close to the water, whereupon it drags them into the depths.

16. Shadow people/ Shadow men. More recent than a lot of traditional folklore some of the stories around shadow people are pretty spooky.

The gist of it is that evil spirits/demons will take the form of people in dark areas and begin following you and try to trick you to follow them into the darker areas often taking a human form or calling out from the nearby shadows. Some have claimed to even have had them follow them home, and take the form of children that knocked on their door and asked for permission to enter and use their phone or something similar but always with the attempt to gain permission to enter their home. Though the children appear human their eyes are always completely black.

17. I’m from Spanish descent, and when I was young my mom always told me about El Cuco, the Spanish Boogeyman. El Cuco would go to into closets and under beds, and would eat children who were disobedient to their parents, and he would also kidnap children. I didn’t believe in him but that would always make me hide in my bed if I felt something around me. Moral of the story, don’t be mean to your parents.

18. We have a local folklore in the Philippines called Manananggal, its a normal woman but during the night it separates its lower body from its upper body and it grows wings. According to the stories passed, when you hear its voice and it is loud it means its still far, but if its quiet means it is near you. The only way to kill it is to find its lower body and put salt in it.

19. Here in Scotland, I was told about changelings as a little kid. The wee folk (fairys are nasty in Scottish stories) swap your baby with one of theirs so you feed and raise it for them. The baby will look just like yours so it’s hard to tell.

I heard to defeat them, you have to do something very strange, like prepare a dinner for everyone but in an eggshell, and act like nothing is off, or act like you’re sweeping the floor but sweep dirt into the room from outside and act as though you’re proud of your clean house. Then You leave the room and peek through, and if you hear the baby talking to itself out loud in an adult voice , wondering why you would do such an odd thing, you’re to run into the room, grab the baby, and throw it in a body of water!

Then the wee folk will run out to save it from drowning, and drop your baby in the rush, and you can get them back.

20. I went on vacation in the Philippines once. I stayed at a backpackers’ lodge in this beach island and I met a couple of Filipino travelers whom I’ve ended up bonding with. One night, they told me about what they call the tiyanak.

Apparently, tiyanaks are demon-babies spawned by the motherfucker himself. Tiyanaks appear as cute, cuddly, bright-eyed babies to lure humans into coming near them, then they reveal their true demon form as they devour those who do.

21. This swedish urban legend about a ”Myling”. A myling is a child that has been killed by its mother to then be hidden, often under the cabon floor, to prevent an unwanted child. The ”Myling” would often scream and cry for help, or for attention. Just to make everyone living closeby or at the actual place, feel uneasy.

You could also help the ”Myling” by finding its corpse to then bury it at holy grounds.

22. The Madamas, evil spirits in the shape of an impossibly beautiful woman who live in caves underground protecting great treasures. If you go to a cave where a Madama lives at dawn you can see her coming out with her comb to comb her long blond hair. She will ask you to come with her and become her husband underground, but you must refuse – those who know the legend know that her beautiful comb is made of human bone.

23. The Santa Compana from Galicia in northwestern Spain is a procession of dead souls that roams the forest in winter nights. You can see their faint outlines in the fog and they are led by a living person carrying a lit candle to lead the way and a cauldron. This person has been cursed into leading them and will spend their nights roaming the countryside leading the dead until they die of exhaustion because they remember nothing when they wake up in their beds the morning after. The only way for a cursed person to lift his curse is to run into another living person and pass them the candle and cauldron. If you run into the Santa Compana there are a few things you can do to prevent being cursed, such as getting into a church, or drawing a circle around you with an olive tree branch.

24. I live in the UK so black dogs. They terrified me as a kid because they were a demonic entity and were rumoured to signal death. Everytime I was in a car at night, I was afraid we’d pass through some woods and see a pair of red eyes glaring back. The UK’s kinda known for its sightings of escaped animals from zoos so anything big, black and shadowy is freaky.

25. The Jersey Devil. I grew up near the Pine Barrens in New Jersey and for years was terrified of going next to my window at night in case the Jersey Devil was outside.

The story goes that in the 1800’s Mrs Leeds cursed her 13th baby as it was being born and it attacked the midwife and flew up into the chimney and now stalks the pine barrens.

He has bat wings and a horse’s head, and a forked tail and likes to eat chickens and dogs and basically fly around scaring you at night.

My uncle said he saw it once and refuses to drive through the pine barrens at night.

26. In Islamic culture / religion, there are ghosts (?) called jinn and the idea of them always freaked me out. SO many people I know claim to have had an experience with them. Apparently they live in a parallel world to us, so they can see us but we can’t see them unless they want us to. And they can possess you.

27. Pocong. They’re wrapped corpses who hop because their feet are bound, and if one finds you it will follow you across the earth.

28. This one I heard at Sapfest (harvesting maple sap) in Northern Wisconsin. I’m not sure if it’s well known, since I only ever heard it from my family.

It’s called the buried boy, and it came out of this song we sing while at Sapfest. It’s pretty much just singing about a guy sitting on the riverbank with his sweetheart while he talks about his older brother, who was murdered and buried by his dad.

According to the story, the older brother rose up that night and killed his dad as payback. Except for, his eyes had already been eaten by birds, so he didn’t see that his father was dead. So he kept wandering around, searching for his father in order to kill him.

So he wanders around the woods, searching for his father in order to get revenge. He bangs on the doors and windows of log cabins, and if he finds it open, he’ll come in and murder everyone. Also, if you pass by his grave (across the riverbank, in the song) he’ll know and he’ll stalk you through the trees.

It doesn’t seem as scary in a city, but when you got separated from everyone in the woods and the sun is setting, or when you’re trying to sleep and the wind is banging against the door, it gets a lot scarier.

I still don’t like crossing rivers at night, even in a car over a bridge.

29. On the Big Island of Hawaii there are the night marchers which are the ghosts of the Kau warriors who died in a volcanic eruption after a battle. There footprints are actually still preserved in Kilauea national park. I’ve had a lot of people both locals and people from the mainland tell me of hearing a large group of men marching and chanting late at night around Kau. You apparently smell sulfur and you have to get naked and lay on a fetal position. I’ve heard other people say you just can’t look at them and if you do you’ll die. I’ve had some friends tell me they were camping in a remote valley when they heard about twenty people march by speaking Hawaiian and they smelled sulfur they didn’t see any one since they were in a tent. Also had an old Hawaiian Uncle tell me when he was a teenager working on a ranch at night he saw and purple light go from Kilauea to Moana loa and the next day Moana loa erupted for the first time in a while it was sometime in the 80s.

30. Kumiho is a very unstable, malevolent spirit. Us Koreans believed, due to Taoist influences, that many objects grew stronger as time progressed. A fox, having lived for a thousand years, would gain nine tails, and grow powerful enough to disguise itself as a human.

31. Local legend from my area pretty common: You pick someone up, and they turn out to be a ghost.

Only problem is it used to be a well known road out in the boonies (Only happened on certain nights of the year.), and literally everyone avoided it because virtually everyone knew someone who had picked the ghost up at some point. Something happened like she would start screaming and then vanish.

Then one day construction began on the road, because the place is so small people from out of town started working on the road, and a news story came out about how a girl got in a car with them and then vanished sometime through the night, just before screaming. The time of year wasn’t around Halloween or anything.

Literally when we were younger and out ‘riding bikes’ at night, one night it got a little to late and we caught hell for it because my cousin lived with in about 15-20 minutes of that place. Literally his parents jumped our cases because of the ghost.

The road is gone now because quite literally no one used it.

32. The Draug of Norwegian folklore. Norway is a country that has a giant coastline, with cold seas and plenty of storms, so naturally one of our creepiest pieces of folklore would be based around it.

The Draug is the spirit of a sailor taken by storms. Their ships were shattered, and their bodies pulled beneath the waves, never to set foot on land again. Now they sail within the storm in their broken boats, bodies cold and bloated, covered in seaweed and barnacles. If you find your vessel trapped in a terrible storm you might see one, and if you do you will never set foot on land again. The Draug will come out of the storm, grab hold of you, and drag you into your watery grave.

33. Dullahan are basically a mix of Grim Reaper and The headless Horsemen. They go around in carriages made of skin with wheel made of bone. Whenever they stop, somebody dies. They come from Celtic folklore I believe.

34. Tailypo.

American folk legend about a giant cat-like creature that stalks the woods at night. In the original legend, an old Hermit hunter shoots it, misses, and instead ends up shooting its tail off. Tailypo is startled and manages to escape. Satisfied with the tail, the hunter takes it home to make stew out of it. Later that night Tailypo manages to break into his home. Tailypo jumps on the man’s bed and asks where it’s “tailypo” is. The man, scared shitless, answers that he ate it. Tailypo is enraged, and as an act of vengeance claws the man’s stomach out and destroys his house to rubble.

In some children’s versions the hunter only loses his house, but most versions include a hunting dog that also dies in the scuffle. Other versions also have the legend last for a few days rather than one night, where the hunter is stalked by the creature every night, but the basic story is still the same.

First time I heard it as a kid I was living in Alabama and it scared the absolute shit out of me since my grandma’s house was right in front of a huge plot of woods.

It’s easy to imagine horror and folklore legends from other countries miles away, but the local stuff freaks me out.

35. I’m from northern Brazil near the Amazon river. My grandma always told us the story of the “Matita perreira”.

At night you can hear her whistle. She is like a witch, if she finds you in the Forrest she gonna beat you with a leash that she has. The Matita perreira is a normal human in daylight, she can be anyone from the village. It is ike a curse.

When you hear her whistle you can call her 3 times. You would scream “Matita come drink coffee” In the next morning she would visit you in her human form to drink coffee with you. So you could find out who she is.

But there is a catch. She would come real early in the morning. You should have coffee and cigar for her, otherwise she would kill you. Everybody who would still be asleep when she arrives, would fall ill and die.

It was really creepy for me growing up. But today I know that the whistle is a bird.

In Brazil we have a lot of those folklore stories.

36. Our village has one called ‘bilaas’. What makes it creepy is that she isn’t some obscure, unidentified being, people know women who are called bilaas, they have normal families and stuff. So she’s literally living amongst you. She stalks people at night, that’s when shes usually in a ghoulish form, feet turned backwards and shit. She gets sick a day before someone in the vicinity is about to die, and then becomes very healthy the day they do die. She can turn into different creatures and attack you while you’re alone. Then you will fall sick and if she visits you in her human form while you’re sick, you’ll die. And you can’t refuse her coming in Sounds silly, and it is, but it is still creepy.

37. Scariest one I’ve heard in real life? The cave people. If you explore caves you’ve probably heard them. The quiet little whispers. They sound like a group talking way off in the impenetrable darkness. I’ve heard a dozen different versions of what they are. Lost souls, dwarves, evil spirits, or the logical explanation:drops of water echoing and your mind playing tricks. Either way, it’s a common joke that we all carry 3 sources of light so that it never goes out. Because if it does, they’ll come for you. Or it’s because it’s true darkness down there and you’ll likely get lost and fall in a pit. It’s a right of passage for young cavers to be frightened with the stories by older vets. Though I’ve met a few who really swear to having full conversations with the spectres.

No matter how you shake it I’m a giant wimp and still don’t like caving alone or getting too far from my Group. Or turning my light out for more than a few minutes.

38. I’m from the Black Forest, Germany, a region spooky by itself and with even more stories of ghosts, zombies, dwarves, nymphs, tree spirits, and all of that shit. A lot of widely known fairytales come from here and operas were inspired by the forest. The forest looks a lot like the name suggests: it is so densely forested with fir and pine trees that sunlight rarely pierces through, which makes it look black. However, when the sun shines, it’s fucking beautiful.

One of the stories takes place at the Mummelsee (lake Mummel), a lake high up on the mountain, surrounded by three cliffs and pine trees that always appears dark black.

According to legends a “king” lives under the water that charms young girls ino swimming and then dragging in the lake, bringing them to his kingdom underwater. Some of those girls then later appeared as nymphs to then again lead hikers into their watery death.

There is some king of real explanation: people would bath in the lake, which is much deeper than they had thought. Due to the cold water from the depths some people probably drowned.

39. An english village near me has a large old mansion owned by a local family most of the rooms in the mansion haven’t been touched for years (due to the size of the house) and the family refuse to go into them, partly due to the fact that there’s not enough people living in the house and partly due to hauntings.

The house apparently dates back to before the english Civil War, and the family living there were a well-known Catholic family, so of course became a base for the king’s soldiers (Cavaliers, I think they were called). The king lost the civil war, and the family who live there say that they can hear the soldiers stomping around the hallways at night, and occasionally barking orders.

They also claim there’s a bunch of other ghosts, such as a veiled woman in black who only appears to you if you’re ill in that house, a librarian who will shush people talking in the library room (yes it’s that big a house), a young girl who you can only see through some of the frosted glass doors in the house, banging noises and screaming coming from the sitting room at night, and finally a man dressed in black who wanders the gardens at midday. And these are just the few tales I remember.

Even if you don’t believe in the ghosts theres still tonnes of creepy stuff about that house, such as tiny rooms hidden everywhere for priests to hide in (known as priest holes), a hidden room below the house that leads out to a nearby river, and hidden passageways all around the house.

40. A bald man who comes at night to set fire to corn fields. You do not want him to get ahold of you, for he’ll destroy your throat. People in Mexico call him El Pelón Quema Maiz.

41. When I was little my Grandma told me Kappas would pull your guts outta your butthole if you swam in the river too long. Legend from Japan obviously. Kappa are still creepy to me.

42. Homem do Saco – or, in English, The Bag Man. Basically, it was a man that roamed through the streets looking for kids that were by themselves, with no adult supervision. Then, he put them inside his bag and took them to his home so he could make buttons and soap.

It’s a scary story to keep children from playing in the streets the whole day but man, was it scary back in the day! Thought Catalog Logo Mark

January Nelson is a writer, editor, and dreamer. She writes about astrology, games, love, relationships, and entertainment. January graduated with an English and Literature degree from Columbia University.