Folklore is woven into the fabric of most countries around the world. There are lighthearted tales, romantic ones, holiday tales, war stories, and more, all told with great gusto around dinner tables that host generations of the same families.
However, there is also a very dark side to folklore, as evidenced by the entries on this list. The following tales aren’t of the heartwarming, wholesome variety, and they’re hardly dinner table fare. They certainly don’t come off as something to tell to wide-eyed children.
10 Bloody Bones And Raw Head
From the Southern United States comes the chilling tale of Bloody Bones, a dancing headless skeleton, and Raw Head, a skull stripped of its skin. As is the case with most folktales, there are quite a few versions of this one, including one that states these two monsters come out in the dark of night looking for naughty children. Another version has it that these two creatures are part of the same monster. They even have their own rhyme:
Rawhead and Bloody Bones
Steals Naughty Children from their Homes
Takes them to his dirty den
And they are never seen again
9 Jasy Jatere
Parents use many tactics to get their children to behave, eat all their food, take a nap, go to bed, and so on. Some involve treats for their good behavior, while others involve scary tales to terrify them into obedience. One of these creepy stories hails from Paraguay.
It is said that a creature by the name of Jasy Jatere roams the streets during siesta time in search of children who wish to continue playing outside instead of taking a nap. Jasy Jatere looks like a child himself and has long, light-colored hair. He is also invisible to adults, appearing only to naughty children who disobey the siesta rules. He lures these kids away, and they are never seen again.
Another version of this mythical tale says that Jasy Jatere is not a child but rather a small man who feeds children fruit and honey before taking them prisoner and scooping out their eyes so that they can’t find their way back home.
In rural Thailand, relatives of pregnant women who have just given birth often ask for the placenta so that they can bury it. The reason for this is to keep the new mom from ever becoming a victim of Krasue.
Krasue is a beautiful woman from the chest up. From the waist down (sometimes only the neck down), she is a mess of dangling intestines and internal organs. It is said that she preys on pregnant women, removing unborn fetuses with her long, tubular tongue to eat them. Some believe that once a woman falls victim to Krasue, she will become like her, especially if Krasue eats the placenta of a new mother. During the day, it is said, Krasue takes on the body of a normal human being and lives among unsuspecting citizens.
Yet another tale involving entrails, this one originating from Bali, is that of the leyak. The leyak is basically a flying head with its internal organs dangling below. It is permanently in search of pregnant women in order to suck their babies’ blood.
Leyaks also haunt cemeteries in order to feed on the dead and have the ability to shape-shift into animals. Like the Krasue, they take on a normal human form during the day, but they break free at night to look for victims. It is not uncommon for the Balinese people to hold seances if they suspect a leyak might be responsible for illness or death. It is said that the summoned spirit of the victim will point to the leyak that is to blame for his death.
South Slavic mythology includes the story of the drekavac, which is said to be the soul of a dead, unbaptized child that will only disappear once it finds peace. It can take the form of animals or children, but when seen in the form of a baby, it predicts death. It has a terrible scream, which many believe is a cry for baptism. Others believe that if it screams outside of a house, someone in the house will die soon.
It is also claimed that if its shadow falls on someone, that person will die. One can protect themselves against the drekavac by getting a dog or luring it into direct sunlight.
Children really don’t have it easy in the mythical realm. West Africa has its own version of a type of vampire that preys on the fear of people. This creature, called obayifo, drinks the blood of its victims and has a special taste for children’s blood.
Other than the traditional vampire, obayifos are living entities possessed by evil and steered toward performing evil acts. They are usually a trusted member of a close-knit community, which ensures that their true identity is never revealed. It is said that obayifos live on vegetables when unable to find a child to exsanguinate. This causes crops to rot. Some variations of the folklore say that an obayifo can be killed by strangling or drowning it, while another says that a white wizard is the only protection against the vampire.
In some parts of the Arctic, it is believed that a thin, blue demon with white eyes and long hair awaits his victims in anticipation . . . of tickling them to death.
As silly as that may sound, the demon known as Mahaha uses his razor-sharp nails to torment unsuspecting people until they die with a twisted smile frozen on their faces. Luckily, it is quite easy to rid yourself of Mahaha. Should you find yourself alone with him, just invite him to have a drink with you from a water stream. As soon as he bends over the water, simply push him in to let him drown.
The Tucano people, who reside alongside the Vaupes River in the Amazon, have their own scary tale to tell. Legend has it that humanoid monsters called boraro lie in wait for their human prey, using stones and urine to subdue them. Once the person is helpless, the boraro chews a hole in the top of his head in order to suck his organs and intestines through it.
The boraro are very tall and hairy and have backward-facing feet and no knees. It is said that knocking them over will leave some time for escape, as the lack of knee joints will have them struggling to get back on their feet.
Balor is a giant from Celtic mythology and has sometimes been interpreted as a god. Resembling a cyclops, Balor only has one eye and one giant leg. Myth has it that Balor could kill people by staring at them with his eye, and he had to keep it closed most of the time to avoid stumbling over mounds of dead bodies.
He was also the ruler of a bunch of demons who lurked in oceans and lakes. They lived aboveground for a while, as Balor provided them with victims, but they were forced to return to the water after Balor was killed by his own son. These demons, who go by the name of the Formori, became monsters of the deep who still prey on human bodies.
Those who suffer from sleep paralysis may not want to read this entry . . .
Persian mythology presents the Bakhtak, or the Sleep Demon. This creature takes on the form of a goblin-like demon who sits on your chest and waits for you to fall asleep. Once you are far away in dreamland, he quickly turns sweet dreams into vivid nightmares.
Should you wake up while the Bakhtak is sitting on you, he will instantly vanish and “paralyze” you for a few moments. Sound familiar? The worst thing about Bakhtak is his sheer persistence. He will keep coming back until he succeeds in killing you while you sleep.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid this fate: Try to be less stressed and sleep on your side or with a knife under your pillow.
Estelle lives in Gauteng, SA.