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10 Truly Creepy Vampires From Around The World
Looking at the plethora of wimpy, tween-friendly vampires books and movies have given us in the last few years, it’s easy to forget that vampires began life as something a lot different—and a lot scarier. Centuries ago, our ancestors would quiver with dread at the mere mention of the word, which isn’t surprising when you consider just how downright unsettling and macabre their mythology could be.
Consider the following 10 vampires, taken from the traditions of 10 different countries, which, even by the standards of our ancestors, manage to stand out as some of the creepiest creatures mythology has to offer.
The Callicantzaro spends most of the year in the netherworld (wherever that is) and only emerges on the 12 nights between Christmas and the Epiphany, probably because it knows those are the nights we’re most likely to be too drunk on eggnog to run. Though just the sight of its black twisted face, red eyes, and fang-filled mouth are enough to sap the holiday spirit out of any party it crashes, the Callicantzaro isn’t content with merely ruining everyone’s fun, and will tear apart anyone it encounters with its long claws, before devouring them.
According to Greek lore, any child born between Christmas and the Epiphany will eventually become a Callicantzaro. Scary, huh? But fear not, parents, there is a cure: All you have to do is hold your doomed, newborn infant’s feet over a fire until its toenails are singed, thereby breaking the curse.
But what would the holidays be without a family reunion? Touchingly, the Callicantzaro remembers its family from back when it was human and is known to eagerly seek out its former siblings wherever it goes . . . only to devour them when it finds them.
Arguably the most disgusting entry on this list, the Penanggalan is a creature that looks like a woman by day, but detaches its head from the rest of its body at night to go off flying in search of victims, with its spinal column and all of its internal organs dangling from its neck (before you ask, no, this is not something we just made up, but an actual Malaysian legend). The organs glow in the dark for that cool retro look and can be used like tentacles to remove any obstacles the Penanggalan comes across (it can also grow its hair at will for that same purpose, just like those Barbie dolls you can give haircuts to).
When it spots a house, the Penanggalan will zero in on it and try its hand (or should we say “tentacle”) at a little breaking and entering. If successful, it will devour any newborn babies within. If the house can’t be broken into (and for those babies’ sakes we’re hoping it can’t), the Penanggalan will instead stretch out its incredibly long tongue under the house and make it slither through the cracks between the floorboards to gain access to the sleeping occupants. Once the tongue finds its way to your bedroom, it will stick itself into you, and the Penanggalan will use it as a straw to drain you to death from a distance, like a warm Long Island ice tea.
And in case you haven’t found everything you’ve just read crazy enough to convince you to never, ever set foot in Malaysia, then consider this: At the end of every night, the Penanggalan has to “pickle” its entrails by soaking them in vinegar so they will shrink and fit inside its body again.
The Upyr may look like just any ordinary Russian person. It may even have the ability to walk in broad daylight like a Russian person. But a Russian person it ain’t—behind its innocuous facade hides a vicious vampire that would gladly pass up all the vodka in the world if it meant tasting a single drop of your blood. In fact, its love of blood is so great that, after tearing into you with its metal teeth, it might just eat your heart for kicks.
The Upyr also loves children (though, as you might have guessed, not in a reassuringly parental way), preferring the taste of their blood and always making a point of feeding on them first before draining their parents. It also doesn’t seem to mind the taste of frozen dirt, because it is said to use its metal teeth to chew its way out of its grave during the winter, when its hands have frozen solid due to poor coffin insulation.
Chances are you’re familiar with the old urban legend of the Hook Man. Well, as it turns out, the Ashanti people tell the similar (but much creepier) tale of the Asasabonsam, a strange vampire with curved iron hooks instead of feet that lives deep within African forests. It hunts by dangling from the branches of trees and thrusting said hooks into you when you pass underneath it. Once it’s hoisted you up into its tree, it devours you alive with its iron teeth, then presumably spends the rest of the night cleaning your stubborn bloodstains off its hooks so they won’t rust.
Unlike most vampires, it feeds on both humans and animals (so maybe someone should alert PETA). One oddly specific detail about the Asasabonsam is that, when its prey is human, it will make a point of biting off the thumb first before moving on to the rest of the body, possibly to prevent you from hitching a ride home if you ever manage to escape its clutches.
The Varacolaci is probably the most powerful of all vampires, so it may come as a surprise that very little is known about it aside from the fact that it has a tongue-twister of a name (seriously, try saying it aloud). It is said to be a dermatologist’s worst nightmare, sporting pale, dry skin that no amount of body lotion can cure, but to otherwise have the appearance of a human being.
Strangely for so feared a creature, the Varacolaci only has one known power—but what a power! It has the ability to swallow the Sun and the Moon (or, in other words, to cause solar and lunar eclipses at will), which has got to be the mother of all party tricks. To do so, however, it needs to fall asleep, because apparently causing astronomical events that would still be terrifying to us today, but must have seemed downright apocalyptic to more primitive cultures, can be something of a drain on your energy reserves.
5Upier (or Upior)
Remember the Russian Upyr we discussed earlier? Well, it has a Polish cousin called the “Upier” that’s renowned for being even more cuckoo for blood. In fact, its blood thirst is so immense and insatiable that, aside from drinking enormous quantities of it, the Upier enjoys bathing in it and sleeping in it. Its body is also filled with so much of it that staking it will cause it to explode in a gigantic burst of blood worthy of the elevator scene from The Shining.
It takes particular pleasure in feeding on the friends and family it had back during its good ol’ human days, so if one of your friends or relatives has recently turned into an Upier, you should know you’re probably on its grocery list. When it eventually finds you, it will immobilize you in a powerful embrace (a kind of farewell bear hug) then stick its barbed tongue in your neck and drink you dry.
Warning: If you’re the hypochondriac type, you might want to avoid this entry. The Neuntöter is a walking biological weapon of mass destruction that does one thing and one thing only—it brings death wherever it goes. It carries any number of horrific plagues and lethal diseases, which it spreads around like candy in whatever town it happens to be passing through, contaminating anyone and anything around. Unsurprisingly, it is said to be only seen at times of widespread epidemics.
The Neuntöter‘s body is covered in open sores and wounds that are constantly oozing with pus, and which probably play a part in spreading its deadly germs (if reading that sentence gave you the sudden urge to shower in Purell, you’re not alone). Its awesome German name literally translates to “Killer of Nine,” a reference to the belief that a buried corpse takes nine days to transform into a Neuntöter.
Hold on to your didgeridoos, because this is a weird one. Aboriginal legends from Down Under describe the Yara-ma-yha-who, a 1.25-meter (4 ft) humanoid with red skin and a massive head who spends its time perched in a tree. If you happen to pass under that tree, it jumps down onto you, sticking to your body with the small suckers that cover its fingers and toes, so that no matter how hard you struggle, it can’t be shaken off.
So far, so creepy, but what really ensures the Yara-ma-yha-who a place on this list is its method of feeding. Because it has no fangs of any kind, it sucks your blood through the suckers on its hands and feet until you’re too weak to escape or even move, then leaves you on the ground like a discarded, half-empty can of juice while it wanders off, presumably to frolic with the koalas and kangaroos.
When it returns from its evening of fun, it gets down to business, swallowing you whole with its immense mouth, then regurgitating you after some time, still alive and in one piece (yep, it’s a vomiting vampire). The process is repeated again and again, with you growing a little smaller and a little redder each time as a result of being digested. Finally, you guessed it, you turn into a Yara-ma-yha-who yourself. Crikey.
Leave it to the Czechs to come up with something this unsettling. The Nelapsi is a walking cadaver that can’t be bothered to wear clothes, and so goes around hunting prey in its birthday suit. That, combined with its glowing red eyes, long filthy black hair, and needle-thin teeth, is enough to make us want to keep the lights on at night, but unfortunately it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, the Nelapsi is easily one of the most powerful and downright evil of all vampires. It can destroy entire villages at once, and, like that guy you know who keeps getting banned from “all-you-can-eat” buffets, won’t stop feeding until daybreak, no matter how much it’s already had in one night. It’s not a picky eater, feeding on livestock as well as humans, and will either kill you by ripping you apart with its teeth or by crushing you in its trademark “hug-o’-death,” an embrace so powerful it shatters your bones. If it gets the chance, though, it will try to make you last as long as it can before finishing you off and is known to torture its victims for weeks before they die (because you can’t really call yourself evil unless you torture people for weeks at a time). But that’s not all, folks: If the Nelapsi happens to leave survivors behind (not a likely scenario, as you’ve probably already gathered), they will be quickly killed off by the deadly, Neuntöter-style plague that follows after it wherever it goes.
Finally, as if all of that wasn’t terrifying enough already, the Nelapsi can also kill people simply by looking at them. One of its favorite pastimes is to play a game of “I spy with my little eye” from the top of church steeples, causing anyone in the surrounding village that falls under its gaze to instantly drop dead. We’re really not trying to run this whole “the Nelapsi is evil” thing into the ground, but he’s just such a jerk that it’s hard not to.
The Indian Brahmaparusha may not be as powerful as the Nelapsi, but, incredibly, it is even creepier. Like all the best serial killers, it enjoys taking trophies of its victims—in this case, their intestines—and is so proud of its kills that it wears said trophies wrapped around its head like a turban for the whole world to see (a pretty gutsy wardrobe choice, if you ask us).
This is one vampire you definitely don’t want to fall prey to. When it catches you, it first drains your blood into a skull that it carries around wherever its goes, then slowly drinks from it like it was a glass of 30-year-old scotch. After that, it’s skull-cracking time: The Brahmaparusha removes your brain, its favorite delicacy, and feasts on it.
Due to its immense hunger, the Brahmaparusha needs to consume several humans before it can feel truly sated, so by the time it is done feeding, its lair is littered with bodies. What does it do then? Clean up its mess and throw away the bodies? Nope. What it actually does is wrap its entire body in its victims’ intestines, then start to perform a ritual dance around their butchered corpses.
Oh, and one last thing: unlike just about any other vampire there is, you can’t just garlic this one back whence it came to save your life. In fact, there is not a single thing you can do to protect yourself from the Brahmaparusha, so . . . nice knowing ya.
Hercules Rockefeller’s real name is Rembrandt Q. Einstein, but he also answers to Handsome B. Wonderful.