Evil and depravity are hard things to fathom. While everyone would like to believe that we’re all progressing morally as a species, the facts render this a myth. One look at the world will reveal that wickedness is pretty much as rampant as it was before (maybe even more). Before the onset of modern psychology that sought to limit sin to the workings of a disordered mind, our ancestors expanded the concept to include beings that broke through the borders of the imagination. Whether these monsters and supernatural beings actually exist is an entire matter altogether, but they’ve certainly made their presence known in the folklore and customs of the nations.
Here is a list of ten of the strangest and weirdest creatures from around the world, all of them reflecting the realities that still haunt us to the present day:
- The Dybbuk – dybbuk is derived from the Hebrew word that means “to cling”. Supposedly, a Dybbuk is a wandering soul that will find a host body, inhabit it, and leave only when its objective has been reached, whatever that may be. The idea of losing your free will is not only restricted to Israeli culture. Many countries have their own beliefs related to possession. In fact, Christianity has an entire theology build around exorcising those who have been taken over by malevolent forces, although it attributes these to demons rather than to souls.
- Teke Teke – the rising rates of suicide is an alarming phenomenon in Japan, and many of these are committed by jumping onto train platforms. A corresponding creature has arisen in the culture to enable the people to make better sense of these tragedies. The Teke Teke refers to a reanimated corpse of a person (usually a schoolgirl) who has been bisected along the rail. Since she has no lower body, she stalks the train stations at night, dragging herself on the ground by her hands and elbows, looking for victims that she can also cut in half to mimic her death. Her name comes from the sound that she makes as her fingernails scratch against the pavement. Yikes!
- Gargoyle – this is a unique monster on the list, because instead of tormenting the locals, it serves an actual civic function: re-directing rainwater off the sides of buildings. That may not sound so fearsome, but these medieval water spouts that trace their origins to France are fashioned in such a way to be as grotesque as possible, with large eyes, sharp beaks, elongated claws, and even wings. What may have started as an architect’s dark sense of humor soon spawned legends, including some that insist these stone works come to life at night, or others that say they protect the occupants from evil spirits.
- Minotaur – the minotaur is well-known to anyone who’s ever read ancient Greek literature (or watched the recent Hollywood movies). King Minos made the mistake of angering the gods, who retaliated by having his wife fall in love with a bull. The bewitched couple mated, and the result is the hideous half-man, half-bull Minotaur. This tale may have been a warning against bestiality, since the Minotaur wasn’t a gentle bovine but rather a devourer of flesh. It was only after the hero Theseus lopped off its head that its reign of terror ended.
- Jersey Devil – this one originates in New Jersey during the early eighteenth century. After a local woman named Jane Leeds became pregnant with her thirteenth child, the exasperated mother cursed her offspring, calling it the devil. As bad luck would have it, her words literally came true—the baby born from her womb could hardly be called human. Resembling a flying goat with bat wings and claws, the “baby” flew out the nursery and forever haunts the local Jersey area. Whether this was a cautionary story against overpopulation or against flippant curses, we will never know.
- Chupacabra – perhaps the monster with the best-sounding and most memorable name, the Chupacabra is Puerto Rico’s resident evil. Unfortunately, its English translation leaves a lot to be desired: goat sucker. The Chupacabra gets this moniker for its bad habit of feasting on the local farmer’s goats, leaving behind a pile of disfigured flesh and entrails. Catching it is futile, since it’s lightning quick, not to mention capable of defending itself with its bearlike proportions and spikes. It’s far better to give up the goat than to risk its ire. Or better yet, make sure all the livestock are secured in their pens before calling it a night.
- Aswang – when Spanish colonizers came to the Philippines in the mid-1500s, they realized that the locals feared a creature known as the Aswang. There are many variations of this fiend, but most of it focus on a shapeshifter who eats unprotected newborn babies at night with its proboscis-like tongue. During the day, it reverts back to a human shape and blends in with society. Supposedly, you can identify an Aswang in disguise if you look into its eyes and your reflection is upside down. Filipina mothers take great care not to leave their babies unattended lest the Aswang gets to it.
- Banshee – the Irish are a hardy breed, but even they fear the one they call the Banshee. This spirit comes in the form of a woman dressed in white with bedraggled features from crying too long. She emits loud and piercing screams as a warning that a person is about to die. Although not necessarily evil, her presence is something that leaves a lot to be desired, because like it or not, death always follows in her wake. The term “crying like a banshee” has entered common parlance, and ironically, you often hear these sounds at funerals.
- Wendigo – hailing from Canada, the Wendigo is an effective admonition to greed. Wendigos are associated with the cold, winter climate of that region, which often causes famine and low food supplies. These monsters are rumored to be once human, but have since degenerated into a ghoul who feasts on the flesh of living things. Among the monsters in this list, the Wendigo is possibly the only one to have some scientific backing: the term “wendigo psychosis” was coined by psychiatrists to diagnose someone who suddenly resorts to murder and cannibalism as a result of a delusional belief that starvation is imminent.
- Bunyip – at the bottom of the list is a creature who hails from the Land Down Under. It’s quite dangerous to go wandering and playing around in waterholes, rivers, swamps, bogs, and creeks. Unfortunately, Australia has a lot of these. As an added deterrent, the legend of the Bunyip has arisen. Supposedly, it’s a cross between a seal and a dog, ranging from five to fifteen feet long. Its harrowing cry heralds a feast, and the bunyip particularly enjoys the flesh of women and young children to feed its appetite. This might have scared a lot of kids to obedience.
A timeless connection to our past and future
Some might scoff upon hearing these strange beings, but there’s still room for stories like these. Fear is one of man’s greatest enemies, and the mind will devise all sorts of realities to process this emotion in a safe environment. One glance at a nearby theater will prove this fact—horror films are all the rage, and many of their supernatural monstrosities will put the ones on this list to shame. It’s also not surprising that the prime audience for these movies are young adults, people who are still afraid of venturing out into the unknown. The supernatural always has a role to play in every culture, and the world would be a far less welcoming place without its presence.
Or, the monsters could very well exist, in which case, better sleep with the doors locked at night!