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10 Lesser-Known Folklore Creatures of the World

When man began to question the ways of the world, two phenomenons highly perplexed him: his own reflection in standing water, and his shadow. Why did he see another man like himself in still water? Of course he knew nothing of the principle of reflection, and he supposed that he saw a real double of himself. Why did the black thing on the ground dogged his steps? He supposed that his shadow was his attendant spirit.

And this is how folklore and myths came into existence. The creepy folklore creatures in this list are lesser known, take a look and see if they give you the chills:

10. Bal Bal, Phillipines

Phillipines Folklore Creatures

Bal Bal is a Filipino monster and eater of the dead. It stealthily enters into graveyards and even funerals to steal corpses and feed on them. This monster is not just gross, it’s very sneaky, for after eating the dead body it places a banana trunk into the coffin to make it seem heavy with a corpse. Apparently it has sharper nose than that of a dog that can smell a corpse from a great distance and has a very foul breath. As the legend goes the Bal Bal appears like a night bird with a distinct cry which is audible every night. The Tigbabau tribe of Philippines believes that the Bal Bal can take human shape. That is has a long reptilian tongue and monster nails. They can fly and sail down onto the house where someone has died, tearing up thatched roof with those nails, use their tongue to lift up or rather ‘lick up’ the corpse.

Bal-Bal is also associated to other folklore creatures like Aswang, Amalanhig, and even to Busaw, since they are all corpse eaters. It is even alleged of having a unique power of hypnotizing people to sleep in a funeral so that it can peacefully eat its meal. In the old days Filipino people stayed awake all night by singing and shouting to keep the Bal Bal from taking the dead body of their loved ones.

9. Lich

Folklore Creatures

Lich is a very rare fantasy mythological creature meaning ‘corpse’. So what makes a lich different from any other member of the undead?  Well first, technically speaking a lich is not a ghost, but rather a physical entity. Though it’s relatively a new comer in the ghost encyclopedia, it’s never-the-less very popular. It rose to prominence when the role-playing game ’Dungeons & Dragons’ used the Lich as an undead character. Surprisingly, non-game related popularity of Lichs over the internet is very limited.

A lich is supposed to be the body of a dead sorcerer who through a ritual called ‘Ritual of Endless Night’ lives on, after his mortal body has perished.  More specifically, the wizard can save his soul inside a physical object, which is known as a ‘phylactery’.  So long as the phylactery remains intact, the lich cannot be killed. So it appears Voldemort was a Lich.

Lichs are often mistaken as Zombies, but unlike Zombies they don’t feed on humans and has fully functioning minds. Lichs are said to be either cadaverous with desiccated body or completely skeletal. They are often depicted as holding power over other obtrusive undead folklore creatures, using them as soldiers and servants.

In Roman Catholicism and the Church of England, the word ‘lichgate’ refers to the covered area of entrance to the cemetery where the casket awaits for the clergyman before proceeding into the cemetery for burial.

The lich became a staple of gaming throughout the 70′s and 80′s, with Vecna, the lich-lord of Greyhawk (from ’Dungeons & Dragons’) ranking among the most popular. Around 2000’s the Lich was again brought out of obscurity by two more games ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Arthas, the Lich-King’.

8. Kinoly, Madagascar

Folklore Creatures

One kind of Malagasy ghost is the Kinoly, a ghoulish version of the ancestor ghosts who preys upon the living. As the Malagasy folklore goes ancestors who were not well tended and forgotten turn into angry ghosts. These angry ghosts are quite different to their western counterparts. They haunt only their own graves, and they cause pestilence and misfortune on those who have wronged them. The Malagasy in order to prevent an ancestor from becoming kinoly performs a ritual called ‘famadihana’.

The Kinoly look like real people with some inhuman characteristics like red eyes and razor sharp fingernails that are long and dagger-like. The Kinoly use these long nails to disembowel the living.

There’s one bizarre legend that claims a Malagasy actually meeting a Kinoly. The Malagasy had asked “How is it your eyes are so red?”, the kinoly replied, “God passed by them.” The Malagasy then asked, “How is it your nails are so long?” The ghost said, “That I may tear out your liver” and immediately did so.

7. Gjenganger, Scandinavia

Folklore Creatures

This is a unique creature which is said to be completely corporeal; therefore it’s not a ghost. It hails from Scandinavian folklore creatures. This is also a creepy undead creature which rises from the grave to complete some incomplete piece of work. It can be the spirit of a suicide victim, murder victim or the murderer himself. It’s demeanor in its afterlife is necessarily vicious for it tries to harm the people it had loved in its lifetime in order to gain a comrade and finish its tasks. The Gjenganger is originally a Viking legend.

Unlike most ghosts, the Gjenganger does more than just fright people, it spreads plague and disease.  Its special power is pinching known as ‘dødningeknip’ which means ‘dead man’s pinch’. Hilarious it may sound but the victim’s skin will turn blue and infection rapidly spreads. The flesh becomes necrotic, shrivels. The infection slowly works its way to the heart ultimately killing the victim. This is usually done while the victim is asleep, leaving them helpless against the creature.

In many ways, the Gjenganger is like vampires though it does not feed on blood.  It stalks its prey and comes out at night. It can fool humans by appearing like us without any spirit-like quality. It makes hard to spot a gjenganger in a crowd.

The fear of Gjenganger was once so real that people actually took measures to prevent them from rising. The coffins were carried over the church wall instead of through the church’s gate, and carried three times around the church itself. Any shovels used to dig the grave must be left undisturbed on the grave depicted a cross. A varp, a pile of rocks and twigs, were erected on the spot where the person died. Symbols were used and prayers were offered. Finally, an inscription inside the coffin was etched to prevent a spirit from becoming Gjenganger.

Now-a-days the Gjengangers are being considered more like ghosts with aerial characteristics and non-violent nature thus losing much of its unique flavor.

6. Fetch, Ireland

Folklore Creatures

A Fetch is a doppelganger spirit originating in Ireland. Fetch takes the appearance of someone who is about to die. It can be one of your loved ones who though perfectly normal looks distant or distracted. Some allege that Fetch is actually born when we are born and lives alongside us always endeavoring to replace us.

The Fetch originally comes from Ireland, but migrated to England in the 18th century, where they became more commonly known as “Doubles”.

So it seems that the fetch is not a ghost because it imitates the person who is still alive.  A Fetch may only be visible to the person it is imitating or may be visible to everyone except the person who it’s imitating. Its sight is usually considered a bad omen of impending death though it is also believed that if the ‘double’ appears in the morning rather than the evening, it is instead a sign of a long life in store.

So how does the Fetch look? It looks like you! It’s supposed to be a mere shadow, resembling in stature, features, and dressing like you, and often mysteriously or suddenly seen by your very close friend. The person it resembles is usually known to be laboring under some mortal illness, and unable to leave his or her bed at the time.

Stories of ‘doubles’ and ‘fetches’ abounded in 18th and 19th century folklore, with authors often employing the double as a means of showing the main character the error of his ways.

5. Bakhtak, Iran

Folklore Creatures

Bakhtak is the Persian word for ‘nightmare’. If you suffer from excruciating nightmares, waking up with a heavy weight on your chest, unable to move or breathe, know that it’s the work of a Bakhtak. It sits on your chest while you’re sleeping aiming to suffocate you to death. It has been depicted as a goblin, a stout heavy looking little man.

When science wasn’t there to save man from the horrors of the night, nightmare victims believed that they’d heard light footfalls inside the room, smelled repugnant air and even, on opening their eyes in half daze, had seen a dwarf sitting cross-legged upon their chest.

The Bakhtak is similar to the Old Hag in English folklore and Mara of Scandinavian origin both of these witches apparently takes delight in causing sleep paralysis.

4. Abura-Akago, Japan

Folklore Creatures

Abura-Akago literally means “oil baby” and rightfully so, because this spirit drinks oil out of lamps. Abura-Akago is a spirit from Japanese folklore creatures that haunted the province of Omi, now known as the Shiga Prefecture. He was an oil merchant who stole oil from an ‘andon oil lamp’ set on the sacred Ksitigarbha statue located at a crossroad. After his death the Gods decided to punish him and turned him into a flame ghost. Later this fire-ghost turned into an infant spirit who feed on lamp oils. Abura-Akago is somewhat similar to Abura-sumashi who was an oil stealing spirit.

 Abura-akago is claimed to appear as a fireball which floats into a house, takes the form of an infant and quickly licks the oil out of an andon lamp, and flies away again. So the ‘oil baby’ now wanders Japan looking for places that still use oil in their lamps rather than electricity.

3. Domovoy, Russia

Folklore Creatures

Domovoi or Domovy is household spirit found in Russian folklore creatures. Domovoy means ‘grandfather’ or ‘master’. It’s believed to have originated in the pre-Christian cult and that the spirit represented the former head of the family (i.e. grandfathers and great-grand fathers). It usually resides under the stove, the doorway, or in the attic.

Its appearance is like that of a tiny old man whose face is covered with white fur, or as a ‘double’ of the head of a house. Legend goes that once some evil spirits had fallen from the sky into the human habitat. Living near the mortals turned the spirits soft, helpful and harmless. Domovoy is also a shape-shifter and could take the shape of various animals – cats, dogs, a snake or a rat and bless the house.

There is a Domovoy in each household. These spirits are trickster and mischief-maker who tickle sleeping people. When it gets displeased it knocks on the walls, throws pans and plates and squalls. But it also protects the house and the family members. If needed it would steal from the neighbors to satiate the family and even attacks the domovoy of other families. When happy it might do house chores and even feed your animal while you are away. So the next time your dishes get mysteriously cleaned know whom to thank.

But beware the wrath of these folklore creatures, for Domovoy are also known for their harmful mischief. One legend tells of a woman whose Domovoy braided her hair every night, and ordered her never to undo the braid. For 30 years she never combed her hair until her wedding night, when she decided to wash it. Her family found her brutally strangled the next morning with her own braid.

If you want to befriend a Domovoy for yourself then you’ll have to have a stable and peaceful household environment. You will have to leave breads under the stove and old boots in the closet as invitations.

2. La Liorona, Mexico

Folklore Creatures

La Llorona stands for ‘The Weeping Woman’ is a Mexican ghost. She is the scorned spirit of a woman who had killed her own children. It is New Mexico’s most famous ghost. It is a legend that most cities in Mexico claims to be its own.

This lore involves a woman named Maria who lived in a village in the early 18th century. The story has several versions. Basically Maria was a haughty beauty who wanted to marry a wealthy man. Her dreams came true when a rich rancher, riding his horse came to her little village. Initially he gave her no attention so Maria resorted to the old trick of playing hard to get. The young man fell for her tricks. “That haughty girl, Maria, Maria!” he said to himself. “I know I can win her heart. I swear I’ll marry that girl”.

So everything turned out according to her plan. They married and knowing that the young rancher family would never accept Maria who belonged to a peasant family they settled along the Rio Grande River. Her husband lavished her with gifts and luxury. She bore two children from him and that was the death knell of her happy days. It turned out that the man was a womanizer. He stopped caring for her and often went away leaving her for months on her own. He even talked of leaving Maria to marry a woman of his own wealthy class.

One day Maria spotted her husband riding in a buggy with a young beautiful woman by his side. She exploded in a jealous rage and it all turned against her children. She flung them into the river Rio Grande. She told her husband what she’d done. Horrified by such an inhuman act he left her. Numb, she wandered the streets of the village for several days crying for her children. The villagers started calling her La Llorona—the wailing woman.

Soon after Maria committed suicide and started haunting the banks of the river crying ”Aaaay, mis hijos!” (Oh, my children!). The La Llorona is generally considered to be a harmless ghost, wailing as she wanders about.  However, some tales involve the La Llorona snatching up children in the night to replace her own. There’s even a traditional cautionary tale sung for children against this ghost.

1. Futakuchi-Onna, Japan

Folklore Creatures

Futakuchi-Onna literally means ‘two-mouthed women’ and is from Japanese folklore creatures. She is said to be a beautiful underfed woman with a serious scalp condition.

At the back of her head under the hair there is a large mouth with a sharp tongue that eats as much as it finds. The woman’s long hair works as the mouth’s tentacles that reach out for food. If not fed, it begins to mumble and threatens the woman or it can screech and cause the woman tremendous pain.

The second mouth is basically the result of a curse. The story has three popular versions. In one, she had supposedly let her step child starve to death. So the child’s spirit posthumously curses the stepmother with a second monstrous mouth.

The most common version of the futakuchi-onna is about a miser whose wife barely ate. To counteract that, a mouth appeared mysteriously at the back of her head. The miser noticed that though she hardly ate, she was still a surprisingly hard worker. The old miser was thrilled with her, until his stores of rice started vanishing. One day the miser pretending to leave for work stayed back to spy on his new wife. To his horror, he saw his wife’s hair part on the back of her head and her skull split wide revealing a gaping mouth.

There’s yet another version in which a husband while chopping woods inadvertently lands the axe on his wife’s head forming a gaping split which soon transforms into a demon mouth.

Interestingly there’s an emblematic meaning attached to the appearance of the second mouth. It is said to be a medium of venting out the suppressed desires in women. And the Pokémon Mawile is based on the futakuchi-onna.

Author Bio:

Sufia Banu is a confused kid in her 20’s trying to figure out life. Well….she’s still in the process. At any rate, if she intrigues you, catch her through E-mail (getsufia@gmail.com) or her Facebook.

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