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Just in time for Halloween, here’s a sampling of weird ghost legends from around the world.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Halloween may be a largely American holiday, but remarkably creepy ghost stories are by no means restricted to the United States. Here are some weird and scary international ghost legends and stories to keep you up well past your post-Halloween party bedtime. Sweet (or at least surreal) dreams.
1. Ap/Krasue- Cambodia/Thailand
A beautiful young Cambodian woman walks outside her house at night. There's a mysterious red glow in the air, and she walks toward it—to be confronted with a floating female head, with ghastly entrails hanging down from its neck. She screams. But it's already too late.
That's the Ap (Arp) or the Krasue (Thai), a Southeast Asian ghost, represented by the head of a good-looking young woman, that floats in the air, entrails, spine, and other assorted bloody organs dangling from its neck. It sounds remarkably bizarre, but it's a persistent legend in this region—and various myths exist about how the Ap got to be, well, an Ap.
This source states that women who abuse black magic may be forced to turn into an Ap or a Krasue as a penalty for their crimes. Others state she's the unfortunate victim of demonic possession—although you still don't want to invite her inside for a snack.
The repulsive witch feeds on blood, feces, fetuses, and other gory things, and is believed to take a particularly disturbing interest in pregnant women. If there's blood or feces spread on your house in the morning, that's a sign the Krasue has been there. Look sharp.
They can be repelled if you put thorny vines outside your house, as the witch's dangling entrails may be caught in them. Eminently practical. An Ap or Krasue can turn you into one if you ingest her saliva, so if an Ap offers you a glass of water, be smart and turn it down.
You may also want to check out this remarkably awesome Thai movie footage. High budget special effects ahead, watch out!
2. Ghost city of Rajasthan - Bhangarh
The American West is known for its Gold Rush-era ghost towns, but swiftly-abandoned Bhangarh in Rajasthan goes one better: it's an entire royal ghost city. Further adding to the creepy mythos, this popular tourist destination is only frequented during the day, because apparently no one has the stones to actually spend the night here.
Legends differ about how the formerly busy 16th or 17th century royal city of Bhangarh came to be deserted, but it's generally believed that a noble wizard princess named Rani Ratnawati foiled the black magic plot of a male sorcerer to seduce her.
The man cursed the city when the queen, skilled in tantric magic repulsed her, and it was soon abandoned—or so the uncertain legend goes. (Or maybe the Queen put the curse on the city. No one is really clear on this, as is generally the case with ancient ghost legends.)
Another tale states that the son of Madho Singh, the town's founder, was avaricious enough to build a palace that cast shadows over a forbidden place. Obviously that's a real mythological no-go, and the town was abandoned soon afterwards. Locals claim that if they try to build their houses in Bhangarh, the roof will swiftly collapse.
Why bother? Better to build somewhere that isn't polluted by black magic or evil ghosts. This is a particularly interesting phenomenon, because as any visitor to populous India knows, most historical ruins are actively occupied by people unless they are explicitly barred from doing so. Some claim modern-day practitioners of black magic are fond of heading to Bhangarh to perform their their rituals.
Even the Indian Archeological Survey has bought into the creepy mythos of Bhangarh, situating its office a safe few kilometers out of the main area. And no one is permitted to go there at night.
Well, except for these guys filming one of those shakily-shot REAL HORROR documentaries that feature a lot of heavy, terrified breathing from attractive young people in the dark, of course. Hours of fun!
Here's a much classier, if less pleasingly cheesy, VOA bit on the weirdness of Bhangarh.
3. Hantu Tetek (breast ghost) - Malaysia
A young boy is out alone at night—never a good idea, so we must assume he's had an inadequate dose of ghost stories in his young life. A woman approaches him with absolutely enormous breasts sprouting from her back, and he stares in silent, prepubescent awe. She gets closer, smiling—and her breasts mysteriously expand, smothering the by-now-deeply-surprised boy. He's never seen again. The Hantu Tetek, the Malaysian breast ghost, has got him in the clutches of her spectral mammaries.
It may be something of a joke, but the Hantu Tetek is certainly one of the more...unusual...world ghost traditions.
Like a rather interestingly large proportion of world ghosts, she is known to prey particularly on both young children and young men. Parents often will use the Hantu Tetek as a threat to keep youngsters inside—though the possibility of seeing a spectral witch with breasts on her back might prove too compelling for some.
Traditional Perankan Hindu dances portray the Hantu Tetek as "devils with pendulous breasts," who are followers of Shiva—who also have a penchant for scaring and kidnapping unfortunate youth.
4. Night Marchers/Hukai Po - Hawaii
It's dark outside on the island of Oahu, and you're staying up late watching trashy reality TV. You think you hear the distant thrum of tribal drums and unintelligible Hawaiian chants from outside your home, but that wouldn't make a hell of a lot of sense, would it? Are the neighborhood kids drunk?
But the sound gets louder, and you go to your window. Then you see them: ghostly lights in a line, thumping up and down. As if they were carried by marchers. You shrink away from the window: you know what will happen if you catch their eye, and you won't like it.
The Night Marchers or Hukai Po are thought to be spectral beings who parade through specific areas in Hawaii, seemingly with a goal in mind—and are often considered to be the spirits of ancestral warriors.
They are usually accompanied by the sound of drums, and they are not known to deviate from their purpose—but woe betide the person who obstructs their progress or rests their gaze on them too long. They are known to take people with them.
Night Marchers are said to be most prone to take their march on nights when the spirit world is particularly active, according to this source: they are often accompanied by heavy winds, rain and surf. Males and females march together, sometimes in separate lines.
It's late at night somewhere in Texas, and you're walking along the river because the weather is nice and your parents don't know you've left the house so late in the evening. Through the reed by the water, you spot a strange white object, and as you draw closer, you realize it's a slim woman, with black hair. She's wearing a white dress, and she's crying noisily. You realize that she has no eyes, and she's crying blood—or are they black tears?—anyway. You wish she'd stop.
La Llorona is a Latino ghost tale, which has been transplanted as far south as Miami, as far southwest as Texas, and as far north as Montana—in fact, just about anywhere with people of Hispanic roots.
There a few variants on the tale and how La Llorona got to be the way she is, but she is always crying—sometimes blood, sometimes black tears. She is a child-snatcher, who takes delight in the suffering of the young. Sometimes, she will come to you in a mirror if you say her name—especially on Halloween. But you don't want her to come crashing through the glass.
Where did La Llorona or Bloody Mary come from? Some say she killed her own children in a fit of rage when her husband rejected her, drowning them—and forcing her to wander the earth forever to find them. Some claim she is the mother of Jesus Christ himself. Parents warn their children to avoid being out at night alone, invoking her name: she'll take them out to the river, and drown them in the reeds. She is tall and thin, and is usually wearing white.
I first encountered La Llorona, sometimes known as Bloody Mary, in this absolutely petrifying 1997 essay regarding the creepy mythos of homeless Miami children. In that street tradition, La Llorona is considered a Satanic specter by children, who rejoices when children die, especially in street violence.
6. The Slender Man
The Slender Man is a mythos that originated only a few years ago, first popping up on popular forum Something Awful in a 2009 Photoshop battle. It was an image of a tall, faceless man in a suit who appeared to have writhing tentacles, menacing a group of children in a black and white image, supposedly salvaged from the Stirling City Library blaze in which fourteen children went missing.
Something about the quite fictional figure proved rather compelling, and stories and other images of the newly-created Slender Man began to propagate themselves on the Internet. A few short years later, and the Slender Man is now the stuff of millennial urban legend, starring in creepy blog projects, images, and even a remarkably good series of YouTube videos.
The Slender Man myth continues to evolve, and is a rather interesting example of how legends and horror stories begin and spread, aided and abetted by the Internet. The only real constant about the Slender Man is that he is tall, extremely pale, skinny, has no face and wears a black suit and a (usually red) tie: his powers and what exactly he wants continue to be debated. As with many such myths, he is often considered to be particularly interested in pursuing and injuring children. Unsurprisingly, jokes have emerged about the Slender Man's real motivation for chasing people. (He just wants $20!!!)
Sometime he is portrayed with tentacles sprouting out of his back to grasp those who attempt to escape him. He is often thought to have weird psychic powers, and may have the ability to stop or otherwise alter time. Some who come into contact with the Slender Man fall prey to "slender sickness," causing coughing and other fell syndromes. The Slender Man may have an oddly symbiotic relationship with video cameras, as many modern-day horrors do.
The Marble Hornets series has been running since 2010 and is now up to 60-odd videos, following a young man's increasingly terrifying encounters with the Slender Man spectra (or whatever he is). They are low budget terror at its finest, and are highly suggested for late-night creep-yourself-out viewing. You may not want to stand near a window anytime soon. An active Wiki devoted to the mythos of Marble Hornets is here. There's also a very creepy Twitter account.