Western horror is rife with cliches: Every year Hollywood gives us the same handful of movies about zombies, vampires, werewolves, and vampire werewolves who fight zombies (Dracula Wolfman: Zombie Fighter, coming 2017!). And that's a damn shame, because if we just mined other cultures for horror inspiration, we could find some truly inventive, truly terrifying stuff that puts our own monsters to shame. Like ...
Where Western culture has werewolves, the Native American Seminole culture has the stikini, which is kind of a cannibalistic were-owl.
According to Seminole lore, stikini are witches who, for reasons known only to themselves, magic on up into nocturnal owl-people in order to prey upon their sleeping neighbors. You'll never know which of your friends is secretly a magic murder-owl, because they look like regular people by day, but upon nightfall they go about their terrible avian transformation.
And it's not comfortable for them, either. To become an owl, they first have to vomit out all of their internal organs. We're not sure what this entails, whether they can just stick their fingers down their throat or whether they have to choke down some Arby's, but in any case, once they've vacated their entire body cavity, they hang their organs in a tree so that nothing eats them. Although it seems to us like this would make them easy pickings for, you know, regular owls. We don't know; we didn't make up the story.
Now that the stikini is in owl form, it's time to fly around the village looking for sleeping victims. But they're only really interested in eating your heart, which they suck out through your mouth. Before dawn, the stikini returns home and begins the awful procedure of returning to human form, which basically means horking down all of their organs again like a slightly more disgusting Arby's combo meal.
The vampires of India, the brahmaparusha, don't just suck your blood -- they follow up chugging your human milkshake by wearing your organs as a hat.
A brahmaparusha doesn't just bite your neck and suck your fluids out like a goddamn savage. He's a classy monster: He carries around a pimp cup made out of a human skull and, after killing you, samples your life juice from it like a fine claret. Then, when you're empty, the brahmaparusha digs in and eats your brain.
But he's still not finished. After snacking on your sweetbreads, the brahmaparusha finishes his meal by ripping your body apart, wrapping your intestines around his head and neck like a terrifying hipster scarf, and then doing a fuck-you dance around your unrecognizable corpse.
Makes Western vampires look like downright gentlemen by comparison.
It's difficult to make plants scary. It's basically just The Day Of The Triffids, Little Shop Of Horrors, and the best unintentional comedy ever written: The Happening. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Explorers in Madagascar returned to Europe with terrifying tales about the ya-te-veo, a vicious, man-eating tree.
According to German explorer Carl Liche (who, in a pre-Marky Mark era Shyamalan-esque twist, may not have even existed), he led an expedition into the Madagascan jungle in 1874 accompanied by a tribe of natives. Eventually, they came upon a clearing wherein they found the ya-te-veo tree, which was covered in a Lovecraftian morass of tentacle-branches, and which Liche described as "like a pineapple eight feet high." That's a ... less-than-intimidating image, sure. But that's not the scary part: According to Liche's account, the tribespeople then threw a native woman at the tree, which instantly sprang to life, coiled its branches around her body, and consumed her alive. Yep: In Madagascar, plants make salad out of you! We'll, uh ... we'll see ourselves out.
Europe is packed with myths about goblins, gnomes, elves, and other diminutive long-nosed critters getting up to no good, but the award for the most evil of the fairy folk probably goes to the Scottish redcap, a goblin who murders for fashion.
A redcap is like a garden gnome's gritty reboot. It's said to live in and around old ruined castles, venturing outside to kill locals, because it needs their blood to dye its hat. That's right, the eponymous "red cap" needs to stay a very particular shade of red, and only human blood will do.
It doesn't help that the redcap is reportedly faster and stronger than any human, so if it fancies the notion of killing you, you're already dead. According to the legends, once you have a redcap on your tail, the only way to stop it is to yell out a Bible verse. That might seem like a silly weakness, but honestly, how many Bible verses do you know by heart?
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Evil children are a popular horror trope, from Rosemary's Baby to The Omen. It's easy to see why -- pregnancy can be a terrifying thing, and everyone who has been there has entertained the fear, if only for a moment, that the mewling infant that pops out of them is going to be some kind of horned demon-spawn.
The mythology of the Philippines has one such legend, called the tiyanak, which is an evil baby that usually comes from a woman doing the no-pants-dance with a demon.
The tiyanak's modus operandi is to sit in the jungle and cry loudly until someone comes to its rescue.
Of course, once you find the tiyanak and pick it up, it bites into your neck and kills you. And, really, it serves you right for picking up weird babies in the Philippine jungle. You hear an abandoned baby crying, you just keep on walking, buddy. That's apparently the moral we're supposed to take away from that tale, right?
Kuchisake-onna is a vengeful ghost from Japanese folklore (and pop culture). According to legend, she was once the wife of a samurai, who got tired of her cheating ways and gave her the ol' Joker treatment before killing her.
Now she wanders the streets of Japan at night, approaching lost children and asking them the ultimate loaded question. The story goes that Kuchisake-onna wears a surgeon's mask to hide her face and approaches to ask if you think she's beautiful. If you say no, she just straight murders you with a pair of scissors. If you say yes, she removes the mask and asks you the same question again. If you've had any girlfriend experience at all, you know the obvious answer is "Of course, baby!" But that's a trap: Saying yes just means she'll cut your face to match hers.
Instead, you're supposed to say that you think she's average-looking. According to Japanese ghost psychologists, this will confuse Kuchisake-onna, giving you an opportunity to run away. And that was the origin of what we today call "negging."
If you've been reading this site for awhile, you shouldn't be shocked that Japan takes no. 1 in something like this. This is the same place that claims it was created by the sperm of the gods, and also has ghosts waltzing around with eyeballs in their assholes. See what we mean in Bukkake Of The Gods: Japan's Insane Creation Myths and The 7 Most Ridiculous Ghost Stories From Around The World.
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