Throughout all of history, humans have been known to tell stories that describe mysterious events in order to give these occurrences an explanation. Over time, these stories get passed down and take on a life of their own as people begin to believe in them unquestionably. Thus, they become the urban legends many of us know today. Urban legends are unique in that they tend to be regionally conscious, people from different continents, countries, and even towns have their own myths that affect their everyday lives. Although some urban legends can be harmless, only told to educate children about right and wrong, others are downright terrifying and contribute to mass hysteria and nationwide superstitions. You may be familiar with the legends associated with where you are from so here are some frightening urban legends from around the world that might peak your interest.
El Silbón - Venezuela/Colombia
Also known as “The Whistler,” El Silbón is an infamous urban legend that dates back to the 19th century. Initially, El Silbón is said to have been a young man whose wife was murdered by his father. His father claimed his wife was promiscuous and was asking to be killed, but the young man was so enraged that he murdered his father in a swift act of revenge. Soon after, his grandfather found out about the murders and sentenced his grandson to be tied up, starved, and repeatedly lashed on the back before being sent off into the wilderness condemned to carry his father’s bones in a sack for the rest of his life. The young man’s angry spirit is now said to lurk outside, whistling a distinct tune and hunting drunkards and womanizers. He is described as a gaunt shadow of a man sometimes over 20 feet tall, usually wearing a hat and carrying a large sack. If you hear his whistling close by it means you are safe for now because he is far away, however, if his whistling seems distant he is very close, and your end could be near. He is said only to be warded off through praying or the bark of a dog, but if he gets to you, he will slaughter you and throw your bones in the sack along with his father’s. Many versions of the story also say he will sit outside the homes of locals and begin counting the bones in his bag, if someone in the house hears him then everyone is safe, but if no one hears him one of the family members will never wake up again. As a result of this widespread legend, many Venezuelan and Colombian families are very cautious about getting drunk and raise their children, particularly the boys, to always be respectful of women lest they become future victims of El Silbón.
The White Death - Scotland
The White Death is an urban legend from Scotland about a young girl who absolutely hated her life. She was so angry and hateful about her existence that she wanted nothing more than to erase herself from the Earth thoroughly. She resolved that the best way to accomplish her goal was to kill herself, so she destroyed everything that would remind people of her existence and she committed suicide. Her family was extremely distraught when they found out and wished there was something they could have done to save her, but that was when her vengeful spirit realized her mistake. She had killed herself, but her family still remembered her, so her ghost set out to kill them all, and their bodies were later found by locals, completely torn to shreds. Unfortunately, the little girl’s spirit wasn’t satisfied because now more people were aware of her existence and she didn’t want anyone to know about her miserable life. So she went on a killing spree, murdering anyone who knew of her existence and to this day anyone who finds out about her is later found ripped to pieces. You’ll know if she’s coming for you do to the way in which she kills people, she appears outside your door and knocks louder and louder until you finally open the door where she attacks and kills you. If you try to run while she’s knocking on your door, she will follow you wherever you go until you finally give up and she can kill you. This urban legend is peculiar because there aren’t any moral teachings behind the story it is just all around terrifying and I know I will be flinching anyone knocks on my door from now on.
Kuchisake-Onna - Japan
Also known as “The Slit Mouth Woman,” Kuchisake-Onna is the vengeful spirit of a mutilated woman who is now said to stalk around Japan looking for her next victim. Originally, she was a beautiful woman who was very sought after; however, she was married, so she wasn’t allowed to be with other men. She went behind her husbands back though and started seeing a samurai. When her husband found out he was so angry that he snapped and slit her mouth open from ear to ear asking her “Who will think you’re pretty now?” Now the woman’s vengeful spirit ables around Japan, she is said to be wearing a surgical mask, scarf, or holding a fan in front of her mouth. She will appear and ask a person at random if they think she is pretty if they say no she immediately kills them with scissors and if they say yes she reveals her slit mouth and asks them if they still think she is pretty. If the person screams or says yes they have their mouth slit open to resemble Kuchisake-Onna, but if they say no she will cut them in half and leave them to die. Over the years people have developed ways to confuse the woman and make an escape, some say giving her confusing answers such as “you are average” or “so-so” will by you enough time to escape. Others say telling her you have a prior engagement when she stops you will force her to apologize and excuse herself, and if all else fails throwing hard candies or coins at her is said to stun her long enough for you to run and lose her. This urban legend created so much hysteria that school children were only allowed to walk home in groups, escorted by a teacher and police were stationed all over cities and town to keep a lookout. Even today there are sightings of Kuchisake-Onna and people often report seeing a woman wearing a surgical mask chase after children at night.
Rusalka - Russia
The Rusalka are ancient water nymphs from Slavic folklore, and there name is supposedly translated to mean “mermaid.” Initially, Rusalka were reported by Pagan Slavic tribes to be staples of fertility who would crawl out of the water and give life to crops. However, recent tales of the Rusalka paint them to be evil spirits instead of nymphs. They are said to be created when a woman takes her own life in or around water due to an unhappy marriage or is drowned against her will. These angry spirits then return as Rusalka and haunting the waterway in which they died until their soul is avenged. They are commonly described as one of two ways; either a wretched hag or a young woman who represents the universal standard of Russian beauty. It is thought that the Rusalka can change their appearance to suit a victim’s preference to lure them in. Rusalka lure men to water with their looks or their voice and entangle them with their long hair, pulling them underwater until they drown. Occasionally, Rusalka are also said to tickle their victims to death as they laugh at them trapped in their long flowing hair. There is even a time of year, near the start of the summer, referred to as Rusalka Week where the Rusalka are strong enough to leave the waterways they haunt and climb up into trees where they wait for victims they can jump down on and ensnare. For this reason, many Russians often avoid the woods and places with natural water during the early summer lest they become yet another Rusalka victim.
Strigoi - Romania
The Strigoi are thought to be the first inspiration of both vampires and werewolves today. They are considered to be angry spirits who can be created in many different ways, and who crave flesh and blood of the living, particularly infants. There are several varying types of Strigoi according to various legends; strigoaică, strigoi viu, and strigoi mort. The strigoaică is a feminine form of strigoi also known as a witch. The strigoi viu is a type of sorcerer who can steal the wealth of farmers as well as control the weather and bring death to men and cattle. The strigoi mort are the most dangerous of the three; they are considered to be both human and demonic, they crawl out of their graves and return to their living families to draw upon their lives until they die. There are many ways to become a Strigoi, and most are seemingly random, such as being born the seventh child of the same gender in your family, leading a life of sin, dying without being married, through execution, by suicide, or having been cursed by a witch. The typical Strigoi is thought to possess many supernatural powers like inhuman speed/strength, super senses, the ability to manipulate weather, invisibility, spell casting, shape-shifting, and immortality. Since there are so many ways one can return from death as a Strigoi, Romanians developed ways to prevent their creation. Generally to destroy a Strigoi one would, exhume the body of the person thought to be a Strigoi, remove the heart and cut it in half, drive a nail through its forehead, place a clove of garlic under its tongue, cover its body with the fat of a pig slaughtered on St. Ignatius’ Day, and place the body face down in its coffin so if the Strigoi were ever to wake up again it would be headed to the afterlife. This urban legend is so deeply rooted in history that it is the inspiration behind two of the most popular supernatural creatures known to date. There were huge waves of mass hysteria caused by the legend of the Strigoi, and as a result, almost everyone who died after the popularization of the story was given the prevention ritual to ward off their angry spirits in death.
As you can tell, there are terrifying urban legends from all over the globe, so no matter where you travel or where you live remember to be wary of the local legends. As all myths and legends are based off some real-life occurrence, even if it happened hundreds of years ago.
"Kuchisake-onna" Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation Inc., 31 Oct. 2005, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuchisake-onna . Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.
"Rusalka" Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation Inc., 26 Jun. 2006, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rusalka . Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.
"Strigoi" Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation Inc., 4 Jan. 2004, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strigoi . Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.
"The Silbón" Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation Inc., 29 Apr. 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silbón. Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.
"The White Death" Scary For Kids. WordPress, 15 Feb. 2018, http://www.scaryforkids.com/white-death/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.