8 Bizarre Folklore Creatures That Will Keep You Up at Night
We’ve all heard of mythical creatures and cryptids like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but those aren’t the only strange creatures rumored to be wandering the earth. Throughout history, there have been dozens of other strange folklore creatures described in stories passed down from generation to generation. Each of these creatures has its own fantastic description, whether about its physical appearance or interactions with humans. Below are eight of the most bizarre folklore creatures in history that you’ve likely never heard of.
1.Aqrabuamelu - the Scorpion Men
If you’re not a fan of scorpions, you may have nightmares about this creature. The Aqrabuamelu are creatures from Mesopotamian mythology that are described as “scorpion men.” There are many descriptions of these strange creatures, but most describe them as having the head and torso of a man but the body of a scorpion. Think centaurs, but much, much creepier.
The Aqrabuamelu are first described in the Babylonian creation myth and the Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. They are described as having heads that “touch the sky” and frightening gazes that can kill anyone who makes direct eye contact with them. However, they were not considered particularly violent, and were even known to help travelers by warning them of any impending danger on their path.
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Carving of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar protected by one of his folklore creatures, the Aqrabuamelu scorpion man (Public Domain)
2.The Adlet - Human-Dog Offspring
According to the Journal of American Folklore, the Adlet are unique dog-like creatures described in Inuit folklore. The Adlet are considered human-dog hybrids that are born to women who have chosen to mate with dogs. These strange offspring typically have human bodies with dog legs and hair and are prone to violence. In most cases, the Adlet are much taller than ordinary humans and are known to engage in cannibalism, including killing and eating their own human relatives!
3.Nuckelavee - The Skinless Centaur
The Nuckelavee comes from Scottish folklore and is sometimes called the devil of the sea. This strange creature is described as half human and half horse and was only interested in plaguing islanders living near his home in the sea. The Nuckelavee’s head is ten times larger than a human's, with a wide mouth resembling a pig’s snout. He also only had one giant red eye that appeared to be burning like a flame.
The most unsettling part of the Nuckelavee’s appearance, though, was his lack of skin. The horse-like monstrosity appeared to be made only of raw flesh, sinewy muscles, and gory veins clear at all angles. It also had long arms that could graze the ground without bending and a gaping mouth with foul breath. Its breath alone was described as venomous, plaguing anyone who came near enough for him to breathe on them.
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A modern depiction of the Scottish folklore creature, the Nuckelavee (michael221 / CC BY SA)
4.Blemmyes - The Headless Men
Blemmyes are creatures with origins in the Roman Empire. These strange beings are described as having their faces on their torsos! There are actually two different types of Blemmyes that are described in ancient texts - one with eyes on its chest and one with eyes on its shoulders. They are known to inhabit remote areas in the world, but were originally found in Libya.
Alexander encounters the Blemmyes, circa 1444. This folklore creature was described by Herodotus and in other texts as an actual population of people (Public Domain)
5.Gogmagog - The Demon Giant
The Gogmagog is a mythical creature belonging to Celtic mythology. According to folklore, the Gogmagog is a humanoid giant that is over 14 feet tall and similar to a giant troll. Supposedly, the intimidating creature descended from a line of demons and is repulsive to all who see it.
Embracing his true nature, the Gogmagog dresses in a collection of animal skins to frighten off potential enemies before a fight even begins. Once challenged, the Gogmagog is surprisingly weak for his size, and died in the original folklore after being pushed off a cliff.
The Gogmagog was sometimes depicted as two folklore creatures, Gog and Magog, who also engaged in cannibalism, manuscript circa 1308 (Public Domain)
6.Hecatoncheires - Multi-Limbed Monstrosities
One of the eeriest on this list, the Hecatoncheires can be found terrorizing in Greek mythology. According to the folklore, the Hecatoncheires is actually three separate beasts, each with its own collection of arms and heads. Each monster is described as having at least 50 heads and 100 arms, creating a ghastly image for anyone who saw one of them. During their birth, Uranus even tried to push them back into the womb because of how horrid the sight of them was.
Though horrifying to look at, the Hecatoncheires actually proved to be incredibly useful after they were banished to Tartarus. Once they were grown, they helped the Greek gods fight the Titans by using their hundreds of arms to launch rocks at their enemies. So, at least they were good for something.
The hydra-headed and –handed Hecatoncheires was a creepy cryptid folklore creature with 50 heads (Cliff Childs / CC BY SA)
7.Kasa-Obake - The Licking Umbrella
Japan has many ghost-like folklore creatures, but one of the most well-known is Kasa-Obake. Kasa-Obake is the ghost of an old umbrella. Once an umbrella is old or broken enough, it will turn into Kasa-Obake, which resembles a giant umbrella with one eye to see and one leg to hop around on. They are also frequently depicted with long, snake-like tongues and are occasionally described as having two arms. While frightening to look at, the Kasa-Obake is actually relatively harmless, but does enjoy scaring people by licking them.
A figure of a kasa-obake from the 1968 film Yokai Monsters: One Hundred Monsters (CC BY SA 3.0)
8.Yara-Ma-Yha-Who - A Creepy but Cute Vampire
The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who is a strange little creature from Australian Aboriginal folklore. He is described as having the appearance of a short, red man with a giant head and mouth, almost like a frog. Also like a frog, the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who has suckers on his fingertips and toes.
Unlike a frog, however, the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who uses these suckers to suck the blood of unsuspecting passersby to make them weak. Once weakened, the creature swallows the stranger whole and goes to sleep. Upon waking up, he vomits the stranger up, and the stranger begins to turn into another Yara-Ma-Yha-Who.
The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who is a folklore creature from Australia similar to a vampire. (Kurt Komodo / CC BY NC ND 2.0)
Folklore Creatures: Intriguing but Scary
Every culture has its own folklore creatures, but most of us can agree that many of these creatures are strange and sometimes downright scary. The good news is that since these creatures are a part of folklore, the odds of them having ever existed are slim. However, it does make you wonder: just what did ancient humans see that made them come up with such bizarre creatures?
Top image: Talk of folklore creatures have terrified people for centuries, but how many were based on real monsters? Source: Анна Богатырева / Adobe Stock
By Lex Leigh
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