Walking Dread: Monsters from Around the World
Stories run the gamut from classic tales like the Iliad and the Odyssey to the stories we tell about the fish we caught or the bar fights that we were in when we were young. Stories are designed to delight, to entertain, and in some cases, to warn. The stories that we tell around campfires warn us to be careful at night, to always keep our wits about us and to be sure that we know our way around. In ancient times, people warned their children and their loved ones about these monsters, hoping that they would get home safe.
Some of those lost to the night were likely the victims of accidents and other predatory humans, but perhaps some of them weren’t!
These demons from Jewish mythology are perhaps some of the sadder monsters in the world. They are literally broken souls, things created from such pain and despair that now they wander the world, confused and terrified and terrifying all at once. They do not attack people alone or people who are vulnerable. Instead, they latch on to the good and the strong, causing panic and chaos throughout their lives. In the modern era, dybbuks are often used as a representation of mental illness and other issues.
Pretas are monsters that come from Tibet. Though they are monstrous, with emaciated limbs and groaning starving bellies, they still have their place in the cycle of reincarnation and rebirth. It is often believed that preta were harmful or cruel people in their human lives. When they died, they were cursed to live as preta in order to work off their karmic debt. They are given humiliating appetites, including human urine, feces and human corpses.
The White Ladies
In France, the white ladies would wait for lone travelers on bridges late at night. Dressed all in white and beautiful beyond imagination, the young men that were their preferred prey would stop and talk with them. During the course of the talk, the woman would ask the man to dance. Either he would refuse and be shoved off of the bridge, or he would accept and never be seen again. In daylight, the white ladies sound like a pretty story, but at night, it is hard to deny the high number of men who have crossed water at night, never to be seen again.
Called hone onna in their native Japan, bone women seem like normal women at first glance, though they are terribly thin. A closer look in the right light shows that instead of being human, they are animated skeletons, trying to live out a normal life. Though a hone onna might be pleasant enough at first, once they are revealed, they are often quite violent and will try to destroy those they were fomerly trying to help or seduce.
The ubume is another Japanese ghost, this time of a woman who died in childbirth. In the most benign form, this ghost appears as an old woman cradling a child. She asks a passerby to hold the child for just a moment. The child in the stranger’s arms grows increasingly heavy, until it finally reveals itself as a rock. In a darker version of the story, the ubume is a ghost that is cursed to an eternity of labor. She is seen as a woman in a red skirt, constantly moaning and crying out “be born, be born!”
The draugr is a Scandinavian monster, one that is created from a human corpse. When a draugr rises from its grave, it typically takes the form of a swollen and rotting corpse. It can also take on different forms, one of the most disturbing being that of a horse with a broken back and no tail or ears. These monsters are known for torturing and then devouring those that have wronged them. Birds flying over a draugr’s grave will supposedly fall dead from the sky.