All The Different Folktales From Around The World Used To Scare Kids Throughout History
Halloween season is the time spooky stories abound. People travel through haunted houses and watch gory movies for the express purpose of inducing some fear all through October.
But, the truth is, the entire year can be the scary season if you let it be. Cultures all around the world have vast traditions of telling creepy stories. In fact, many cultures have told different scary folktales to scare kids throughout history.
Children often have wild imaginations, which makes them the perfect audience for scary folktales. A lot of these spooky stories from all around the world serve more than one purpose; they scare children, but they also usually teach them a lesson. The scary stories in this list are enough to scare kids into behaving, and they’ll probably scare you, too.
1. La Llorona
The story of La Llorona, or “The Weeping Woman,” hails from Mexico. The story goes that this woman named Maria married a rich man and had two children.
The husband started paying more attention to the children than to her.
So she drowned her children in a jealous fit of rage. Because of this, she wasn’t allowed in heaven. She’s now forced to wander the world aimlessly.
Everywhere she goes, she cries out for her children to forgive her.
But you don’t want to hear her cries: They say if you hear her, she’s chosen you. Some versions of the story says she kidnaps kids to replace her own. Others say she attacks cheating husbands. Whatever the case, you don’t want to her a woman crying near a body of water.
2. Davy Jones’ Locker
Back in the 18th century, sailors came up with a new scary way to describe drowning: Sinking down to Davy Jones’ Locker.
Legend has it he presides over all the evil spirits of the sea.
He’s often seen around shipwrecks or on his own ship, The Flying Dutchman. Wherever he goes, he’s ready to take sailors down to the deep with him.
Tobias Smollett described Davy Jones in his 1751 book The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle:
This same Davy Jones, according to sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes:, ship-wrecks, and other disasters to which sea-faring life is exposed, warning the devoted wretch of death and woe.
Indigenous Aboriginal children are warned not to wander into the outback or else they’ll be taken by a small red frog-man called Yra-ma-yha-who.
The Yara-ma-yha-who are covered in fur.
They also have blood-sucking suction cups on their hands, and have a snake-like mouth that can swallow a grown man whole.
The creature will swallow children and spit them back out.
If the children are caught by the Yara-ma-yha-who too many times, they will start to transform into the creatures themselves. This means there is never a shortage of demons ready to hunt down little children who don’t listen to their parents and stay away from the bush.
4. Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga is one of the classic scary folktales in Slavic culture. She is a witchy woman who flies around in a mortar and snatches up children who misbehave. She’s always portrayed as skinny, bony, and frightfully ugly.
Her name means “wicked old woman,” which describes her very well.
In many versions of the story, Baba Yaga cooks children and eats them to fatten herself up, which really sounds like a horrible way to go. She often resides in a hut surrounded by a fence of human bones.
Baba Yaga can also refer to a trio of sisters.
Other strands of the scary story interpret the Baba Yaga into three separate sisters who all share the same name. They either help lost travelers and children – or devour them – depending on how they are feeling.
This Algerian creature is a combination of several animals including a monkey, a mountain goat, and a chimera. It also has a scorpion tail and hair made out of snakes.
The snakes are poisonous and will sink their fangs into children.
This story is especially scary for children who misbehave.
Once the H’awouahoua ends the children’s lives, it skins the children and creates clothing out of them.
6. Abu Rigl Maslukha
This Egyptian creature’s name means “the man with the burnt leg,” which pretty accurately describes his story. He’s a monster who got burnt as a child because he didn’t obey his parents.
Now that he’s a ghost, he haunts naughty children.
Just like a lot of these other scary folktales, this one ends with the creature cooking and eating the bad-behaving children.
7. El Cuco
This scary story is very similar to the Bogeyman, but it originates in Spain. El Cuco is a monster that haunts children at night.
He can take any form, which makes him especially creepy.
El Cuco can take the form of a shadow or an animal. No matter his form, he can snatch children if he’s hiding nearby. He often steals away under children’s beds or in the darkest corners of a room.
Parents sang songs about el Cuco to warn their children:
“Sleep child, sleep now, else Cuco will eat you,” is the most well-known lullaby. Other versions, like the Brazilian one, go like, “Sleep little baby, that Cuca comes to get you, Daddy went to the farm, Mommy went to work.” Not at all horrifying!
8. Tata Duende
Tata Duende is actually usually pretty friendly.In Belize, he’s the traditional guardian of the forest, tending to animals, plants, and people.
He looks a little creepy though.
Tata Duende is typically described as an old, short, ugly man. His feet face backwards, which helps him stay hidden and hide his actual whereabouts.
But, he also doesn’t have any thumbs.
And so Tata Duende is ready to steal any thumbs he sees.
That’s why kids are told to keep their hands in their pockets when traveling. Although in some versions of the story, he has thumbs but still likes to steal children.
Kids also need to beware of whistles.
Tata Duende is very good at covering his tracks. To lure in victims, he whistles.
But it’s not the whistles that sound nearby children should fear.
Tata Duende can throw his whistle, and when it sounds far away, he is actually very close.
Babaroga is a Bosnian witch who pulls children through holes in the ceiling. She’s also known for her signature horn – in fact, her name roughly translates to “old lady with horns.”
She stalks poorly-behaved children wherever they go.
If she doesn’t pull kids through the ceiling, she’ll throw them into bags to take them home for dinner.
Or she just snatches them.
Babaroga doesn’t have a strict routine when it comes to grabbing children. Sometimes when she is hungry, she will reach through the ceiling and grab misbehaving children as a snack.
The Baubas hails from Lithuania and is known for its spindly arms, wrinkles, and red eyes. It enjoys hiding in homes.
It loves to terrorize kids, especially ones who don’t listen to their elders.
The Baubas’ terrorizing method of choice is pulling children’s hair.
Krampus is like the anti-Santa Claus. This half-goat, half-demon originates in European pagan culture and he scares naughty children each Christmas.
People parade through the town with cowbells to try to scare his spirit away.
But it doesn’t always work. He traditionally comes out on December 5 (some stories say December 6) and acts as “the yin to St. Nick’s yang,” according to Jeremy Seghers, who organized a Krampus festival in Florida.
Krampus brings holiday haunts to children, instead of holiday cheer.
His name originates with the German word “krampen,” which means “claw.” According to German folklore, St. Nick gives good children presents, and Krampus takes away bad children in a sack to his evil lair.
This Haitian monster scoops up children who are out after dark.
He easily gets the job done thanks to his legs are two stories high.
Each night,he roams the streets in search of prey. His name means “Master of Midnight,” a nod to his preference for nighttime strolls.
He’s been called the “Haitian Slender Man.”
His tall, gangly appearance draws a lot of comparisons to Slender Man, the creepypasta that took the internet by storm in the 2010s.
Kludde is a Belgian demon that looks a lot like a dog – except with bear claws, scales, and bat wings.
It drags naughty children to waterways, where they’ll meet their fate.
New Kludde demons are always spawned from cremated witches and wizards, so there are always more of them lurking and ready to attack.
They can also disguise themselves.
According to Brabant and Flanders folklore, Kludde can shapeshift into anything that can lure potential victims in. The only way to tell him apart from the real deal is the twin blue flames that hover underneath him.
In Nepali folklore, Gurumapa is a sort of ogre who steals misbehaving children away after they’ve disobeyed their elders. And it’s all because of a character named Kesh Chandra who promised bad kids to the man-eating giant in exchange for helping him carry home heavy gold.
Gurumapa was banished from Nepal, but he didn’t go too far.
He still is attracted to the smell of his prey and will take away naughty children forever.
Il-Belliegha lives in wells, according to Maltese folklore. He’ll grab children who look down wells, so little ones were warned not to get to close to them and peer their heads in.
He grabs you with his toes.
The monster, who can also control water, plucks kids and drags them right down his well with his calloused toes.
Of course, children don’t always listen.
Children who fall down wells are said to be lost to Il-Belliegha forever.
But he doesn’t eat them.
No one knows what happens to the children that are stolen – or at least that is what Maltese parents have told their children. He eats eels and worms instead.
16. Dongola Miso
When parents in the Congo want to make sure that their children don’t talk to strangers, they tell them to be careful, or else Dongola Miso might snatch them up.
He tries to lure children in with treats and gifts.
Dongolo Miso carries toys and candy for children so he can easily take them. He also has piercing, terrifying eyes that keep children from running away.
17. Bonhomme Sept-Heures
The French-Canadian version of the Bogeyman literally translates to “7 o’clock Man,” which describes him well. He’s a man who comes out after 7 o’clock and takes away children who are still awake.
He’s known for the sack that he always carries with him.
If a child is still up past their bedtime, then he’ll place them in his sack and kidnaps them.
His name is a bit counterintuitive.
The French word “bonhomme” translates to “good man,” which, according to Strange New England, was a common practice in Franco-American/Quebecois. They believed that by giving demons like Bonhomme Sept-Heures pleasant names, they would not disturb or anger the demon in question.
This Japanese legend tells the story of a one-eyed monk who kidnaps children who don’t go straight home after school.
He has signature blue skin, which is how people can spot him.
But he doesn’t always wear it! Like many boogeyman, he is also a shape-shifter. He’s also known for stalking children through the fields in order to capture them.
19. Deer Woman
According to the mythos of several Native American of the eastern Woodlands and Central Plains (and even the Northwest), the Deer Woman is a beautiful, young maiden with the legs and hooves of a deer. She lives in the forest and watches people move in and out.
She represented fertility and love.
Many stories of the Deer woman painted her as an entity that helped women who were having difficulty conceiving.
But that changed image became warped.
As her story traveled, Native populations in Oklahoma started likening the Deer Woman to a type of succubus. According to some versions of the legend, she was assaulted by young men and granted the power to seek vengeance. And she did – and continues to do so.
She stands near a hunting trail and lures in young men.
But, it’s said that if you point out that her feet aren’t human, she’ll run away, so at least there’s a way to defeat her.
In India, Skondhokatas are headless ghosts that died in accidental train decapitations. They then haunt people at the very locations where they perished. Not all scary folktales are rooted in antiquity.
They’re often seen at night in stations or from the windows of a train.
They’re violent, but they’re easy to outwit since they don’t have heads… or brains.