9 of the Undead from Around the World

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Many cultures have tales of the undead, zombies, vampires, and other creatures who rise from the grave to cause mischief among the living. Many will drink your blood or eat your flesh. We looked at eight of these monsters in a previous post; here are nine more to feed your nightmares.

1. Pontianak (Indonesia)

The pontianak is a vampire of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It is also called matianak or kuntilanak, depending on the language. The details vary a bit from country to country, but the vampire/ghost is a woman who died in childbirth. A pontianak can also be produced from a stillborn infant, or someone who is attacked by a pontianak. This monster tears open a victim's stomach and eats the entrails as well as sucking the blood, and is particularly drawn to newborn babies and women in the process of giving birth. A pontianak is disabled if you drive a nail through her neck, which turns her back into the person she once was -as long as the nail stays in place! To prevent a corpse from becoming a pontianak, put glass beads in the mouth to prevent shrieking and an egg in the armpit to prevent flying.

2. Gashadokuro (Japan)

The gashadokuro is a 90-foot tall skeleton formed of the bones of many people who starved to death. If it sees a living human, it will give chase and bite the victim's head off! This monster appears in many modern video games.

3. Soucouyant (Caribbean)

A soucouyant is a vampire being in Trinidad, the Dominican Republic, and Guadeloupe, and is known in other Caribbean nations by different names. The soucouyant is an old woman by day, but at night sheds her skin and turns into a ball of fire to travel. A soucouyant is produced not by dying, but by making a deal with the devil. Like a vampire, she will suck a victim's blood dry. If you can find where she left her skin, put salt into it and she'll be destroyed. A soucouyant must pick up any spilled rice she sees, one grain at a time, so spread some around to identify who she is. The legend is sometimes illustrated as a Carnival costume, as you can see.

4. Gjenganger (Norway)

The Norwegian zombie known as the gjenganger comes back from the dead because he left something undone in life, was murdered, or committed suicide. The gjenganger does not drink blood, but commits violence against the living and can spread disease by pinching a victim, or in some traditions by biting the face. The gjenganger also appears in Danish and Swedish lore under slightly different spellings.

5. Dearg-due (Ireland)

The dearg-due translates to English as "blood drinker". This Irish demon originated with a girl named Dearg Due who was forced into an arranged marriage even though she loved another man. She committed suicide, then rose from her grave to kill her father and husband as revenge. A dearg-due will seduce men and then suck their blood. To prevent a dead woman from rising as a dearg-due, you must pile heavy stones on the grave. Image by Flickr user anaxila.

6. Manananggal (Philippines)

The manananggal of the Philippines combines some features of the pontianak and the soucouyant. This vampire is an old but attractive woman who preys on pregnant women and uses her tongue to suck the blood of their unborn babies. A child born with a deformed face is said to have been a victim. The manananggal travels by separating at the waist. Her top half flies with bat wings while her bottom half remains behind. If you find the bottom half, you can destroy the manananggal by covering it with salt, garlic, or ashes. The Malaysian version of this vampire is called a penanggalan, who separates at the neck and flies with her entrails dragging behind her. Image by DeviantART member mrrogers4566.

7. Adze (Ghana and Togo)

The adze is an African vampire in the legends of the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo. It takes the form of a firefy, but if you capture one, it will revert to human appearance. This can be dangerous in itself, because in its human form the adze may attack and eat your organs, but it can be defeated. However, in the insect form, the adze will suck your blood while you sleep and spread disease, which is a possible explanation for malarial outbreaks. Its preferred victims are young children. The victim of an adze becomes a witch who is possessed by the adze' spirit.

8. Baobhan-sith (Scotland)

The Scottish baobhan-sith is a female fairy who rests in a coffin during the day and roams the forest at night to prey upon wandering men, often hunters, to drink their blood. They always wear a green dress, and in some stories appear to be beautiful women except for the animal hooves hidden under their dress. A Baobhan-sith can also change into the form of a wolf. They don't bite, but use their long talons to pierce their victims and then drink the blood. A male victim will die, but a female victim will herself become a baobhan-sith.

9. Strigoi Mort (Romania)

Strigoi are vampires. Strigoi mort are the undead, risen from graves, as opposed to strigoi viu, a living vampire or witch. If a person dies before being married, or has lived a life of pain and regret, they may return as a strigoi. Children born with a fetal flap or caul on their heads are also in danger of becoming strigoi, as well as anyone who dies and whose body is walked on by a cat. These monsters typically have red hair, blue eyes, and two hearts. Strigoi can also take the form of an animal to stalk victims and then drink their blood. They can even become invisible in order to attack their relatives. Many of the Hollywood features of vampires came from the Romanian version: strigoi can be defeated by garlic or a stake through the heart, and they don't like sunlight. Bury a bottle of wine with a corpse, then dig it up six weeks later. Those who drink this wine will be protected from a possible strigoi attack -at least by that particular corpse.

See also: 8 of the Undead from Around the World and Our Favorite Vampires

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October 26, 2010 - 6:16am
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