- Every culture has its own urban legends, myths, or spooky stories.
- Insider rounded up the scariest urban legends from around the world, from Hawaii to Scandinavia to Egypt.
- The gjengangers are thought to be murderous ghosts that can touch people and mark them for death, according to Viking legend.
- Some believe water babies can be found throughout the US, but most famously in Utah and Idaho.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Every state has its own urban legend. While some stories, like Washington state’s Bigfoot, have entered mainstream pop culture, others have stayed local, like the poisoned girl at Centennial Hall in Nebraska.
However, urban legends exist all over the world, and we’ve scoured the globe to find the eeriest and most pervasive ones, from Nessie living in the depths of Loch Ness to a 13th-century town in India where the residents seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
Keep scrolling to see 15 urban legends from around the world.
The Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman, is said to roam the Himalayas by the Sherpa people.
Sherpas are a Nepalese ethnic group, not just an occupation or a verb, like many people believe. According to CNN, the word translates to “people from the East.” They’re best known as the seemingly superhuman climbers that help others ascend Mount Everest.
But they have a rich culture and history, including the legend of the Yeti. According to the BBC, there are more than a few stories about Yetis, and what they are exactly. The generally accepted description of a Yeti is “an enormous, shaggy ape-man with huge feet and aggressive sabre-like teeth.” It’s said to reach about 6 feet tall, and produce footprints that are around 13 inches long.
One story says that a village of Sherpas were being tormented by a group of Yetis, so they decided to trick the Yetis into getting drunk and fighting each other. The surviving Yetis declared revenge, and moved up higher into the mountains, periodically coming down to terrorize the Sherpas.
Over the years, explorers have flocked to the Himalayas to try and find evidence of the beast. In 1921, a journalist named Henry Newman interviewed locals who told him about the existence of a “metoh-kangmi,” which means “man-bear snow-man,” according to LiveScience. Newman mistranslated the “metoh” part to mean “filthy,” and he chose to use the word “abominable” instead. Thus, the Abominable Snowman was born.
The American counterpart to the Yeti is none other than Bigfoot.
The legend of Bigfoot begins in 1958, when journalist Andrew Genzoli published a letter from a reader of the paper he worked at. The letter detailed mysteriously large footprints that loggers in northern California had found. “Maybe we have a relative of the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas,” Genzoli wrote, according to History.com.
Ever since then, the country has been hooked on trying to spot this giant creature, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where reported sightings have been the most frequent. There have been dozens of movies, books, podcasts, and articles written about Bigfoot.
As Insider previously wrote, Bigfoot has been called a “ferocious beast who attacks loggers and hikers, or a gentle giant who wants to be left alone. “
The Indian village of Kuldhara was seemingly abandoned overnight, and no one knows why, though there are a few eerie theories.
There are structures in the town of Kuldhara that date back to the 13th century, but no one has lived there since 1825, when all its residents seemingly vanished into thin air.
According to local lore, 1,000 villagers completely abandoned their home overnight, without a trace. No one knows why they left, where they went, or even saw them leave.
Theories as to why they left range from poisoned wells to a greedy ruler levying high taxes to a dwindling water supply, though none of those explain why the inhabitants left so suddenly.
You might be wondering why no one has tried to resettle the town – that’s where the legend comes in. It’s said that the village chief cursed the land: apparently, anyone who tries to live there will die.
The Indian Paranormal Society spent a night there, and reported “Disembodied whispers, screams, noises are common at dark hours. Many of our members have witnessed apparitions, heard footsteps, experienced unusual touch and so on,” according to Gulf News.
In the UAE, citizens are afraid of the jinn (genie) Umm Al Duwais.
The word “genie” is the anglicized version of the Arabic word “jinn.” Jinns can be good or malevolent beings.
Umm Al Duwais is one the most famous jinns in the United Arab Emirates. She was even immortalised in a film in 2013. Her story is simple: At first, she appears as a beautiful woman to attract men. But as soon as she’s reeled them in, Umm Al Duwais changes into a terrifying figure who eats the men she’s enchanted.
Though it might just be a scary story to tell kids to warn them about stranger danger, there’s a video that purports to be footage of one such jinn.
There are rumours that the Sydney Harbour Bridge doubles as a tomb for three workers buried inside.
Officially, 16 people died during the construction of the famous Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia, which was completed in 1928. However, legends posit that there should be three more men added to the death toll.
According to the stories, three men died during construction after they fell into the brick pylons of the bridge. However, since they were migrant workers, and because labour laws didn’t seem all that stringent at the time, their disappearance wasn’t noticed for weeks. Apparently, retrieving the bodies would have been too difficult, and so they were entombed there for eternity.
The first reported chupacabra attack was in Puerto Rico in 1995. Since then, there have been alleged sightings up and down North America.
The word “chupacabra” is Spanish for “goat-sucker.” Indeed, chupacabras were first believed to be vampiric reptilian creatures that drain goats and other small animals of their blood.
The first reported sighting of a chupacabra was in March 1995 in Puerto Rico, when eight sheep were found dead and drained of blood, with three small puncture wounds in their chests. Five months later, as many as 150 farm animals were found dead in the same manner.
The legend spread, and more sightings followed in Latin America and the southern US, though there have been alleged sightings as far north as Maine.
In the 2000s, the chupacabra re-emerged, but it looked a bit different. According to the BBC, “it was described as a hairless, dog-like animal walking on four legs,” and “quite horrific-looking: hairless, with a gaunt appearance and burnt-looking skin.”
When alleged cupacabra bodies turned up, scientists DNA tested them, identifying them as normal animals that were affected by sarcoptic mange – their hair and fur had fallen out.
However, the legend persists.
The chilling story of Beijing’s ghost bus is sure to put some people off public transportation.
Like so many urban legends, this one begins on a dark and stormy night. While there are more than a few variations on the story, like what number the route was, the story generally goes like this: A bus is travelling late at night, around midnight, and it’s the last one of the evening. Two men flag down the bus, and even though the driver is reluctant to pick them up since they’re not at a stop, he acquiesces and lets them on anyway. So far, so good.
But, it turns out, it’s actually three men. The two are holding up another one who appears to be in rough shape. It also turns out that all three of them are extraordinarily pale, and wearing garb from the Qing Dynasty (which lasted from 1644 through 1911). The bus driver apparently explains it away by claiming that the three are actors who didn’t have time to change after work.
As the bus slowly empties out, it gets down to a young man and an elderly person (which has been both a man or a woman, depending on the story). Out of nowhere, the older person picks a fight with the young man, claiming that he stole his wallet and forcing him to get off at the next stop to go to the police. Upon disembarking, they tell the young man that the fight was a ruse to help them get off the bus: apparently the three men on the bus hadn’t been touching the ground. Some versions claim that the men didn’t have legs at all. The two go to the police to report the alleged spirits, but get ridiculed.
However, the next morning they find out that the bus never completed its route. Some versions state that the bus was never found, while others claim that the bus was found days later with three severely decomposed bodies inside.
The Loch Ness Monster of Scotland is perhaps the most famous urban legend of all time.
Nessie, as she’s been affectionately nicknamed, allegedly swims in the depths of Loch Ness, the second-deepest lake in Scotland. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, sightings of her go way, way back: stone carvings by the Pict (ancient people who lived in eastern Scotland) of a “mysterious beast with flippers” have been discovered.
Sightings really began to pick up in 1933, after a road was completed that gave visitors an unobstructed view of Loch Ness. A couple claimed to have seen some type of giant sea creature, and the hype grew.
Though the famous photograph has been revealed as hoax, it hasn’t stopped monster hunters from descending on Scotland. Nessie has been estimated to bring Scotland £40.7 million ($US50.6 million) in tourism money annually.
In Europe, Santa Claus has an evil doppelgänger: Krampus.
You might have heard of the 2015 comedy/horror hybrid film, but the real story of Krampus is just as terrifying as you’d expect. National Geographic describes Krampus as a “half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast.”
Krampus is the bad cop to Santa’s good cop. While the jolly bearded fellow up north gives the nice kids presents, Krampus aims to scare the naughty kids into behaving better by beating them with birch branches or hauling them off to hell in sacks.
He’s mainly a German and Austrian figure, though other countries have their own versions, and traditionally shows up on December 5, which is known as “Krampusnacht” (Krampus Night).
Though no one quite knows for certain, this tradition is often believed to have begun when the Moors raided European towns, kidnapping locals and selling them into slavery.
You don’t want to come across the night marchers of Hawaii.
Night marchers, or huaka’i pō in Hawaiian, are the spirits of former ancient Hawaiian warriors who once, in life, protected Hawaii’s most scared people. These people were so sacred, in fact, that commoners were not allowed to look at them – if they did they would be killed. The night marchers weren’t there to harangue anyone, they were simply doing their jobs, which is why they travelled at night to avoid too many prying eyes.
They continue to roam around Hawaii at night as spirits, and legend has it that if you look directly at a night marcher you will be marked for death. If you do happen to find yourself in the middle of a procession, you’re supposed to lie down in the middle of the road in order to show respect.
When Greece’s Bleeding Stone was destroyed, a curse apparently fell upon the city of Thessaloniki.
The Bleeding Stone was erected by the ancient citizens of Thessaloniki to memorialise the thousands of citizens that were brutally murdered at the site by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius. It was believed to bleed every year on the anniversary of the killings.
Not wanting to be reminded of the massacre every year, he ordered the stone to be destroyed. Ever since, it’s said that a curse has befallen what’s now known as Hippodrome Square. As Greece Is writes, “Almost every building that was erected in the area – specifically, any building whose tenants failed to acknowledge the sacred history of the site – was, according to local legend, violently destroyed.”
The curse worked its evil magic until 1978, when an earthquake caused a building to collapse, resulting in the death of 29 people. In its place, the Billi Building was built, which houses the Thessaloniki archives, featuring lots of information on the massacre, and it is believed that this has lifted the curse.
Pinky Pinky made girls in South Africa afraid to go to the bathroom.
While American kids had Bloody Mary to terrify them out of going the bathroom alone, girls in South Africa had Pinky Pinky, a demon with shockingly pink hair who would target women just trying to use the bathroom.
Egyptian parents know that the way to get their kids to behave is to threaten them with Abu Regl Masloukha.
Though descriptions of what Abu Regl Masloukha actually does are vague, his appearance is pretty much agreed upon – he has one burnt leg. Some parents threaten their children by claiming that that the demon will steal one of their legs if they misbehave in order to replace his own.
The Scandinavian gjenganger is sort of like a ghost-zombie hybrid that haunts the living.
Literally translated, gjenganger means “walking after death.” Traditionally, a gjengagner is a sort of hybrid of a ghost and a zombie, in that it has a corporeal form (like a zombie), but still possesses its mind and memories (like a ghost).
Gjengangers are created when a dead person has unfinished business, or if they were killed violently, through murder or suicide. The belief in them dates back to the Vikings, when gjengangers were believed to have been relatively common.
A more recent belief has another connection to zombies – gjengangers can infect the living by pinching them. Typically, the gjengnger will pinch someone while they’re sleeping, and the pinched person will then be marked for sickness and death.
According to legend, water babies can be found throughout the US, but most famously in Utah and Idaho.
The Idaho water babies are believed to be the ghosts of young children that the starving people of the Shoshone tribe drowned in the river, choosing this death over one of starvation. It’s said that if you sit at the rocks, you can still hear their cries. While some stories claim that the babies simply drowned, others posit that they adapted, grew gills, and have sworn revenge on the living.
In Utah, water babies are believed to be another type of creature altogether. According to Weird US, these water babies were a type of dwarf that lived in the lake and mimicked the sounds of babies crying to drown unsuspecting people.
Different water baby legends can be found in Nevada and California, as well. The commonality between them all seems to be luring people into the lake to drown them.