Folktales from Around the World

Estimated reading time 7 min

No matter where you go in the world, it won’t take long to learn of a local legend or ghost tale that keeps the locals up at night. Many of these creepy crawly tales are based in historic truth, but have been twisted through the years to become something larger than life. Here are some of the best spooky folktales from around the world that will send shivers up your spine.

Jack the Ripper - Folktale Around the WorldJack the Ripper

This particular spooky tale hales from Europe, and London to be exact, and it’s particularly gruesome because it is based on historic reality. In the late 1800s, an unknown serial killer took to the streets of London, killing at least five women from the city’s East End, all of whom were so called “women of the night.” In addition to cutting their throats, the killer performed abdominal mutilations, even removing the internal organs of his victims.

What makes Jake the Ripper so infamous is the fact that the killer was never identified or found. To this day, no one knows who the killer was, and justice was never achieved for his victims. Jack the Ripper morphed into the boogieman that London children feared, and today people still wonder if his spirit or the spirits of his victims are haunting the streets of the city.

Frankenstein - Folktale from around the worldFrankenstein

“It’s alive,” the creator yells as his creation is struck to life by lightening. This is the most commonly remembered scene from just about any version of this classic spooky tale, but how did Frankenstein piece together his infamous creature? According to the most recent incantations of the popular tale, Dr. Frankenstein used bits and pieces of actual humans, which were then reanimated through electricity. The creature itself is a violent one, seeking vengeance upon its creator for failing to give it a wife or a purpose in life. Many retellings of Frankenstein’s tale have created a bit of a legend from the original story.

Kuchisake-Onna in Japan

In Japan, it’s common for people to travel wearing surgical masks, especially during cold and flu season. The tale of Kuchisake-Onna is a cautionary one. It tells of a woman who walks the streets wearing a surgical mask, which seems innocent enough. Watch out, though. If she asks you, “Do you think I’m pretty?” you need to run. Say, “No,” and she will murder you with a pair of scissors she’s carrying. Say, “Yes,” and she will take off the mask to show you her hideous mouth, which is slit from ear to ear. Don’t stick around after this, though, because she will give your mouth the same treatment if she can catch you!

Does this tale sound too far-fetched to be true? Actually, in the 1970s a woman was reported as chasing children around Japan. A coroner’s report showed that she did, in fact, have a mouth that was sliced from side to side. Like all good spooky tales, the tale of Kuchisake-Onna is centered on some truth.

La Llorona - Folktales from around the worldLa Llorona

From the lands of South America comes the story of La Llorona, or the weeping woman. According to this story, a beautiful woman, usually named Maria, was heartbroken when her husband left her. While the reason that he left may vary depending on who is re-telling the story, the end result is the same. La Llorona was heartbroken. In her grief, she took her children to the river and drowned them. Realizing suddenly what she had done, she threw herself into the river to drown as well.

Of course, no spooky story can end with the death of the main character, and La Llorona is no exception. Because of her wicked deed in the heart of her grief, La Llorona was doomed to wander the riverbanks for all eternity, crying for her lost love and lost children. If the weeping woman finds unattended children as she walks, she will kidnap them and drown them too in the hopes that she can atone for her own dead children. This story is certainly one that does its job, keeping kids from wandering too close to the water or too far from their parents after dark!


In Bengal, India, Skondhokatas are believed to haunt the places of train accidents. With the increased dependence on trains for public transportation throughout the country, sightings of Skondhokatas are becoming increasingly common these headless ghosts are said to inhabit the places where they died due to train accidents. Since they have no heads, they’re easily thwarted, but nonetheless creepy.

While it may seem suppressing that decapitated train victims are a ghost class all their own in India, the truth is that India’s railway system is quite large, and has a poor safety track record, so it’s not surprising that the legend of the Skondhokatas has become popular.

Chupacabra - Folktales from around the world Chupacabra

Chupacabra is a mythical beast that was first described in Puerto Rico, and then migrated to mainland South America. The name literally means goat-sucker, and it is given to a monster who creeps into yards or farms, killing animals and sucking all of their blood, leaving behind nothing but tiny circular incisions. Chupacabra has many descriptions, but it appears to be an animal or creature about the size of a small bear. The stories of chupacabra, along with sightings, have spread from Puerto Rico all the way to North America, ranging from Maine to Chile. The secretive beast has left many farmers and pet owners scared.

Jiang Shi

Also known as the Chinese hopping vampires, Jiang Shi are a spooky creature found in China. With green skin, traditional Chinese robes and the spirits of people who died through violence or suicide, Jiang Shi suck the life force out of living humans, moving from one victim to the next by bouncing or hopping.

The legend likely came from the method of transport for corpses for the ancient Chinese. Attaching the deceased to two bamboo poles held vertically, the ancient Chinese would transport them back to their home for burial. The bodies would appear to bounce and hop along the way, leading to the legend of Jiang Shi.

Dracula - Folktales from around the worldDracula

While Jiang Shi suck the life force out of people, Count Dracula sucks actual blood. Perhaps the first vampire legend to really take off in popularity, the story of Count Dracula came from a novel published by Irish author Bram Stoker. Cursed with vampirism, Dracula roams the streets of England looking for fresh blood to feast off of after leaving his castle in Transylvania. Throughout the tale, Count Dracula battles those who wish to put a stop to him while cursing an ever-growing number of people, often beautiful women, with vampirism. Perhaps no other story has quite so much myth and lore surrounding it as this one, as it can be said Dracula sparked the modern fascination with vampire stories.

Whether you are looking to get your fill of vampire tales or want to learn more about famous creatures that haunt the woods nearby, you will find that every country you visit has its share of creepy and ghostly tales. Enjoy some of these folktales from around the world, but don’t read them too close to bedtime, because you just might find that they haunt you a bit.

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