We live in a diverse and multifaceted world, but certain things are common to the entire tapestry of human experience. Falling in and out of love, for one. Finding fart jokes funny (we have no proof of this as being wholly ubiquitous, but here is some ancient Japanese fart art). And, of course, talking about ghosts. No matter where you go, there are ghost stories around the world to satisfy your morbid curiosity and give you insight into the particular cultural anxieties that may have given form to them. Unless, of course, we can’t explain them away as mere psychological allegories because they’re real.
We’ll let you form your own conclusions about these global spook spiels. Just don’t get mad at us if you can’t get to sleep tonight.
5 Ghost Stories Around The World
Mexico: La Llorona
Kids in Mexico often have memories of trying to get La Llorona to appear in the mirror by saying her name three times in a pitch-black bathroom, not altogether unlike Bloody Mary in the United States. La Llorona, or “the weeping woman,” drowned all of her children in the river after a man broke her heart. When she realized she wouldn’t get him back, she tried to drown herself too, but she was rejected from heaven and sentenced to a fate of wandering and grieving. She can often be seen soaking wet, wearing all white and crying over her children, and she’s not totally harmless: she’s been known to snatch an unsuspecting child or two. La Llorona is said to be related to the Aztec goddess Coatlicue.
If you’re traveling by train in the Bengal region of India, be on the lookout for the skondhokatas, or the headless ghosts of people who, er, lost their heads in train accidents. They’re often seen lurking around train stations or train tracks, and they might ask you to help them locate their head if you see one. This is likely not a polite request, by the way. They’ve been said to possess those who do not comply, or to react in other violent ways. However, they’re also not hard to outwit (for obvious reasons).
If you see her, you may initially mistake her for a beautiful woman with a mask covering half her face. However, the Kuchisake-onna, or the Slit-Mouthed Woman, has a question for you, and you better answer it right. She is said to approach people waiting for trains or buses at night and ask them, “Am I beautiful?” If you say “yes,” she’ll reveal her gaping knife wound of a mouth and likely ask you again. If you say “no” (or scream at the sight of her face), she’ll give you a gash to match her own. Supposedly, you can throw candy at her to make your getaway.
Malaysia: Hantu Tetek
Most straight teenage boys would gladly be smothered by a large pair of breasts, but this is not always a given in Malaysia. The Hantu Tetek is said to prey on children (particularly young boys) out alone at night, appearing to them as a woman with gigantic boobs growing out of her back. If they’re sufficiently transfixed, she gets closer and closer until her topsy-turvy teats expand and engulf the boy. He is never to be seen again.
A gjenganger is often the spirit of someone who died a violent death and has returned to haunt the living. That’s not too unusual, ghost-wise, but the twist is that they often look just like real people. They often attack by pinching you when you’re asleep, and this isn’t as benign as it sounds. If you’re a victim of a gjenganger’s pinch, you’ll wake up to a blue spot on your skin that indicates the presence of a sickness that will spread to your heart.