10 Horrifying demons and spirits from Japanese folklore

 Mental Floss:

Oni (demons) and yurei (ghosts) have played a role in Japanese culture for thousands of years, and stories of new spirits continue to be told today. Much of this list is comprised of hannya, which in Noh theater are women whose rage and jealousy turned them into oni while still alive. Here are just a few tales of demons, ghosts, and women you don’t want to mess with.

1. KIYOHIME

Kiyohime was a young woman scorned by her lover, a monk named Anchin, who grew cold and lost interest in her. Realizing he had left her, Kiyohime followed him to a river and transformed into a serpent while swimming after his boat. Terrified by her monstrous form, Anchin sought refuge in a temple, where monks hid him beneath a bell. Not to be evaded, Kiyohime found him by his scent, coiled around the bell, and banged loudly on it with her tail. She then breathed fire onto the bell, melting it and killing Anchin.

2. YUKI-ONNA (SNOW WOMAN)

There are many variations of this popular Japanese tale. Yuki-onna is usually described as having white skin, a white kimono, and long black hair. She appears in snowfall and glides without feet over the snow like a ghost. She feeds on human essence, and her killing method of choice is to blow on her victims to freeze them to death and then suck out their souls through their mouths.

3. SHUTEN DŌJI

Shuten Dōji is described as more than 50 feet tall with a red body, five horns, and 15 eyes. There’s no need to fear this demon, though. In a legend from the medieval period, warriors Raikō and Hōshō infiltrated Shuten Dōji’s lair disguised as yamabushi (mountain priests) to free some kidnapped women.

The oni greeted them with a banquet of human flesh and blood, and the disguised warriors offered Shuten Dōji drugged sake. After the demon passed out, the warriors cut off his head, killed the other oni, and freed the prisoners.

4. YAMAUBA (MOUNTAIN OGRESS)

Also originating in the medieval period, yamauba are generally considered to be old women who were marginalized by society and forced to live in the mountains—who also have a penchant for eating human flesh. Among many tales, there is one of a yamauba who offers shelter to a young woman about to give birth while secretly planning to eat her baby, and another of a yamauba who goes to village homes to eat children while their mothers are away. But they’re not picky; they’ll eat anyone who passes by.

Yamabuas also have mouths under their hair. Delightful!

5. UJI NO HASHIHIME (WOMAN AT UJI BRIDGE)

In another tale of a woman scorned, Uji no hashihime prayed to a deity to turn her into an oni so she could kill her husband, the woman he fell in love with, and all of their relatives. To accomplish this, she bathed in the Uji River for 21 days, divided her hair into five horns, painted her body red with vermilion, and went on a legendary killing spree. Besides her intended victims, anyone who saw her instantly died of fear.

6. TENGU

Tengu are impish mountain goblins that play tricks on people, featured in countless folktales and considered purely evil until about the 14th century. They were originally depicted as birdlike, with wings and beaks, though now the beak is often replaced with a comically large nose. They are known to lead people away from Buddhism, tie priests to tall trees and towers, start fires in temples, and kidnap children.

Many legends say the tengu were hypocritical priests who must now live the rest of their lives as mountain goblins as punishment. Locals made offerings to the tengu to avoid their mischief, and there are still festivals in Japan dedicated to them today.

7. OIWA

A revenge story made popular by the famous kabuki drama Yotsuya kaidan, Oiwa was married to a rōnin (masterless samurai) named Iemon; he wanted to marry a rich local’s daughter who had fallen in love with him, and, in order to end their marriage, Oiwa was sent a poisoned medicine. Though the poison failed to kill her, she became horribly disfigured, causing her hair to fall out and her left eye to droop. Upon learning of her disfigurement and betrayal, she accidentally killed herself on a sword. Her ghostly, deformed face appeared everywhere to haunt Iemon. It even appeared in place of his new bride’s face, which caused Iemon to accidentally behead her.

Oiwa’s spirit followed him relentlessly to the point where he welcomed death.

8. DEMON AT AGI BRIDGE

This story begins as so many horror stories do: With an overly-confident man who boasted to his friends that he didn’t fear to cross Agi Bridge or the demon rumored to reside there. As oni are known for their ability to shape-shift, the demon at Agi Bridge appeared to the man as an abandoned woman. As soon as she caught the young man’s eye, she transformed back into a 9 foot green-skinned monster and chased after him. Unable to catch the man, the demon later changed into the form of the man’s brother and knocked on his door late at night.

The demon was let into the house and, after a struggle, bit off the man’s head, held it up and danced with it before his family, and then vanished.

9. KUCHISAKE-ONNA (SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN)

In an urban legend from 1979 that swept through Japan, Kuchisake-onna wears a surgical mask and asks children if they think she is beautiful. If they say yes, she takes off the mask to reveal her mouth slit from ear to ear and asks the question again. The only way to escape is to give a noncommittal answer, such as “you look OK.” Barring that, you can distract her with certain Japanese candies. But if the children say yes again, she will cut their mouths to make them look like her.

10. AKA MANTO (RED CLOAK)

With a demon for just about everything, why shouldn’t the Japanese have a few for their bathrooms? Aka Manto, one of the more popular demons, hides in women’s bathrooms. In one version of the story, Aka Manto asks women if they would like a red cloak or a blue cloak. If the woman answers “red,” Aka Manto tears the flesh from her back to make it appear she is wearing a red cloak. If she answers “blue,” then he strangles her to death. Unfortunately, if you encounter Aka Manto, there may be no escaping: Some versions of the story say if you don’t answer or if you pick a different color, he will immediately drag you to hell.

Additional Sources: Japanese Ghosts & Demons: Art of the SupernaturalJapanese Demon Lore: Oni, from Ancient Times to the Present; “How the Demon at Agi Bridge in Omi Province Ate Somebody,” from The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales.

Five haunted places in India, as told by a local

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RocketNews 24:

For decades people have been trying to determine the existence of the supernatural. While science is inclined towards denying the actuality of subjects such as ghosts, psychic powers or celestial beings, I was taught at a young age that it’s better to believe in them than to not. After all, it’s undeniable that there have been spine-tingling events that science has yet to explain even to this today.

If your New Year’s resolution is to certify the existence or inexistence of supernatural spookies, to lead an exciting spook-busting lifestyle like Scooby-Doo and friends, or more simply, to visit an exotic Asian country, this list of haunted locations in India might just be the thing to get your plans started.

The following is a list of haunted places in India suggested by local Kanika Nevatia. Being mere writers and not scientists, we don’t know for sure if the following places are truly spooked so… we guess the only way to find out is to personally plan a trip down there!

 

Bhangarh Fort, Alwar

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If legends and mythical stories delight you, the Bhangarh Fort, which also happens to be one of the “spookiest and most abandoned places” known in India, is believed to be cursed by a magician. Apparently, perhaps as a result of said curse, the roofs of houses built on that land end up in shambles, and entry into the area any time between sunset and sunrise is even forbidden by law.

 

 

Shaniwarwada Fort, Pune

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Yet another fort with a story, the Shaniwarwada Fort looks majestic by day, but word is that on nights when the moon is full, the cries of Narayanrao Peshwa, a boy king who was unfortunately murdered when he was 13 years old, echoes through the place.

 

Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad

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If you’re a fan of Bollywood movies, this location might interest you. The Ramoji Film City is one of the biggest film production complexes in India which is, at the same time, a recreation and tourism spot. The entire facility is said to be erected on war grounds of the Nizam sultans, and thus haunted by the lingering spirits of deceased soldiers. There have also been numerous reports of hair-raising happenings, and these unexplained mysteries have contributed to the Film City’s reputation of being one of the most spooked places in Hyderabad.

 

Fortune The Savoy, Mussoorie

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More on spooky hotels, Fortune The Savoy Hotel in the city of Mussoorie is said to have been the location of a mysterious fatal incident that took place in 1910. Lady Garnet Orme, one of its guests, was found dead with her medicine bottle laced with poison. As the mystery thickens, her doctor, too, was found dead a couple of months later. The case remained unsolved, and it is said that Lady Garnet Orme’s spirit now roams the hallways of the establishment, and some visitors have heard the whispers of a woman’s voice.

 

Agrasen Ki Baoli, New Delhi

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But of course, spooky things don’t only occur in hotels and forts. A step well in Agrasen Ki Baoli, New Delhi, is believed to have been filled with black water that lured people into throwing themselves into it. No one knows how many people have fallen victim to the mysterious well, but even today, it is said that visitors tend to feel as if a dark shadow lurks behind them, and the presence of it increases if they pick up their speed. You might want to keep your visit short though, as the locals believe that visitors who linger around after dark will be cursed with an evil spell.

Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train

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RocketNews 24:

 

Fear is commonly held to be a cold sensation, which is how we ended up with English phrases like “bone-chilling” and “a chill ran down his spine.”

Those idioms may not translate directly into Japanese, but Japan has also traditionally thought of feeling cold as part of being scared.

Figuring that when life hands you horror lemons, you make horror lemonade, long ago Japanese society decided to use this to its advantage, which is why in Japan summer isn’t just the season of lightweight kimonos and all-you-can-drink beer gardens, but the time for ghost stories, too.

But in this modern age, maybe you’re too busy to sit around candlelit rooms in old manor houses swapping creepy tales with your friends. So if you’ve got an active lifestyle and need to keep moving while you get your terror on, a ride on Kyoto’s ghost train might be in order.

Even by the standards of Japan’s elegant former capital, Arashiyama is a tranquil place. Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, the district is famous for its scenic Togetsukyo Bridge and bamboo groves.

 

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One of the easiest ways to get to Arashiyama is by using the Keifuku railway line. Just hop on at Shijo Omiya Station conveniently located in central Kyoto, and ride all the way to Arashiyama Station at the end of the line. The trip takes a little over 20 minutes, and since you’re consistently moving farther away from the population center and closer to beautiful natural surroundings, it makes for a relaxing ride.

Unless, of course, you’re on the Yokai Train.

 

▼ They’re not nearly as friendly-looking as their counterparts from video game series Yokai Watch.

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Every summer, Keifuku infests a few of its trains with yokai, the supernatural creatures that feature prominently in Japanese folklore. Different linguists have made compelling arguments for translating yokai as ghosts, goblins, or monsters, but we’re also satisfied with Keifuku’s official English name for their spooky carriages.

 

▼ Haunted Train

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The company has yet to release a time table for the 2014 Yokai Trains, but Japanese website Kyoto no Sakura reports that the service will be starting on August 1. Fittingly, the yokai trains only run after dark, with their window shades shut and the only illumination coming from interior black lights.

 

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Adding to the atmosphere is the eerie background music played inside the yokai train. Oh, and one more thing to keep in mind: The Yokai Train runs both ways from Shijo Omiya and Arashiyama, but it doesn’t stop at any of the usual stations along the way. Once the doors close, you’re trapped with the yokai until the end of the line.

Having the intestinal fortitude to travel with ghostly entities isn’t without its advantages though. A ride on the Yokai Train costs 200 yen (US $1.98) for adults, a 20-yen savings compared to the price for Keifuku’s human-only trains.

 

▼ A Yokai Train ticket from 2013

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Kids’ tickets are cheaper still at just 100 yen, but even they’re not the most economical way to make the trip.

 

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That’s because yokai can ride for just 50 yen. Since Keifuku is, first and foremost, a rail company, it doesn’t employ a team of mystics, mediums, and exorcists to officially verify passengers’ yokai status. Instead, that judgment call gets left to station attendants, who have the power to bestow the discount on anyone who “looks like a yokai at first glance,” so if you’re looking to get some summertime use out of your Halloween costume, this could be your chance.

Just don’t be surprised if no one wants to sit next to you when you transfer to another line on your way home.