4 More Creepy Creatures From Folklore (That Want To Eat You)
These marvelous, macabre creatures have been feared throughout the centuries for their insatiable hunger for human flesh. To some they are real threats that exist to destroy lives. To others they are just fantastic curiosities born from the creative imagination of ancestors past. Either way, these eerie anthrophages are the stuff of nightmares.
Preta - Southeast Asia
Preta are supernatural beings featured in many Southeast Asian traditions, including Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. Thought to be revenants of people who were obscenely sinful during life, they return to Earth if they suffered an extremely painful or sad death. Because they were so jealous or greedy in life, they are inflicted with a dire hunger for a particular item or substance in their undead state. The object of their hunger can range from the gross (human feces) to the frightening (corpses and blood).
Preta are typically unseen by the living, though people with higher awareness of the spirit realm may be able to glimpse them. The few times they've been witnessed they are described as walking mummies with large bellies. Most traditions place them as being the same size as a human, save for some Thai legends that state they are actually giants. Always starving, pretas dwell in the most desolate, deserted areas of the world.
Not all pretas are evil; in fact there are temples and rituals dedicated to feeding them out of pity. However, there are some who hunger for blood, causing fear in local villages that lasts to this day. One particular temple in Thailand, Wat Phai Rong Wua, is dedicated to scenes of torture and punishment and features prominent statues of two preta.
Wendigo - Canada and Northern U.S.
A slightly popular legend hailing from the Algonquian-speaking peoples of North America, wendigo are the walking corpses of those who who were unable to contain their greed or gluttony in life. Those who were guilty of cannibalism were particularly doomed. Curiously, one could also be transformed if they were approached by a wendigo in a dream. Once transformed, a wendigo becomes mindlessly violent and yearns for the taste of human flesh.
The story is thought to have risen during times of famine, particularly in the winter, in order to reinforce taboos surrounding cannibalism. Eating the flesh of another person was forbidden, even during times of crisis. Still, the act was possibly frequent enough to warrant creation of such a creature. Some tribes even practiced "reinforcement ceremonies" in order to remind members that cannibalism was a serious offense.
In modern times, the story of wendigo has given rise to a peculiar (though oft debated) medical term: "Wendigo psychosis". According to proponents of this malady, individuals who resort to cannibalism during crisis are more likely to hunger for human flesh in the future, even when other sources of food are available.
Phi Pop - Thailand
An evil ghost that associates with sorceresses, Pop can live inside of a human witch, though it must find a new host before the witch dies. If Pop successfully haunts a normal person, it can devour their intestines. The story originates with the tale of a sorcerer prince who managed to make his own spirit enter the bodies of others and force them to do his bidding. A servant overheard his spells and repeated them so that they could inhabit the prince. Through some clever trickery, the prince managed to destroy the servant's former body and reenter his own. The servant was then doomed to hop from living host to host for eternity.
Pop is a common figure in Thai entertainment today, but still shares a bit of real fear in some villages. In fact, the legendary Pop has been blamed for murders in local villages as recently as 2012. Communities have been known to even pay to have their towns excorsized in order to get rid of the cannibalistic ghost.
Nachzehrer - Germany
This creepy corpse-eater is usually the cursed undead form of a suicide victim, though they are also linked to accidental deaths and mass plagues. Waking after death in a new form, there are two ways the nachzehrer begins its cannibalistic reign. Sometimes it starts by simply devouring it's own family. Other times, it will actually eat its own corpse first. This is thought to weaken the spiritual energy of the family. By the time it is finished munching its body, the family is weakened enough to become dessert.
There are many ways to keep a tragic victim from turning into a nachzehrer. Burying the body with bricks or stones in the mouth was one way. Interestingly, so was removing the name of the person from all clothing in the grave. Once a nachzehrer had risen, they could be defeated by putting a coin in their mouths and chopping the head off.
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An intriguing look into how popular monsters evolved to mirror popular fears over time.