Every culture and people has its own unique myths and legends that have been passed down for generations—feeding off the imagination (and fear) of people, growing and evolving their stories with each retelling.
Most of us are well acquainted with the most popular figures associated with Halloween and Western horror—Bloody Mary, Frankenstein’s monster, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and witches—all these creatures and their tales are common stories during the month of October.
I, personally, grew up hiding under the covers of my bed after my parents would scare me off of wandering at night with threats of being dragged off by El Cucuy (the boogeyman) or La Llorona (a vengeful ghost figure, popular in Hispanic culture). Following the spooky spirit of Halloween, I thought to take the time to focus on some of the lesser-known scary stories from across a variety of other cultures.
La Mano peluda - Latin America
The legend of La Mano Peluda ("The Hairy Hand") can be found in almost every Latin American country, but it is especially bigger in Mexico and Colombia. It’s described as a disembodied, black, hairy hand—twice as large as the average adult hand—with sharp nails, that in some Colombian versions have a deadly poison at the tips. Warnings about La Mano Peluda say the sinister hand peeks through windows and holes in the walls and especially targets mischievous or wandering children to kidnap them. It is said that if la Mano catches your feet hanging off the bed, the hand will pull you by the leg and drag you to the underworld.
While the stories surrounding La Mano Peluda’s origins can vary by region, one of the most common dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, in which the hand is said to have belonged to a man who was falsely accused of robbery and had his hand cut off as punishment. Outraged by the undeserved mutilation, the man swore revenge on everyone and was later killed. Both his hand and body were buried in an Indian cemetery but the severed hand crawls out of the grave at night to seek vengeance on those who wronged it and other unfortunate victims that come across its way.
Ông ba Bi - Vietnam
The Ông Ba Bi is the Vietnamese version of the boogeyman; a cautionary tale told to children by elders to scare them into behaving. The predatory figure’s legend is said to have originated in the 17th century when widespread hunger in Vietnam prompted people to kidnap the children of others to sell them.
Stories describe Ông Ba Bị as a stout old man with "3 sacks, 9 straps and 12 eyes" who likes to kidnap naughty children using his sacks. He comes out at night to target naughty children and lure them to hidden and dark areas of the city using humanoid puppets and sweet voices, promising treats and gifts for the victims before throwing them into his bag and making away with them.
Huaka'i Pō (The Night marchers) - hawaii
In Hawaiian legend, the Night Marchers are the deadly apparitions of ancient Hawaiian warriors that are said to roam the Islands at night. They move at nighttime in a loud procession, carrying torches and marching to thunderous drumming, chants, and the sound of conch shells.
An important thing to keep in mind is that the night marchers are not inherently malicious or evil spirits; instead, the spirits of these ancient warriors are continuing their jobs as protectors in the afterlife.
Their job is not to terrorize people but to guard the most sacred and high-ranking chiefs and gods—beings so sacred that the common person is never allowed to look at them. The marchers will not hesitate to remove those who dare look or get in their way. Breaking those rules is what brings death at the hands of these fierce protectors. It is, however said, that if you are Hawaiian and an ancestor of yours is among the night marchers, they will yell "Na'u" (mine) and ensure your safety.
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