Whenever Halloween comes, the streets get inundated with vampires, ghouls and zombies. But it’s a shame that we adhere so closely to the traditional lineup of monsters we are overly familiar with. There are so many more ghastly ghoulies lurking in the stories of our past that would make for terrific additions (and maybe even original costume ideas).
The Blemmyes are quite ancient creatures indeed, with the first references dating back to the Greeks and Romans. Physically, they look very much like normal humans except for one very distinct feature – they don’t have a head. Instead, their mouths, eyes and noses are placed on their chests (similar to Arnim Zola, for comic book fans). According to ancient sources like Pliny the Elder, Blemmyes were quite widespread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. In later literature, Blemmyes are also described as being cannibals. It was Sir Walter Raleigh who popularized them again in (relatively) recent times. Raleigh claimed that he was made aware of such headless people called Ewaipanoma during his famous travels.
Stheno is another monster from Greek mythology, a Gorgon to be precise. The Gorgons are probably going to be familiar to some of you because of one famous Gorgon – Medusa, the youngest of the bunch. However, she had two older sisters, Euryale and Stheno (the Mighty). Eventually, Medusa became famous mostly because she got beheaded by Perseus, but this would not have been an issue for Euryale or Stheno as they had the useful trait of immortality (which means they should still be around somewhere; let us know if you spot them).
Like her sisters, Stheno had long, sharp fangs and the iconic snakes-for-hair look made popular by her baby sister (red snakes in Stheno’s case). However, stories say that Stheno was the most ferocious and bloodthirsty of the bunch, having killed more men than both of her sisters combined.
It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Japan has some pretty intriguing mythological monsters, typically referred to as Yokai. Hitotsume-kozo can be considered to be their version of the Cyclops because it is a creature that has only one giant eye in the middle of their face. However, the Hitotsume-kozo gets extra points for creepiness because it is depicted as a small, bald child. There are plenty of Hollywood movies out there that have established that creepy kids are among the scariest things in the world so Hitotsume-kozo would probably have grown men running for the hills, even though it is typically portrayed as harmless and friendly.
This hideous creature comes from the Philippines. It shares some characteristics with the vampire, although the manananggal is more repulsive, both in appearance and in behavior. For starters, the manananggal is typically depicted as a very ugly woman who is capable of severing itself at the torso, sprouting giant wings and flying into the night. However, what is truly revolting is what it does to its victims. It has a long proboscis-like tongue which it uses to sometimes drain sleeping people of blood. It really likes pregnant women because it can suck out the hearts of fetuses.
If you do ever encounter a manananggal (chances are slim, I’ll admit) you’ll want to avoid the flying torso and target the lower half of the body which can’t really do anything to you (except kick you in the shins maybe). It is vulnerable to garlic and salt and if you sprinkle them over the lower torso you will kill the creature.
One of the most popular creatures from Celtic mythology, the kelpie is a water being that looks like a horse, supposedly present in most, if not all lochs in Scotland. But don’t be fooled by the cutesy name or its appearance – kelpies like to take people, drown them in the lochs, take them to their lairs and eat them.
One defining trait of the kelpie is its ability to shapeshift from its horse form. It can take on the appearance of a human, typically an attractive man, which it uses to lure victims to its lair. Very rarely it is said that the kelpie also takes on the guise of a beautiful woman. According to legend, one way to spot a kelpie in human form is the hair as it will usually be wet and full of water seeds or kelp. In some stories, the kelpie still has hooves even in human form so that should also be a pretty good giveaway. So if a beautiful man with hooves invites you for a swim…just say no!