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12 Terrifying Ghost Stories From Around The World –

 

 

The world is a scary place, and we are definitely afraid of dying. In fact the only thing worse is living, because then the immortal souls of the damned which have been cursed to life in an endless purgatory even when their physical bodies have expired can come and bother us, with all their wailing and tapering off to have no legs.

Basically ghosts tell us that everything sucks because when you live you get haunted, and when you die you haunt. There’s no way of winning. Why are we so obsessed with ghosts?

Well, it’s probably got something to do with the ubiquity of ghost stories in Western culture. From the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall to the Amityville Horror, there are ghost stories that everybody knows and is rightfully spooked by. We shouldn’t restrict our terror to our own fair isles and states, however; after all, there’s a whole world of spine tingling tales out there, stories of ghouls and ghosts from all corners of the Earth, which’ll blow the Mary Celeste out of the water and make the Enfield poltergeist look like a mere public nuisance.

These are twelve terrifying ghost stories from around the world. Note: WhatCulture cannot be held responsible for any sleepless nights, overactive imaginations or pant wettings that occur as a result of reading this article. But we do apologise. Sorry.

12. Screaming Trees At A US Mental Asylum

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A place originally named “Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane” isn’t going to be the happiest place on Earth – and, for copyright reasons, could never name itself as such either – but through a ghost into the mix on top of that, and you’ve got a recipe for true horror.

Dr George Zeller, the first director of what is now called the Peoria State Hospital, was one of the first to document the story of the spirit that came to be known as “Old Book”. The hospital had existed in a different form before Zeller reopened it in 1902, with a new and more enlightened view of how mental health issues should be treated. In fact the original building had never been used, constructed to look more like a castle’s battlements than a place for progressive treatments.

The eeriness truly began during Zeller’s time there, though, as recounted in his book Befriending The Bereft. It was decided early on that anybody who died whilst working or attending the hospital would be shipped off to relatives or, if they were unclaimed, buried on the asylum’s grounds. It was the latter fate that befell Manuel A. Bookbinder, a patient who worked with the burial crew until his death. Zeller and hundreds of other patients and employees saw Old Book’s figure at his funeral, weeping over by the old elm in the potters field.

Since then Old Book – a nickname, but Bookbinder wasn’t even his real name; he had suffered a breakdown whilst working at a printing press, and nobody knew his actual identity – was seen at dozens of funerals on the grounds, crying by the old elm. Even today visitors claim to hear his otherworldly sobs coming from the tree.

As if an old, abandoned mental hospital wasn’t creepy enough on its own.

11. The Stockholm Ghost Train

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Stockholm’s Metro network is one of the best in Europe, travelling across every corner of the Swedish capital both under and overground. The Silverpilen (or “Silver Arrow”) was an old model of Metro train, so named because it of its shiny aluminum shell.

Between its introduction in the sixties and discontinuation in 1996, it was usually used as a back-up train if others broke down; the interiors were more utilitarian than the usual cars, with signs of partly removed graffiti contributing to the reputation of the Silverpilen as “different”. Adding to that reputation, or perhaps bolstered by it, are the numerous ghost stories and urban legends that have sprung up about the Silverpilen trains. Since it was used only when other Metro cars had broken down and needed replacing, the average Stockholm dweller rarely saw a Silver Arrow in action, adding further to the mystique surrounding them.

Seeing them at night would be an especially spooky event, the unfamiliar car glowing as its metal shell reflected the street lamps, giving it an all-round ghostly look. Stories about the Silverpilen usually connect it to the abandoned Kymlinge metro station on Line 11, the origin of the delightful saying “Only the dead get off at Kymlinge”.

People claim that the train picks up its spirit passengers there and speeds through the city after midnight, only sometimes stopping to pick up passengers; they either disappear forever or later “get off” weeks, months or even years after they embarked.

Still sounds better than the Tube.

10. Maori Villagers Risen From The Dead

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Mount Tarawera is responsible for one of New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruptions in history, which killed around 120 people back in 1886. Hundreds die in a natural disaster, during which the sky looked to be burning, black smoke filled the air and survivors were, naturally, panicking and fearing for their own lives?

Why, those are the perfect conditions for a ghost story to take root! And so it did, but not without a few more details to build it up a little.

One of the biggest tragedies of the eruption were the dozens of Mori villages which were completely destroyed or buried, decimating the people’s local community. All of this devastation could have been predicted, however, by a ghostly vision that was sighted eleven days before Mount Tarawera erupted, an event that was so loud and so bright some thought it to be an attack by Russian warships.

A boatful of tourists returning from the Pink and White Terraces, a natural wonder which was later wiped off the map by the volcano, saw what appeared to be a war canoe approach their boat, only to disappear in the mist half a mile from them. Onboard also was a Maori clergyman who recognised it as a burial waka, which dead chiefs were tied to in an upright position and sent into the water on.

Some had posited that the pre-eruption fissures could have freed the canoe from its resting place, but either way seeing a decomposed guy on a boat floating at you through the mist sounds absolutely terrifying.

9. The Samurai Who Loved A Ghost

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Besides being the place where the majority of your consumer electronics originate, Japan’s biggest export is of absolutely pant-wettingly terrifying ghost stories. The likes of The Ring and The Grudge, films remade to lesser effect in English, follow the tradition of kaidan – literally “talk strange, mysterious, rare or bewitching apparitions” – which date back to the Edo period. And they are all equally as bizarre, disturbing and gross as the hauntings of Sadako and Kayako.

One such story is Botan , which translates roughly to The Peony Lantern, one of the most famous kaidan. It began as a moralistic Buddhist parable about karma that came from China, but was retrofitted into being more straight-up scary by an enterprising author Asai Ryi, and spread in popularity thanks to his translation and later kabuki adaptations. And of course it was a hit – after all, it featured necrophilia! Sort of, anyway.

The basic story of Botan  is of a beautiful woman and a young girl holding a lantern the house of a widowed samurai. The samurai is instantly smitten with the woman and, from that night on, both her and the girl visit the house during dusk and disappear before dawn. A suspicious elderly neighbour peeks into the house one night and sees the samurai in bed with a skeleton.

Unable to resist her charms, even when he finds out what’s happening, the samurai is led by the woman into the local graveyard, where his body is found buried alive, again spooning the skeleton. CREEPY.

8. True Detective Comes To Windsor

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This one, we admit, was partially chosen for the chilling illustration that accompanies it. It’s like the sort of thing you’d expect of the dark, murderous Yellow King from True Detective, albeit transplanted from the deep south to Berkshire.

Herne The Hunter is said to haunt the county’s Windsor Forest and Great Park, appearing in countless folk tales and even scoring a cameo appearance in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor; his origin is said to lay further back than that, though, rooted in weird…Pagan…stuff.

Little was written down and preserved about Herne before Willy got there, describing him as “a spirit” and “sometime a keeper… in Windsor forest” who is seen to “walk round about an oak, with great ragged horns”. Which, to be honest, would be enough for us to go on: a ragged, spectral being with a terrifying face and great big antlers? It’d certainly put us off of our Centre Parcs holiday, that’s for sure.

Samuel Ireland provided more background to this spectre decades later, positing that in life he was a man of some social standing who, for some transgression, saw that he may fall into disgrace, and chose instead to hang himself in the very woods he overlooked.

So he is damned to protect them for the rest of eternity, with sightings dating as recently as the 1920s suggesting he rides with demon hounds, a horned owl and other creatures of the forest.

7. Murdered Wife Haunts Library

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The life of Sophia Eberlein was a short, tragic one. Having emigrated from Russia to the United States as a young woman, she found herself married to Hugo Eberlein, a well-known businessman with whom she bore two daughters, Lillian and Alice.

Following Hugo’s death in 1928 she remarried, taking up with a man named Jacob Bentz in her home of Harvey, North Dakota. It is unknown if this second marriage was particularly tumultuous, but what is known is that Bentz bludgeoned his wife to death not longer after.

Despite cleaning up the crime scene and trying to make it look like Sophia had died in a car accident, Bentz was caught out by a visit by Lillian who noticed the blood splatters in her deceased mother’s bedroom. Bentz admitted to the crime and was sentenced to life in prison, where he himself died in 1944.

It’s a sad story, and one which has all the hallmarks of a later haunting: a violent, horrible death, at the hands of a loved one, the victim burdened with “unfinished business”. Which is perhaps why, when author William Jackson began working in a library built on the land of the old Eberlein family home, he found himself the victim of cold chills, moving furniture and the glimpsed sight of the manifestation of the murdered Sophia.

According to Jackson, the librarian’s office was built in the exact spot where Sophia’s bedroom was, the part of the house she was killed and apparently her final resting place.

Spookier than the lady at the start of Ghostbusters, that. Definitely less funny.

6. The White Woman Of Belchen Tunnel

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Underground tunnels for cars are terrifying enough on their own, and we don’t mean just because of that one UNKLE video. There’s the darkness, the claustrophobic feeling of being below ground, and the inhuman howl that traffic makes as it passes through, engine noise echoing off of the stark concrete walls. Yeesh.

And at nighttime, when the traffic is at a minimum, it just gets worse, because if anything bad happens you’ve got no escape but to go forwards or turn around, and you could still be in the tunnel for what feels like an eternity. Which means they’re not quite as unusual a setting for a contemporary ghost story as you might think.

One such modern myth sprung up with regards to the Belchen Tunnel in Switzerland, which connects Basel to Chiasso, in the form of the “white woman” (“weisse Frau”) of the Bölchentunnel (“Bölchen” is local dialect for “Belchen”). Beginnings in 1981 stories of an old white-clothed woman began circulating, who appears out of nowhere and sometimes tries to catch a ride off drivers. After being picked up by local tabloids Basel Police received dozens of phone calls of people seeing the White Woman.

In 1983 were two jurists claimed to have picked up a pale, middle-aged woman who, when asked if she was okay, replied “No, unfortunately not. I am not well at all. Something really awful is going to happen, something very dreadful!”

When the pair looked to the back seat where the hitch hiker had sat, they found she had disappeared. Probably the second most creepy thing a hitch hiker could do, but creepy nonetheless.

5. Polish Nobleman Makes A Faustian Pact

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A man loyal to his king and country, a military commander who dedicated his civilian life to investing and developing his home country, Stanisaw Warszycki was well regarded during his lifetime. In 1632 he helped fortify his village to see off the attacks of the Swedish army, and his tactics were adopted by other battlements across Poland.

He stayed loyal to his country when other business magnates and noblemen such as he were defecting to their enemies. For this Stanisaw was rewarded with military powers and the friendship of the royal family. After his death, however, rumours spread of a different side to Warszycki. Less a war hero, more of a sadistic torturer type, treating peasants poorly and straight up murdering a dude he suspected his wife of having an affair with; either through poisoning, public flagellation or even exploding a whole castle with the philanderer inside, in more colourful interpretations.

Other legends suggested the the famously wealthy Stanisaw kept vast caves full of his treasures, and even more outrageously, that all his fame and good fortune was the result of a deal with the Devil. Having sold his soul to Satan Stanisaw was therefore damned either to hell or to walk the Earth for the rest of his days, which is where the ghost story part of this particular legend comes into play (AT LAST).

The bloodthirsty spirit of Warszycki supposedly roams the armaments of the Ogrodzienic and Olsztyn castles, rattling chains, leading black dogs, and generally being a translucent, insane spectral murderer you wouldn’t wanna meet when he was alive, let alone now he’s a g-g-g-ghost.

4. The Oil-Covered Malaysian Monsters (That Are Still At Large!)

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The Orang Minyak are a weird one, and considering we’ve already done Botan Dr, that’s saying a lot. Literally meaning “oily man” in Malay, this legend was passed down through generations and popularised in the 1956 film Sumpah Orang Minyak (The Curse of the Oily Man). In it, the orang minyak was a mortal man cursed to walk the Earth until he could win back his lost love, and was helped along the way by the Devil. But only if the orang minyak worshipped him and raped 21 virgins within a week.

Those are the sorts of deals the Devil makes, we guess. Which is creepy enough, but in the sixties people starting spreading stories of these violent spirits stalking the area around several Malaysian towns, causing a mass panic has also led to unmarried women, typically in student dormitories, borrowing men’s clothes to give the impression to the orang minyak that they weren’t virgins. A bit like Cherry Falls, only terrifying and at least semi-real.

Because sightings of the Orang Minyak didn’t stop then, and in fact have become even more common in the 21st century. In 2005, multiple cases were reported of sexual predators covered in oil roaming around, armed with knives, and in 2012 residents of a village in Gombak claim to have been plagued by one such spirit.

So the creature may have some basis in reality, which – even if he’s not actually a ghost – is still totally bone-chilling.

3. Thai Ghost Lady Spills Her Guts

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Hold onto your hats, because from here on out things get spectacularly weird. We’re not kidding. Children and pregnant women should look away now. Actually, screw it, you’ve already seen the picture, it’s too late for that. If that isn’t evocative enough for you, allow us to elaborate on just what the Cambodian ghoul the Krause is all about: she has the floating head of a beautiful woman, and also the internal organs of a beautiful woman minus her beautiful torso, meaning she flies around with her guts just kind of dangling below her chin. Which is HORRIFYING.

The Krause has become incredibly popular in her native country, appearing in countless horror movies and TV shows because…well, because she’s one of the freakiest ghosts we’ve ever come across (as her position on the list will attest to), and because there ain’t nobody but nobody who wouldn’t be freaked out by a floating head trailing her intestines.

In Thai and Cambodian folklore the story goes that the Krause was once a princess who rejected an arranged marriage and was burnt at the stake; a wizard cast a spell that would protect her from the flames, but by that point her entire body had been consumed by the flames, save her head. Nice going, wizard. Since then the Krause has roamed the Earth with an insatiable hunger for blood, preying on cattle or even pregnant women just before or after giving birth, looking to satiate its bloodlust with either the placenta or the fetus itself.

As if pregnancy wasn’t scary enough, you have to contend with the horrifying vision of a dead woman’s head coming up to your window trying to feast on your menstrual blood or even your baby. Man, Cambodia sounds scary.

2. The Weeping Woman

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Oh sure, a crying woman doesn’t sound scary on its own (you heartless sociopath), but when you hear about why she’s so upset you’ll soon change your tune. Known as La Llorona in South American countries, the basic legend behind this tale tells of a beautiful young woman named Maria. When she is left rejected and heartbroken by the man she has pined for, she drowned first her children and then herself.

Which is pretty dark to begin with.

It gets worse, though. When she reached the gates of Heaven the absence of Maria’s children was called into question, and she tearfully admitted to her horrific crime. She was not permitted to enter the afterlife until she found them, and so Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, crying the whole time. Hence, The Weeping Woman. When it comes down to it, the La Llorona legend is most often employed as a way of parents making sure their kids don’t go wandering off during the night, but we think it’s pretty terrifying and heartbreaking in itself.

The idea of the Weeping Woman hasn’t the pure shock factor of others on our list, but it is indefinably eerie: a pale woman with mottled skin, wandering aimlessly through the dark, her gentle sobs echoing through the mists. Plus she’s got the “Bloody Mary” thing of being able to see her if you say her name three times in the mirror. Don’t do that.

1. Every Nightmare Ever Is Summarised In The Kuchisake-onna

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Right, for the number one terrifying international ghost story we head back to Japan, and right back into the gore-splattered, visceral horror of that the Krause set us up for. Also, remember we mentioned that previous entries might not be suitable for pregnant women or children? Well, the Kuchisake-onna might just be unsafe for everyone. The Kuchisake-onna is NSFW, and potentially NSFL. You are going to have nightmares about this one, and now that we’ve warned you about that, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Beginning with rumoured sightings around Nagasaki Prefecture in 1979, stories of the “Slit-Mouthed Woman” soon spread across the country to the point that some schools would only let kids walk home when escorted by teachers for safety, and police significantly increased their patrols in some areas. Even as recently as 2004 she was spotted in South Korea, followed in 2007 by a coroner’s discovery of records from the late seventies telling of a woman who was hit by a car whilst chasing chasing little children and had her mouth was ripped from ear to ear. That photo up there? That’s what literally dozens of Japanese and Korean people have claimed to have come across.

From behind she looks like an average woman, and when you see here from the front she is wearing a surgical mask to cover her mouth – something which is normal during flu season in Japan. If she sees you she will approach you, and take off her mask to reveal the horrifically scarred face underneath, her mouth ripped open in a Glasgow smile fashion. There’s no way of getting away from the Kuchisake-onna, either.

Once she’s trapped you, she asks if you think she is pretty; answer no, and she will stab you to death with some scissors. Answer yes and, taking it as a compliment, will use her scissors to give you the same deformity she has. It’s a lose-lose situation which we hope never to enter and now can’t stop thinking about oh god why did we write this article?!

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