Our languages, currencies and power outlets may be different, but there’s something people share across the globe: our fears.
We can explain away a lot of our common fears through evolution. Our ancestors feared the dark because they couldn’t see approaching dangers. They feared spiders because their bites could kill.
But it gets a bit more complicated when the things we’re afraid of are more...elusive. Or not real at all (depending on who you ask).
It’s not only because we can share our scary stories across the world online. Long before that we were already telling separate stories with a lot of common elements.
Some ghosts, ghouls, and monsters seem especially fond of traveling, and every country seems to have their own version. Here are a few that are likely to give you goosebumps wherever you’re from.
The White Lady
A friend of mine was in the northeast Philippines when he heard whispers about the White Lady.
In some areas they call ghosts like her the Tagalog term, Kaperosa. Where he was, in Cagayan, they said “White Lady” in English.
My friend brushed her off as a local legend. That is, until he saw her himself.
It was a warm, sticky evening, and he was cycling with a friend through a rural neighborhood, carved out of the jungle.
His buddy rounded a corner up ahead of him. While my friend was trying to catch up, he caught a glimpse of a glowing figure with long hair in a white dress.
He did a double take, but when he turned back, she had disappeared. Needless to say, he pedaled a bit faster after that.
The most famous Filipino White Lady is the White Lady of Balete Drive in Quezon City near Manila. They say she’s the ghost of a woman who died in a car accident on the road.
And by “they,” I mostly mean taxi drivers, who tend to be the ones who spot her at night. Some have reported picking her up and looking back to see a bloody, bruised face that scared them out of their taxi.
Others only see her on the road in a rearview mirror, but the shock of spotting her has caused multiple accidents. Yikes!
Here are some of the White Lady’s other favorite “haunts” around the world.
White Lady legends almost always involve some kind of tragic backstory, though some are more detailed than others. The White Lady of Montmorency Falls near Quebec City is one of those.
When she was alive, this White Lady and her fiance used to meet at the top of the falls. But when he died in the Battle of Beauport, her grief drove her to jump from the falls in her wedding dress.
A couple hundred years have passed, but people still see her wandering the area in her white dress. Never mind that Victoria hadn’t popularized the white wedding dress yet - a good story is a good story.
A nearby waterfall is named Chute de la Dame Blanche (White Lady Waterfall) after the legend.
Latin America’s White Lady is La Llorona - The Wailer.
Traditionally, she was a young woman who married a colonizer. Then he cheated.
After catching him, La Llorona drowned her own children in rage. Now, she wanders close to bodies of water and cries for her children. Some parents use the La Llarona story to discourage their children from playing by the water.
Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean twist involves some dark forces - well, the dark forces, actually.
In her vanity, La Jabless (or La Diablesse) sold her soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth. As you’d expect, it didn’t work out so well for her.
She may seem beautiful, but her wide-brim hat hides a bruised face, and her long white dress conceals a cow’s hoof at the end of one of her legs.
Usually people spot her in crossroads or at cemeteries. She also likes to make an appearance at the occasional dance. Then when a guy inevitably hits on her, she lures him off a cliff or into a forest where she leaves him to die.
Kind of an extreme way to reject someone, but that’s how she rolls.
Shout out to Trinidad local Genora on our team for this one. She’s written a whole travel guide for Trinidad and Tobago with lots of other insider tidbits.
Kuchisake-onna, the slit-mouthed woman, looks a lot like any other White Lady. Except she has a big ol’ gash from one ear to the other. She usually wears a mask to cover it (but hey, we all wear those these days).
When you encounter Kuchisake-onna, she asks you a simple question: Is she beautiful?
If you say no, you die.
If you say yes, she takes off her mask, revealing the slit, and asks again.
If you say no, you die.
If you say yes, she takes her scissors and cuts your mouth to match hers.
It doesn’t make for a very pleasant flow chart.
The only way to come out of the meeting alive and with your face intact is to give her an answer she doesn’t expect. Or bribe her - she takes cash.
The Vanishing Hitchhiker
Balete Drive’s White Lady isn’t the only spirit out thumbing for a lift. And no, I’m not talking about the ghost hitchhikers you see in the mirror on the Haunted Mansion ride either.
Imagine you’re out driving on an empty country road one night and see a teenager off to the side.
For some reason, you ignore your (rational) fear of picking up strangers and stop to give her a ride home.
Her clothes are a little out of style, maybe, but otherwise she looks normal. She gets in the passenger seat and thanks you.
Her name is, say, Lucy, and the address she gives you isn’t too far out of your way, so you get going again. She doesn’t say much but does mention that it’ll be nice to get home.
But as you’re pulling up, you check your mirror then look back at the passenger seat to find that Lucy is gone.
After you sit there for a few minutes trying to come up with a logical explanation, you go knock on the front door of the house.
A bespectacled bald man answers. In a jumble of half-intelligible sentences, you ask if Lucy lives there.
The man takes a long, slow breath and says, “Not anymore.” His daughter Lucy died in a car accident years ago. He gestures to a picture on the wall behind him.
A picture of the girl who was in your car.
There are sooo many vanishing hitchhiker stories around the States, but one of the most famous is Chicago’s Resurrection Mary.
This iconic hitchhiker has been around since the 1930s. Dressed to the nines, she flags down drivers near the Willowbrook Ballroom and rides with them as far as Resurrection Cemetery. There she asks you to let her out and then proceeds to disappear.
They say she was leaving a dance when she was the victim of a hit-and-run. Now she goes back and forth between her final resting place and the ballroom where she danced her last night away.
Uniondale, South Africa is so small that it probably wouldn’t be on the map at all if it weren’t for its hitchhiking ghost.
Her name is Marie Charlotte Roux, and she died in the late '60s in a car crash on a drive with her fiance. Ever since, she’s been asking for rides and spookily disappearing before reaching her destination.
In one story, the driver of the car went to the police, who followed him to the place where Marie vanished. When they got there, the driver and the policeman both saw the car door open and close on its own. Wind, maybe?
As if cats weren’t spooky enough, some of them stick around and keep trolling us from beyond the grave. Something about paw prints appearing out of nowhere or an invisible animal brushing against your leg is pretty darn eerie.
I first heard about ghost cats in Jerome, Arizona, a ghost town in more ways than one.
Once the Las Vegas of the Old West, Jerome cleared out when its copper mine closed down after WWII.
No one’s sure why there’s a spectral feline wandering the third floor of the Grand Hotel, but there’s a theory about the cat in the inn.
The building used to be Madam Jennie Banter’s successful brothel. That is, until all the less reputable businesses had to leave Main Street.
Later, Jennie met a dark fate at the hands of a client. According to legend her spirit returned to her old stomping grounds, along with the ghost of her pampered cat.
Visitors and inn employees have reported seeing the cat dart around and vanish and hearing it meow and sharpen its claws...
Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the U.S., and the Davenport House there is home to another ghost cat.
This one is a white and orange tabby, which seems a bit cheery, to be honest.
What is pretty spooky, though, is that little kids visiting the museum will often call out to a kitty - one only they can see.
Legend has it that the Demon Cat (AKA D.C. - ah, see what they did there) appears at the White House or U.S. Capital before presidential elections and national tragedies, like Lincoln’s assassination.
The White House is pretty quick to dismiss the Demon Cat...but we know better.
There are ghost kitties...and then there are phantom cats.
All over the world people report seeing big cats where they shouldn’t be, but Australia has an especially strong history of phantom cat sightings.
As far as we know, there are no big cats in Australia. The keywords there being “as far as we know.”
Hundreds of Australians have seen cougars, pumas or panthers roaming the bush or the mountains. They’ve got some pretty epic explanations.
The Gippsland phantom cats, for example, are the offspring of two cougars U.S. airmen brought during World War II. They released the cats into the bush, and their descendants still show up here and there.
Usually they show up long enough for an intriguing photograph then disappear as soon as there’s an official government search for them.
Bigfoot (and friends)
The USA’s National Sasquatch Awareness Day (October 10th, the anniversary of the most famous Big...footage) is still a ways off, but we can never be too aware of Sasquatch, amirite?
He’s big, he’s hairy, he’s the cryptid we all know and love. He and his friends are also quite the travelers.
In the United States, most Bigfoot sightings take place in the Pacific Northwest (they even have a Bigfoot Festival in Oregon). But other regions also get their share of antisocial primate visits.
And other countries have their own versions that continue to show up for the occasional photo op before disappearing into the woods.
These days Yeti is arguably as popular in Western culture as Sasquatch, mainly thanks to the Everest expeditions of the 20th century.
But the Himalayan wildman or Met-Teh (man-bear) has been around for much longer. The monster first showed up in written accounts from the 12th century.
While the west has reimagined Yeti as the white, fluffy “abominable snowman,” the Sherpa version is much more like Sasquatch: over 6 feet tall, standing upright, with reddish brown fur.
Also like Sasquatch, Yetis leave behind plenty of traces.
A 2014 DNA analysis showed that some hair samples attributed to Yeti were actually from paleolithic Himalayan polar bears. Which honestly might be cooler.
Not every monster can say it was targeted by the Maoist government.
Physically, Yeren resembles Sasquatch and Yeti. But while they tend to make harmless photo and video appearances, Yeren can be more hostile. They’re known for raiding villages and carrying off villagers for nefarious purposes.
While Mao was in power, he tried to rid the country of superstitions, so stories and research about Yeren went quiet.
Mao might not have been a fan of the Yeren, but it’s still around these days to terrorize and baffle the Hubei Province.
Almas live in the Caucasus, Pamir, and Altai Mountains.
In some Mongolian traditions, this creature is actually a deity. They won’t even refer to it by name in parts of Mongolia.
Belief in the Almas spread to some of the surrounding countries, including Russia.
It was only 1995 when the first chupacabra stories started making headlines.
Chupacabra means “goat sucker,” and for good reason. Real people were losing real livestock. Farmers reported finding their animals drained of their blood with two holes in their necks. Thousands of them were dying.
It started in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. The threat to residents’ livelihoods was so serious that the town’s mayor went on a “safari” to hunt down the beast that was responsible.
He didn’t find anything, but locals would see the monster from time to time. They described it as an alien-like reptilian, sometimes with spines along its back.
In the States, chupacabras look a bit different. Instead of an alien or reptile, Americans usually report something that looks like a freaky hairless dog.
Like Puerto Rican cousins, when they show up, your goats (and other livestock) are goners. They aren’t always sucked dry, though.
Pictures of dead chupacabras from the U.S. have been identified as coyotes with mange.
In fact, mangy coyotes are weaker and more likely to attack livestock rather than prey that requires more chasing. So this one might have an easy explanation.
Hunting down the legends
It’s hard to know exactly how these different regions ended up with such similar urban legends and folktales.
Some of them are likely exports (Chupacabra definitely is) while others might be the result of human psychology.
Or maybe it’s because some of them aren’t legends after all ;-)
Most of us would probably go into fight, flight, or freeze mode if we ran into a White Lady ghost or the Chupacabra, but I know some people go out of their way for a good scare.
I’ve included Google Maps links for specific locations where some of these monsters and spirits tend to hang out. Just in case you thrill seekers and ghost hunters are interested.
Whether you’re keen to chase Yeti in the Himalayas or take a ghost tour of a haunted U.S. city, we’d love to help you find cheap flights to get there.