April 4, 2024 | Allison Robertson

40 Legendary Creatures That Lurk Among Us


Legend Has It

For centuries, tales of mythical creatures have captured our minds, living on through traditional tales of folklore and fairy tales.

Some are culturally symbolic, while others serve to keep disobedient children in line. Whatever the origin, people seem to be drawn to their intriguing characteristics.

Here’s a list of 40 of the creepiest legendary creatures that are said to lurk among us.

Legendary creature and young girl in the woods split image

Bahamut

A Bahamut (Arabic) is a whale monster who lies deep below the ocean’s surface, underpinning the support structure that holds up the Earth.

In this conception of the world, the Earth is held up by an angel, who stands on a slab of gemstone that lays on the back of an ox, who stands on the back of the Bahamut creature.

BahamutTopkapı Palace, Wikimedia Commons

Anansi

The Anansi (West African) is a trickster spider. He is best known for his ability to outsmart opponents through his use of cunning, creativity and wit.

He is often portrayed as both the protagonist and antagonist in traditional stories.

AnansiKirkam, Shutterstock

Bake-kujira

The Bake-kujira is a mythical Japanese ghost whale. It is described as being a skeleton whale that is accompanied by unknown fish and weird birds.

It takes its revenge against people who hunt whales or eat whale meat, and does so by cursing them with plagues and fire.

Bake-kujirathe_alien_experience, Flickr

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Adarna

The Adarna Bird (Philippine) is often described as the most colorful bird in Philippine folklore. The bird has healing powers, can put people to sleep, and turn people into stone.

Ibong AdarnaNat Lamina, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Bugbear

A Bugbear (Celtic) is a legendary creature said to be a child-eating monster, similar to the boogeyman. It has been described as a large creepy bear that lurks in the woods to scare children.

BugbearMarty, Flickr

Cetus

A Cetus (Greek) was variously described as a sea monster or sea serpent. Other versions describe cetea as sea monsters with the head of a wild boar or greyhounds and the body of whales or dolphins with divided, fan-like tails.

They’re said to be colossal beasts, the size of a ship with their skulls measuring 40 feet long.

CetusRaremaps.com, Picryl

Anubis

Anubis (Greek) is the god of funerary rites, protector of graves, and guide to the underworld. He is depicted as a man with a canine head.

AnubisLBM1948, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Devil Whale

The Devil Whale (English) is a legendary demonic whale-like sea monster. According to myths, this whale is massive and could swallow entire ships. It also resembles an island when it's sleeping, causing unsuspecting sailors to take ashore on its back.

When the sailors start a fire, the Devil Whale awakes and attacks the ship, dragging it to the bottom of the sea.

The whale island in the tale of Sindbad, Devil WhaleEdmund Dulac, Wikimedia Commons

Bael

Bael is a demon described as a hoarsely-voiced king with the power to make men invisible and ruling over sixty-six legions of demons. He has three heads, one of a cat, one of a toad, and one of a human.

BaelLouis Le Breton, Wikimedia Commons

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Encantado

The Encantado (Brazilian) refers to shapeshifting dolphins who come from a utopia full of wealth and without pain or demise.

Their transformation into human form is rare, and usually occurs at night. They crave the pleasure and hardships of human societies.

River DolphinRoland Seitre, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Glashtyn

A Glashtyn (Celtic) is said to be a horse goblin from the sea. He apparently emerges from an aquatic habitat to come into contact with the island folk—particularly the women.

GlashtynUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Tanuki

A Tanuki is a Japanese raccoon dog that legends claim is a shapeshifting trickster. It is said that they can shapeshift into other things or people, and can possess human beings.

Tanuki In Higashiyama ZooKKPCW, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Makara

A Makara is a legendary sea-creature in Hindu mythology, said to be half terrestrial animal in the frontal part and half aquatic animal in the hind part.

It appears as the vehicle for the river goddess, Ganga, Narmada, and the god of the ocean, Varuna.

Makara dragon-fishKing muh, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Sharabha

A Sharabha is an eight-legged part-lion and part-bird deity in Hindu religion, who is described as more powerful than a lion or an elephant, possessing the ability to clear a valley in one jump.

SharabhaCcmarathe, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Mug Wamp

A Mug Wamp (Canadian) is a giant sturgeon monster said to inhabit Lake Temiskaming in Ontario. It is said to have a round head with a nose like an animal, and protruding eyes.

Witnesses who claim to have seen the creature back in 1995, claim it is large enough to wrap around several fishing huts, and resembles a dinosaur.

Devil's Rock LookoutJean-Paul Lefaivre, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

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Sea Goat

A sea goat (Greek) is a legendary aquatic animal described as a creature that is half-goat and half-fish. It is said to be the wilderness god, Pan. The myth claims that Pan jumped into the river to escape the monster Typhon.

He tries to turn himself into a fish while jumping into the river, but he moves too quickly and only his lower half becomes that of a fish.

Sidney Hall - Urania's Mirror - CapricornusSidney Hall , Wikimedia Commons

Selkie

A Selkie (Scottish) refer to shapeshifting seal people. They do so by removing or putting on their seal skin. They are said to live in the sea, but shed their seal skin to become human on land.

They can be friendly and helpful to humans, but they can also be dangerous and vengeful.

sealsLynn Batchelor- Browning, Shutterstock

Kishi

The Kishi is a two-faced cannibalistic demon, with an attractive human man’s face on the front, and a hyena’s face on the back. They use their human face to charm young women, and then they eat them with the hyena face.

Their teeth and jaws are so strong they cannot be pulled off anything it bites.

The Kishidemon1408, Flickr

Water Bull

The Water Bull (Scottish) is a mythological nocturnal creature with amphibious and shapeshifting abilities. It is able to shapeshift into human form and live in both water and on land.

It can be both a monstrous, malevolent black beast, or amiable and sometimes helpful.

African buffaloPACO COMO, Shutterstock

Lou Carcolh

The Lou Carcolh (France) is a mythical beast described as a large, slimy, snail-like serpent with hairy tentacles and a large shell. Unsuspecting people would be grabbed by its tentacles, dragged into its cave and devoured whole.

SnailRalphs_Fotos, Pixabay

Satori

The Satori (Japanese) are mind-reading monkey-like monsters that live in the mountains. They prey on mountain hikers. Upon reading a person's mind, the satori would say the person's thoughts aloud faster than a human could.

In some instances, they take their lives and eat their bodies. But if a human strikes back, they run away scared.

Satori竜斎閑人正澄, Wikimedia Commons

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Vanara

In Hinduism, Vanara are either monkeys, apes, or a race of forest-dwelling people. They are generally depicted as humanoid apes that have beards with extended sideburns, narrowly shaved chin gap, and no moustache.

They have tails, razor-sharp claws, and hold semi-divine supernatural abilities.

VanaraUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

Cipactli

The Cipactli was a primeval sea monster, part crocodilian, part fish, and part toad or frog, with indefinite gender. It is said to have always been hungry, and every joint on its body had an extra mouth.

Earth Monster (Cipactli)A. Augustus Healy Fund, Wikimedia Commons

Myrmecoleon

A Myrmecoleon or Ant-lion is a beast that is the result of a lion and an ant mating. It has the face of a lion and the body of an ant, with each part having its appropriate nature.

Because the lion part will only eat meat and the ant part can only digest grain, the ant-lion starves.

MyrmecoleonJacob Meydenbach , Wikimedia Commons

Jorōgumo

The Jorōgumo (Japanese) is a creature that shapeshifts between a beautiful woman and a spider who manipulates smaller fire-breathing spiders.

JorōgumoUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Vetala

A Vetala (Hindu) is a class of beings usually defined as evil, fortune-telling paranormal entities who are trapped in the ‘twilight zone’.

They are said to possess unalive bodies to drive people mad, end the lives of children, and cause miscarriages.

VetalaHarshadpd, Wikimedia Commons

Chamrosh

The Chamrosh is a bird in Persian mythology said to live on the summit of Mount Alborz. It has the body of a dog/wolf with the head and wings of an eagle. It is said to rule and protect all the birds that inhabit the Earth.

ChamroshGinolerhino, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Nuggle

A Nuggle is a mythical water horse that is nocturnal and always of male gender. He is easily recognized by his distinctive wheel-like tail.

He has a fairly gentle disposition and enjoys playing pranks and making mischief rather than having malicious intents.

Horse and cows outside.Maël BALLAND, Pexels

Gagana

A Gagana (Russian) is a miraculous bird with an iron beak and copper claws. She is said to live on the Buyan Island and she guards the sacred stone called Alatyr, as well as Garafena the snake.

She works miracles, helps people, and is the only one capable of giving milk.

mystical birdSpace Wind, Shutterstock

Itsumade

The Itsumade is an eerie reptilian bird. It is said that the eerie bird had a human-like face, a curved beak, saw-like teeth, a snake-like body, talons as sharp as swords, and a wingspan of about 4.8 meters.

ItsumadeToriyama Sekien, Wikimedia Commons

Basan

The Basan is a fire-breathing chicken that lives in the mountains. It is described as having bright red cockscomb and spits a cold fire that glows and does not burn. It creeps around human villages at night, but if a human hears it and looks outside it will instantly vanish.

Basan (legendary bird)Takehara Shunsen, Wikimedia Commons

Axehandle hound

The Axehandle hound is a fearsome critter of Minnesota and Wisconsin. It resembles a dog with an axe-like body. It has a head shaped like an axe blade, and a handle shaped body and short stubby legs.

It eats axe-handles that have been left unattended. It comes out only at night and travels from camp to camp looking for its next meal.

The afghan houndDavid Rayhelgauz, Shutterstock

Chupacabra

The Chupacabra translates to “goat-sucker.” It is said to attack and drink the blood of livestock, including goats. It is described as a reptile-like creature, said to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back. It hops, similar to that of a kangaroo.

ChupacabraWilson Hui, Flickr

Cù-sìth

The Cù-sìth (Scottish) is a mythical hound thought to make its home in the clefts of rocks and roam the moors of the Highlands. It’s described as having a shaggy, dark green coat and being as large as a small cow.

It usually hunts quietly, but would sometimes let out three—and only three—barks that could be heard for miles, even far at sea. If those who hear the bark do not reach safety quickly, they will be overcome with terror to the point of their demise.

Scottish HighlandsHenry Bates Joel, Wikimedia Commons

Cactus cat

The cactus cat was usually described as being similar to a bobcat, covering in hair-like thorns with long spines come out of the legs and its armored, branching tail.

It used its spines to slash cacti letting the juice leak out. Once the juices had fermented, the cat would return to drink the fermented juice.

Cactus CatMargaret R. Tryon Wikimedia Commons

Demon Cat

The Demon Cat is said to be a ghost cat that haunts the government buildings of Washington, D.C.—specifically the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

Legend has it, the cat was brought into one of the buildings through an underground tunnel in the mid-1800s to get rats. But the cat never left—even after its demise.

Demon CatX737257, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Kamaitachi

Kamaitachi (Japanese) refers to both a strange creature and the events that it causes. This creature rides on dust devils and cuts people using their sickle-like front claws.

Basically, devilish whirlwinds suddenly appeared delivering sharp, painless cuts and leaving footprints on people’s backs.

KamaitachiUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Raijū

A Raijū (Japanese) is a legendary creature associated with thunder and lightning. It’s body is composed of lightning and takes the form of a white-blue wolf (or sometimes other animals). It flies as a ball of lightening and its cry sounds like thunder.

The creature is calm and harmless, but gets agitated during storms.

Night time portrait of a wolf bluealan payne, Shutterstock

Namazu

Namazu (Japanese) is a giant underground catfish who causes earthquakes. He lives under the islands of Japan waiting for the Kashima-god to let his guard down, and then thrashes about, causing earthquakes.

NamazuUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

Bunyip

The Bunyip (Australia) is a creature said to lurk in bodies of water. It has never been seen on land. It has been described as amphibious and in its most usual form it resembles an enormous starfish with a long neck, and round head like a bull-dog.

It is said to be evil and creates terror among humans.

BunyipMattinbgn, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

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