Spirits of the dead haunting the living is a tale as old as time. Every nation has its own frightening legends and stories, and the following 30 are among the most famous, or should we say infamous? From England to Mexico and the United States to Thailand, read on to discover the scariest ghouls and ghosts from around the globe. Some of them have been around for centuries, while others are newer ghosts on the block. Are you ready?
1. The Flying Dutchman, England
You may have heard about The Flying Dutchman, an infamous 17th-century ghost ship that reportedly haunts our planet’s many seas and oceans. Indeed, the spooky merchant vessel is most likely Earth’s preeminent non-human ghost. The legend arose in England, although the tale took place off the coast of South Africa. If you are traveling by ship across the seas between England and the Netherlands or beyond, you really don’t want to report seeing it.
The general tale around the ghost ship is that Dutch captain, van der Decken refused to go into harbor in South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope whilst a bad storm was brewing, ignoring protests from his crew and the passengers. Instead, the captain foolishly challenged God to do his worst. This He did, cursing the ship and damning it to never reach a port again. But worse still, the ship is said to now bring wretched luck or doom to other ships it comes across on its travels around the world's oceans. There have been numerous reported sightings down the centuries, including in 1881 by royalty: the British Prince of Wales, later King George V, claimed he saw her off the coast of Australia.
2. The Jersey Devil, United States
Americans with an interest in the supernatural will likely have come across the tale of The Jersey Devil. But if somehow you haven’t, then let us enlighten you now. As per the website Weird NJ, The Jersey Devil is one of the oldest and most enduring legends from the Garden State. It is a winged beast that is said to haunt the Pine Barrens and the people in the southern part of the state of New Jersey.
The Jersey Devil is said to have been born the 13th child of Mother Leeds, way back in 1735. But momma didn’t see how she could afford or care for this unwanted baby, so threw her hands up to the heavens and shouted “Let this one be a Devil!” Erm, big mistake: as legend has it, the human baby suddenly grew beastly, with horns, wings, and claws immediately forming. It then killed its bearer before going on to haunt New Jersey ever since. There have been reported sightings of The Jersey Devil for centuries — even as recently as 2015 — and the story continues to exert a hold over people today.
3. Kuchisake-onna, Japan
A Japanese legend that goes way back to the Edo period of Japan from the 17th to 19th centuries, Kuchisake-onna is a ghost to be feared. Depending on what you believe, the once-beautiful but later disfigured woman Kuchisake-onna was either mutilated on her face by a cruel partner or by a jealous woman who desired her beauty.
Since her death, legend has it that Kuchisake-onna has become a vengeful spirit, who suddenly appears hiding her mutilated features behind a fan or surgical mask, and asking whomever it comes across if she is beautiful. Any answer has pretty nasty consequences. Saying yes leading to her lowering her mask and asking again, and if yes is given again, Kuchisake-onna slices the face of the witness to match hers. Say no, though, and the frightening ghost will follow you home and kill you. The scary tale hit the headlines in 1979 when there were reported sightings of the vengeful spirit in Japan.
4. Lady in Red of FirstOntario Concert Hall, Canada
If you’ve ever been to the FirstOntario Concert Hall — sometimes referred to as Hamilton Place — you might have been told a story about a mysterious and frightful legend. Yes, a widely known tale about the FirstOntario Concert Hall is that it is haunted. But by whom, exactly? By a female ghost who cries red tears. Yes, really. The female spirit that has been sighted and reported by both terrified patrons and workers, is known as the Lady in Red.
In 2016 celebrity ghost hunters “Spooky Steph” Lechniak and Mitch Markowitz went to the FirstOntario Concert Hall in search of the legend, and their “Ghost Meter Pro” picked up an electromagnetic reading in the empty theater. Lechniak told Spec.com, “The Lady in Red appears with blood-red tears running down her cheeks. She's always crying and in a red dress. I think it's a 1980s-style dress she appears in.” So, this Canadian ghost story is a relatively new one, then.