What scares you? The answer to this question may depend on where you live and the culture in which you grew up!
Factors like cultural norms, superstitions, local folklore, and even religious beliefs all shape what fear means to us. In honor of this stateside spooky season, we’re offering up seven scary stories from different cultures around the world. We dare you to flip through one of the following tales.
1. Let the Right One In — Låt den rätte komma in
Twelve-year-old Oskar, mercilessly bullied by his peers, lives with his mother in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. When a strange girl named Eli moves in next door, the two begin a friendship that eventually reveals her macabre and dangerous secrets. While Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s famous novel is a classic supernatural horror tale, it also focuses on the very real, darker side of humanity.
2. Lazarus — Елеазар
Written by famous Russian playwright, novelist, and short-story writer Leonid Andreyev, Lazarus is the writer’s chilling take on the titular character’s biblical tale. After his famed death and resurrection, Lazarus returns home to his friends and family, scarred forever by his experience and bringing with him haunting consequences. Avoid the same fate as the characters in Andreyev's story by keeping bad luck at bay with our Superstitions (Russian) course.
3. Grimm’s Fairy Tales — Kinder- und Hausmärchen
This collection of fairy tales and folklore from various cultures was gathered by German brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm in order to preserve the tradition of German oral storytelling. While some of these stories may sound familiar, reader beware — many have dark twists and adult themes missing from their modernized and Disney-fied versions.
4. The Black Spider — Die schwarze Spinne
The Black Spider is a centuries-old allegorical tale about a small town that makes a deal with the Devil. Written by Swiss pastor and author Jeremias Gotthelf, the German-language novella warns its readers against pacts with ‘the Evil One’ through creepy spider metaphors and obvious, yet horrifying, symbolism.
5. Frankenstein in Baghdad — فرانكشتاين في بغداد
Ahmed Saadawi’s prize-winning Arabic novel is both humorous and dark, a powerful allegory about the never-ending cycle of violence and revenge. This reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein takes place in war-torn, U.S.-occupied Iraq, where a scavenger named Hadi collects human remains, stitching them together in hopes that the newly created corpse will force the government to recognize the human cost of war. But, after a terror attack at a nearby hotel, his creation goes missing... and strange murders start occurring throughout the city.
6. Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo — あやし
Author Miyuki Miyabe’s nine short stories all take place in a working-class neighborhood of Tokyo during the late Edo period in Japan. Each haunting tale is both historically and culturally illuminating, telling of various Japanese oni [demons] that exist, as real as anything, alongside the living. The translator even decided to preserve certain original Japanese words and names within the text, making this book the perfect creepy companion for learners studying our Japanese language course.
7. Fever Dream — Distancia de rescate
Argentinian author Samanta Shweblin’s Spanish-language, eco-horror tale pieces together the story of a woman who lies dying in a rural hospital in Argentina, her only companion the boy who sits beside her. Centered solely on the conversation between the two, this unique story unfolds like the title, a fever dream, psychologically unsettling and confusing — a nightmare that lingers long after the story ends.
Culture influences which scary stories keep us awake at night. Get insight into what’s spooky in other cultures and why with the help of Mango’s ‘Culture Notes’ feature, accessible throughout each one of our 70+ linguist-crafted language courses to put your learning in its real-world context. Click the button below to get started.
Have a favorite scary story on your bookshelves? Or how about a spooky tale from your country? We want to hear about it — tell us in the comments!