Now where were we?
Oh right! To the most fun I’ve had making a countdown in a while. I love the myths, legends, folklore, and fairy tales of the British Isles. No matter what something is, it always has a haunted, eerie edge to it that I absolutely love. So herein are my favorite really scary creatures from the land where 80% of my ancestry comes from either way you slice it.
10: Black Annis- The Classic Boogeyman: England
Black Annis was the first “scary witch that eats children” that I was exposed to, and as such, she has a spot on this list. It’s not just for nostalgia though, she has some real horror chops. Armed with claws made of iron and clothed in the skins of the children and lambs that she has eaten, she was developed by parents to scare their children into behaving. Like all hags, Annis is hideous, but she is of particular note in that her skin is a sikening almost flourescent shade of blue. A classic scary old witch, the inspiration for many famous witches in popular culture, and a great way to start this list.
Why is she scary?: A horrifying old woman that enjoys killing naughty children and wearing their skins. What a scary way to start this list. Goes to show you that the Isles don’t hold back on the nightmare fuel.
9: Spring-Heeled Jack- The Vile Victorian: England
And here we have my favorite English cryptid. I say cryptid rather than mythological creature because for one thing, Jack appeared throughout the Victorian age which is rather recent to be considered mythology. Also, the accounts of him are so intense and varied that he can be considered as a cryptid along with Bigfoot and his ilk, the Jersey Devil, and the Goatman. So what is he? Well he’s a dashing, devilish gentleman who has the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound and blow bright blue fire out of his mouth, nothing out of the ordinary at all. He also earns a spot here because of his *ahem* interest in the ladies.
Why is he scary?: imagine a horned, firebreathing demon leaping down at you at high speed and tearing your clothes off. Pretty horrifying, no?
8: Lham Dearg- The Red Right Hand: Scotland
Oh I love this fairy. He is probably one of my favorite forms of “creepy” fairy that Scotland has to offer, (Although Ireland has the market cornered on fairy nightmare fuel). Lham Dearg is the military man of the fair folk. Sadly, he is overlooked in most popular culture, and I only heard of him after Shin Megami Tensei decided to make them a creature in their games. Impaled with several swords, ghostly, and with hands stained red with blood, (usually the right hand or sword hand) he challenges all who dare to cross their bridges to duels. Those that do not accept his offer are doomed to die within seven days.
Why is he scary?: You might say “But Beck, this guy is more COOL than scary”. Well, imagine being challenged to fight by an eternally bleeding human pincushion and then dying if you chicken out. Not so much fun anymore huh? I also have to note that I named one of my favorite stuffed animals, (a blood red empty-eyed teddy bear in a kilt) after this fellow.
7: Spriggan- Baby Stealing Tree Giants: Cornwall
Like many fairy creatures, unsurprisingly, the Spriggan is described as tremendously ugly and mischievous. These “ghost giants” are able to change their size and appear as stone covered in moss, twigs, and bark. They aren’t overly scary unless you bring into account their tendency to abduct human babies and replace them with their own deformed and monstrous children. Then they become the epitome of adult fear.
Why are they scary?: They take your baby away and replace it with one of their own. The thought of losing a child, sibling, neice/nephew, or cousin is horrifying, but the idea of having them replaced by an ugly and evil stone and earth monster while they are “spirited away”? Augh…
6:Redcap- Bloodthirsty Gnomes: Scotland
For something so small these things sure pack in a lot of nightmare fuel. Let me first start by saying that no, their hats aren’t naturally red. They become red because they dye them in the blood of their victims. You know how their hats stay red rather than turning brown as the blood ages? Well, they just have to keep killing more and more people in order for their hats to stay red. They are wicked little things wielding pikes and possessing sharp teeth and claws.
Why are they scary?: They will literally kill you for no other reason other than a dye job. If that isn’t horrifying, I guess I don’t know what is.
5: Wild Hunt- A Congregation of Doom: Wales
Sadly the only qualifying entry from Welsh folklore, (they REALLY like dragons and stuff) from the homeland of my father’s ancestors comes the spirits known as the Wild Hunt. These men, horses, and hellhounds travel across the sky at night in search of their mark. Like many forms of spirits in the British Isles, they are said to cause bad luck to those who view them as well as preceed some great catastrophe such as war or disease outbreak. Mortals, especially young women, caught in the fray would be sweeped up by one of many of the heroes participating in the hunt and carried off by him in order to join them. Although they might have considered this to be fun, the abductee certainly did not as they would disappear, never to be seen again.
Why are they scary?: Though mild compared to entries higher on the list, these men and beasts come with a hefty omen attached to them along with a habit of picking up groupies on their wild journeys across the sky.
4:Dullahan- Riders of Death: Ireland
Ah the Dullahan. They have become something of a pop cultural phenomenon, but the thing is, pop culture doesn’t really understand these tremendously ugly beings. That’s right, I said tremendously ugly. Their faces carried under their arms are said to be unnaturally large, grinning, and having the color and texture of molded cheese. These creatures serve a similar function to Banshees, calling out a person’s name and causing them to drop dead on the spot. However, they are somehow less scary than their wailing counterparts in that they are also the original “trolls” of Irish myth, I mean the “trololololol” sort of troll, of course. These riders enjoy dowsing those that have caught sight of them with a hefty bucketful of blood. You just got punk’d!
Why are they scary?: Horrifying headless ghosts with heads like moldy cheese. Yeah I’ll take nightmare fuel for 200, Alex. However, they lose points for being absolutely horrified of gold. The mere sight of something golden will cause them to panic, freak out, and gallop away as fast as their horses can carry them.
3:Nuckelavee- Galloping Straight out of your Nightmares: Scotland
Holy shit. I don’t even. What is this damnable thing?! It’s a lot scarier of a horseman than any Dullhan, that’s for sure. Let’s start simply, the Nuckelavee has no skin and its blood is a pitch black that can be seen pumping through the veins and arteries of both the rider and the steed. Its rider permanently fused to its back by layers of flesh and sinew, this steed drags itself out of the sea to spread chaos about the land. It’s breath was considered to be so foul that it could destroy crops and cause fatal illnesses. People were so afraid of this thing that they would immediately recite a prayer after mentioning its name.
Why is it scary?: Firstly, it has no skin…and it lives in salt water. *cringes* Secondly, it can kill you just by breathing on you. That’s pretty damned terrifying.
2: Banshees- Harbingers of Death: Ireland
These damned things are the cause of many childhood nightmares, partially due to the fault of my father allowing me to watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People at a young age. The banshee of that film still scares the crap out of me to this day. But enough about a film, we’re here to talk about how scary banshees are. Why exactly are they scary? Because they scream and wail, literally that’s all they do, endlessly, horrifyingly, until the person that they are screaming for eventually drops dead. Banshee origin stories can vary from being the ghosts of mortal women that died in childbirth to being horribly twisted fairies. Either way, these things are bad news.
Why are they scary?: They foretell the death of a person by screaming in such a horrible sound that it can cause some people to go mad by listening to it. They also usually look pretty damned scary too. However, they come shy of the number 1 spot because their queen, Cliodhna was a very lovely woman who indoctrinated the luck-giving Blarney Stone.
And the Number 1 Scariest Mythical Humanoid from the British Isles is…
1: Grendel- Render of Flesh and Bone: Anglo-Saxon Mythology
I couldn’t leave him off the list, now could I? That would just be wrong. And it would be wrong to have him at any spot BUT number 1. Grendel was so horrifying that only Beowulf did not fear him, and with GOOD reason. Grendel had an insatiable appetite for people and a horrendous attitude. But the absolute scariest thing about Grendel was that he is never fully described in the story. He could be a hideous monster. He could be a normal man. He could really be anything. That is why I used this picture of his representation in Shin Megami Tensei because I find this to be the most powerful image of the character. He is strong and powerful and marred with the scars of a thousand battles, but his face is not visible, which makes him unnerving as hell. This character has gained renewed popularity thanks to his, (amazing) appearance in The Wolf Among Us but I will always remember reading Beowulf for the first time and wondering who this monster was and why he scared the crap out of me as much as he did.
Why is he scary?: Grendel is the archetypical monster. He is huge, hungry for flesh and blood, and incredibly violent. He murdered an entire hall of people before Beowulf finally took him on in a fight. Even then, Beowulf had to wait for him to weaken from blood loss after tearing his arm off in order to kill him. A one-man murdering machine, Grendel puts the acts of those below him on this list to shame.