Folklore, fairy tales and superstition mixed with a spark creativity has given rise to some of the strangest, funniest and scariest legends on this side of the planet. With the mixing pot of religions, beliefs and cultures that is India, one always finds the most fascinating stories in the strangest places, usually over a cup of chai. The back story to a haunted house and the mystery of the wailing woman, they're all part of legends heard in India.
1. Monkey Man - The original Delhi dynamo
In 2001, the most famous Urban Legend in Delhi was ripe for the picking. Monkey man - the iron fisted and red eyed creature of the night held nationwide attention, attacking and scratching his victims and striking terror in our citizens. According to reports, some poor fellows even fell off the roof after seeing the Mega monkey and getting heart palpitations. Mass hysteria for the win!
2. Ganesh idol drinking milk
TVs and newspapers were chalk full of reports about a Ganesha Idol drinking milk of it's own accord in 1995. Capitalising on public wonder, the soon to be rubbished rumour gave believers a field day and rationalists a migraine.
3. Muhnochwa - The face scratcher
Muhnochwa literally means the creature who scratches its victim's face violently. It was during the early 2000s, Muhnochwa all of a sudden became the most talked about phenomenon among the town folk of Kanpur. Muhnochwa was rumored to attack it's prey in the dark of night, jumping on your face and scratching violently. The 'Face scratcher' reportedly killed seven and injured several others.
4. Jhalak Dikhla Ja's evil spirit
'Jhalak Dikhla Jaa', the superhit from a movie most can't remember was actually believed to be an invitation to evil spirits. A village near Anand in Gujarat took what can arguably be called the most progressive step in the country by banning the song, even giving examples of reported cases of people getting possessed after listening to the song. I suppose madness does breed madness.
5. Mechho Bhoot - The fish loving ghost
These mischievous ghosts are said to steal fish from villages. They live near ponds and lakes, causing harmless trouble and generally blurring the line between amusing and annoying.
6. Nale Ba Witch - The ghost that knocks
In some areas of Bangalore people believed there was a witch who would roam around visiting people's house and knocking on their doors. Opening the door basically guarantees certain death so you have to write 'nale ba' i.e 'come tomorrow' on the front door of your house. Seeing this gives you a day's respite from this wayward witch. Hence in some parts of Bangalore, April 1 is celebrated as Nale Ba day.
7. Bleeding eyes statue of Rosa Mystica in Kerala
The Mother Mary statue purpotedly cries tears of blood from her inanimate stone eyes. There was also the appearance of oil, honey and milk in 2006, as well as another picture of Mother Mary weeping blood in 2011. God works in mysterious ways it would seem.
8. Pretni - Witches whose feet point backwards
In India, especially in several villages, ghosts and witches look just like normal humans, with the only distinguishing feature being their feet: they point backwards. As twisted (pun intended) as that sounds, maybe the legend just started from back in the days when leprosy was widespread and reversed feet were just another strange sighting.
9. Aleya - The smoky misleader
Known by different names around the world, the common feature of this night dweller is their capacity to cause confusion. Usually described as a smoky apparition that leads people off the safe path, in India they are said to divert fishermen, leading them to drown. Known as will-o'-the-wisp in English.
10. Nishi - The ghost who calls thrice
One of the sneakiest ghosts, this creature sounds like something out of a horror movie. Using a loved one's voice to lure you out at night and kill you, the only way to avoid it is to not answer the voice until it calls out three times. Third time's the charm!
11. Mande Burung (Forest Man)- Bigfoot of Meghalaya
What better place for Bigfoot to hide out in than the distant Garo Hills in Meghalaya. Mande Burung is a creature distinctly described as a giant ape that never actually attacks humans but sightings have been reported from at least 16 sources. This 9 foot mystery has been called the ape man of Garo Hills, similar to the Yeti of Nepal, Yowie of Australia, Sasquatch of Canada and Bigfoot of America. Coincidence?
12. Colonel Barog - Ghost of tunnel 33 Shimla
The British railway engineer who developed this tunnel in the Kalka-Shimla railway is said to haunt the very place he helped build. In 1898, Colonel Barog started boring into the Shimla hill from both sides, hoping they would meet in the middle. However, his calculations were wrong, he faced public humiliation and ended up shooting himself. His ghost apparently roams the tunnel to this day.
13. Shankhchunni - The ghost in the mango tree
There are several different versions of the ghost who lives in the mango tree. The most common belief is that it is the ghost of a married woman who wear shell bangles and haunts the wives of the rich and famous. That's one ghost that knows what it wants!
14. Maal - The Bong water dweller
This is a mermaid like creature said to dwell in the rivers and lakes of Bangladesh. It drags unsuspecting people into the water, drowning them. Eerily similar to the water nymphs of Greek Mythology, who's tune was so sweet it would make sailors fall in love and jump into the water. Strangely sexual? Check.
15. Penchapechi - The haunted owl, or HOWL
Bengali forest dwellers fear nothing more than the Penchapechi, a ghost that takes the form of an owl. It flies around, hooting and stalking travellers until they're alone, then sucks on their blood. This owl thinks it's a vampire bat!
There's thousands of other legends and myths about the unusual and the unreal. India, a country doused in mysticism and culture, is a breeding ground for ghosts, poltergeists and all kinds of other creatures. Some of them might even still be active and real, and even if they aren't, it always makes for a good story!