• Graveyard Shift

Creepy African Legends and Myths

List RulesVote up the scariest stories from African folklore.

Africa has a rich tradition of folklore. African myths are often passed down orally between families and communities, but writers have been diligently recording these stories for decades. One thing to remember is that the African continent is enormous; its landmass could contain the United States, China, Japan, the UK, and Eastern Europe with room to spare. And of course, with so many stories from such a large area, some of them were bound to be creepy.

There are classic African folktales, myths, and modern African urban legends on this list, all of them spine-tingling. Whether they're from Madagascar, Zaire, Zimbabwe, or South Africa, these stories will keep you up at night.

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  • 1

    The Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar Swallows Human Sacrifices

    According to legend, Polish biologist Dr. Omelius Fredlowski received a very strange letter in the early 1870s. It was from a German explorer named Carl Liche, who claimed to have seen something horrific in Madagascar.

    Liche claimed that he had been living with and researching a tribe called the Mkodos. Members of the tribe took him to a tree they called the "tepe," where they started a ritual. The tree was oddly shaped, with tentacle-like leaves sprouting from its trunk. Suddenly, a woman was pushed towards it. She climbed to the top of the tree, drank a liquid that was trickling out of its center, and the tentacles came to life. They surrounded her immediately. She was completely ensnared, her body hidden from view by the leaves that gripped her. All Liche could hear was her screams.

    He wrote,

    The retracted leaves of the great tree kept their upright position during ten days, then when I came one morning they were prone again, the tendrils stretched, the palpi floating, and nothing but a white skull at the foot of the tree to remind me of the sacrifice that had taken place there.

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  • 2

    The River God Nyaminyami Terrorizes Dam Builders

    In the 1950s, construction started on a dam on the Zambezi River in Kariba, Zimbabwe. The project was fraught with accidents and deaths. According to one legend, a river god called Nyaminyami is to blame.

    The Tonga people, who lived along the river before the dam was built, believe that Nyaminyami has the head of a fish and the body of a snake. An historic flood caused yet another accident at the dam construction site and some of the workers went missing. The Tonga people asserted that Nyaminyami was to blame; he was unhappy about the dam being built. The only way to please him, they said, was to offer a sacrifice.

    A cow was killed and set adrift on the river. The next day, the cow was nowhere to be found, but the bodies of the missing workers had appeared on the banks of the river.

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  • 3

    The Castle of Good Hope Conceals a Haunted Torture Dungeon

    The Castle of Good Hope was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1679 as a place for their ships to dock and replenish their supplies on long journeys. The giant star fort became a thriving center in Cape Town and housed a church and shops, among other things. At one point, it was partially converted into a prison. It's now a historical monument, and apparently, it's super haunted. Visitors have seen a lady in gray and a ghostly figure with no legs, and heard footsteps, voices, and screams. But by far the creepiest part of this place is the Donker Gat torture dungeon. Yep, an honest-to-god torture dungeon.

    Guards at the castle purportedly refuse to patrol the area near the dungeon after nightfall. If they get too close, they feel like they're being sucked into a vacuum. They have also described an overall creepy, evil feeling in the room, so yeah - don't go in the torture dungeon, folks. 

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  • 4

    The Shape-shifting Popobawa Assaults Its Victims at Night

    The Popobawa hails from Zanzibar. The name means "bat wing," though this nocturnal demon can take on many different shapes and forms. The legend goes that this giant winged creature is let loose by witches to torment their enemies: at night, the popobawa turns into a man and sexually assaults both men and women.

    During popobawa scares, people are advise to stay awake all night, often gathered around an open fire, to keep watch.

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