Good morning, friends and fellow-creep addicts. Did you sleep well? Perhaps not if you’ve been reading this pre-Halloween series on folklore monsters from around the globe.
Today’s post is in honour of one of my very best friends, who is Korean-Canadian and loves spooky stories! Come with me as we explore the supernatural side of Korea…
Dragons are not the scariest of creatures, at least in Korean culture. In fact, Korean dragons are pretty sweet-natured. They are water guardians and are associated with agriculture. Korean dragons can be found living in lakes, rivers, and deep mountain springs, and they are benevolent creatures who don’t mind helping out human kind. Some of them are pictured with an orb called an Yeouiju, which makes the dragon all-knowing and all-seeing. If you can find one of these dragons, they are sure to be an invaluable ally on whatever quest you’ve embarked upon. Korean dragons are thought to be able to affect weather, and would make a formidable enemy if provoked.
The Dokkaebi are Korean trolls or goblins. They are said to have been created from an inanimate object stained by human blood. Dokkaebi are crafty trouble-makers. These tricksters love a practical joke and playing games. They especially like to challenge people to wrestling matches!
Besides being fearsome grappling opponents, Dokkaebi have a couple other tricks up their sleeves. They have hats that can make them invisible, and they have a club which can summon any object, which likely comes in handy if the wrestling match doesn’t go their way.
The most ancient references to Dokkaebi in Korean literature demonstrate that they were once worshipped as almost god-like creatures. Sometimes their tricks were blamed for bad crops, plagues, and famines. But for all their jokes and playful natures, though, what the Dokkaebi wants most in the world is to live with humans.
These crafty characters have had a surge in popularity recently. I’ve seen them popping up in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, and even little cartoon creatures in my kids’ “How to Draw Cute Things” tutorial books.
But there is nothing cute about the Gumiho–the Nine-Tailed Fox. The Gumiho are said to be transformed from a fox that has lived 1000 years. After achieving this notable feat, the creature is given the ability to shape-shift. Most often, they choose to present themselves as beautiful women, although the Gumiho itself is usually represented as having a male spirit.
We all know what happens when supernatural creatures wear the glamour of a beautiful woman, though. That’s right. You’re about to get eaten.
Gumiho are said to eat the livers and hearts of the people they seduce. And if you’re not into ladies, don’t feel too secure, because the Gumiho can transform itself into men, too. Or whatever it is that is going to get you within chomping distance.
When they can’t feed on living people, the Gumiho can sometimes be found digging up freshly buried people to eat their hearts and prolong their lives.
The Cheuksin are literally Outhouse Goddesses. I see you smirking there. But there is nothing funny about having to creep out to the outhouse in the middle of the night and know that this creature could be waiting for you inside.
The Cheuksin hides in outhouses, grooming her long black hair and plotting against the world of the living. If you cough three times and wait before entering the toilet, you give her time to scuttle away, and you can safely do your business.
However, if you forget and just barge in on her, the Cheuksin is going to be mad. She waits for you to sit down, and then pounces on you from the shadows above. Her long tresses coil around you, strangling like thousands of snakes. Even if you escape at this point, you will suffer incurable maladies for the rest of your presumably shortened life.
This myth has evolved with the times and, although outhouses are not so common any more, Koreans still have to live with hoajangshil gwisins, or “toilet ghosts.” And I don’t mean Moaning Myrtle. Now you know why girls like to travel to the toilet in packs!
Ghosts. Ghosts are everywhere in Korean folklore, horror movies, and urban legends. The Cheuksin is a special type of ghost, and I gave her her own post because I know and respect the fear of midnight outhouse trips. But there are a few more ghosts that we need to mention.
Cheonyeo Gwisin is the “Virgin Ghost,” or a “Maiden Ghost.” Cheonyeo are usually depicted wearing long, white funerary clothes, and have long black hair falling over their faces. These lonely spirits just wanted to find true love, but died before their time. They’re kind of bitter about it, so watch out.
Mul Gwishin is the “Water Ghost.” These creatures are the souls of people who have drowned. These sad creatures often don’t realize they are dead and are looking for companions in the water. They sometimes help others who are drowning. Or, sometimes, they want to pull you under. Usually, these ghosts are invisible. But in the event of offering a helpful or harmful hand, they may appear as long thin arms reaching up from the depths.
Dalgyal Gwishin is the “Egg Ghost.” They are the spirits of childless men and women who, having left no decedents, have no one left to remember them. As the living forget, they are stripped of their features, and become more a and more unhappy. They aren’t evil as such, but seeing a Dalgyal Gwishin means certain death for you, and extended torture in the afterlife for the ghost. If you do come across an egg ghost, I hope for your sake, that you’ve left a child or two behind.
What do you think? I found it interesting in researching this article that it is actually quite difficult to find malevolent Korean creatures. They go all in on the ghosts, and most other supernatural beings are benevolent or neutral, and can be appeased with offerings and prayer. Which is your favourite? Where would you like me to visit next? Tell me in the comments!