Real fairies, as in the creatures of European folklore, can be scary. Anybody who's ever read the original version of a fairy tale knows that more modern interpretations (*cough* Disney *cough*) have toned them down a lot. Many of these stories were meant to scare people.
In honor of the last Friday before Halloween (a premature celebration, if you will) I'm bringing that back this week! Here's three of my favorite nightmare fuel fairies from English, Scottish, and Irish folklore!
I'm sure most people these days would look in this spectral black dog's red eyes and think he was a good boy. This is another shape shifter from Northern England who can become anything from an old lady to a white cat. It's most famous for being a black dog with red eyes. Seeing one is a sure omen that death is coming.
If it sleeps on a doorstep, someone in that house won't survive the day. Stay out of its way when its leading a funeral processional of barking doggos honoring an important figure or you'll get a bad scratch that'll never stop bleeding. Some of them prey on lone travelers who get lost in the city streets. Bad idea to be a tourist in that alley. God forbid you try to summon one for your own magical purposes because these hounds aren't helpful.
These are Scottish shape shifting spirits that hang around bodies of water and wait for any innocent traveler or ignorant kid to wander by. They take the shape of something pleasant: a pretty horse, just chilling out. It looks so friendly, so soft, and who wouldn't want to pet the nice pony? Maybe it even gets to its knees so you can get on its back and ride it! How exciting!
Next thing this hapless victim knows, the harmless horsie dives headfirst into the water! The rider can't get off. They're glued on with magic. And that nice little pond or lake it was hanging by? It's a lot deeper than it looks. That traveler or kid, if they don't drown first, can only get off when the Kelpie swims to the bottom. Then it's too late. The last thing they see is the horse getting sharp teeth and going to take a big bite of their chest...
When snack time is over, all that's left are the entrails the Kelpie leaves floating in the water.
In the U.S., there's a folktale turned short story called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. It features a headless spirit who rides around on a horse every Halloween. This Irish harbinger of death makes that guy look lame. Most of the time this spirit is a guy (though it can also be a lady). He sits atop a black horse. Under one arm he carries his rotting head, with a terrifying grin splitting his face from ear to ear. In the other hand he wields a whip made out of a human spine. Some versions feature him riding a wagon made of thigh bones and dried skin.
People breath a sigh of relief if he keeps moving. If he stops, somebody won't live out the night. The real trouble is when he knows your name. Whoever he calls for drops dead on the spot.
See? Lucky Charms would sell a lot different if it had a carnivorous horse and a headless zombie rider on its box instead of that smiley, wannabe leprechaun and that new pastel unicorn.
What do you think of these legendary scares? Comment any other cool ones you know!
Brie Tart writes fantasies in which she draws the mythical from the mundane. She spends the rest of her time dabbling in languages and prepping for her next adventure.