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Global Education

Spooky Tales and Legends from around the World

In the spirit of Halloween, we wanted to share popular ghost stories and tales of horror originating from our Ambassador Teachers’ home countries. These spectral narratives have haunted the collective imagination of cultures across the globe, weaving their way into the tapestry of human history. From the whispering winds of ancient castles to the shadowy corners of modern urban landscapes, ghost stories have transcended time and borders, fascinating and terrifying generations of storytellers and listeners alike.

Educators understand the power of stories. They are more than just words on a page; they are windows into different worlds, perspectives, and emotions. Ghost stories, in particular, offer a unique lens through which students can explore diverse cultures, historical contexts, and the universal human experiences of fear, mystery, and the unknown. 

In this blog post, we invite you on a spine-tingling journey across the continents, delving into the rich tapestry of ghostly folklore that has enraptured people from kindergarten classrooms to university lecture halls. Read on for spooky tales, as well as resources for how your school can incorporate them into classroom learning this month!

La Llorona: The weeping woman

La Llorona, or the weeping woman, is a legendary figure deeply rooted in the folklore of Latin America. Her origins are as varied as the cultures that have embraced her story, but she is most familiar to Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S. and throughout Mexico.

The tales of La Llorona typically involve her ghostly spirit wailing or weeping as she wanders the earth, searching for her lost or dead children. In some versions, she is doomed in the afterlife for killing her own children while she was alive. When some people encounter her, she warns them away from bad behavior, or she kidnaps them and they are never seen again.

La Llorona looms large in the imaginations of Spanish-speaking children as these legends are passed down from one generation to the next. To delve into this story with their students, teachers can use the bilingual children’s book La Llorona and listen to a storytelling performance by the author.

El Chupacabra: The goat sucker

El Chupacabra, translating to “goat sucker,” is a mythical creature that has haunted the imaginations of people across Latin America and beyond. The story of El Chupacabra emerged in the late 20th century, with reports of mysterious livestock deaths and drained animal corpses, primarily goats, circulating in Puerto Rico and later in other parts of Latin America and the U.S. 

Descriptions of El Chupacabra vary, but common elements include a creature resembling a reptilian humanoid with sharp fangs and claws. It was believed to attack animals, particularly goats and chickens, sucking their blood and leaving carcasses behind. While skeptics often attribute these incidents to predators or natural causes, the myth of El Chupacabra has persisted, becoming a significant part of contemporary Latin American folklore and popular culture. Teachers can learn more about this scary creature with their upper elementary or middle grades students by checking out the book What Do We Know about the Chupacabra?

Jiang Shi: Hopping vampires

Jiang Shi, also known as “hopping vampire” or “stiff corpse,” is a fascinating and eerie legend rooted in Chinese folklore. Originating in ancient China, the concept of Jiang Shi can be traced back to traditional Chinese beliefs about the afterlife. According to legend, a person who dies under unusual circumstances or without proper rituals may return to life as a reanimated corpse, hopping with outstretched arms in search of life force, usually in the form of qi (vital energy) from the living.

This chilling legend has inspired numerous movies, books, and other forms of media both within China and internationally, solidifying its place in global folklore. Share this article with your school for examples of Jiang Shi in popular culture over the past few decades.

Kapre: Tree-dwelling giants

Described as a tall, dark, and hairy tree-dwelling giant, the Kapre is deeply embedded in the cultural heritage of the Philippines. Its origins can be traced back to pre-colonial times, when indigenous beliefs merged with elements of Spanish and Islamic folklore. Often depicted as a chain-smoker, the Kapre is said to reside in large trees, particularly balete trees, and is known for both its trickster nature and its ability to befuddle and confuse travelers. 

Stories about the Kapre have been passed down through generations, weaving an intriguing narrative that has become an integral part of the country’s supernatural lore. Filipino-Canadian author J. Torres incorporates this kind of folklore in his book Lola: A Ghost Story, a story that was passed down to him by his grandmother and other family members. Check out this book with your school to explore Filipino culture and legends.

These spooky tales and folklore are a fun way to explore different cultures, learning about the history and values that make up unique communities across the globe. Share some of your own stories to help teachers and students make even more connections to different parts of the world.

For more timely classroom resources, see our blog post about ways people honor the deceased around the world. 

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