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7 Spooky ghost legends from around the world

The cooler mornings, longer shadows, and jack-o’-lantern displays around town may get us thinking of the frights of Halloween, but the creepiest stories endure regardless of the season, and across the borders of countries that don't celebrate our spooktacular holiday specifically. Here are seven such ghost legends from around the world that are sure to get your blood tingling any time of year.

The vanishing hitchhiker

An urban legend with countless variations throughout the United States and beyond, the tale of the vanishing hitchhiker typically features a young woman, often in an evening gown, and the accommodating driver who finds her on the side of the road. The soft-spoken woman gives her address and settles in the back seat, but when they get to their destination, poof! She's gone. At her destination, the baffled driver then attempts to explain what happened to the homeowners, only to learn that the passenger of his description died in a car accident years before.

The Beijing ghost bus

This modern ghost story from China tells of a bus, on its last scheduled run of the evening, stopping to pick up three unusual characters dressed in robes from the Qing dynasty. When the bus is mostly empty, an elderly woman suddenly accuses a young man — the only other passenger left — of stealing her wallet, and orders him off so they can deal with the matter at a police station. On the sidewalk, the woman explains that she had to get both of them off the bus as quickly as possible after realizing the three strange passengers had no legs. The bus fails to complete its route that night, and is later found in a reservoir with mysterious rotting bodies inside.

La Llorona

n Mexico and other Latin American countries, the boogeyman takes the form of La Llorona — the Weeping Woman. According to legend, La Llorona was once a beautiful lady who drowned her young children in a fit of rage, although the reasons vary. Coming to her senses, the desolate woman plunged to her own death into the waters, and was cursed to spend eternity wailing and weeping as she searched for her children. La Llorona is known to snatch youngsters who stray too far from their parents, or simply to drive those who hear her anguished cries to madness.

Kuchisake Onna

Japan's answer to La Llorona is Kuchisake Onna, a seemingly beautiful woman who shields her mouth with a surgical mask or a fan. Approaching a lone traveler at night, she'll ask, "Am I pretty?" If the answer is yes, then she'll lower the mask to reveal a bleeding mouth slashed from ear to ear, and ask again. If the answer that time is no, or (more likely) a scream, then she'll cut the respondent's mouth open to look like hers. If the answer is still yes, she may follow the person home and brutally slaughter him anyway. It's generally a no-win situation, although intended victims can supposedly get away by confusing Kuchisake Onna with quick answers, or by throwing money or hard candy at her.

The Night of Marchers

Although Hawaii is largely free of vengeful female spirits who lurk in the shadows after sundown, its residents have learned to be on the lookout for Huaka'ipo — the Night Marchers. These figures are said to be the ghosts of warriors tasked with protecting tribal chiefs so sacred that any commoner who gazed on them would immediately be put to death. Mainly seen near old sacrificial temples and other hallowed grounds, the Night Marchers supposedly wield torches and beat drums, which means you can literally spot them coming from a mile away. However, those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the path of these oncoming warriors are instructed to shed their clothing and lie face down if they hope to keep their lives.

The ghosts of Drury Lane

While haunted theaters are a fairly regular occurrence in England, London's ancient Drury Lane Theatre is often regarded as the spookiest of them all. Among the ghouls that haunt this venue are the Man in Grey, who may be the spirit of an unknown individual found with a dagger through his chest in a walled-off room, and the ghost of clown Joseph Grimaldi, known to give unsuspecting performers a kick before they head on stage. Even this generation's most acclaimed actors aren't immune to getting the creeps amid Drury Lane's eerie corridors, with Patrick Stewart and Judi Dench among those who claimed to have spotted the ghost of 19th-century actor John Baldwin Buckstone.

The Witte Wieven

With a name translating to either "white women" or "wise women," the Witte Wieven of the Netherlands are apparitions that shapeshift from mist to old women in white veils as they drift along swamps and burial grounds. Known for hoarding valuables, these spirits can be generous and playful, or downright malicious as they attempt to draw you into a world beyond the living. One noted tale of the Witte Wieven involves a drunk farmer who laughs off warnings to avoid them as he stumbles out of a bar. Encountering the ghostly ladies in the forest, the farmer encourages one to dance with him, only to be drawn tighter and tighter in her grasp. The following morning, the farmer is found dead from exhaustion after dancing all night.

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