A Polish Nightmare: 8 Horrific Creatures from Poland

We’ve all heard of vampires and werewolves. BORING! Few people realize that Polish and Slavic mythology has its own collection of horrific creatures straight out of your worst nightmares. If you dare, keep reading to discover why you should probably avoid walking deep in the Polish woods alone.

Rusałka

scary-rusalka

You’re taking a peaceful autumn stroll in the woods. As you approach a calm little creek, you observe a beautiful woman playing with her hair. Turn around. NOW! It could be a Rusałka, the ghost of an unmarried girl who drowned. Rusałki have long light-brown, red, or green hair and often wear white dresses with flowers on them. Although extremely pale, they are very beautiful and completely irresistable to men. If a man happens across one, she will seduce and try to drown him. Learn more about the Rusałka

Południca

When it comes to Polish monsters, you’re not even safe during the day. Meet the Południca, also known as the Noon Witch. She appears amidst whirling dust clouds during the hottest part of the day, carrying a scythe. Oftentimes, she will ask people very difficult questions or quiz them. It’s a high stakes game because if they answer incorrectly, the Południca gives them a haircut down to the neck. In centuries past, peasants used to blame the Południca for heatstroke.

leshyLeshy

Although not the meanest monster on this list, you would still be well advised not to cross paths with a Leshy. It’s a giant woodland spirit who can shapeshift into anything. Oftentimes, Leshy leave people alone, although they are known to lead travelers astray and sometimes abduct children. Some people believe they are evil, while others just think they are moody. I wouldn’t take the chance to find out.

Strzyga

If you are ever stuck wandering the woods at night, be wary of this vampire-like creature that can transform into an owl to appear unnoticed. When one does meet a Strzyga in its true form, it may be too late, as the undead being sucks the blood of humans and sometimes even devours their insides. Strzyga are born human, but die prematurely and return to haunt the living. Polish peasants once believed that if a child was born with teeth, it would become a Strzyga.

baba-yagaBaba Yaga

Common throughout Poland and other Slavic countries is the tale of Baba Yaga, an old witch who lives in the forest, waiting for someone to get lost and stumble upon her hut, which sits on chicken legs and is surrounded by a fence composed of human bones. The keyhole on her door is filled with sharp teeth. When she catches you, she will kill and eat you, adding your bones to her fence. Her favorite meal? Small children.

Wila

Wila are nymphs who inhabit the winds. They are the spirits of women who acted loosely or frivolously during their lifetimes. Now they are forced to haunt the night, leading young men astray with their seductive charm. If the wind is heavy, it means the Wila are dancing; if it’s loud, they are singing. So watch out, because those thin wispy clouds under the full moon on a chilly autumn night may actually be the vague outlines of the Wila.

kikimoraNocnica

Beware of the Nocnica, or night hag, who is probably the most frightening monster on this list. Composed of shadow, the Nocnica is an evil spirit who visits people during sleep to draw their life force. Those who sleep on their back are especially vulnerable, as she will sit on their chest while slowly sucking their life out over the course of many nights. Her favorite victims are defenseless infants. In fact, she is to blame for babies having trouble sleeping at night. Their cries are due to the night hag tormenting them….

Czernobog

Czernobog is the king of all Polish and Slavic monsters. His name literally translates to “black god,” and in Slavic mythology, he was the accursed brother of Bielobog, the “white god.” The source of all evil in the world, Czernobog regularly enjoys stealing and devouring souls. He is also responsible for the most creepy Disney cartoon ever made called “Night on Bald Mountain.” Don’t be too afraid, though, as he hides like a wimp from the sunlight.

Haunted Poland: The White Lady of Wiśnicz Castle

In southern Poland, nestled between miles and miles of remote Polish villages, is a petite fairy-tale town called Nowy Wiśnicz. As you drive through this pleasant little community and turn your head to the left, you’ll see a beautiful baroque-style palace perched high atop a hill, surrounded by acres of trees.

Polish castle

This is Wiśnicz Castle. Gazing upon it, you experience a romantic break from reality, a feeling that the modern world doesn’t exist and that any second you might be witness to a knight riding down the rode or a peasant working in the field.

The castle has a long and interesting past filled with numerous legends and tales. It would be an injustice to cover them all in one blog post. Instead, today I am focusing on perhaps the most mysterious one—the White Lady of Castle Wiśnicz.

In the 16th century, the castle was home to a powerful Polish noble family who often entertained important guests and visitors—among them was the powerful Polish Queen, Bona Sforza. Everyone feared Queen Bona. In European history, she is known as one of the most calculating and conniving female monarchs, one who would stop at nothing to get her way.

Bona was also something of a daredevil. One of Castle Wiśnicz’s towers is encircled by a very narrow, unfenced terrace where guards would stand on watch duty. It was believed that the reason for making the terrace so narrow was to discourage the guards from falling asleep on the job  because they would fear falling off the tower. Bona, herself, was unafraid, as she would supposedly ride around this narrow terrace on horseback.

Wiśnicz Castle
Wiśnicz Castle in olden times. Many fell to their deaths trying to ride around this narrow tower.

When someone upset her at the castle or didn’t follow orders, Bona would inflict a cruel punishment on them. She would bring the person to be punished atop the narrow tower and force him to watch her ride around it three times. She would then command the victim to do the same. However, a different horse would be brought in, one that had been fed alcohol. The victim would get on the drunken horse and attempt to ride around the tower. No one ever succeeded. They all fell from the tower to their deaths, much to Bona’s satisfaction.

Supposedly, Bona’s most evil deed was inflicted on her daughter-in-law.  The Queen’s son, Sigismund II Augustus, had fallen in love with the beautiful Barbara Radziwiłł and married her. They were to be king and queen. This aroused the anger of many important people in Poland, including Bona, who opposed the marriage because it was politically incorrect at the time. The young couple had married for love, without regard for the marriage’s political consequences.

Supposedly, Bona took matters into her own hands to stop the marriage—permanently. She had the beautiful Barbara unknowingly drink poisoned wine at Wiśnicz Castle. The young queen died in agony. The worst part of it, no one ever proved or disproved that the girl had been poisoned.

Barbara Radziwiłł
The “White Lady,” Barbara Radziwiłł, is said to haunt the halls of Wiśnicz Castle.

From that time, people have claimed to see a beautiful woman, completely white, walking through the castle and on the grounds. It’s said that this woman is the young Queen Barbara, haunting the castle out of sadness that her marriage was so tragically cut short.

As for Bona, it’s said she could not escape punishment in the afterlife for all her crimes. In the dead of night, especially when there’s a storm, people claim to see a woman in white riding around the castle’s tower. It’s believed this phantom is Bona’s spirit, forced to ride around the tower for her sins, just as she did in life.

When I was a young child  visiting Wiśnicz Castle, I would always be afraid of staying there past dusk. One time, it was getting dark, and I was walking through the forest path away from the castle. I was feeling relieved at no longer being on the castle grounds when I thought I heard a strange sound mysteriously echoing from behind me. The sound could have been anything, or nothing. After all, it’s a surreal, dreamlike experience being in a forest near a medieval castle at dusk. Still, I’m pretty sure it sounded a lot like….horse hooves.