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.

Twardowski: The Pole Who Sold His Soul

One of Poland’s creepiest tales, and perfect for the Halloween season, is the legend of Pan (Mr.) Twardowski.

Known as the Polish Faust, Pan Twardowski is an old Polish legend about a man who sells his soul to the devil to obtain all the riches and pleasures of the world. Only at the end does he realize that these earthly goods are not worth losing his soul over and barely escapes eternal damnation by praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The legend  dates to 16th century Poland where it is believed that a man named Jan Twardowski actually existed and dabbled in the dark arts. One of the most famous stories is that King Sigismund August II hired him to summon the spirit of the dead queen, Barbara Radziwill. Supposedly, Twardowski used an enchanted mirror to bring the spirit into the room for the king. Barabara’s spirit quickly disappeared, however, and the devil’s face appeared in the mirror. Since then, the mirror has been cursed.

Twardowski's mirror in Węgrów. Legend says if you look into it, you will see your future.
Twardowski’s mirror in Węgrów. Legend says if you look into it, you will see your future.

If you look into the mirror, you’re supposed to see the future. In 1812, when Napoleon was leading his army across Poland into Russia, he stopped in a small town called Węgrów where Twardowski’s mirror had turned up. According to legend, Napoleon looked into the mirror and foresaw his defeat in Russia, which did come to pass. For decades, tourists have been visiting Węgrów to look into this magic mirror, which is on display at the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Peter and Paul. Many claim to see odd images or their futures reflecting back at them.

Another legend is that Twardowski wrote a manuscript inspired by his black magic. Kept at the University of Kraków, the “Twardowski Book” contains a black spot which is said to be the hand print of the devil himself (although experts say it’s an ink spot).

In all the legends, Twardowski tries to trick the devil by including a contractual clause that he will only give up his soul in Rome.  Twardowski, who never plans on visiting Rome, believes he is safe until the devil tricks him back, luring him into a tavern called “Rome.” As Twardowski is dragged into hell, he begs Mary for help. Although Mary saves Twardowski from the devil, he is left suspended in a type of limbo on the moon, where he supposedly remains to this day for his sins.

Polish Faust
Twardowski summoning Barbara’s spirit for the Polish king.

It’s a very interesting story that has taken numerous forms throughout the years. In one version, Twardowski rides in the sky on a rooster and throws gold coins to the poor people below because he wants to help the world. In another story, Twardowski tells the devil that he will go to hell, but only if the devil spends a year with Twardowski’s wife. The devil doesn’t last long.

Whether the legend is true or not, it conveys a great message. Ultimately, it’s a story about avoiding greed and empty material desires lest you figuratively “lose” your soul and a piece of your humanity. Any kind of extreme is bound to be a liability to our ultimate health and happiness.

Watch the 1936 version of the film on Youtube.  In addition to telling a great story, it’s a movie rich with Polish culture and history.

Polish Villagers Claim Nazi Zombies Running Wild

Nazi zombieWhat’s worse than regular zombies? Freaking Nazi zombies! And that’s exactly what some inhabitants claim are haunting their village of Glinka in western Poland.

First the undisputed facts. In September, archaeologists dug up 27 German Nazi corpses buried near what used to be an old house that was torn down years ago. The Nazi soldiers died in that house in 1945 when the Russians took over the village. They were shot in the head.  After the war, the villagers buried the bodies right outside the house.

For decades, the villagers claimed that the house was haunted and avoided it at all costs. Eventually, people moved in but quickly left due to strange occurrences. Afterward, the house was burned, likely as an effort by the villagers to destroy the curse they believed possessed it.

According to some villagers, however, burning the house didn’t work, as the undead Nazis have been strolling around not just the house, but the entire village, since 1945! Supposedly  the sound of marching footsteps can be heard outside at night. What’s more, even in death, these Nazi zombies have retained their allegiance to Der Fuhrer, as shouts of “Sieg Heil” can be heard echoing across Glinka in the darkness, according to one 45-year-old resident.

One 67-year-old resident says he “had the feeling” that Nazi zombies were chasing him one day. They were allegedly in uniform and had decaying faces.  I don’t know how you have a “feeling” about something like that. Hmm, someone’s walking behind me in the dark. Must be those darn Nazi zombies! No other explanation.

In any event, some claim that the Nazi zombies have become even more active since the archaeologists dug up the 27 remains. To be fair, archaeologists believe that more corpses are buried in the area. That means these could be different zombies, and we are unfairly labeling them as Nazis, which is wrong.