It’s almost Halloween, which means we’re well into “terrify yourself with internet articles that aren’t scary until you suddenly remember them on your own in the dark” season. In honor of that special time of year, we’ve curated some images of trees that have no reason being as frightening as they are.
Now, we’ll be the first people to say that we love and respect nature! But nature has no business creating trees that look like you’ve stumbled into a Guillermo Del Toro universe. Especially around Halloween where, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting darker and the nights are getting colder.
So, yes, these trees are just trees. But, because of their otherworldliness, we’ve paired them with the cryptids, monsters and just general scary stuff from around the world that they most resemble. And who knows? Perhaps the next time you step outside on a dark evening, you’ll be able to find a cryptid tree of your own!
1. The Dover Demon: A Massachusetts native, the Dover Demon is described as having “glowing orange eyes,” “tendril-shaped fingers, and a “watermelon-shaped head.” Honestly, I think the real demon is whoever decided to put those eyes up.
2. The Jersey Devil: Hailing from New Jersey, the Jersey Devil is a dragon-like creature with two legs and a goat-like head. According to folklore, the Devil was born as the thirteenth child of a woman named Mother Leeds, and it turned out to be a demon that started screaming, attacked the midwife and wreaked havoc on the house. Or, as parents might call it, a baby.
3. Lorelai: A German tale about a beautiful woman who died for love, the Lorelai bears some similarities to mermaids. Legend’s divided about whether or not she lures people into the water to drown, but from this incredibly creepy tree, you might imagine she does.
4. The Tsuchinoko: This enormous fat snake, hailing from Western Japan, constantly tells lies, has a taste for alcohol, and likes to do things like jumping inadvisable distances and swallowing its own tail so it can roll like a hula-hoop. In other words, it’s me on a Friday night.
5. Click-click-slide: Technically, this one isn’t a “real” cryptid, but its name sends shivers up the spines of North American children nonetheless. That’s because Click-click-slide is a schoolyard horror story, the tale of a terrifying spectral woman who has no legs and drags herself around by her long nails (hence, the “click, click, slide” of her name).
6. Owlman: He may sound like a quickly-scrapped superhero concept, but Owlman is a “real” legend, a “big owl with pointed ears, as big as a man with glowing eyes and black, pincer-like claws.” He hasn’t been seen since the 1970’s; I guess DC hasn’t managed to get his filming rights back.
7. The Qallupilluit: This “child carrying” tree looks unsettlingly like the bogeymen of Inuit mythology, the ice-dwelling Qallupilluit. Boasting scaly skin and a humanoid upper body, the Qallupilluit hides under thin ice and waits for children to walk out onto it.
8. The Rokurokubi: Even looking at the disembodied head on this tree reminds me of the Japanese rokurokubi, a spirit who can either detach its head or (even better!) stretch its enormous neck far enough that the head can go wandering around town on its own at night!
9. The Loveland Frog: The goofy eyes on this hungry little tree remind me of Ohio’s beloved Loveland Frog. The creatures, a bipedal humanoid frog, have been “spotted” several times, and have even inspired a 2014 musical, “Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog!”
10. The Agogwe: The agogwe is a small humanoid with long arms, a huge head, and rust-brown fur. Descriptions of it range from “somewhat humanoid” to “someone badly doctored a bunch of Ewok automatons.”
11. The Mongolian Death Worm: This critter’s name in Mongolian is “intestine worm,” and the facts don’t get much better after that. This critter, which dwells in the Gobi desert, is an enormous worm with a cavernous mouth that can kill by spitting poison. Its venom corrodes metal, and touching any part of it leads to instant death. Sleep tight, kids!
12. The Mari Lywd: The Mari Lywd is a Welsh wassailing custom that involves parading around town with a beautifully decorated horse’s skull with the person underneath draped in sackcloth because Welsh customs go way harder than they have to. It’s also called a “hobby horse,” although the only way I can see that being appropriate is if your hobby is murder.
13. The Banshee: This Irish apparition, which looks like a woman with long, disheveled hair draped in rags, supposedly shows up to shriek at your door when a family member is about to die. Doesn’t this foliage-consumed telephone pole look like a death omen to you?
14. Ghouls: The word “ghoul” gets thrown around a lot these days, but originally, it was a creature from Arabic folklore that ate people. When it had eaten people recently, it looked pretty normal, but when it hadn’t, it tended to get more and more creepy-looking; much like this tree, which is literally the most haunted thing I’ve ever seen.
15. The Boogeyman: This creature is a cross-cultural phenomenon, a monster that’s used to scare children into good behavior. While the Boogeyman traditionally doesn’t have a set appearance, this tree bears an uncanny resemblance to “Oogie Boogie” from Chris Selick’s 1993 Nightmare Before Christmas.
16. The Flatwoods Monster: This cryptid’s huge black eyes and round face are decidedly the least weird things about it. Part-metal, part-reptile, with a body like a salt shaker and freaky claws, this beast was “seen” in West Virginia.
17. The Griggstown Cow: Another New Jersey local, the Griggstown cow is famous as a proven cryptid. For thirty years, the “ghost cow” was the terror and puzzlement of those in the Grigstown area. But in November 2002, it was discovered to be just an ordinary white cow that had been left behind when the dairy industry in the area dried up. As usual, the economy is the real unfathomable horror.
18. Filiko Teras: The Filiko Teras, or “the friendly monster,” allegedly lives off the coast of Cape Greco National Park. Much like this tree, the guy is friendly and doesn’t attack people. However, there have been some reports of him playfully flipping boats and destroying fishing nets.
19. The Slender Man (Slenderman): Described as a tall, thin man without a face, Slenderman originated in the darkest depths of the Internet, a Somethingawful forum. Like any good internet meme, Slenderman’s story varies slightly by the teller, but some facts are consistent: he abducts children, he’s difficult to catch on camera, and he’s not real. Definitely not real. Even when you’re alone at night and your room is illuminated faintly by the flickering glow of your computer screen.
20. The Bunyip: It’s difficult to say what “looks like” the Bunyip, given that this Australian monster has several descriptions. But one of the most commonly-recognized is a huge river monster with a “dog-like face, a crocodile-like head, dark fur, a horse-like tail, and flippers.” The creature, who originated in Australian Aboriginal stories, allegedly dragged people into rivers and waterholes to eat them.
21. The Grootslang: No relation to the friendly tree, the Grootslang is a mythical snake with an elephant’s face and long, sharp teeth. It’s reputed to live in the Richtersveld desert in South Africa and eats elephants. Legend doesn’t mention whether or not it can dance.
22. The Oklahoma Octopus: Splitting its time between Lake Thunderbird, Lake Oologah, and Lake Tenkiller, this horse-sized octopus apparently drags its victims underwater to drown them. There haven’t been any sightings in recent memory, but the constant, unexplained drownings in the area have given some skeptics (and potential swimmers) pause.
23. Lizard Men: These bipedal, reptilian humanoids (think a cross between a velociraptor and a human) are part of mythologies from all over the globe. They gained notoriety in the US during the recent eclipse, when South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division advised its Twitter followers to be wary of lizard man sightings during the eclipse.
24. Herne The Hunter: This wildly cursed and horrifying tree resembles the kind of devil you might meet at the crossroads in a Southern American folktale, but it also bears a striking resemblance to Herne the Hunter, a horned humanoid of British folklore. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t want to meet it alone at night!