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10 of the Grossest and Most Grotesque Vampires from Folklore

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Vampires get a bad rap in modern Western media for being too pretty. And while there are tons of folkloric vampires who are stunningly beautiful and seductive, plenty of bloodsucking beasts are pretty darn gross. From vampires who let their intestines show to those who vomit up their victims, here are 10 vampires you won't want to date.

Manananggal image by Gian Bernal via Wikimedia Commons.

The floating head and entrails vampires: Southeast Asia laughs at your pointy-toothed walking corpses. Many cultures have truly horrifying vampires that consist of a flying head still attached to its spine and intestines. The Malaysian Penanggalan is an intact woman by day and a segmented monster by night, her disembodied organs twinkling in the darkness like fireflies. Thailand's Krasue is a similar monster, one who will feed on feces and carrion if blood is not available. Vietnam's Ma Cà Rồng also detaches its head and spine, but is less vampiric, feeding exclusively on cow dung. (But if a human interrupts its feeding, it will kill them.)
How to kill it: If you're aiming to kill a Penanggalan, your best bet is to find her abandoned torso. Once you've got that, you can cremate the body or pour broken glass into it to keep the organs from reattaching. A more amusing trick is to turn the torso over so the Penanggalan puts her head on backwards; the next day, everyone will know who the vampire is.


Manananggal: A similar Filipino creature is the Manananggal, which separates not just its head but its entire torso from its lower body (and yes, the viscera are still spilling out). As a bonus, it has bat wings and a proboscis-like tongue that lets it suck the blood of sleeping victims or the hearts of fetuses from inside their pregnant mothers.
How to kill it: Much as with the Penanggalan, you want to find the Manananggal's inanimate lower half. If the two halved remain separate come sunrise, no more Manananggal.

Chonchon: You might be familiar with these Chilean vampires from the video game Castlevania. These guys don't even get spines and entrails; they're just flying heads. But this head needs wings to fly, so its ears contort into giant flapping bat wings, which carry it on moonless nights.
How to kill it: Jonathan Maberry's book Wanted Undead or Alive claims that female traditional healers known as machis could battle the Chonchons with their familiars. If a machi transformed her familiar into a jungle snake or hunting bird, the familiar could hunt and kill the Chonchon.


Brahmaparusha: Instead of dragging around its own intestines, this northern Indian monster is said to wear the entrails of humans and animals he had killed, wearing them like a crown on their heads. He also carries around a human skull which serves a chalice. When he finds a new victim, the Brahmaparusha would pour the blood into the skull before draining cup after cup. And once there's no more blood to drink, he makes a dessert course of his victim's brains.
How to kill it: The consensus on this vamp seems to be that you should run away from it, preferably while it's already occupied with someone else's juicy bits.

Churel: The Hindu demon known as the Churel is one of those monsters who, despite her repulsive appearance, has a pretty tragic backstory. Low-caste women who die while pregnant or in childbirth are at risk of becoming Churel, hideous creatures with an unnaturally long and thick black tongue (or, in some stories no mouth), hanging breast, unkempt hair, and backwards feet. They prey on young men, especially those they were close to in life.
How to kill it: The best defense here is prevention. Creation of a Churel can be prevented by ensuring all the proper burial rites. Once you or your loved ones are haunted by a Churel, you'll need a pandit, a Hindu scholar, to drive the Churel away, although she may return months later.

Yara-ma-yha-who: Unlike most vampires, this Aboriginal Australian monster doesn't suck blood through its mouth, but instead uses suckers on its fingers and toes to drink up that delicious red stuff. The real horror of the yara-ma-yha-who, however, is that it swallows its victims whole. Parents warn their children not to struggle, since the creature usually will spit you back out again—after it has digested a little bit of you. But if you're swallowed, digested, and regurgitated too many times, you'll start to shrink, turn red, develop suckers, and turn into a yara-ma-yha-who yourself.
How to kill it: According to Monstropedia, if a yara-ma-yha-who fails to regurgitate its victim, it will be killed by the spirit of the fig tree it inhabits. But letting yourself be swallowed permanently is a bad deal.


Yara-ma-yha-who image by Verdego.

Mjertovjec: There's a great deal of folkloric crossover between vampires and werewolves, and the Belarusian creature known as the Mjertovjec is an extreme intersection of the two. When a werewolf or witch dies, it might rise from the grave as a particularly powerful vampire. Looks-wise, the Mjertovjec has more in common with the Asian floaty head vampires than with its European cousins; its head and upper chest rip from the rest of its body when it launches its nighttime search for blood.
How to kill it: If the Mjertovjec fails to return to its grave before the rooster crows three times, it will become immobilized and can be burned with fire. You can also drive an iron stake through its abandoned chest and quickly burn the Mjertovjec's body with fire.


Doppelsauger: This German vamp's name translates as "double-sucker," because it's the undead revenant of a child who was breastfed after being weened. To gather enough strength to break out of its coffin, the Doppelsauger will eat its own burial shroud, then its own breast. Once it's free, it will attack the breasts of its female relatives. It's demon with mother issues. According to Rosemary Guiley's The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves and Other Monsters, every part of the Doppelsauger decays except the lips.
How to kill it: Binding the body and placing a cross in its mouth will prevent the Doppelsauger from eating its shroud and itself, but once it has broken free, you'll need to exhume the body and stab it in the back of the neck with a spade. Horrifyingly, the creature will scream as it dies.

Nachzehrer: Silesian folklore has another autophagic vampire, but unlike the Doppelsauger, the Nachzehrer can feed off its victims exclusively by devouring its own clothes and body (although it will occasional chew on other corpses). It's a sympathetic vampire, meaning that close relatives feel the effects of the creature eating itself, eventually withering and dying themselves. As if that wasn't bad enough, it's a notoriously noisy eater.
How to kill it: As with many vampires, placing a stone or or a coin in the corpse's mouth is recommended to keep it from eating. And if you want to be sure it won't continue its nocturnal noshing, you can opt for a classic vampire decapitation.


Pelesit: Turning back to the Malaysian vampires (and there are a lot of them—how do Malaysian children sleep at night?), the Pelesit takes the vampire-as-parasite to a whole new level. This cricket-like demon would burrow into its human host's head where it would happily live and feed off the human's blood. The Pelesit also has a partner in vampiric crime, a Polong, a one-inch-tall person whom the Pelesit summons with its crickety chirps. The Polong can enter through the hole the Pelesit made and enjoy an easy meal. Not surprisingly, this all tends to drive the victim mad, and for some reason, they start raving about cats.
How to kill it: There is a special charm for killing a Polong, to be recited to the Pelesit. Hopefully, that neutralizes the Pelesit as well.

These are just a small sample of the gross, grotesque, and downright bizarre bloodsuckers from myth and folklore. What are some of your favorites?