Top 10 Scariest African Urban Legends



Top 10 Scariest African Urban Legends

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Christopher Lozano
Ready to be scared? For this list, we'll be looking at those creatures, spirits, and animals that terrorize the imaginations of little kids across Africa. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we'll be counting down our list for top 10 African Legends.
Top 10 African Urban Legends

Ready to be scared? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our list for top 10 African Legends.

For this list, we’ll be looking at those creatures, spirits, and animals that terrorize the imaginations of little kids across Africa.

#10: The Carnivorous Tree of Madagascar

In 1874, the New York World published a letter from a purported botanist named Karl Leche. Leche claimed to have witnessed a cannibalistic ritual performed by pygmies of the “Mkodo tribe”, who had brought him to a pineapple-shaped plant surrounded by writhing, serpent-like tendrils. There the tribe sacrificed one of their number to the tree, which wrapped around her and ate her alive. Leche fled as the rest of the tribe drank from the blood and intoxicating nectar oozing from the plant. The story was later exposed as a hoax, and there’s no record of a “Mkodo tribe”; but it continued to do the rounds for many decades afterwards.

#9: The Karoo Mermaids

Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures. In some stories, they’re benevolent, saving drowned sailors; in others, however, they’re much more menacing. The arid Karoo region in South Africa might seem like a strange place for mermaid lore, but it’s also a place of rock pools, caves, and submerged caverns. According to local legend, these dark-haired, beautiful, fish-tailed creatures lure unsuspecting victims to their deaths. The story of the Karoo Mermaids is more compelling when you consider the ancient rock paintings found in the area, created by the Khoi-san people, which seem to depict fish-tailed humanoids.

#8: The Ninki Nanka

It’s said that in the lakes and rivers of West Africa there lurks a strange and mysterious creature. The Ninki Nanka, or Devil-Dragon, is described as a reptilian, serpent-like animal that feeds on children who disobey their parents by venturing into its swamp. Although wingless, it’s a swift swimmer. In 2006, an expedition of “dragon hunters” from the Dorset-based “Centre for Fortean Zoology” journeyed to Gambia to search for evidence of the creature. They found only a few people who’d claimed to have seen it - which isn’t surprising, given that sightings are omens of death in the near future.

#7: Adze

Vampiric creatures also seem to be common throughout the world. Ghana and Togo are no exception. The Ewe people tell stories of a being called an “adze”, which disguises itself as a firefly. When captured, the adze returns to its human form, but has the power to possess people. It’s fond of palm oil and coconut water, but requires the blood of children to survive, sneaking into their rooms at night. Maybe there’s something to all this eating of children monsters like to do. Maybe kids are low-carb?

#6: The Nyami Nyami

Inhabiting the Zambezi River, the Nyami Nyami is a god revered by the Tonga people of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Also known as the River God or Snake Spirit, this serpentine, fish-headed creature presides over all life in the Zambezi Valley. In 1956, however, construction began on the Kariba Dam, right where Nyami Nyami was said to make his home. Subsequently, massive floods killed many workers, which the displaced Tonga attributed to an angry Nyami Nyami. The dam, they said, had separated him from his wife. At their suggestion, a cow was sacrificed to the river, and it’s said that the missing bodies of drowned workers mysteriously appeared in its place.

#5: The Kongamato

If you thought geese and swans were the meanest and most terrifying winged creatures to live on the water, we have some bad news for you. The Kongamato of Zambia is said to be similar to a pterodactyl. They can reportedly have a wingspan of up to 7 feet and are described as black or red. There are several stories of this cryptid attacking fishermen and leaving them scarred and with a broken boat. They were first written about in Frank Melland’s 1923 book “In Witch-bound Africa”, and in the 1950s a man reportedly turned up at a hospital in Mansa with a wound in his chest from a giant flying creature.

#4: The Grootslang

Like a medieval dragon guarding its hoard of gold, the Grootslang of South Africa is a serpent-like creature that guards a secret cave filled with precious diamonds. Legend has it that the elephant-sized reptile has a deep lust for shiny stones. If you’re ever in its terrifying grasp, offer it a diamond, and it may just let you live. Alas, English businessman and treasure hunter Peter Grayson had no such luck, as the Groostlang is rumored to have been responsible for his disappearance in 1917. The Grootslang’s cave, known as the “Wonder Hole” or “Bottomless Pit”, is connected to the sea, and it also lurks in rivers and lakes. Basically, you’re not safe from it if you’re anywhere near water.

#3: The Popobawa

Hailing from Pemba Island in Tanzania, the Popobawa is an evil spirit, rumored to be an escaped Jinn. Although the creature casts a bat wing-like shadow, it’s actually a shape-shifter that can assume the form of both humans and animals. Like pretty much all scary things, the Popobawa comes at night, and is said to smell like sulfur. In 1995, reported Popobawa attacks led to mass hysteria that spread to the mainland. The Popobawa is especially enraged if people deny its existence, and it tends to go on rampages during the Zanzibar election cycles, oddly enough.

#2: The Castle of Good Hope

This bastion fort was built in the late 1600s by the Dutch East India Company to protect trade and slave routes to Europe. In the 18th century, a soldier on the gallows cursed governor Pieter van Noodt for sentencing him to execution for desertion. It was apparently pretty effective, because the governor died that same day. Now that the castle is a tourist hotspot, many visitors claim to hear and see strange and unexplainable things. Are these signs of the cursed governor’s restless spirit? Hey, anything is possible.

#1: The Impundulu

As if you needed another reason to be afraid of thunderstorms! This terrifying cryptid is said to be the familiar of local witches. It manifests as lightning, or to women as a black and white bird, or a handsome young man - all the better to seduce them. Some tribes associate it with a wading bird called the hamerkop. Like a vampire, the Impundulu has a fierce thirst for blood, and can’t be killed by ordinary weapons. Only fire can end its life. If you’re ever in South Africa and hear the crack of thunder and the caw of a bird, watch out because you’re about to become the meal of an Impundulu.


Who spearheaded the cryptozoology field?
Heuvelmans and Sanderson (CORRECT)
Siskel and Ebert
Jay and Silent Bob
Bonnie and Clyde

Bigfoot is a cryptid (TRUE)
Obelle Mbembe