Into the Horror-verse: Mythical Creatures around Southeast Asia

by Gabrielle Marcelo
SEA Wave Into The Horror-Verse
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It’s the time of the year where all spooky and creepy things are in season, it’s Halloween! In honor of all things horror, odd and supernatural, SEA Wave brings to you a horror mini-series, “Into the Horror-verse”. This mini-series will feature terrifying creatures, legends, movies, events and all things pop-culture.


In this edition of SEA Wave’s Into the Horror-verse mini-series, we will feature terrifying mythical creatures seen around Southeast Asia. The sightings and stories of these creatures are passed down from each countries’ myths and legends.


The belief of mythical creatures stems from folklore, mythology, fairy tales or bedtime stories – stories passed on through oral or written tradition from generation to generation, until it reaches the collective experience of the general public. This spooky season, SEA Wave features mythical creatures that are said to roam around countries in Southeast Asia.


Belu (Myanmar)


Photo from Myanmar Net

The Belu is a man-eating humanoid who usually shapeshifts to lure their prey. Though some believe that there are Belus that are not as malevolent as the others, and only eat flowers and fruits. As terrifying as it is, the Belu is a well-known creature in Myanmar. The popularity of the Belu is due to its presence in many popular plays and stories such as  Yama Zatdaw, a play based on a Burmese epic.


Hantu Tinggi (Malaysia)

Hantu Tinggi (Malaysia)

Photo from Daniel Klein

Hantu Tinggi is a unique creature from Malaysia, it is a tall demon who usually disguises itself as a bamboo tree in the forest. Their size is said to go so high, villagers can only really see its waist. It is believed that anyone that makes eye contact with them can go blind, or even worse, be choked to death.


Kuntilanak or Pontianak (Brunei)


Photo from Netflix

The Kuntilanak or Pontianak, disguised as an attractive woman in need of help, victimized male motorists driving in quiet areas by asking them to take her near a jungle, which she claimed is the location of her house. Once they reach the destination, the Pontianak takes them off in the air and flies around while screaming.

They are well-known in Brunei and Malaysia stemming from Malay Mythology. With this, Netflix recently released a movie entitled “Kuntilanak” based on this ghoul.


Mrenh Kongveal (Cambodia)

Mrenh Kongveal

Photo from Philip J Coggan

The Mrenh Kongveal are spiritual beings that resemble the forms of elves. Their appearances are comparable to small human children. They are often harmless to most people but are known to cause trouble and are usually associated with various mischiefs. Today, some Cambodian people place small boats or baskets around their houses to ward off trouble and create a small space as offering for the Mrenh Kongveal spirits. Much like many spirits, they are believed to be invisible to adults but can be seen by very young children who are pure of heart.



Ma Vú Dài (Vietnam)

Ma Vu Dai

Photo from Sejerah Cirebon

Ma Vú Dài from Vietnam, a long-breasted ghost commonly said to be seen in Vietnamese provinces. This entity is said to be a vengeful spirit that captures travelers and forcefully breastfeeds them. Unlucky victims awake from their slumber with a mouth full of dirt. Both creatures are said to have been created to discourage children from wandering unsupervised.

These creatures are less-known in popular media but many different versions of the story emerge around Southeast Asia, including a similar folk tale in Malaysia about the “Wewe Gombel” which is also a large breasted woman said to kidnap children.



Tikbalang (Philippines)

Tikbalang from the Philippines are often likened to centaurs of Greek mythology. These creatures have the head and hooves of a horse and the torso of a muscular human. This creature is believed to be guardians of the forest, leading travelers and tourists who wander into their kingdom astray by tricking them into getting lost through supernatural means like making them travel in circles. Locally, Filipinos have a popular belief that wearing your shirt inside out will help save you from a Tikbalang’s mischievous tricks.

The Tikbalang is featured in the first episode of Jordan Clark’s Aswang Project, an educational resource for Filipino Mythology.



Nang Tani or Tani (Laos)

Nang Tani

Photo from Marlon Schmeiski

The Nang Tani or Tani is a creature found in Laos, it has stories told in Laotian folklore. Tani is a forest creature said to live inside or beneath trees. They appear as beautiful women to people in the forest to seduce and lure them to their death. This is a rare occurrence though, as these creatures are said to only attack humans when they trespass or damage their homes.



The Ahool (Indonesia)

The Ahool

Photo from Nenad Milosevic

The Ahool from Indonesia is a winged, hairy creature said to resemble a gigantic bat and often said to have been seen in the jungles of Java. This creature stands 10 feet tall on its hind legs and has a wingspan twice the size of its height. In other stories, this is a Southeast Asian version of the moth man. It is said to have gotten its name from the sound that it makes while hunting for prey. The Ahool mostly feasts on animals in the forest but the terrifying thing is, it is also said to occasionally attack the humans it encounters. This creature was featured in the first episode of the supernatural series, Freak Encounters.


Krasue (Thailand)


Photo from Eyes

This creature is widely known most popularly as Krasue in Thailand. It is also know in Southeast Asia by many names: Ahp in Cambodia, Kasu in Laos, Kuyang or Leyak in Indonesia, Ma lai in Vietnam, manananggal in the Philippines, or Pelasik, Pelesit, penanggalan or penanggal in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.

The Krasue is a half-bodied floating woman said to prey on pregnant women and eat unborn fetus from their stomachs. They also feast on pungent things like raw meat, corpses and farm animals, among others. There are many versions of this creature – the most common of which depicts it as a floating head with its entrails hanging from its neck.

This is the most commonly feared mythological creature in Southeast Asia, featured in many movies, stories, books and games across pop culture, and has terrified generations with tales of its wickedness.


What are the other folklore creatures from Southeast Asia that you want to add on this list? Share them in the comments section below.

For more pop culture trends, Southeast Asian news and stories, visit


SEA Wave’s Into the horror-verse is a mini series that showcases Southeast Asian countries’ urban legends, horror stories, spooky events, mythological creatures, and folk legends, keeping stories that make each country’s rich culture alive.

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