Ghost Stories from Around the World (and Associated Vocabulary)


Are you ready to be scared? Halloween is just two short weeks away, and in the United States, October is the spookiest time of the year. From scary decorations to creepy costumes, the month leading up to All Hallow’s Eve is freakishly festive all throughout the country.

Assignees with a love for Halloween who are living abroad might feel a bit left out during this time of year, especially if their host country doesn’t recognize this holiday at all. But while Americans sure do love celebrating with scary movies, ghost stories and visits to haunted houses, we’re not the only ones who like to tell terrifying tales. In the spirit of Halloween, read on to find some of the scariest ghost stories from countries around the world that you can share with assignees as well as vocabulary words they can master along with them.

India - Skondhokatas

Ghosts are an important part of fairytales and folklore in the Bengali region of India. It’s believed that ghosts are the spirits of an unsatisfied human who has died under abnormal or unusual circumstances – and skondhokatas are the ultimate unsatisfied customers. These ghosts, or bhuta, are the spirits of train riders who have been beheaded in fatal train accidents. With the 4th largest Ṭrēna system in the world and a spotty safety record, it’s no wonder that passengers often report seeing these headless haunters loitering in the location they died.

China - Jiang Shi

Chinese folklore tells the creepy tale of the jiang shi, or “stiff corpse.” These unfortunate creatures are a rather unfortunate mix of vampire and zombie, sporting green skin, Qing dynasty robes and a taste for the qi, or life essence of humans. And did we mention they get around by jumping? Sometimes called “Chinese hopping vampires,” the jiang shi are said to hide in caves and coffins in the daytime, only to hop about during the night and feed off the qi of others to survive.

The origin of the jiang shi has been traced back to the Qing dynasty, when people who died far from home were transported back for burial in an upright position. The stories associated with these stiff corpse ghosts have permeated popular culture in China so heavily, there’s a whole genre of jiang shi fiction and movies. So if your assignee is looking for a scary movie to watch, we suggest Mr. Vampire or Encounters of the Spooky Kind.

Scandinavia - Gjenganger

Rooted in Viking culture, the gjenganger is a ghost (or spøkelse) much different from others. Instead of taking on a ghoulish appearance, these evil Scandinavian spirits look much like humans—making them wickedly difficult to spot. According to legend, these evil spirits were the spectral forms of those who had died but were unable to cross over to the afterlife and instead chose to rise from the grave and torment others. These spirits were perceived as violent and malicious, killing their victims with a dødnengeknip (“dead man’s pinch”) that caused victims to waste away shortly thereafter.

Whether assignees are off to Asia or Europe, stories of ghosts and folklore are a fun way to get them into the Halloween spirit and connect them to the culture of their new home abroad. And, if you’ve got assignees in Russia, you’re in even more luck: encourage them to check out our Russian Superstitions course for some extra fun.

Meet The Author:
Author - Lindsay Mullen
Lindsay Mullen
CEO of Prosper Strategies at Mango Languages
Lindsay Mullen is CEO of Prosper Strategies, working behind the scenes to support the Mango team’s world of lovable language learning. A language aficionado herself, Lindsay oversees a team of marketers fluent in public relations, content development, and strategy (and they speak some German, French, Spanish, and Chinese as well.)

To embark on your next language adventure, join the Mango fam!

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We’d also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. These will be set only if you accept.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We’d like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone. For more information on how these cookies work please see our ‘Cookies page’.

Skip to content