Every religion, ancient or contemporary, believes in the existence of spiritual creatures and powers whose existence can’t be proven with logic or science. The spirits are either good and serve God’s will (angels in Western culture) or are evil and corrupt, deceive, and hurt humans in the service of their leader’s (Satan) devious plan and purpose.
From ancient Greece, Persia, Israel and Egypt to medieval Europe and Japan there have been many tales told by people who have claimed to have encountered demons. However, despite the fact that none of these stories can be proven, the blind faith and superstitions passed from generation to generation will make most of us keep the lights on at night.
Daevas were some of the most notorious demons and the personifications of every imaginable evil in Persian mythology and Zoroastrian religion. The word daeva in the Avestan language means spirit and was used to describe a demon that would do anything to bring chaos, destruction, and disorder.
The resemblance between the ultimate spirit of evil (Satan) and Krampus is more than obvious: both have a red-skinned complexion, both have horns, both have a tail, and both are said to hold a trident and chains, but despite all these details, Krampus is nothing more than the anti-Santa.
Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is a popular Christmas spirit in Germanic and Nordic tribes and is not really all that bad (other than the fact that he scares the hell out of whoever sees him, especially children who have been naughty during the year and won’t be visited by Santa).
Mephistopheles appeared for the first time in literature as the demon in the Faust legend and slowly managed to climb up the demonic ladder and become a full-time theological demon. Mephistopheles appears in Doctor Faustus and other tales as a devil and loyal worker of Satan whose mission is to collect the souls of those who are already doomed and corrupt.
He is said to have a human body, long nails like a witch, the frightening face of a monster, and wings like an angel. Not a good-looking guy any way you look at it.
According to Slavic folklore, a Rusalka is something between an evil demon and a water nymph that only comes in a female form. It is believed that they live at the bottom of rivers (or lakes in rare cases) which is why some people falsely considered them to be mermaids. Rusalkas, however, are not mermaids but the spirits of dead women, usually of ones who have committed suicide over an unsuccessful love affair and are now after the whole of mankind seeking revenge.
For that reason, they come out during the night and sing with beautiful and deceptive voices paired with entrancing and seductive dancing in order to seduce men to their watery grave.
According to The Lesser Key of Solomon and later adopted by Christianity, Ziminiar is supposed to be one of the four principal kings (Amaymon, Corson, and Gaap are the other three) who has the power of seventy-two demons and was supposed to be controlled by King Solomon even though we doubt such a demon could ever be handled by any human.
Surgat is one of the lesser-known demons of the Christian faith but his deceptive abilities make him one of the most frightening, especially if you’re a child who’s afraid of the dark. See, Surgat is also known as the demon who opens all the locks and tends to love dark places the most. In other words, even if you double-lock your door and hide under your pillows and covers, Surgat will find a way to come scare you, and what you’ll see won’t be pleasant.
Kokabiel is described in the Hebrew Bible as the angel of the stars. According to both Hebrew and Christian traditions Kokabiel was a high-ranked angel who loved humans, serenity, and the sky; and was the one who taught the other angels everything about the stars. However, all this changed when he was cast out of heaven and was reclassified as a demon.
One of the few little things we know about Kokabiel is that he had about 365,000 other angels and spirits under his command but for some reason he became an ungodly demon and a terror to human souls.
Okay, so we might be cheating a little with this demon since Agiel is a beneficial spirit related to intelligence and brightness and not the kind of demon that will make you wet your pants. However, if you give it a chance and get to know more about Agiel you will definitely be impressed by the fact that he’s coming from the planet Mercury. Yes, you got that right! Agiel is an alien demon.
Under different circumstances we would probably feel sorry for these demons (given their unique eternal punishment), but you see, the extreme hunger and thirst a preta experiences can make them do some nasty things to humans. In Buddhism, pretas (the equivalent to the fallen order of angels called the Grigori in Christianity) desperately wander the world in constant search of food and water but have no mouth with which to eat or drink. As a result, they become evil spirits that possess weak-minded men and women and corrupt them by making them incredibly greedy and slothful in an attempt to satisfy their own hunger and thirst.
Well before they became Christians the Slavs had some really scary stories about demons who abused any kind of human activity. One such demon was Bukavac, who, according to the local beliefs and traditions, was portrayed as a six-legged monster with gnarled horns that hated dry areas and usually lived in lakes and rivers.
Samael is one of the most significant archangels in Judaism who also appears to be the angel of death according to Jewish lore. The paradox with Samael is that his nature is neither purely evil or purely good but both depending on the circumstances. From what we’ve gathered about him in the Talmud you really don’t want him pissed off at you because he looks really nasty when he gets angry and trust us, you don’t want to see that.
Onoskelis is a demon that only appears in female form and was first introduced to the world of demonology in the Testament of Solomon where she is described as a beautiful fair-skinned woman but with a scary, freaky disability: she has the legs of a mule. As for her purpose and intentions? We’re afraid that we have some bad news for men. See, Onoskelis enjoys activities such as strangling men to death and when she’s in a better mood, she likes to “pervert [men] from their true natures”…whatever that means.
This weird demon with an even weirder appearance comes from Indonesia and is, according to Javanese religion, a swine demon that looks like (what else) a wild pig. According to the local theological beliefs, the demon is associated with people who practice black magic with the goal of becoming filthy rich overnight. The price of this, however, is awfully high: they must give up their human form and allow the demon to transform them into a boar for a short time, or the ones who are luckier (maybe?) get to keep their human appearance but the demon possesses their souls.
So, next time any of you are waiting in line to pig out in a fast-food restaurant, beware of the swine demon that waits in the corner to possess your greedy belly.
Even though Greek myth is full of fantastic and imaginative creatures, monsters, and demons, none impressed us more than Stheno and for a good reason. Stheno; according to ancient Greek religion and myth, is a demon that hated men and killed them every chance she got.
She was the eldest of the Gorgons (sisters who looked like monsters with snakes for hair) and Medusa’s tutor. Despite the fact that most of us today know more about Medusa, Stheno was by far one of the worst demons in antiquity and the most ferocious of all the Gorgons.
Christianity is full of stories about the constant battle between good and evil and Vapula is often mentioned in such tales as one of the highest-ranking demons of hell. In fact, according to demonology he’s the grand duke of hell and the commander of numerous legions whom he has taught the art of human soul deception. As for his appearance? Vapula is often described as large and intimidating, with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.
In Slavic mythology the drekavac appears as a very scary-looking demon that in reality is the ghost of an unbaptized child’s soul. Its appearance varies depending on who sees it since it is so horrifying that few can stare at it long enough to give a proper description. The creepiest description so far is without a doubt the one where the drekavac appears in the form of an undead child who begs and calls for people passing near the cemetery to baptize it.
In later Slavic traditions the drekavac is connected with Christmas, specifically the twelve days of Christmas during which it is believed that when a drekavac appears in a child’s form it usually announces someone’s death.
In Zen Buddhism, jikininki are some of the ugliest demons imaginable and represent anything that has to do with greed and selfishness. Their favorite “hobby” appears to be the nightly consumption of human corpses since rotting human flesh is to a jikininki what pizza is to a human.
For that matter, their bad nutrition seems to be the main reason why they look more like zombies rather than your typical demon or evil spirit. However, they do possess the ability to look like humans when they want to deceive and corrupt someone. Nevertheless, when they are in their ordinary form they are so ghastly and horrifying to look at that if any mortal has the bad luck to see one, the fright might give them amnesia.
According to Islam, the ifrit is a monstrous-looking demon that lives underground and loves to visit ruins where he usually finds his victims and scares them to death. They are large, intimidating-looking demons with wings of fire, and in their “kingdom” the males usually engage in romantic relationships with female ifrits and also often marry them.
According to The Lesser Key of Solomon, an anonymous book of spells that was compiled during the mid-seventeenth century and focused on demonology, Forneus is the Great Marquis of hell and has twenty-nine legions of demons under his command. He promises fame, popularity, acceptance, and love from your friends and enemies (always with a catch of course) and is normally depicted as having an attractive human form. However, he can display a grotesque and frightening demonic form when he gets angry.
According to Malay and Indonesian religious traditions a demon named pontianak usually did horrible things to men. It was believed that the spirits of women who died while pregnant transformed into this kind of ghost-demon entity and then looked for vengeance from those who did them wrong (usually men).
They are pretty similar to what we know in Western culture as vampires and there are stories about pontianaks removing bad men’s genitalia with their bare hands. Lastly, a city in Indonesia is named after this demon, because people believed that a Pontianak haunted the first sultan who conquered the city and as you can imagine he didn’t have such a happy ending.
Azazel is one of the most popular demons in Judaism but is also mentioned in the Bible and other cultures. According to Judaism, Azazel is a very evil spirit and the leader of a certain class of demons that live in the desert. In Greek mythology Azazel appears as the scapegoat (apompaios dat) while according to Islam, Azazel is a fallen angel who used to be one of the highest-ranked angels of Allah, a story that reminds us of Satan in the Christian religion.
Azazel has also been portrayed several times in popular culture. Examples include Fallen, a great film from the ’90s with Denzel Washington, and the comic book supervillain named Azazel who appears in several X-Men stories.
The Antichrist is without a doubt the most famous of all the demons; a fact that is highlighted by his prolific use in the themes of many horror and sci-fi films. It was John the Apostle who pretty much introduced him to us through the New Testament and while his appearance varies greatly depending on the source; some describe him as an extremely handsome, charming man who can seduce anyone, while others describe him as the ugliest and most intimidating demon there is.
Abaddon is a demon that we are introduced to in the book of Revelation. In Hebrew his name means “place of destruction” while in ancient Greek it translates to “destroyer”. In most theological texts (excluding the Bible) Abaddon is depicted as the demon (or angel) of destruction, a dominant figure of the Apocalypse, and one of the chief demons of hell that in many cases refuses to obey even Satan.
However, Abaddon, according to Christian tradition, is described as the king of the bottomless pit that holds lost souls and is the leader of a vicious plague of locusts. One way or another, he’s one scary demon and that’s the only thing all cultures and religions that know his name can agree on.
If this collection of demons has not freaked you out yet then Malphas is the one to do the trick. The mighty great president of hell is second in command (behind Satan) and has forty legions of demons under his control. He can reveal your desires and destroy them, will fool you with “good” familiar spirits, and will finally betray you; but only after he has accepted your blood sacrifice.
This is probably the most famous demon whose name you may not know but whom you’ll recognize from pop culture. Pazuzu was the evil spirit that possessed the young girl Regan MacNeil in the classic horror film, The Exorcist and also appears on the album cover of the Gorillaz’s compilation album D-Sides. He has a man’s body, the head of a lion, two pairs of wings like an eagle, a scorpion’s tail, and a serpentine penis.