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Top 10 Creepy Irish Myths and Legends

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Laura Keating

The Emerald Isle is home to some of the world’s most interesting tales and supernatural concepts. From the fabled leprechaun, to the Children of Lir, to Merrows, these supernatural creatures are interesting, but downright terrifying! WatchMojo counts down ten creepy Irish myths and legends.

Special thanks to our user MikeMJPMUNCH for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+Ten+Irish+Myths+and+Legends.


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Script written by Laura Keating

Top 10 Creepy Irish Myths and Legends

The Emerald Isle is home to some of the world’s most interesting tales and supernatural concepts. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Creepy Irish Myths and Legends.

For this list, we’ll be looking at both the creepiest mythological creatures, as well as folklore, to be passed on from Éire.

#10: The Leprechaun

This little man of the hills is perhaps the most iconic of the fairies of Ireland. While predominantly appearing in folklore rather than older mythologies, these members of the Aos Sí are classified as solitary fairies, as opposed to “trooping fairies” - who are seen in groups and processions. While mostly harmless, and even helpful at times, they have been known to play tricks on humans. Like many solitary fairies, they are considered to be capable of wickedness, but without any particular malice, if that makes it any better. Famed for their hoards of gold, leprechauns will grant three wishes to a human who captures them – just be careful what you wish for.

#9: The Children of Lir

According to legend, when Bodb Derg was made King of the god-like race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann, Lir, the God of the Sea, was upset. Bodb offered one of his daughters, Aoibh, as appeasement. Together, she and Lir had four children. When she died however, he remarried. Andthe new wife, being jealous of the children, turned them into swans. Here the story deviates depending on which version you’re reading… but they’re all rather tragic. In one ending, the swans return to human, but have aged dramatically. In another, they spend 900 years on three lakes before returning to human form, dying, and going to heaven. Though tragic, it’s also a beautiful story.

#8: Merrows

Like many creatures to be found on this list, the Merrow isn’t exactly evil, more … careless. The female Merrow is said to be beautiful from the waist-up, but scales all the way down. She has green hair, and delicate webbing between her fingers. Merrow men are said to be hideous, which makes the females hope for human lovers. According to legend, Merrows try to lure young men into their watery homes, and keep them there forever. However, they can also be persuaded to come on land. If a man takes her cohuleen druith, a magic hat she uses to breath underwater, she’ll remain on the surface. However, children of Merrow and men will crave to return to the sea.

#7: Balor of the Evil Eye

Translated from Gaelic, the name Balor roughly translates to “the deadly one.” King of the Fomorians, Balor was said to possess a fiery eye which, when opened, would set the land on fire. The personification of drought and pestilence, he locked away his own daughter and tried to kill his grandchildren after hearing that one would someday kill him. One grandson, Lugh, survived, and went on to lead Balor’s enemies, the aforementioned Tuatha Dé Danann, and, true to prophecy, take his grandfather’s life. Loch na Súil in Sligo county is said to have formed when Balor fell,and his eye burned a hole in the ground. Tolkien’s got nothing on this Celtic god-drama.

#6: Fear Dearg

The “Red Man” – so named for the red hat and coat they are said to wear – are less human in appearance than other members of the fair folk. Said to have hairy skin with long tails and snouts, they’ve also earned the unflattering nickname “Rat Boys”. Like the leprechaun or clurichaun, they enjoy playing tricks on humans – although of a more mean-spirited variety. Not content with just souring milk and pinching dogs, the Fear Dearg will steal human babies, and switch them out with a fairy baby, or changeling. There are several stories, which stipulate how to get your child back if it is stolen, however there are no guarantees.

#5: Each-uisge or Aughisky

Like the Scottish Kelpie, there is more to this horse than meets the eye. Both are shape-shifters that imitate horses, but while the Kelpie will race its rider to water, it will only get them wet – or drown them, if they can’t swim. The Each-Uisce, or Aughisky, is far worse. On dry land, far from water, they are said to be the best horse. But if they spot water, their skin turns scaly and adhesive, and they will race into the water, dragging the victim down, and devour them – all except the liver. There is some Celtic overlap, with a variant of the Each-Uisce also appearing in Scottish myth. The overarching lesson: Don’t ride random Gaelic horses.

#4: The Demon Bride

Bridezillas of the world have got nothing on this lady in white. In County Monaghan, in the Errigal-Truagh graveyard, the spirit of a woman is said to haunt funerals, waiting for the mourners to leave. Should the last one to linger be a young man, she will appear as a beautiful young woman. After seducing the man, she will ask for a kiss so that he may see her again, and upon receiving her payment, she will disappear. Following her disappearance, the man will realize what he’s done, and eventually die, crazed in the knowledge that he sold his soul for a kiss. Puts a whole new twist on ghosting, right?

#3: Dearg-Due

Once upon a time, a beautiful maiden and local boy fell in love, only for the girl’s father to marry her off to a rich chieftain. Sorely abused by her husband, she died of a broken heart. A year after her burial near Strongbow’s Tree, she rose from the grave as Dearg Due – which means “the Red Thirst”, a creature of revenge. She went to her father first, and sucked the air from him as he counted the money he’d sold her for. Her next victim was her ex-husband, and she drained him of both air and blood. She’s said to roam the night still, seeking vengeance on careless men.

#2: Banshees

One of the most famous of Irish spirits is this wailing woman of death. The cry of the banshee is said to warn of death in the family. More than one banshee may appear at a time, signaling the imminent death of a great or holy person. In some traditions, a banshee comes for every family of the Milesian stock (that is, Irish families with O’ or Mac prefixing their names). Banshees can appear as an old woman with lank hair and dressed in a ragged cloak, or as a young and beautiful woman. It is said that James I of Scotland, despite not being Irish, saw a banshee, and soon afterwards, was murdered.

#1: Dullahan

This headless rider roams the Irish countryside by night, carrying its severed cranium under its arm. Should the Dullahan stop and call out a name, that person will die instantly. Mostly male, but sometimes female, Dullahan ride by black stallion, or a carriage adorned in bones and candles. Quite a sight to be sure, but it is best not to watch them work, as they are said to throw a bucket of blood on nosey observers – marking them as next – or strike them blind in one eye. Almost nothing can stop them. Only gold – even a small pin – drives them away for another night.


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