What makes learning about a specific destination or popular attraction while traveling more fun? When there is a story to go along with it of course! Famous legends, scary legends, and ancient legends can make your destination become even more fun. Whether it be stories that have taken place in castles, on bridges, in homes, in museums or graveyards; they are great to hear! Plus, when you get back from your travels, they can make great ghost stories for around the campfire. Thanks to some awesome fellow travel bloggers submitting their favorite short folktales, I have come up with a list of tales that will be sure to intrigue you as much as they did me. There are folklore creatures, old legends and cool myths. We have folktales from Ireland, Scotland, India, Asia, Italy and more! Enjoy reading theses short folktales stories and legends from around the world!
Asia Folktale Stories and Legends
The Legend of the Tiger Leaping Gorge
In Yunnan province, the hike to the Tiger Leaping Gorge in China takes you to a high altitude-town in Shangri-La, the Lost Horizon. The Tiger Leaping Gorge trek gives you a stunning open view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and provides a scenic view of the Jinsha river canyon located between Lijiang and Shangri-La.
It is known to be one of the better sights and hiking trails in China that is offbeat and untouched by the domestic Chinese tourists. Word has it that a tiger and her cub once jumped across the gorge, but the baby didn’t make it and now the tiger prowls around the gorge till eternity.
The trail has long been seen as an entry point into the Lost Horizon of Shangri-La, best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La, a fictional utopian lamasery located high in the mountains of Tibet.
Contributed by Pashmina at the The Gone Goat
Legend in Hampi
Hampi is one of the most mystical and historical lands of India. The ruins of the world’s most beautiful temple architecture can be found here, which makes it a UNESCO world heritage center. Apart from the ruins, one more thing that will catch your attention on a trip to Hampi is its landscape. According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, North Hampi is part of the erstwhile Kiskinda. It is the monkey kingdom where Lord Ram met Hanuman. It is here that Hanuman pledged his unconditional loyalty to Lord Ram, and helped him raise the “vaanar sena” (monkey army) to defeat the mighty king Ravana who had abducted Sri Ram’s wife Sita.
The curiously scattered rocks of Hampi are a part of the Dharwar Craton. It’s the kind of landscape that is formed when a piece of land has never undergone any changes due to tectonic movements or volcanoes but have just undergone erosion for over tens of millions of years. However, mythology has a different explanation. In the monkey, the kingdom was ruled by Bali. Once a fierce battle ensued between Bali and his brother Sugriva over the throne of Kiskinda. It’s this battle that led to the rocks being thrown all over Kiskinda, according to mythology.
Contributed by Sinjana at Backpack & Explore
Hanging Bridge Tale in India
The Hanging bridge is an important destination in Eastern segment of India and is situated in Loleygaon in the Kalimpong district of India. The hanging bridge was constructed to allow travelers to cross the other part of the district in Lava and enjoy the jaunt rather than travel by foot along the normal path. It is situated around 1 kms from the district of Loleygaon and in the wild. There are trees and forests around the area that serves as the natural landscape of the region.
The hanging bridge was constructed in the late nineteenth century in the hills and is now a place of importance as it connects two districts in the country. People are known to traverse the bridge with family and friends and enjoy the ride across the terrain. The hanging bridge is now a suspension bridge that is well constructed to allow travellers to explore the districts in an unimaginable way and manner. The construction is very peculiar in origin and requires to be cautious while passing the bridge.
Contributed by Somnath at Travel Crusade
Europe Folktale Stories and Legends
Legend of Karmel Mayerling
Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh? That’s the scary voice that woke me up in the middle of night after a visit to Mayerling. And it turned out to be my sister’s. I was afraid she’d be taken over by the ghost of Baroness Mary Vetsera, the lover of the Rudolph, the Crown Prince of Austria.
The day before we had been visiting the Karmel Mayerling near Vienna. The cloistered nuns at the convent maintain a chapel to pray for the soul of the dead Prince Rudolph.
The story in short is that the Prince, although married, fell in love with Mary. Since the King disapproved of their relationship, they committed suicide. But Mary’s story goes on after her death, up until World War II. There’s more about the Karmel Mayerling story here.
But in the morning, everything was fine, my sister didn’t have a ghost in her; and we went back to continue our travels across Austria.
Contributed by Abby at The Winged Fork
Britains Haunted Story of Poole
Poole, a small town in Dorset, is said to be one of the most haunted places in Britain, and that is because of the number of ghosts “living” here. Almost every house in the old part of the town it’s said to have a spiritual inhabitant.
One of the places where you can observe paranormal activity, if you are lucky, is the King Charles Pub, next to Poole Quay. Here, over the years, many people have come to document the stories, including film crews who caught on camera objects falling down without anyone touching them or creek noises coming from the stairs when nobody was stepping on them.
One of the previous owner’s dog refused to go into the cellar, and we all know that animals do have a six sense.
My own apartment is said to be haunted. Fortunately, Captain Jolliffe, who is supposed to live here, never showed his presence to me. Previous tenants though have reported hand prints on surfaces just cleaned.
Poole is so famous for its ghosts that every summer it has its own Ghost Walking Tour!
Contributed by Joanna at The World in my Pocket
The Legend of Notre Dame
The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is one of those places that you need to have visited when in Paris. The medieval cathedral was built in the 13th century and gathered a lot of various stories and legends over the centuries. However, the legend of the devil’s door is the one that I remember most clearly.
It is said that a young metalworker named Biscornet was the one who created the metal work on the front door to the cathedral, which is rich in details and complex turns and twists. The incredible artwork was beyond everyone that people of the time accused the talented young men of having made a pact with the devil. The clergymen of the time just fueled the belief by insisting that they had to sprinkle holy water over the door, or the door wouldn’t close. People started to come up with stories that they saw the young men passed out in his workshop and connected this again to the devil’s presence. Sadly, the young men died soon after, which really just propelled the whole story further. The name of the lost talent, Biscornet, is a word game in French, which means two horns. Only his incredible unique ironwork is left to the world, not even his name made it through the ages.
Contributed by Helene at Masala Herb
The Legend of the Giants Causeway
Ireland is known for its famous myths and legends that have been passed down for years. The stories feature famous warriors, kings, queens and mythological creatures, with the Giants Causeway being subject to one of Ireland’s most famous pieces of folklore. The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is made up of interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
According to a legend, the causeway was home to famous warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill, who was considered to be the tallest and strongest man in Ireland. He was said to have the strength of 500 men and soar to the height of 54 feet. Legend refers to another Giant named Benandonner who lived across the water on the Scottish coast. Benandonner believed he was the strongest giant in the world. Both Giants would shout across the ocean in competition resulting in Fionn demanding a challenge to determine the strongest. It is said that both Giants began to build two long paths of interlocking columns, otherwise known today as the Giants Causeway.
When Fionn’s path met with Benandonner, he saw Benandonner running towards him. Fionn was shocked to see that Benandonner was a lot larger than him and quickly fled back to Antrim to seek help from his wife, Oonagh. The couple decided to dress Fionn as a baby. When Benandonner arrived at the Causeway, he was startled to see how large in size the baby was. He feared that the father would be three times the size and darted back to Scotland as quickly as possible, destroying the Causeway along the way. It is believed that the legend may have stemmed from similar interlocking basalt columns at Fingal’s Caves on the Island of Staffa, Scotland.
Contribute by Laura at Life Adventure Travel
Foulksrath Castle Ghost Story
About 15 years ago I set off on a 13-month round the world trip. One of my first stops was Kilkenny, Ireland. I caught a bus from town and arrived at Foulksrath Castle. Built in the late 1300’s, in 2004 it was a hostel that cost only 14 EUR per night for a bed. I had never spent the night in a castle before, much less for 14 EUR!
I set my things on a bed and went outside to socialize with other tourists in the late afternoon. There were a couple guys on the roof, and they yelled out for us to join them for the sunset. I LOVE sunsets, so I started up the stone steps, first a circular staircase and then a very narrow last flight of stairs to the roof. While I was climbing, I heard someone behind me but when I got to the top of the stairs and turned around, there was no one behind me. I found this was odd but enjoyed the sunset anyways. At dinner time, the guests all cook in the kitchen and then dine by candlelight. The castle caretaker then told us the story that the castle was haunted – one ghost makes the air feel cold, another female ghost smells like flowers, and the last ghost runs up and down the stairs. The hair on my arms stood on end – was I followed by a ghost? I didn’t sleep much that night in the creaky old bunkbed.
Unfortunately, a few years later the caretaker resigned, and Foulksrath Castle closed its doors to backpackers in 2009. It’s privately owned today.
Contributed by Lisa at HotflashPacker
The City of Rome Tale
Beatrice Cenci was a young woman from a noble Roman family who lived in the late 16th century. Her father, Count Francesco Cenci, was a violent and abusive man who raped Beatrice repeatedly. She reported the crime to the authorities, but, as nobles were often treated with great leniency, nothing was done about it.
Beatrice and her step-mother and siblings decided that they could no longer put up with the Count’s abuse, so they plotted to kill him. After bludgeoning him to death with a hammer, they threw his body over a balcony to make his death look like an accident, but they were eventually discovered and sentenced to death.
The common people of Rome protested, knowing what a horrible person the Count had been, but the Pope showed no mercy. Beatrice was beheaded on the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge on September 11th, 1599, and the Cenci’s property was confiscated and given to the Pope’s own family. The bridge is a popular site in Rome’s city center today and is crossed by many visitors on their way to the Vatican.
Beatrice’s story has captured the hearts of Romans, and she has become a symbol of resistance against the arrogant aristocracy. Artists have also drawn inspiration from her story, and many songs, poems, and plays have been written about her. People say that every year, on the night before the anniversary of her death, Beatrice’s ghost returns to the bridge where she was executed, carrying her severed head.
Contributed by Wendy at The Nomadic Vegan
The Mystical Turin
Turin, Italy has always been celebrated as one of the world’s most mystical cities. An old legend suggests that Turin forms in the intersection between the global “black magic triangle” (also consisting of London and San Francisco) and the countering “white magic triangle” (which also has points in Lyon and Prague). Occultists believe that positive and negative magical forces intersect in the city, specifically in Piazza Statuto. Here, underneath a towering statue of a winged black angel atop a heaping pile of rocks, it is said that one can find a secret entrance to the underworld.
Other mystical references are dotted around the city, like the devil-shaped door knocker on Palazzo Trucchi di Levaldigi and the legendary alchemists’ workshops said to be hidden underneath Palazzo Reale. Turin’s supernatural underpinnings have a long history of attracting those who seek to know the truth about dark magic, all the way from Nostadamus, who is said to have spent a year in Turin in the 1550s, to renowned director Dario Argento, who filmed many of his horror masterpieces in and around Turin.
Contributed by Carly at Fearless Female Travels
Hill of Witches in Lithuania
Legend says that the Curonian Spit was formed by the giantess Neringa, who built the spit by carrying piles of sand in her dress and depositing them near the coast, eventually creating the Curonian Spit. Neringa did this in order to protect the Lithuanians from a violent storm. Today, both a municipality and a city district are named after her.
We were inspired to go to the Curonian Spit by a Lithuanian friend, who specifically encouraged us to explore the Hill of Witches in Juodkrantė
“It’s so cool!” She gushed over lunch one afternoon in London, “I love how creepy some of the statues are.”
She continued to tell us about Neringa the giantess, but we were already sold; the Hill of Witches had been added to our Baltic trip.
Our friend wasn’t wrong, visiting the Hill of Witches was one of the highlights of a region that we quickly fell in love with.
So what is The Hill of Witches?
It is a nature walk through the forest, that is essentially comprised of an outdoor art gallery filled with large wooden carvings of characters from Baltic myths and fairy tales. The park is divided in to ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ and in addition to Neringa, you can find Lithuanian folk figures such as Egle the Queen of Grass-snakes and Laumė. There are also many unspecified witches and devils, and even a depiction of Lucifer waiting outside Hell’s Gate.
However, little about the walk is scary or menacing, instead it is playful and interactive, and an easy way to get in an afternoon hike!
Contributed by Dagney at Cultura Obscura
The Ghosts of Charles Bridge
According to legend, each year on June 21, eleven headless ghosts begin their journey from the Charles Bridge to Prague’s Old Town Square in search of their heads. These poor souls were tortured and beheaded in 1621 for their Protestant beliefs in a country run by the Hapsburg Dynasty, a devoutly Catholic regime. After their executions, the heads were displayed for many months on the Charles Bridge, which is why the ghostly procession begins on this famous landmark. It turns out that there were actually 12 beheadings, but the wife of one of the victims begged for her husband’s head to be returned and it was subsequently buried with the body.
No trip to Prague would be complete without a night time ghost tour to learn more about the headless apparitions as well as many other scary stories. The Czech Republic’s history is full of violent and bloody events that have left behind plenty of ghosts. Walking through the dimly lit, cobblestone streets of Old Town at night it’s easy to believe in Prague’s scary tales.
Contributed by Wendy at Empty Nesters Hit the Road
The Story of Dracula’s Castle
Bran Castle is gothic with secret passageways and fits Stoker’s fictional description perfectly. But Dracula is a fictional character, or is it? Romania has not jumped on the ghost tour phenomena and does not market Bran Castle as Dracula’s home. I suspect this is because for many Romanian’s living in the village’s vampires are real.
It is believed after death Strigoi (vampires) return to terrorize the living. Piercing the heart after death to prevent this return is still practiced. The belief is so strong that in 2005 six men exhumed the grave of a vampire and fed it to sick villagers who were then cured. They believe they saved their village.
This is interesting, DNA was run on a vampire’s skeleton in Bulgaria and indicators of Porphyria were detected. Porphyria is a blood disease that causes victims to be sensitive to sunlight, their gums shrink making teeth resemble fangs and they develop an aversion to garlic. So, is Dracula’s castle real?
Contributed by Sherianne at Out of the Office
The Tales of Mary Kings Close
During The Great Plague, wee Annie died from the terrible disease that ravished Scotland in 1645. At least this is what the ghost of 10-year-old Annie told a visiting psychic during her trip to Mary King’s Close. While she was exploring the passageways, Annie tugged on the hand of psychic Aiko Gibo, appealing for help to find her way back to her parents.
Annie was roaming around Mary King’s Close because she was lost, having been abandoned by her family. Before they could be reunited, she met her sad demise when she succumbed to symptoms of the plague. To offer wee Annie some comfort, Aiko hit the streets above the close to find the little girl a toy to play with.
Annie resides in Mary King’s Close, an alleyway hidden beneath the busy streets of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. After the plague, the lane was sealed off, partially destroyed and covered by the newly-constructed City Chambers. The original streets were built over, but many of them remained intact to provide support for the new buildings above.
Aiko, having purchased a Barbie dressed in Scottish tartan, returned to the tiny room deep within the close in search of the girl. The doll soothed wee Annie and every year since, visitors to the close have brought dolls, toys and other trinkets to comfort the little girl. Annie’s room now has a towering shrine of toys so she’ll never feel sad or lonely again.
Contributed by Crystal at Wandering Crystal
The Devil’s Pulpit
The Scottish are known for their folklore, and Scottish legends throughout their country. This mainly stems from combining their pagan rituals with Christian beliefs. One of these perfect examples is the Devil’s Pulpit or Finnach Glen. As you descend Jacob’s Steps – a 200-year-old set of steps it feels as if you are descending into the center of the earth. Once you reach the bottom there is a red-tinted stream, where the surrounding red rocks make the water appear as if it is blood. With a rock in the center of it, in the shape of a pulpit, it looks as if the Devil himself could preach from the rocky perch. The locals thought that individuals who descended into the depths of this glen were coming to worship the Devil. Alas, many were accused of Witch Craft and Devil Worship when Christianity took over. For those who don’t believe in folklore, maybe you will after seeing this beautiful off the beaten path adventure. If you continue hiking up the Glen, you will find plenty of waterfalls that appear as if the Fairy Queen made them herself because of their beauty.
Contributed by Janiel at CultureTrekking
One of the weirdest and certainly most unique experiences we encountered on our travels was the Chernobyl Tour in Ukraine.
Chernobyl was the large nuclear plant, located around 62 miles north from Kiev, which famously exploded in 1986. Whilst today most of the damage has been cleared/contained, the area remains completely abandoned under military control. There remain pockets of radiation, hence the army control of the region.
You can visit as part of a day trip from Kiev, which we did. This was the most bizarre tour we’ve ever done. First, we were made to sign a very sobering disclaimer, then one of the soldiers took us around the outside of the plant, showing us where there still are pockets of radiation with his Geiger Counter machine. The final part of the tour was the creepiest. We ended up in Pipyat, the now abandoned neighboring town to the nuclear plant. Following the explosion on 26 April 1986, its residents rushes to leave this town. Today you see Pripyat as a ghost town, untouched since it was abandoned in 1986, with just nature dominating.
Contributed by Stefan and Sebastien at Nomadic Boys
North America and Hawaii Folktale Stories and Legends
Haunted Walks in Kingston, Ontario
If you are looking for spooky encounters and rich history, Kingston, Ontario, Canada should certainly come to mind! As the original capital of Canada (before Ottawa), Kingston has a long standing military, cultural, and political significance. This long history means that there are many tales dating back to the days before Canada was a country that continue to chill curious visitors.
As such, ghost tours and haunted walks are some of the things to do in Kingston. Each tour covers a different route and set of stories about Kingston’s eerie and historic past. Some cross through the old neighborhoods where manors with dark pasts still stand from the days that the streets were only lit by gas lamps. Other places, like the stone walls of historic Fort Henry, provide visitors with all sorts of spookier tales.
One of which is the story of Nils von Schoultz, who was hung at Fort Henry after he led a failed American attempt to liberate parts of Canada from British rule. Apparently, he wasn’t too happy with his sentencing – because it’s said that he can be seen wandering the square of the Fort to this day!
Contributed by Eric from Ontario Away
Chicago Hotel Tale
Little did I know what started as a normal business trip would turn into a scary hotel experience. I chose Chicago’s Congress Plaza Hotel because of its old-world charm and the beautiful view of Grant Park. After a long day I settled into a comfy hotel room. Then, I awoke about 2am with a very strong feeling that someone was in my room. A shadowy figure stepped out of the closet and moved to stand by the foot of the bed. I froze for a moment, then turned on the lights to find nothing.
Now curious I poked into the history of Chicago’s Congress Plaza Hotel. There are so many stories that USA Today declared the hotel the most haunted place in the State of Illinois.
Sightings include the notorious gangster Al Capone who had a suite on the 8th floor where he planned many of his nefarious activities. There are reports of a boy who wanders the halls and a female ghost who wakes sleepers from the foot of their bed. Sound familiar? The most famous story is of one of America’s first serial killers, Dr. HH Holmes who stalked new victims in the lobby of the hotel.
The Congress Plaza Hotel embraces the stories as part of their heritage holding an annual Haunted Halloween Ball. And the hotel staff is always happy to share their own stories.
Contributed by Ladona at Walking the Parks
The Stanley Hotel Tale
The Stanley Hotel is often considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. Nestled in the Colorado Rockies in the cute town of Estes Park, the iconic and historic hotel has become somewhat of a tourist attraction for those seeking an experience with the paranormal. The Stanley Hotel is the inspiration behind one of the most chilling horror stories ever written, The Shining by Stephen King. It was during his stay at the hotel that King came up with the concept for his famous novel. One winter night, King and his wife were the only guests staying in the hotel which was about to close for the winter season. The emptiness and remoteness of the hotel added to its haunting vibe for the author. That night he had a terrifying nightmare of his young son being chased down the hallway of the hotel. He woke up panicked and instantly knew what his next novel would be about. That novel became a best-seller and eventually a movie starring Jack Nicholson. The Shining plays on a continuous loop on Channel 42 at the hotel.
While the hotel may have inspired a frightening book and movie, it’s actual ghost stories are much more tame. Many guests of the hotel have reported hearing someone playing a piano in the middle of the night, seeing apparitions, or hearing children giggling in the empty hallways. The fourth floor is said to the be most haunted area of the hotel. Brave guests can stay there or simply take a 90-minute ghost tour for a less eerie experience.
Contributed by Melissa at Parenthood and Passports
Empire State Building Ghost Story
Evelyn McHale was a beautiful woman of 24 about to be married. In 1947 she went to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, paced about in an agitated state, broke through the guard rail and jumped 86 stories to her death. She landed on the roof of a limousine where a passing photographer took her photo. The photograph made its way around the world and was titled “The Most Beautiful Suicide” because, despite the trauma, Evelyn appeared to be sleeping with not a mark on her.
The reasons for Evelyn’s suicide were never know. She left a suicide note saying she believed she would never be a good wife and that her fiancé would be better off without her. When the fiancé was contacted, he said he had no idea why Evelyn would have taken her life.
Over the years, several people have reported seeing a young woman dressed in 1940s period garb and bright red lipstick leap off the observation deck. On a few occasions, in two isolated cases, two different people reported the same occurrence. All observers over the years have been women.
Contributed by Talek at Talek Travels
Oahu Folktale of Leinakauhane Point
On the Hawaii’an of Oahu, in the resort town of Ko’Olina is the bright white Four Seasons Resort Oahu. Beyond its usual offerings of primp and pamper, it’s also partnered with a local organization that strives to bring authenticity to a visitor’s vacation. In partnership with local families, they’ve created a program called Four Seasons Wayfinders that offer classes in traditional island arts, like lei-making, as well as a variety of island adventures that includes a guided hike to Kaena Point, a half hour away from Ko’Olina, on the western-most side of the island. The U.S. Army once occupied this area and it was closed off for years but now it’s reopened.
At the end of the hike, which can only be undertaken at the earliest part of the day because of the blistering heat that later descends, is a tear drop shaped rock, facing the ocean, called Leinakauhane Point. Leinakauhane translates to leaping of the souls. Our guide told us this rock is a sacred spot where islanders believe recently departed souls leap off from this world and into the next. Locals come to say their farewells here and think of it as a portal to their lost loved ones, so they bring flowers and commune on its sturdy bearing, hoping their messages get to the ones on the other side.
Contributed by Rina at L.A. Family Travel
Tennessee Witch Tale
Since I grew up in Tennessee, The Bell Witch was a regular story around campfires, sleepovers, and even in our school curriculum! The location of the legendary cave and land where the hauntings took place isn’t too far from where I live – less than two hours from Nashville – and I found myself wanting to do something extra spooky and creepy at Halloween one year but with no one brave enough, I decided to check out the Bell Witch cave alone.
While there are tons of reports of crazy things happening to others such as electronics not working, orbs in photographs, etc, I’m sad to report no supernatural occurrences happened during my time. I decided to do the cave and cabin tour during my time which was fantastic as it gives you lots of information about the history and the legend. For more information on the history and legend of the Bell Witch, check out this post.
Contributed by Ashley at Wild Hearted
South America Folktale Stories and Legends
A Legend at a Winery
At the Concha y Toro winery in the Maipo Valley, Chile, the legend of the Devil’s Cellar lives on. It lives on in the wine that has been named after it, and it lives on in the tales that are told – and shown – when you visit the winery.
Legend has it that burglars stole some wine from the cellar many years ago. When they returned a few days later for more, they were less successful. They were met with flashing lights, thundering noises, glowing red lights, and then … the appearance of the devil himself. A spooky black figure appearing out of nowhere at the end of the cellar and making a thunderous noise. It was the devil himself, unhappy that people would venture unbidden into his cellar at night, stealing the wine he protected. The burglars turned on their heels and made a run for it, relieved to get out alive. The legend spread, and the cellar was never robbed again.
Fact? Or spectacle and story concocted by the winery owner to deter the burglars? You decide. One thing more – this cellar is one of the very few in this part of the world that still remains standing after all these years despite the frequent earthquakes that rock the area and have destroyed almost all the other cellars. Just saying …
You can visit the winery on a tour and decide for yourself.
Contributed by James at Travel Collecting
A Bridge with a Story
If you have ever thought about travelling to South America you may be intrigued by the folklore around a special bridge in Peru. The Bridge of Sighs, located in Barranco district of Lima has an interesting story that not every person who crosses the bridge knows about. On arrival, it looks like a very simple wooden bridge, but it is said that if you cross the bridge without breathing, a wish is granted.
Situated in the middle of the arts district, the bridge has served as and point of contemplation for Peruvian writer and poets such as José María Eguren and Martín Adán. They wrote about the bridge and how it was a place to find love. Lo and behold the bridge soon became a popular place for people in search of love and they would cross whist holding their breath to be granted the wish of a new lover.
Contributed by Daniel at Layer Culture