11. Puerto Rico
The Chupacabra, or "goat-sucker," has been blamed for numerous animal deaths across southern North America, but Puerto Rico is ground zero for the creature—it was first spotted here in 1995. The creature's first sightings occurred around the release of the film Species and just so happen to match the villain from the movie. Coincidence? Most sightings are blamed on coyotes with scabies, but you never know. You'd better check those gorgeous Puerto Rican rain forests carefully, just to be safe.
10. Ross Sea, Antarctica
So, this one is definitely, for sure real, and that's terrifying. Reined in by a fishing boat, the colossal squid is 43 feet long and weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. That's a real-life, half-ton sea monster. Many researchers believe the creature to be mostly harmless, but with its incredible size, beak, and hooks, there's every chance that this creature is what sailors were talking about when they said "here be monsters."
9. Lake Brosno, Russia
If the colossal squid is too mainstream for you, try searching for Brosnya, an enormous sea monster rumored to be living in Lake Brosno for centuries. Legend has it that the monster scared away a Mongol invasion in the 13th century, and swallowed a German plane in World War II, but the creature is also blamed for disappearances and overturned boats.
(image via _umzarazum_)
8. Loch Ness, Scotland
This gorgeous loch in the Scottish Highlands has been the subject of speculation since the 1930s. The fact that the now-classic "Surgeon's Photograph" is a known hoax hasn't slowed interest. Nessie's been the subject of films since 1934, from serious documentaries to Werner Herzog metatextual jokes. Something about the idea of a prehistoric creature making its way in the world today clearly resonates with us. Check it out yourself. Even if you don't see anything, the scenery alone is worth the trip.
7. Pacific Northwest
There are accounts of Sasquatch-like figures all across North America, but most of them center around the Pacific Northwest. Native American folklore seems to correlate with stories from the 19th century, and those line up with a rash of sightings in the 50s and 60s. Today the woods are probably full of more Bigfoot hunters than the actual animal itself, but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out.
6. Eastern Europe
Lots of cultures have witch stories, but few are as bizarre or as memorable as Baba Yaga. With her chicken-legged hut, her mortar and pestle, and her horrifying nose, tales of Baba Yaga have been scaring Eastern Slavic children for centuries. The primeval forest of Bialowieza is dark, and beautiful, and it's probably a great place to start looking for the old woman.
5. South Africa
The grootslang is a monstrous, tusked snake said to live in the caves of northwestern South Africa. Local legend states that the gods made it by accident before they had the hang of the whole creating thing. It was too strong and too smart to live, so they split it into the elephant and the snake—but one of them survived. There are similarly scary creatures underwater, like the anglerfish and the black dragonfish, so who knows?
4. Gobi Desert, Mongolia
The "large intestine worm" is supposed to be a bright red worm anywhere from 2 to 5 feet long. Some people even say that it can spew acid or carry an electric charge. The Mongolian natives have long told stories of the worm. Once word of it spread west in the 1920s, it started inspiring monsters in all kinds of stories, from a brief appearance in The Hobbit to the Tremors movies.
Vlad the Impaler, Dracula's inspiration, was from Romania, but the Transylvania region is the location most associated with the sinister count, and it's become so synonymous with vampires and horror that every vampire from Nosferatu to Count von Count of the Muppets is said to hail from the region. Yet, it's also a beautiful corner of the world, situated between two gorgeous mountain ranges—the Apuseni and the Carpathian mountains.
2. Villa Diodati, Switzerland
If you want, you can actually visit Castle Frankenstein in Germany. It's a real place. However, this villa is where Mary Shelley's original Gothic horror tale was conceived during a rainy summer in 1816. Mary, her future husband Percy, her stepsister Claire, Lord Byron, and John Polidori had retreated to spend the summer together but found their vacation ruined by weather. In between who knows what else (Byron was famously...spirited), they took to telling ghost stories. Mary's tale of reanimating the dead became the novel Frankenstein and launched a new era of horror. John Polidori also took the summer at this villa to write the first modern vampire story, but for some reason nobody talks about that.
1. Brazilian and Thai Rainforests
We've saved the most terrifying, real-life monsters for last. Are you a zombie fan? Great. This is how the zombie apocalypse is going to happen. In Brazil and Thailand lives a fungus: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. This thing doesn't even have a real name; people are too busy trying not to think about it. This fungus releases spores that are inhaled by ants. Once they're inside of the ant, they start eating its soft tissue until they can force mycelia up into the ant's brain. The ant starts convulsing, falls out of its nest, and finds a leaf to latches onto. Once the ant is in place, the fungus paralyzes it, then kills it. It eats away at the ants insides until it's ready to reproduce. Fruiting bodies grow out of the ant's head until it explodes, releasing spores that more ants inhale. Ha! So fun! Good thing it doesn't affect humans and will never adapt to do that, right? RIGHT?!