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Scariest African Folktales to prepare you for Halloween

By Laudika yaNdangi
Published in News & Culture
October 19, 2021
3 min read
Scariest African Folktales to prepare you for Halloween

Yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking, this is Africa, we don’t do halloween and you can probably count on one hand how many people you know that celebrate halloween. However, like a lot of western holidays, Halloween does have some sort of cultural impact, even here in Africa. As a major horror fan I could not pass up the opportunity to do research and write about the scariest African folktales out there.

What is a Folktale though?

A folktale is an ancient oral story that has been told over and over again for years.

Each human society has its own folktales; these are well-known stories that have been handed down between generations and are an important way of passing along knowledge, values, and history.

In Africa, folktales are quite important because just a few centuries ago, a lot of our stories were still being told orally.

That being said, I went into the dark hole that is the internet and came back with what I believe is one of the scariest African folktale stories that I have ever read about. Buckle up.

The Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar Swallows Human Sacrifices

The earliest reporting of this man-eating tree from Madagascar originated as a literary fabrication which was written by Edmund Spencer of the New York World. The article contained a letter which was written by a German explorer Named Carl Liche. In the letter, Liche claims that he has been living and researching the Mkodos tribe in Madagascar. One day, the members of the tribe took him to a tree they called the “tepe” tree, where they began a ritual.


The tepe was an oddly shaped tree with tentacle-like leaves sprouting from its trunk. A woman was then pushed towards the tree, climbed on top of it and drank a liquid that was trickling out of its center. Suddenly, the tentacles came to life and surrounded her. Immediately her body was hidden by the leaves as they tangled around her, screaming in agony as the tree slowly took her life.

The Legend Of Nyami Nyami

For centuries, BaTonga people lived in harmony in Zambezi Valley, with almost no contact to the outside world. They built their houses alongside the great river, they saw the river as a gift from their gods that supplied them with water and food. Until suddenly, in 1955, that was all to change. Colonialist industries from Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe), decided to choose “violence” and build a dam over the river to tame it. As you can guess the Tonga people were not happy, as they were being forced to move to a higher land which was less fertile. In their anger, it is believed that the Tonga people summoned Nyami Nyami. A Serpent-Fish god who lived in the Zambezi.

And in 1957, disaster struck on the previously smooth sailing construction of the dam. A number of foreign builders were killed and their bodies mysteriously disappeared. When there was failure to discover their bodies, the industry owners approached the Tonga elders who told them that they angered Nyami Nyami and if they want the bodies of their comrades to return they needed to make a sacrifice. Come the next day, the bodies of the builders returned and the calf that was used for sacrifice disappeared.


However, in the next rainy season, Nyami Nyami struck again, this time worse than before. The floods he caused took the bodies of 11 Italian builders, their bodies were later discovered in the partially wet cement of the dam. Today, their bodies are still part of that wall.

In other words; don’t f*ck with BaTonga people.

The Nyaminyami statue next to the Kariba Dam

The Adze

From the Ewe Folklore, the Adze is a vampire type being which usually takes the form of a firefly in the wild. Originally from Togo and Ghana, the Adze can also transform into human form as soon as it is captured. It also has the power to possess humans.


People who find themselves possessed by an Adze are usually viewed as witches. Most people will usually be suspected to be an Adze based on a variety of situations; a women whose brother’s children fared better than their own. Elders if young people around them start dying before them, as well as the poor if they were found to envy the rich. I guess you could say what makes this folklore really scary is the fact that any innocent person can be accused to be one and punished severely for it.

When it is in its firefly form, the Adze can pass through closed doors at night and suck the blood of its sleeping victims. The victims would then fall sick and die. There is absolutely no defence against this beast if it were to come for you.


African folktales have the power to hold a culture and community together. They communicate morals and traditions to the young as a preparation for life’s oncoming obstacles. This is why I believe it’s quite important to know and understand our folktales so we can be able to continue passing down a piece of our culture and history so it is never forgotten.


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Laudika yaNdangi

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