The Creepiest Festivals in the World Will Give You Goosebumps

Most parties don't have monsters, ghouls, goblins, or devils on the guest list, but these gatherings are anything but ordinary. The otherworldly oddities at these festivals attract guests from all over the world. Some look like a scarily good time, while others are just plain creepy. Could you bear to spend an entire day partying it up at one of these fright-fests?

1. Kukeri Festival (Pernik, Bulgaria)

The Kukeri are Bulgarian folk dancers who specialize in frightening away evil spirits. Indeed, one look at their creepy costumes would send most beings, discarnate or otherwise, fleeing terrified into the night. The Kukeri Festival takes place at the end of January in the city of Pernik, Bulgaria, and sees thousands of Kukeri congregate from across the country.

2. Día de Muertos (Mexico)

Adorned with human skulls, the Aztec goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl, is thought to have been the original patron of Mexico’s Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Falling on November 1 and 2 every year, the present-day festival commemorates the dead, whose spirits are said to be able to return to Earth for the day, and features a phantasmagoria of colorful skeletons. Similar festivals are held across Latin America; for instance, the people of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil celebrate with a Zombie Walk.

3. Holy Week (Zamora, Spain)

Leading up to Easter Sunday, Holy Week celebrations in Zamora, Spain, feature unnerving processions of penitents bearing flaming torches through dark city streets. Their white robes and ghostly conical hats, which have roots in medieval society, are intended to obscure the identities of the participants and symbolize their humility as sinners who must be redeemed.

4. Wave-Gotik-Treffen (Leipzig, Germany)

They're weird, morbid, and proud of it — there may be no higher compliment for a Goth than “creepy.” Needless to say, the annual Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Germany is a spectacular creep-fest that features some of the world’s best – and most extreme – dark art and music. It is attended by thousands over the Pentecostal weekend in Leipzig.

5. Fasnacht (Basel, Switzerland)

Celebrated with aplomb in Basel, Switzerland, Fasnacht – the world’s only Protestant carnival – veers between the magical and the grotesque with its wealth of colorful costumes and masks. Featuring everything from scary clowns to gruesome demons, the parade of outlandish characters is as weird, wonderful, and outright creepy as those of any other pre-Lent spectacle.

6. Nag Panchami (India)

Indiana Jones wouldn't be a fan of this gathering. Snakes are reviled in Judeo-Christian teachings as harbingers of evil, but Hindus worship them during the festival of Nag Panchami. Taking place in the lunar month of Shravan (usually falling in July or August), the festival involves prayers and offerings to serpent deities, which participants believe will protect them from poisonous snake bites.

7. Vegetarian Festival (Thailand)

Don’t be fooled by the name; the Vegetarian Festival is actually a gruesome gala of blood, gore, and ritual self-mutilation. Most famously celebrated in Phuket in Thailand, the nine-day event – starting on the eve of the ninth lunar month – sees entranced Taoist devotees walking on hot coals, slashing their bodies with swords, and impaling themselves with spikes.

8. Hungry Ghost Festival (China)

The gates to the Chinese underworld are flung open during the seventh lunar month, unleashing throngs of long-necked “Hungry Ghosts,” along with venerated ancestral spirits, into the realm of the living. In the Hungry Ghost Festival, on the 15th day of the month, Taoists and Buddhists placate the spirits by leaving food out for the hungry ghosts and burning paper, incense, and giant statues of deities.

9. Up Helly Aa (Lerwick, Scotland)

Skol! Viking roars sound through the night during the festival of Up Helly Aa, a blazing celebration of destruction that culminates in the ritual torching of a replica longship. The festival, which has roots in the pre-Christian yuletide traditions, takes place in January in the town of Lerwick on Scotland’s Shetland Islands. If you go, don't forget your helmet!

10. The Busójárás (Mohács, Hungary)

The ghoulish masks of the Busós were enough to scare away the winter – or an invading force of Ottoman Turks – depending on which legend you subscribe to. Whatever the truth, though, the Busójárás festival is a national treasure of Hungary, celebrated each year at the end of Carnival in the town of Mohács.

11. Bonfire Night (Lewes, United Kingdom)

Remember, remember, the fifth of November. The sky burns on bonfire night, a beloved British institution commemorating the foiling of a Catholic plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The town of Lewes lays on one of the country’s most spectacular parades and firework displays while children burn effigies of the Catholic plot’s ring-leader, Guy Fawkes. Parading burning crosses, the people of the town simultaneously pay homage to a group of Protestant martyrs who were burnt to death in the 16th century because of their faith.

12. Festival of Devils and Congos (Portobelo, Panama)

Recalling the historical struggles of African slaves, the festival of Devils and Congos takes place once every two years in the village of Portobelo on Panama’s Caribbean coast. The fearsome and elaborately costumed devils represent Spanish slave traders. Meanwhile, the Congos symbolize the villagers’ ancestors who rebelled against their masters, escaped from slavery, and formed their own communities.

13. Black Mass (Catemaco, Mexico)

Violent animal sacrifices were once part of the Satanic Black Mass at Lake Catemaco in Mexico, but these have been outlawed, leaving only burning pentagrams and murmured prayers to placate the Prince of Darkness. Taking place on the first Friday of March, the Mass is the opening rite in a three-day festival dedicated to sorcery.

14. New Year’s Eve (Oga, Japan)

The Namahage are grotesque knife-wielding demons portrayed by men in costume who travel from house to house demanding to know, “Are there any crybabies around? Any naughty children?” They descend upon the city of Oga, Japan, as part of New Year’s Eve festivities, and their main job is to caution citizens against laziness and to bring good luck for the approaching year.

15. Los Agüizotes (Masaya, Nicaragua)

Featuring a cavalcade of dancing monsters, Los Agüizotes is just one of many spirited fiestas that take place in Nicaragua’s cradle of folklore, the city of Masaya. Fusing a variety of indigenous and Spanish myths, its characters include headless men, ghosts, and weeping women. It takes place on the last Friday of October as part of a feast dedicated to Saint Jerome.

16. Carnival of La Vega (Dominican Republic)

Beware the flamboyant “limping devils” who enjoy nothing more than attacking people during annual carnival celebrations in the city of La Vega, Dominican Republic. Oddly enough, their weapon of choice is an inflated animal’s bladder. Carnival represents the big blow-out before Lent, and its date, usually in February, changes with the Easter calendar.

17. The Day of Ashura (South Asia)

Outsiders are often unnerved by some of the traditional rituals of the Muslim Day of Ashura, which include self-flagellation with chains and blades. Such violent practices are now forbidden in the likes of Iran and Lebanon, but they continue in parts of Burma, Bangladesh, and India. The festival commemorates the slaughter of the grandson of Muhammad, Husayn ibn Ali.

18. Feast of Saint Sebastian (Piornal, Spain)

Fear not the Devil, for this village has an arsenal of turnips and rutabagas. Piornal in Spain has a unique method for driving out evil. Each year on Saint Sebastian’s feast day in January, one “lucky” villager is chosen to play a demonic creature called Jarramplas, whose fate is to be pelted with thousands of root vegetables in the village square.

19. Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme (Las Nieves, Spain)

This funeral is for the living, not the dead. The procession of open caskets that sweeps through the town of Las Nieves in Spain each year on July 29 carries members of the community who have recently had brushes with death but are still alive and kicking. That’s why the festival is also known as the Fiesta of Near Death Experiences and is dedicated to the patron saint of death.

20. Krampusnacht (Austria)

Nothing conjures the magic of Christmas like a horde of demonic goat creatures. Possibly of Viking origin, Krampus is the shadow of Saint Nicholas – a horned, hairy underworld monster who punishes bad children with crummy gifts of coal. And for some kids these days that’s surely a fate worse than death. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5 in Austria and other central European countries.

21. International Highline Meeting Festival (Monte Piana, Italy)

If you're afraid of heights, you might want to go elsewhere. Adventurous folks from all over the world gather here with fellow "slackers" to spend their day suspended over the Dolomite Alps on a slackline. They walk on the slackline and set up their hammocks, where they chill with other adrenaline junkies and enjoy the breathtaking views.

22. Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme (Las Nieves, Spain)

Held in honor of Saint Marta de Ribarteme, the saint of resurrection, this festival attracts attendees with either remarkably good or bad luck, depending on how you look at it. People who have survived a near-death experience during the past year are paraded around the streets in coffins to show their gratitude for having another chance at life.

23. UFO festival (New Mexico, United States)

If New Mexico is known for anything, its scorching temperatures and UFO sightings. Seriously, there seems to be an inordinate number of spaceships whizzing across the sky in Roswell, New Mexico. This is probably why they have a festival celebrating the little green visitors every year. There's an alien costume contest, a space-themed parade, and conventions held by UFO enthusiasts. Let's hope no one sees anything suspicious in the sky...

24. Boryeong Mud Festival (Boryeong, South Korea)

Ready to get a little dirty? This tradition originally started out as a marketing stunt produced by a make-up company to advertise the mineral mud used in their product. People in the area loved it so much that they made it into an annual event. It lasts two whole weeks, so there is plenty of mud to go around. It's not exactly a "scary" festival...until you're covered in mud, that is.

25. Yi Peng Lantern Festival (Thailand)

Got a light? The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is held annually in Thailand and the surrounding countries with strong Thai roots. Festival-goers light thousands of paper lanterns and release them into the sky, creating an otherwordly view. The ritual represents letting go of negative energy and making room for well-wishes and the positive energy to come.

26. Puli Kali Festival (India)

A proud tradition for about 200 years, this festival features recreational folk art where artists dress up as tigers and hunters and perform a dance called the "Play of the Tigers." Traditionally, only men and children were permitted to join the dance, but recent editions have included women too. The Puli Kali Festival takes place during the Onam, an annual harvest festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala.

27. La Tomatina Festiva (Buñol, Spain)

Since 1945, tens of thousands of participants have gathered in the streets to throw tomatoes at each other. For what reason? None at all. This annual event — dubbed the world's largest food fight — is held for pure entertainment. The tomato throwers leave the event covered in red juice, though apparently the acid from the food helps clean the city streets!

28. El Colacho (Spain)

Believe it or not, this festival's name translates to "Baby Jumping." Every year in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain, in celebration of the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, newborn babies are lined up and placed on mattresses. They are sprinkled with petals and confetti, and then men in yellow and red jump over them. It's said to cleanse the newborns from original sin.

29. Holi Color Festival (India)

Every spring, to mark the end of the bitter winter, communities distribute bright and colorful powders on the street, which people throw at one another. Though it seems like pure fun, the tradition represents the triumph of good over evil, thanks to the Hindu god, Krishna. She loved to play pranks and would splash water onto village girls.

30. Golden Retriever Festival (Scotland)

Did you know that Golden Retrievers hail from the rolling hills of Scotland? Well, in the summer of 2006, hundreds of Golden Retrievers from all around traveled to their motherland to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland. Owners loved this so much that they have since made it an annual gathering.

31. Songkran Water Festival (Thailand)

During the early spring, between the 13th and 15th of April, Thailand breaks out into a massive water fight. This tradition stems from a time when Thai people washed their homes to cleanse themselves from the past year's energy. Nowadays, it's more of a fun festival with lots of water balloons and super soakers — and a nice way to beat the heat.

32. Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival (England)

Every year in Gloucester, people gather at a very steep incline known as Cooper's Hill. The whole point of the contest is to chase a cheese wheel down the massive hill. Whoever crosses the finish line first gets to keep said cheese wheel as a victory prize. The rest usually end up at the hospital.

33. Moose Dropping Festival (Talkeetna, Alaska)

The festival celebrates exactly what you think it does... moose excrement. The small village holds a festival to celebrate the moose by turning their fecal matter into trinkets, like jewelry, and dropping the stuff out of hot air balloons in an attempt to hit a target far below. It's a little gross, but at least the raw material they use is cheap!

34. The Monkey Buffet Festival (Lopburi Province, Thailand)

Every November, villagers in the Lopburi Province lay food out for monkeys in the area to enjoy a free meal, and the primates come out in droves to the all-you-can-eat buffet. It is believed to have started as a way to honor the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman. The extra tourism that the festival brings is just an added bonus.

35. Coney Island Mermaid Parade (Brooklyn, United States)

This massive gathering takes place annually on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice. The parade celebrates the start of summer and features all kinds of costumes, which are often nautical-themed and a bit risqué. Thousands of people participate in the parade each year, but only two lucky partygoers earn the crowns of King Neptune and Queen Mermaid.

36. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (United States)

The festival takes place over nine days in early October. The world's largest balloon festival, over 600 hot air balloons — in various colors and shaped like famous characters — annually take to the skies. That's a big boost from its first incarnation in 1972, which featured just 13 balloons going up, up, and away.

37. Ágitagueda Art Festival (Ágitagueda, Portugal)

Though this annual celebration has only been around since 2006, it has already made its mark on the art world. Ágitagueda attracts thousands of creators and admirers to its lovely riverside city, which is decked out in all kinds of colorful designs. Of course, many think the highlight of the festival is when thousands of umbrellas are suspended above the city streets.

38. Las Fallas de Valencia (Spain)

This one-of-a-kind event that celebrates the commemoration of Saint Joseph was added to the UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list several years back, and for good reason. Originally, each neighborhood in Valencia built small bonfires, but nowadays, they create fantastically decorated monuments that are eventually burned during the festivities. The towering flames light up the city's plazas at night.

39. Finally, Els Enfarinats (Alicante, Spain)

This 200-year-old tradition takes place on December 28 each year to celebrate the Day of the Innocents. People take part in a mock battle between the married men, "Els Enfarinats," and the group trying to restore order, "La Oposicio." They fight by throwing flour and eggs at one another. At the end of the day, order is restored, and any money raised is donated to charity.

40. Hanami (Japan)

For centuries, the tradition of hanami — which means "watching blossoms" — has captivated the world, and there's nothing quite like the cherry blossom festivals in Japan. Since there's no set day or time when the blossoms will bloom, people travel from far and wide in hopes of catching them right as they flourish. If they do, then they celebrate beneath the beautiful flowers. Sakura — cherry blossom trees — have long held spiritual significance in Japan.