We are considered one of the best storytellers in the world and we have plenty of stories to tell. In fact, we have continued the tradition of telling stories for over 40,000 years. It’s through our tradition of oral story telling that we have sustained our traditional culture, laws and customs.
Even though there were laws in this country that prohibited the tradition of telling stories, our ancestors and elders have been able to pass on the stories to the next generation.
Stories link us to the past, present and are a guide for the future. They connect us to everything, from the land to our community, the spirits (both good and bad), our ancestors and even animals. If you listen very carefully to our stories you will understand they provide life lessons and moral obligations to both our family and the law of the land.
Telling ghost stories to kids is an age-old tradition, which is practiced all around the world, and I'm happy to say I am continuing this tradition with my kids.
"If you listen very carefully to our stories you will understand they provide life lessons and moral obligations to both our family and the law of the land."
While most of the time we tell the most terrifying stories to kids just to see them jump out of their boots, most of our stories have guiding morals and values. These morals stick with you for life and are passed onto the next generation.
We have all heard the legendary stories about the Bunyip and why you should always be careful when you go bushwalking or swimming in lakes and rivers. Even if you can’t see a Bunyip, you might know one is nearby because you will hear the horrifying noise that it makes, a sound that is like a cross between a dog's growl and bird's shriek.
Believe it or not, the Bunyip is, even today, a story about being safe around waterholes that discouraged children from swimming alone.
You could be standing miles away and you can still hear it make this sound. It seems anyone who has seen one describes a different type of creature, probably indicating it is a shape shifter that took on different forms to attract different types of prey. The earliest descriptions say it was like a seal or a starfish that lived in swampy water holes. Later, others saw a dog- or horse-like animal or sometimes even a cross between all of these.
Believe it or not, the Bunyip is, even today, a story about being safe around waterholes that discouraged children from swimming alone. But it's not only in the water - being amphibious, the Bunyip can chase you out of the water and across dry land.
Here are another 10 lesser-known freaky stories from around Australia to yarn with your friends next time you are bushwalking or camping by the fire.
This list is in no way comprehensive and if you know of any other stories please feel free to share them with us.
Language group: Martu
Location: Percival Lakes, Western Australia.
In North West Australia lies a dried up salt Lake Known to locals as Kumpupirntily. It was renamed Lake Disappointment by an early European explorer who described his frustration at not finding a fresh water source after his long journey inland.
Maybe he should have named it Lake Lucky because if he had have known what lay beneath this dried up old lake, fresh water would have been the least of his worries! For thousands of years this location was a No Go Zone for the Martu people who lived nearby, even strong warriors would be wary of going anywhere near the place. Local legend has it that a strange type of people live below the lake – they are called the Ngayurnangalku – a Martu word that means 'will eat me'.
Their enormous hands and teeth are perfectly designed for catching and eating people – especially children. They live in their own world underneath the land with its own sky and it is always daytime in their world; the sun is always shining. They hear the thud of the footsteps of anyone who dares to walk on the dry and crunchy salt lake and then they emerge quickly and hungry for anyone unlucky enough to be walking nearby.
Language group: Darkingjung
Location: Newcastle, New South wales
Ghindaring was a wicked being whose body is bright red. Some who saw it described his skin looking like burning coals. He lived in rocky places high on the tops of mountains among the cold winds and near the clouds. Fathers would warn their children to stay away from such places as often those who were found by Ghindaring would never be seen again.
Language group: Various
Location: western New South Wales
The Yara-ma-yha-who is a creature who resembles a tiny man with a giant head, large mouth with no teeth. His body is a brilliant red colour like the sun. On the ends of its hands and feet are suction cups like those of an octopus. He is a bit different to a vampire in that he doesn’t bite you but latches on like a leach and draws your body inside his through his hands.
Yara-ma-yha-who lives high up in the trees and waits for someone to walk under where he drops down on them like a tick, attracted to the warm blood of people.
It then eats the unlucky person, and absorbs their entire body inside of his. He then has a cool drink of water and goes to sleep. When the Yara-ma-yha-who awakens, it spits out the unlucky person, leaving it a little bit shorter than before. You can tell you have been attacked because your skin has a reddish tint to it that it didn't have before. According to many different accounts, the Yara-ma-yha-who will only attack a walking person; the trick to surviving his repeated attacks is to pretend to be sleeping.
He then has a cool drink of water and goes to sleep. When the Yara-ma-yha-who awakens, it spits out the unlucky person, leaving it a little bit shorter than before.
Yara-ma-yha-who only hunts during the day and then when the sun sets you can sneak away. After being bitten more than once, an unlucky person is transformed into a Yara-ma-yha-who.
Language group: Awabakal
Location: Lake Maquarie, New South wales
Everyone loves to go swimming in the hot summertime but some places are definitely more dangerous than others! Just north of Sydney there is a waterhole known to the Awabakal people as Wau-wa-rán. In this deep water hole is a creature named Wau-wai that patiently waits underneath the surface.
Wua-wai likes it when it is calm and silent and gets really angry when people disturb his peace and quiet. If you were to jump into his waterhole and splash around making lots of noise Wau-wai would quickly pull under the water, angry at your disturbing his restful peace.
5. The Muldjewangk
Language group: Ngarrindjeri
Location: Ngurunderi, New South Wales
The Muldjewangk is a river monster who likes to hunt for people fishing and swimming along the riverbanks at night time. He is described as half human-half fish, but don’t mistake him for a mermaid – you can tell if he is nearby as he leaves large footprints in the mud.
Once he even attacked a large steamboat making its way along the Murray River full of European people!
Muldjewangk and his wives also play tricks on people by wrecking their fishing nets. Large clumps of floating debris are said to hide Muldjewangks and are to be avoided at all cost. Some elders now say the Muldjewangks no longer inhabit the main river system and likes to hide in the side streams that branch off from the main river.
He is described as half human-half fish, but don’t mistake him for a mermaid – you can tell if he is nearby as he leaves large footprints in the mud.
Language group: Awabakal
Location: Swansea, New South Wales
Be careful of those sneaky goannas at a place called Swansea headland is an ancient petrified forest. Tree trunks that were turned to stone still poke out of the ground today. In old times a story was shared among the Arakwal about how a deceitful goanna convinced a lot of people to meet together for a coroboree. As they sang and danced and talked among each other out, a giant rock fell from the sky and crushed them all, turning tress in that area into a stone forest.
7. Tingha Woman
Language group: Nucoorilma
Location: Tingha, New South Wales
In the Tingha National Park in New South Wales is a frightening reminder of the punishments the ancients would hand out to those who chose to break the law. A rock formation in the shape of a woman lies between two creek beds from when a woman who had married the wrong man was turned to stone as she reached in to take a drink of water from the creek.
She stays there today as a reminder to all young people of the importance of respecting your elders.
Language group: Kunwinjku
Location: Ooenpelli, Northern Territory
When the Mimi spirits decide to bring themselves out from the underworld during the twilight, they transform the whole landscape.
They live in the rocks and some stories tell that if you blow on the rocks in a certain way you will call the Mimis and they will come out to play.
They are very light and spindly and some people who have seen them say they can break in half when a strong wind blows through them. They play all sorts of tricks on people. Mimis are not especially scary unless you try to trick them, then you had better watch out! Their main job is to fix the tree branches and clean up the lands after big storms have washed their way through the landscape.
Language group: Peramangk
Location: Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia Takoni are little spirit men, around one metre high. Their sparkly eyes are their most amazing feature but try not to look directly at them or they will hypnotise you if you look into them for too long.
They don’t like very bright lights and only come out at night; they keep their distance from the campfire when they see people gathering and stay just outside the edges of the light.
When people walked away from the campfire and they would try to knock people out and keep them forever.
Their sparkly eyes are their most amazing feature but try not to look directly at them or they will hypnotise you if you look into them for too long.
Language group: Ngadjuri
Location: Gawler, South Australia
The Wundawinyu were fond of teasing people by throwing pebbles at them as they sat quietly in the sun or rested by their fires at night; they lived in the creeks along valleys of hills and mountains and built temporary homes in clumps of eucalyptus trees.
Occasionally you might be able to see one when they would be looking over the top of their tree shelters, when people saw their faces that would mean a big storm was coming.
They would be found with their friends - small creatures called Muripapa. They gathered together to dance around in circles on misty mornings; and after a couple of days round grassy patches could be seen, made out by their dancing feet.