I was a fan of horror before I even knew it. Back then, it was just a part of growing up, sitting around a fire and listening to ghost stories and every other mystery that was currently trending. When I was introduced to horror films, my familiarity with the films and stories was just impeccable. Africa has always been assumed to be the “Dark Continent”, and we can all agree, darkness is horrific. The darkness that abides in our stories is a part of us, our experiences, and our upbringing, they cannot be left untold. The stories span from witchcraft, and violence as well to spiritualism altogether. These are stories that continuously challenge our faith and perspective.
African history is rich in culture and spiritualism, the core values for most horror stories. African horror stories provide a space for dark and creative stories to be told, the unknown, and to push boundaries. They encourage conversations about the darker aspects of life and can help people process their own experiences safely and creatively, with horror, empathy, understanding, and respect.
Being born and bred in Africa, I could not escape the stories that shaped my childhood and determined how I grew up to be. I cannot say they are what made me indulge in horror for the greater part of my life, but they surely have an influence on what I believe in, and what I choose not to believe. These are the stories that command respect for human life and nature. Conversations around them cannot be understood by an average person, yet they thrill the mind of a horror fan. There are stories of mountains fighting and forests that consume people periodically, of avenging spirits and ghosts.
A part of the unspoken African history tells stories with unsung horror legends of all time. Here, I’d like to share three of my all-time favorite.
Jane the ghost
Jane is the most famous ghost of them all in Zimbabwe. It is said that she was a sex worker who lived, died, and then woke up. She cannot be called an avenging spirit because she was never violent to any one of them. Jan would go partying and clubbing around the city. Her superpower was undeniable beauty and super attractiveness. Most of them assume she might have been killed by one of her clients when she was a prostitute and she still wants to continue her work in the afterlife. It is alleged that her family eventually appeased her spirit and managed to send her soul to rest in the afterlife.
The forest that consumes its visitors
The fact that this place is a tourist attraction makes the story more intriguing. These forests are said to be enchanted, or rather, sacred. They are to be respected at all costs. The spirits of these forests are not to be angered as they have a way of returning a rude awakening to their offenders. One cannot make an exclamation or comment on whatever they see or hear in these places, as this will make the spirits angry. Scores of people are assumed to have disappeared in the trees as their whereabouts are unaccounted for after they took trips to the mountainous forests. The few who have managed to come out of the forest cannot account for the time they spent there. Does this not give you Stephen King’s The Mist vibes?
The dead man who refused to be buried
Chokuda faced a brutally gruesome murder for political reasons. His body spent nearly three years in the morgue as no one could bury him until his killers paid for what they did. Now the juice in the story is, no one was able to lift his coffin. The coffin would be very heavy and immovable whenever they tried to lift it. Other times, they will find the young man sitting on top of his coffin.
Workers in the morgue have claimed to have had conversations with him, as he narrated the details of his murder and told them why he did not want to be buried just yet. Occasionally the young man was seen herding his killer’s livestock or taking their children to school while oozing with fresh blood. To those who had nothing to do with his death, he was so harmless, they got used to him. However, his victims were faced with all kinds of terror.
Why I’m drawn to these stories
As Christians, we are taught that the dead are just that: dead. The doctrines insist no one comes back from the dead although it is not spoken of where their spirit goes. But how do we believe that when we have first-hand narratives of the encounters? How can I believe that ghosts are not real when my neighbor is stone-cold sober while narrating his night with Jane the Ghost, his face flushed and his voice trembling with terror.
How can I not believe when everyone else claims they have seen the dead man walking down the streets visiting his killer while oozing with fresh blood two years after his murder? Everyone was there when they failed to lift the coffin and lay their loved one to rest. Nothing challenges the Christian faith more than this.
Not everything is as innocent as it looks. You will learn appreciation more and more when you see the footprints of those who entered the forests and did not make it on their way back. No one knows what consumed them or what is holding them inside the bushes. Those who came back, say they cannot explain what they saw in there. This triggers the intense curiosity of wanting to know exactly what goes down in there.
Any horror fan will agree with me. Nothing is as entertaining as mystery, thriller, and terror roped in one. From dead men that refused to die, to ghosts who have unfinished business, victimizing everyone they meet and forests that consume those who disrespect the laws of their lands. These stories are enough to keep one hooked and left wanting to hear more. These are stories that often break the rules of familiar religions. They spark conversations that separate the creatively controversial from the simple-minded. They are relatively familiar yet so attached to their African roots. And they draw hard lessons on simple rules of nature and yet are so entertaining.