Masks have been with us since time unremembered, and have an important place across cultural boundaries, as well as a certain inherent, even primal allure. They cover our identity, allow us to take on another persona, and throughout history they have been used for all manner of purposes, from performance, to war, to being designed purely to frighten and intimidate. Throughout cultures masks have an intrinsic grasp upon our psyche, and they have appeared throughout history in countless forms. Masks can also certainly be creepy, there is no doubt about that, and the creepiest of all are the various masks out there said to be haunted, cursed, or both.
There are plenty of tales of cursed or haunted masks floating around out there, and although it is not always easy to tell if they are reliable reports they are creepy nonetheless. One Reddit user named “Maddogmitch56” brings to us one such spooky account, claiming that he had been on a trip to Guatemala at the time to help with building housing for local tribes he says “literally lived in mud shacks way off in the jungle,” as part of a mission. On the second to the last day of the week-long excursion the witness says that he went to a local marketplace with some of the others to find unique souvenirs, and while they were there his friend bought a wooden mask, of which he says:
It was a bright pink skeleton mask with a bunch of different markings and symbols. Although the color was pretty, it had a sort of creepy look about it since the teeth were made to be sharp and it had an angry face. I didn’t think much more of it until that night.
That night he was woken by a group of the others making a fuss about something in the common area of the place they were staying at, and when he went to investigate they claimed that a door had suddenly slammed for no reason while they were in there chatting. The witness wrote this off as no big deal, and decided to stay up talking with them, but their conversation was then interrupted by several very loud bangs that are described as sounding like a shotgun going off in another room of the house downstairs directly below them. The witness went to investigate, but there was no one at all around, no sign of anything or anyone that could have made that noise. It only gets weirder from there, and he explains:
I went back upstairs to tell everyone and as I’m talking all the windows in the common area, about 4, start swinging open and shut with a crazy amount of force. They were all open to let the air in so they were on a hinge type device. At first I thought it was the wind but there was absolutely no wind coming through, definitely not enough to generate that kind of force. Needless to say we all were freaking out. Another person in the group went to grab our youth pastor, and when he came out he said he was having these crazy vision-like dreams of this dark figure in his room. He told us to pray and it would all be ok, then he went back to bed. Since we were all way too freaked out to go back to sleep, we started wondering why this was happening. We all came to the realization that it might be the mask. Then, out of nowhere, the youth pastor comes back and tells us it might be the mask. Keep in mind we hadn’t discussed the mask with him at all.
I then grab the mask and open the back door of the house and throw out it out. The house was built on a mountain away from the town so when I threw it, it went down the mountain a good bit. The rest of the night was not any better. We all decided to sleep on the couches in the common area together, and every few minutes we would hear what sounded like long nails scraping the walls and ceiling above our heads, and it sounded like it was moving fast.
Fast forward to the morning where we are all super tired from no sleep, and we’re telling this story to the rest of the group. Somehow no one else on the trip heard anything like a gunshot or nails, but a lot of them said they all had really bad dreams and the dark figure was a reoccurring symbol between them. Our translator for the trip overhears this and tells us we need to immediately go and find the mask, and we need to burn it. He said that those masks are used in tribal rituals and demon worship, and a demon could have been attached to the mask. We all get up and start frantically searching, and one of us finds the mask already burning. The groundskeeper apparently saw the mask earlier that morning and knew what to do when he saw it. There weren’t any more weird experiences after that, but all of us that went through it never looked at demons and the spiritual world the same again.
Tribal demon mask or tall tale? A similar story comes from the commenter “Maskthrow,” who says he took a trip to Liberia, in Africa, and purchased what he calls a mask worn by the Sande secret women’s society in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. Rather gruesomely, the mask is of a type worn by the conductor of ritualistic genital mutilation carried on new Sande initiates. It is perhaps this morbid history of the mask that infused it with dark powers, and the witness says of it:
Knowing all this I happily picked up the mask and brought it home with me to Europe. Ever since I have, I’ve been hearing faint cries of young girls in my apartment at night. At first I thought they were coming from outside but they happen too often for it to be anyone here in my quiet little town. The mask itself also feels malevolent. When I look at it I start to feel uneasy, almost as if I shouldn’t have it or even see it, like it’s not meant for me. I’m posting because last night I could hear the girls’ cries louder and clearer than usual, with a gentle background of adult voices chanting.
When I came into the living room (where the mask is) this morning, I could really feel it “looking” at me even when I was facing away. I’m not really sure what to do about this. I don’t want to spark anything by burning or destroying the mask, but I don’t want to just palm it off to someone else. I’m also hesitant to get a church involved. Also, I live alone and am male. Perhaps that’s what the mask is upset about?
Another report of a sinister mask that came into someone’s life to sow havoc comes from the site Haunting Darkness, from a witness who claims her sister Rose, who is described as a spirit medium, acquired it from a client, after which it demonstrated some bizarre properties. The witness says:
My sister has recently gotten into energy work. She believes in realigning chakras and helping cleanse people of negative energy. My sister is also a medium. One of her clients gave her a mask because the mask “wanted” her and the mask had negative energy. The client believed the mask was drawn to Rose and had been scared by haunted activity that had occurred around the mask. I am very honest with my sister. She knows I am skeptical of her work. I have a degree in clinical psychology and have practiced for ten years. I tend to believe in cognitive behavioral theory rather than in misaligned chakras or bad energy. However, this mask my sister got definitely possessed something. From the moment it entered her life, it spoke to her. She had to get rid of it. Others around her saw spirits associated with the mask. The previous owner was terrified of it. After working with the mask, she was able to cleanse it and the ghost she believes she has been able to free the spirit that was in the mask and return it to its original owner. Although I remain skeptical of my sister’s work, I find it beautiful that she was able to cleanse a cursed object and return it’s owner.
A really bizarre story that has made the rounds in recent years is that of the so-called “Devil’s Mask,” which was first described and written of on AminoApps by a commenter calling himself “Hillbilly Creeper,” who claims to be Native American and to have a very dark story to tell from his tribe. It is quite the tale indeed, beginning back with a Native shaman who was said to have the power to heal and to even bring people back from the dead. However, in secret he was also a dark soul, carrying out evil rituals and sacrifices, and his heart was corrupted by a brooding darkness. In many of these horrific rituals he would castrate men, remove fetuses from pregnant women, remove vital organs while the victim was still alive, eat their flesh, drink their blood, mutilate them, and generally do all manner of unspeakable things.
This went on in the shadows for some time while the shaman kept up his façade as a healer, but suspicions soon fell on him, and when he was once caught in the act he was captured by tribal warriors and sentenced to death by beheading. Before the execution was carried out he allegedly put on a mask made of the flesh and bones of his victims and proclaimed “Killing me will not make your suffering go away. It will only make it worse, for I have the power of my God Satan and as long as I believe in his word, I shall live on for eternity.” He was then beheaded and burned to ashes and his accursed mask thrown into the flames with him, but oddly the mask would not burn, so it was locked away by the village elders, yet this did little to stop its dark powers.
True to the evil shaman’s word, the mask brought nothing but strife to the village, starting with the grandson of one of the elders, who found the mask, put it on, and promptly fell ill with a mysterious sickness and died. After that calamity after calamity struck the tribe, including enemy attacks, disease, withered crops, famine, women having frequent miscarriages, men dropping dead from heart attacks, natural disasters, and other tragedies. The mask was finally taken away far from the village and buried in a last ditch effort to get rid of it, and after that it sort of faded into history and was spoken of only within stories in the tribe. This is where things get even stranger, as the witness claims that he thinks he found the very same mask from the tale. He says he found it at an old antique shop, and he says:
Right there in the window stood a sign that said “authentic Native American mask for sale” and next to the sign was a blood-stained mask with a horrible face and horns protruding from its forehead and that’s when my blood turned as cold ice. I thought to myself it that couldn’t be ‘it’. That could not be the same mask from the stories. As I looked at it through the shop window, I could have sworn that it was looking right back at me. Staring straight into my soul, knowing my fears and thoughts. After standing there for what felt like an eternity. I got the hell out of there and drove home. Before I got to my house, I picked up my cell phone and called my great-great-grandfather who was chief of the reservation. I told him that it had come back and my great-great-grandfather ask me what I meant. I told him that the mask the one from the fucking stories had found its way home. My really great grandfather stood quiet for a minute on the phone. That’s when he began to speak. “Where is it, grandson? Tell me” he replied with fear in his voice. I told him it was in an antique shop in town
Then he spoke again and told me. “Whatever you are doing, do it and come by to pick me up. We’re going back to that place to end this curse once and for all” so I turned around and went by his place on the reservation and picked him up and took him straight into town to the antique shop. About the time we got there, an accident had occurred. A fire had broken out at the restaurant next door to the shop and spread to it. Before the fire was extinguished everything on that entire strip was turned to ashes
I came to find out there were people still inside that had perished in the fire along with everything else. The fireman scouted around for what was left of the people and or items. Not a damn thing survived. The mask was gone and I know what you are thinking. What if it went up in flames just like everyone and everything else? But I know it didn’t because if it didn’t burn then, I know for sure as fuck it didn’t burn now and it’s still out there waiting to come back. Waiting to finish the rest of us off just like the shaman promised. So if anyone out there sees a Native American devil’s mask drenched in blood, get as far away as you possibly can or you will become its next victim.
Is this for real, and if so where is the mask now and who has it? One curious haunted mask that you can go see for yourself is kept at the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult. Rather colorfully called “The Fetid Face,” it is an unsettling, angry looking, ugly thing, bright red with bulging eyes and flared nostrils. According to the museum’s owners, Dana and Greg Newkirk, the mask was received in the mail from an anonymous sender, who had included an ominous note that simply says, “I’m sorry.” It had also been apparently covered in human waste, and after cleaning it up they did what any sensible person would do with it and had a friend put it on to see what would happen. According to them, after a half an hour the friend reported that he felt as if he was leaving his own body, and when he took the mask off he was hit by intense, overwhelming nausea. Others who have worn the mask have said they are overcome with intense feelings of jealousy or other emotions that seem to come unbidden and channeled from some other place, and for now it remains locked in a display case.
If this is all true, then it could be that this particular mask has somehow absorbed the emotions of those who have worn it in the past, and there is a similar belief with the masks used in traditional Japanese Noh performances, a type of play carried out wordlessly through gestures, movements, and a variety of masks that depict gods, demons, men, women, and others. There are hundreds of different types of Noh masks, called noh-men or omote, and they are passed down for generations. According to some legends these are believed to absorb the emotions or even some of the soul from their wearers and can project those onto another wearer, and some darker urban legends even say that the masks can possess people or feed off of their lifeforce or negative energy. Whether any of this is true or not, Noh masks are at one beautiful pieces of craftsmanship and also not a little creepy.
This idea of masks absorbing emotions and the soul can also be found in the myths of the Native Maori people of New Zealand. When going to fight their enemies, “Warrior Masks” were often crafted, which were said to absorb the soul of the warrior who wore it if they fell in battle. Oddly, it is said that these warrior masks have an unusual effect on pregnant women, as they are said to have miscarriages or other complications, or give birth to babies with severe birth defects if they are to touch the masks or even get too close. Women who are menstruating are also said to suffer from mysterious, sometimes fatal health problems if they touch the masks. It is unclear why this should be, but it is such a persistent belief that some museums that display Maori warrior masks put up notices warning pregnant women to stay away, just to be safe.
With such stories of haunted and cursed masks we can see that they have earned a place among the various other paranormal objects of the world, and with their history and deeply ingrained place within out psyche it is not hard to see why. Creepy, powerful, and infused with myth and meaning, masks hold our imaginations, and in at least some cases, might hold something more mysterious still.