Oct 27, 2020 I Nick Redfern

The Aswang: Maybe the Most Terrifying Monster of All

Of all the many and various shapeshifters that populate our planet, in the terror stakes there are very few that can rival the horrific Aswang of the Philippines. A killing-machine that haunts the woods and jungles of the islands, it has certain attributes that will, by now, have become acutely familiar. They include a strong rotting odor, and an ability to change into the form of an upright wolf and that of a huge black dog with glowing, red eyes. Appropriately for a creature that has multiple forms, it also has more than a few names, including the Sok-Sok and the Tik-Tik. The odd titles are derived from ancient legends which maintain they are the click-like noises the Aswangs make when they are about to launch an attack on the doomed and the unwary. Over at Cryptidz.fandom.com, we learn the following of this menacing thing:

"The wide variety of descriptions in the aswang stories make it difficult to settle upon a fixed definition of aswang appearances or activities. However, several common themes that differentiate aswangs from other mythological creatures do emerge: Aswangs are shapeshifters. Stories recount aswangs living as regular townspeople. As regular townspeople, they are quiet, shy and elusive. At night, they transform into creatures such as a cat, pig, bird, or most often, a dog. They enjoy eating unborn fetuses and small children, favoring livers and hearts. Some have long proboscises, which they use to suck the children out of their mothers' wombs or their homes. Some are so thin that they can hide themselves behind a bamboo post. They are fast and silent."

Aswang common form
Aswang drawing (Wikipedia)

Although the Aswang is recognized as being a creature that lurks in the hearts of numerous islands in the Philippines, the overwhelming majority of all the reports on record surface from the island of Mindano, which has a population in excess of twenty million. Just like the Kushtaka of Alaska, the Aswang is noted for its nausea-inducing smell and its sore-covered body. Unlike the Kushtaka, however, the Aswang is often seen wearing clothes – albeit almost always ripped and tattered clothing. And whereas the Kushtaka are both male and female, in most cases the Aswang is described as being female. In contrast to the beautiful woman which Scotland’s Kelpie can turn into, however, the Aswang is almost always described as being a hag-like, ugly creature of grotesque proportions.


Unfortunately for their victims, and regardless of their near-decaying appearances, Aswangs are said to be phenomenal athletes. They can run at incredible speeds and are able to climb trees and scale rooftops with incredible ease – something which is made even easier by their shape-changing abilities. Children and babies are particular delicacies of the Aswangs, who will seek out the young whenever, and wherever, possible when hunger strikes. One of the most disturbing aspects of the Aswang legend maintains that if a person receives a bite from such a creature, but they are not outright killed in the process, the person will themselves then become an Aswang. And very quickly, too. They will turn homicidal, their skin will decay, and they will take on a decidedly dead-looking appearance. And let us not forget that vomit-inducing smell, too.

In light of this, it could justifiably be said that the Aswang phenomenon is the Philippines’ very own equivalent of a zombie apocalypse, one of the kind most graphically portrayed in the likes of the Armageddon-driven The Walking Dead, World War Z, and Night of the Living Dead. Except for one important thing: unlike the Aswang of the Philippines, in the hugely popular movies and television series the reanimated dead don’t have the ability to transform into human-like wolves or dogs resembling the rampaging monster portrayed in the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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