Creature Feature: Rokurokubi

Rokurokubi is another youkai from Japan. These creatures look and act like normal humans, but at night their necks elongate, freeing their heads to move around almost independently from their bodies. Most Rokurokubi are women, and they take pleasure in scaring regular humans. Rokurokubi are also apparently fond of licking the oil used to light indoor lanterns.

Some Rokurokubi actually prefer to live their lives pretending to be a human. Though they may appear to be completely normal people, every night they must combat the urge to stretch their neck out and go off scaring humans. Rokurokubi have been a staple of Japanese horror stories since the Edo period.

There is also another, more sinister form of Rokurokubi. This version drinks blood and lives only to prey on normal people. These monsters differ from their less-threatening counterparts in that their heads completely detach from their bodies and fly around disconnected at night. Instead of a long neck, the flying, disembodied head is the defining characteristic for this version. These Rokurokubi attempt to hide their bodies at night, and can be killed if their bodies are discovered while the heads are detached.

There is some discussion that the name Rokurokubi only applies to the long-necked trickster version of this creature. The latter monster, it has been suggested, is more correctly called Nukekubi. The confusion seems to date back to Lafcadio Hearn’s story Rokuro-Kubi, which describes the more malicious form. That said, the former long-necked form is by far the most common and well-known.

3 thoughts on “Creature Feature: Rokurokubi

  1. Snake necked women who drink lamp oil?
    The Japanese have a lot of imagination!
    All these night monsters must keep kids
    in their beds for sure.

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