The shark remains the reigning champ of aquatic horror, dominating the sub-genre more than any other oceanic creature. Then there’s cryptids and sea creatures, of which horror always has room for more. That includes the folkloric creature made benign and romantic by Disney, the mermaid. Yes indeed, we are not talking about friendly Ariel. Today we are breaking down her much angrier and evil sisters… the sirens.
Perhaps the earliest account of mermaids is the Syrian tale of Atargatis. She is often said to be the very first mermaid, who became so after an attempt at suicide. Atargatis was a beautiful goddess who fell in love with a human shepherd. However, she accidentally kills him with her godly power. Riddled with grief, she attempts to kill herself by diving into the depths of the ocean. Generally, when gods enter the ocean they become fish. But this tale accounts that Atargatis was too beautiful to suffer this same fate, and the transformation stopped halfway through. Instead, Atargatis was given the body of a fish and kept her beautiful hair and head.
Although the story of Atargatis is certainly sad, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the siren lore. If you are looking for things of horror look no further than the sirens of Greece. Although initially depicted as devilish creatures with the legs of birds, eventually adaptations began to describe them as beautiful women with the bodies of fish. These mythical sea creatures were native to a group of islands known as the Sirenuse, and they were just as deadly as they were beautiful.
The Sirens have the voice of goddesses and sing beautiful songs that can be heard from miles away. Sailors heard their song as they passed through on their ships, which put them into a trance and lured them to the islands. The Sirens seduced the men with their beauty and lulled them with their gorgeous song, just before slaying them and devouring their bodies with their razor-sharp teeth.
Greeks weren’t the only ones sharing stories of mermaids. Russian tales of the Rusalki describe the half-fish, half-woman creatures as the lost souls of women who drown themselves in the ocean due to unwanted pregnancies. The Rusalki angrily stalks the ocean, hunting down men and children to take them as prey, torturing them and devouring them as payment for their death.
Perhaps the scariest part behind the tale of mermaids and sirens is the fact that they are ocean dwellers. With so little of the deep blue sea explored the existence of these creatures is not yet ruled out. In fact, more and more sailors and fisherman report strange noises, laughter, and even signing as a common occurrence. One man even went viral on TikTok after recording what sounded like a dolphin but many warned was most certainly not one.
Want to get even more spooked? Did you know that before they became concerned with exploring the universe NASA explored the ocean? They began their explorations in the 70s; however, it didn’t take long before they redirected their attention to the sky. What did they find down bellow that made them look at different planets? What lurked down there that made them think of looking for a way out? We aren’t sure, perhaps many things linger in the depths of the ocean just out of sight.