As a teenager back in 90s, I would indulge myself with anything containing horror be it plays, shows, or books during October. This would include all-nighters watching some of the worst of B-rated movies to the latest multi-million dollar blockbuster release. Now, I seen my share of horror films and only on a few occasions come across a video terrifying enough to get chills. One such movie I recall had a scene involved a man appearing out of a closet with no face resulting in a few enjoyable seconds of fear. Today, the name of film escapes me but remembered the time spent in trying to discover what it was. Years later with access to the Internet, I finally come to learn the creature was a Japanese yokai called the nopperabō.
In Japanese folklore, nopperabō is a ghost or shape-shifting that resembles an ordinary human hiding within society. This yokai would appear late at night on empty roads, dead-end ally ways or in a booth out in the middle of no where as it delighted in terrifying people by revealing its true form to unsuspecting victims. Legends described those encountered nopperabō would first be fooled in seeing a man or woman in distress and upon closer examination come face-to-face with a head lacking any features of a noise, month and eyes.
The true nature of this yokai is mysterious with some legends saying its a mischievous animal spirit, others describing a playful shape-shifting with a few mentioning a restless spirit seeking attention. One certainty about the nopperabō is its aim in horrifying humans with its faceless features at opportune times. Tales warn that this yokai is not alone for it will often work with others in a group to frighten people. On some incidents the creature would take on the form of a relative or friend to lure in their victims. One story tells of a man who runs home scared after encountering a nopperabō and when he explains to the wife what he saw she replies with “Oh, you mean like this?” then wipes her face off with her hand.
The story of the nopperabō has been told for centuries within Japan with alleged sightings across the country. Today the yokai exists in urban legends where school children say they had met one on the home from school. There been accounts of nopperabō reported in Hawaii revealing that either the legend or the creature followed Japanese immigrants to the island state.