27 Of The Most Frightening Demons — And What Makes Them So Horrifying
By Austin Harvey | Edited By John Kuroski
Published December 15, 2023
Updated December 18, 2023
From infamous fallen angels like Satan to supernatural beings worshipped by the occult, meet some of the worst demons from history.
Throughout history, the word “demon” has been used in a variety of contexts. In most instances, a demon refers to an evil supernatural entity, typically from Hell, who can possess, attack, or otherwise torment a person. But this definition is not a one-size-fits-all descriptor of demons.
In ancient Mesopotamian religion, for example, demons were deities who served a litany of purposes. Some, such as the demon Pazuzu, controlled the wind and could bring destruction — but also served to ward off other malevolent and scary demons. Others, like Pazuzu’s rival Lamashtu, tormented pregnant women and terrorized unborn and newborn babies.
The modern understanding of demons, however, largely arose with the conception of demonology as perpetuated by figures such as King James VI of Scotland, Dutch physician and demonologist Johann Weyer, and the anonymous author of the grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon.
And if you liked this post, be sure to check out these popular posts:
1 of 28
Pazuzu, most commonly known for his depiction in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, originated in Mesopotamian folklore. An Assyrian and Babylonian deity, Pazuzu was believed to be the king of wind demons, capable of causing great destruction. However, he was also seen as helpful to humans, as he kept other malevolent demons away.Wikimedia Commons
2 of 28
Ördög was a shape-shifting demon from early Hungarian paganism, said to control the world's dark and evil forces. Supposedly, according to Hungarian mythology, the spirit Isten (God) enlisted Ördög's help in creating the world. Wikimedia Commons
3 of 28
Mammon is one of the Seven Princes of Hell, said to represent greed, avarice, wealth, abundance, and injustice.
Like the infamous Lucifer, Mammon is said to be a fallen angel in some Christian literature, cast out of Heaven after a revolt against God. Wikimedia Commons
4 of 28
Aamon, according to Christian demonology, is one of Hell's Grand Marquises.
Governing 40 infernal legions, Aamon is seen as the demon of life and reproduction. Wikimedia Commons
5 of 28
Abaddon is mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, and is described as the ruler of a swarm of locusts.
Interestingly, in the Bible, Abaddon is not only the name of a fallen angel, but it's also the name of a place of destruction, which is often linked with the realm of the dead.Wikimedia Commons
6 of 28
The word "Abraxas" has been inscribed on numerous charms, amulets, and other artifacts throughout history. Some believed the name itself possessed magical qualities.
Gnostics have described Abraxas as the "God above all Gods," yet the exact nature of this demon remains somewhat mysterious.
Despite its vague nature — or perhaps due to it — Abraxas has attracted the attention of a wide variety of people, including Carl Jung, Hermann Hesse, and Carlos Santana. Wikimedia Commons
7 of 28
Baphomet is a goat-headed demon with the body of a winged human, said to have been worshipped by the Knights Templar. Though Baphomet was long associated with Gnostic beliefs, it was eventually linked to Satan, mysticism, and occultists like Aleister Crowley.Wikimedia Commons
8 of 28
Beelzebub is commonly referred to as the "Lord of the Flies."
Originating as a Philistine god, Beelzebub was later adopted by Abrahamic religions as a major demon and has since become closely linked with Lucifer. However, in demonology, Beelzebub stands beside Mammon as one of the Seven Princes of Hell, often representing the sin of gluttony. Wikimedia Commons
9 of 28
In Judeo-Islamic lore, Asmodeus is known as the king of the demons.
Asmodeus is the main antagonist of the Book of Tobit, though it was later interpreted as the demonic personification of lust. Wikimedia Commons
10 of 28
Astaroth is said to be one part of the "evil trinity," alongside Beelzebub and Lucifer.
First mentioned in the grimoire Book of Abramelin, Astaroth has made appearances in numerous occult works. This demon has often been regarded as a Duke of Hell. Wikimedia Commons
11 of 28
Bael has been described in various forms in several grimoires. The Lesser Key of Solomon, for example, says that Bael appeared in changing forms, sometimes as a cat, a toad, a man, or a terrifying combination of the three.
Other texts, such as the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, claim that Bael appears as a three-headed creature, bearing the heads of a man, a cat, and a toad. Wikimedia Commons
12 of 28
Bifrons is mentioned in the demonological grimoires The Lesser Key of Solomon and the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum.
These texts describe Bifrons as an earl who appears in a monstrous form. Eventually, he is said to gradually appear more human. Though he's mostly known for moving bodies between graves, Bifrons is also known for teaching subjects like astronomy and geometry.
Some descriptions also claim that Bifrons commands his own legions of demons, though the number of demons under his rule could be anywhere between six and 60. Wikimedia Commons
13 of 28
A Chort is a demon originating in Slavic folk stories, where he is said to be the son of the god Chernobog and the goddess Mara. In folk Christianity, however, Chorts were considered to be lesser minions of Satan.
They have been said to be tricksters, playing pranks on unsuspecting people. More ominously, they also try to convince people to sell their souls in exchange for wealth or power.Wikimedia Commons
14 of 28
Div-e Sepid, the White Demon, is mentioned in the Persian epic of Shahnameh, where it is said to be a tremendously strong being highly skilled in sorcery and necromancy.
As the story goes, the demon summons a ferocious storm of hail, boulders, and tree trunks to destroy the army of King Kay Kavus, then captures the king and his commanders and imprisons them in a dungeon.
It is the Persian mythical hero Rostam who ultimately frees Kay Kavus and slays Div-e Sepid, using the demon's blood to cure the blindness that had been inflicted upon the king and his men while in captivity. Wikimedia Commons
15 of 28
Eisheth is commonly associated with the Christian "Whore of Babylon."
While her role varies depending on the source, Jewish tales describe Eisheth Zenunim, the "Woman of Whoredom," as a demonic figure who eats the souls of the damned. She is considered to be a personification of sin. Wikimedia Commons
16 of 28
Leviathan is a massive, malicious sea serpent mentioned in several books of the Hebrew Bible. It serves as an embodiment of chaos and was later seen by Christian scholars as a representation of the deadly sin of envy. Wikimedia Commons
17 of 28
Furcas is a Knight of Hell, who rules over 20 legions of demons. He was first described by the Dutch physician and demonologist Johann Weyer, who penned a number of works on demonology in the 16th century.
Weyer described Furcas as "a knight and commeth foorth in the similitude of a cruell man, with a long beard and a hoarie head, he sitteth on a pale horse, carrieng in his hand a sharpe weapon, he perfectlie teacheth practike philosophie, rhetorike, logike, astronomie, chiromancie, pyromancie, and their parts: there obeie him twentie legions."Wikimedia Commons
18 of 28
Gaap is mentioned in a number of demonological texts, including The Lesser Key of Solomon.
Gaap is said to rule 25 legions of spirits, but he often appears in human form to incite love. In his human form, Gaap is said to help women find a lover. He then renders them infertile. Wikimedia Commons
19 of 28
Johann Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and the anonymous grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon describe the demon Malphas as a President of Hell commanding 40 legions of demons. Malphas is one of Hell's mightiest leaders, second only to Satan.
Malphas often appears as an anthropomorphic raven, though he is also said to appear in human form as a man with a hoarse voice.Wikimedia Commons
20 of 28
Marchosias is a Marquis of Hell, depicted in The Lesser Key of Solomon as a wolf with the wings of a gryphon and the tail of a serpent.
Marchosias, like some other demons, had once belonged to an angelic order — specifically, the Dominions
— before falling. Wikimedia Commons
21 of 28
An incubus is a demonic spirit that appears in male form and that, according to medieval European folklore, seeks to have sex with sleeping women. It was believed that children born of an incubus — or a succubus, the female counterpart of the incubus — would go on to become witches, demons, or deformed children.Wikimedia Commons
22 of 28
Orobas, the patron spirit of horses, is a Great Prince of Hell, commanding 20 legions of demons. He is said to have the power to predict the future and can supposedly answer any question about the past.Wikimedia Commons
23 of 28
Oni are Japanese mythological beings that are often portrayed as hulking demons with horns, fangs, and incredible strength. Many depictions resemble an ogre or troll-like creature.
An oni has an evil nature that can lead it to commit horrific acts, such as mass murder and cannibalism. However, some tales state that these creatures are capable of changing their ways and converting to Buddhism.Wikimedia Commons
24 of 28
Ronove is a Marquis and Great Earl of Hell who commands 20 legions of demons. His appearance is not described in great detail, beyond it being stated that he is a monster who carries a staff.
Ronove is said to be the taker of old souls, who comes to Earth to harvest the souls of dying humans and animals. Wikimedia Commons
25 of 28
Satan, also known as Lucifer or simply the Devil, is perhaps the most infamous demon of all. In Christianity, he's described as one of God's greatest angels who then rebelled and fell. He was then given dominion over Hell and command over its many legions of demons. (He is also seen as an evil inclination or a figure of evil in Judaism and Islam.)
As time went on, the image of Satan gradually took on more and more malevolent characteristics, especially as belief in demonic possession and witchcraft grew.
Of course, not everyone considers Satan to be an evil figure. Theistic Satanism, for example, regards him as a deity meant to be worshipped.
Although Satan's appearance is never fully described in any religious texts, his appearance has come to be associated with the image of a cloven-hoofed, horned creature with a forked tongue, which is an amalgamation of various pagan deities. Wikimedia Commons
26 of 28
A figure from Jewish folklore, Lilith was said to be the first wife of Adam before he met Eve. While Lilith briefly lived in the Biblical Garden of Eden, she either left or was banished after she refused to obey her husband. Despite her controversial depiction in lore, she gained a surprisingly large cult following that endured until the 7th century C.E.Wikimedia Commons
27 of 28
Mephistopheles, also known as Mephisto, is a demon commonly found in the folklore of Germany. It is mostly known for its role in the classic Faustian legend of a man who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power. In the story, Mephistopheles is the intermediary between Faust and the Devil. Wikimedia Commons
27 Of The Most Frightening Demons — And What Makes Them So Horrifying
Learn about some of history's scariest demons in the gallery above, then read more about the early study of demonology below.
History's Early Compendiums Of Scary Demons
Demonology is, as the name suggests, the study of demons. It is referenced in both religious and occult circles, and generally covers the hierarchy of demons, their powers and limitations, attributes, and various names. Some also refer to it as a branch of magic dealing with malevolent spirits.
One of the earliest prominent examples of a demonological text was Johann Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, or the False Monarchy of Demons, which was released in 1577. Weyer's text lists in total 69 demons in their hierarchy. (The Ars Goetia, the first book of the anonymous grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon, would later raise this number to 72 demons.)
Even before the publication of Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, Weyer had already established himself as a predominant scholar in the field of demonology upon the release of his most influential work, De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Venificiis, or On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons, back in 1563.
Public DomainJohann Weyer, a physician who wrote extensively on demons and witchcraft.
So who was Johann Weyer and what led him to demonology? According to a 1993 publication from the University of Iowa, Weyer was a Dutch physician whose work has largely influenced the modern-day field of psychiatry.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Weyer largely opposed the ongoing fear surrounding witchcraft in Europe. He spoke out against the persecution of people who were accused of being witches, and pioneered the idea of treating a mentally ill person with compassion and empathy.
But it was the publication of Daemonologie by King James VI of Scotland (later known as James VI and I) in 1597 that solidified the study of demonology in history. And his goals were far different from Weyer's.
King James' Role In Demonology And The Witchcraft Panic
Daemonologie was published several years before King James' version of the Bible, and it contained three books that served in part as a philosophical dissertation on magic, sorcery and witchcraft, and spirits and ghosts. The text also included King James' classification of demons, which stemmed from the king's involvement in the 1590 North Berwick witch trials.
The book begins:
"The fearful abounding, at this time and in this country of these detestable slaves of the devil, the witches (...) hath moved me to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine (...) to resolve the doubting (...) both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished."
In essence, Daemonologie largely supported the ongoing persecution and trials of accused witches in King James' territories.
Wellcome Library, LondonThe title page of King James' Daemonologie.
As explained in the study "James VI The Demonologist King," James claimed that many of his sources for the work were based on the testimonies of confessed witches, past cases from history, and, of course, the Bible.
King James' goal with Daemonologie was not to create a definitive classification of demons or inform the masses of the "true nature" of magic, but rather to prove that the Devil was enacting his will on Earth — and to justify witch hunting and witch trials throughout Europe.
He used Biblical teachings to convince Christians of the existence of witchcraft, and amassed numerous dissertations on magical studies to draw comparisons between ancient magical practices and beliefs and the Devil.
Demonology In The Modern World
Despite its centuries-old roots and a modern understanding that many historical witch trials had not targeted actual witches, demonology is still alive and well today — and so are legends of scary demons.
Of course, the Warrens are controversial figures, with The Hollywood Reporter releasing an account that detailed the alleged abuse the Warrens inflicted on each other and on an underage girl who Ed pursued an inappropriate relationship with, despite meeting her when she was just 15.
There have been other people in the modern age to affix to themselves the title of "demonologist," but the Warrens are certainly the most well-known.
That said, the field of demonology itself is becoming more obscure in the modern, secular world. What remains of this field are a few medieval manuscripts that have survived the passage of time. However, the influence of demonology on popular culture is not going away anytime soon, especially since The Conjuring franchise is one of the most popular in the world.
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.