Kuchisake-onna (literally slit-faced woman) is a malevolent ghost from Japanese folk legend. More recently, reports of her appearance have surfaced from as far afield as South Korea.
Appearing as a woman with the lower half of her face covered (in differing versions of the story by a scarf, fan or surgical mask), Kuchisake-onna will approach her prey (invariably either men or children) and ask them if they think she is pretty. No matter what reply they give, the victim will suffer a grisly fate.
In the original version of this tale, dating from feudal Japan, Kuchisake-onna was caught being unfaithful by her husband who proceeded to cut her face from lips to ears then asked "Who will think you are beautiful now?" The woman died and returned as a malicious spirit who would approach men and ask them if they thought she was pretty. If the man replied "Yes," or screamed, then she would mutilate him in such way that he appeared like her. If he replied no, then she would seem to leave him be, but would in fact follow him home and savagely murder him in the night.
The legend began to resurface in modern times, with reports beginning to appear around 1979 from southern Japan, but quickly escalating to encompass the whole country, and even beyond. Stories tell of panic in many rural towns, schools initiating policies of escorting children home in groups, and even of police increasing their street presence. In addition, a local coroner was said to have uncovered documentation which told of a woman who had been hit by a car whilst chasing a group of children. The woman died, but her face had been torn open in the same manner as in the original story.
In the modern version, Kuchisake-onna is more likely to approach children, and tends to use a surgical mask in place of her more traditional coverings. Here, she will still ask if her victim thinks she is pretty, and if they answer no then she will kill them with the large pair of scissors which she carries. If they answer yes, then she will take off her mask and ask "How about now?" If they still answer yes she will disfigure them with her scissors to make them look like her, and if they answer no then she will simply cut the poor unfortunate in half.
After Kuchisake-onna's more recent appearances, stories have surfaced on ways to avoid a bloody end. These vary from offering an ambiguous answer to her question (such as "You are average," or "Do you think I'm pretty?"; these will confuse her long enough to make oneself scarce), to suggesting that one needs to be somewhere else (she will pardon her manners and walk away), to throwing money or sweets at her (which she will then attempt to pick up, buying time to escape).