Sinister Colonial Ghost Stories: The Breath Of The Devil
19 de octubre de 2018María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Throughout this series, you'll read some of the most popular sinister ghost stories that date back to the times of the Colony in Mexico and that still haunt our imagination.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard ghost stories everywhere I go. I’ve always thought it had to do with all the superstitious beliefs we have as a society, combined with the fervent religious life most Mexicans lead. I'm not kidding, just going to my cousins’ house means hearing about a long list of supernatural events and everyone's theories about them.
The story I’m going to tell you today is one I’ve been hearing all my life mainly because it happened right next to where I live. If you read our first story from the series, you might have seen that I live right next to an old colonial town, and let me tell you that place at night is truly one of the scariest places I’ve ever been. So, naturally, being such an eerie spot, there are tons of ghost stories set there like the one we’re going to narrate today.
There was once a Spanish family arriving at the capital of New Spain in the hopes of making a fortune just because they were, well, Spanish. Don Rodrigo Gómez de Villanueva, his wife Doña Lorenza, and their son Ramón arrived with high hopes to the Pedregal de San Ángel to see their new home, where they were going to start over. Now, imagine their surprise when they saw that the place they had invested all their money was in ruins: the roof was gone, the walls were crooked, and the soil was barren. Ever the optimist, Don Rodrigo assured his family that with some hard work they could make a fortune out of that wasteland. Just when he was finishing his motivational speech, an invasive stench flooded the place. It was, as the newcomers thought, the pure stench of the devil. Immediately an uproarious laughter pierced their ears, it was like nothing they had heard before.
All of a sudden, an old man in rags came out from the rubble to warn the family that no matter what they did he would never allow them to make the place flourish. However, Don Rodrigo was more stubborn than fearful, so he ignored the old man and immediately started making plans to bring this place to life. Unfortunately, for Doña Lorenza, the enterprise was cursed before it had even started. They soon found out that no one was willing to work at the land for all the money in the world, and thus the family had to do all the hard work by themselves.
A few months passed, and against all odds, they managed to rebuild the majestic house and make the land blossom, but they would soon find out that a warning as ominous as the one they received wasn’t to be taken lightly. That night while the family was celebrating their victory, a strong wind started hitting the walls and windows making the house squeak and crackle. To make matters worse, the warm and potent sulfuric stench they had witnessed at their arrival was stronger than ever. Soon, that strong wind turned into a tornado that took the roof of the newly built house and ravaging all their goods. Doña Lorenza and Ramón were begging Don Rodrigo to listen to the advice of the old man and go somewhere else to start over, but Don Rodrigo was firm and decided they could do the same thing again without any trouble.
Once again, after months of extenuating work, they finished the house. They were as happy as ever. Well, until the old man in rags appeared again assuring them that no matter how hard they worked or how great things were looking, at the end of the day, the land would not let them be happy for long. And like the good prophet he was, that night they started experiencing the strange stench and the strong winds once again. All of a sudden, when the wind wasn’t as bad as the last time, Ramón noticed that the horses hadn’t been properly tied and they would go missing. Despite his parent’s advise, young Ramón decided to shelter them. However, as soon as he reached the stables the wind grew potent as ever taking poor Ramón and the horses with him. Right away the piercing laughter they had experienced on their first day was heard once again making the parents more anxious and nervous.
When the wind settled and the house was once again reduced to nothing, Don Rodrigo and Doña Lorenza went out looking for their son, only to find his body with wounds that the wind couldn’t have caused. It looked as if someone had ripped out parts of his flesh leaving his bones and skull exposed. This time they had really lost everything that made them happy. Devastated, the couple decided to seek shelter in the ravaged building. However, that night, the spirit of Ramón appeared before Doña Lorenza to warn her of the risks they faced. Still, Don Rodrigo didn't want to give up; he would fight with all his strength to make this work even if it meant fighting the devil himself.
The next night, Ramón appeared once again, and this time, Don Rodrigo witnessed it all by himself. He was looking even worse than he had the night before, which made his parents worry terribly for the soul of his son. Once again he had come to beg his family to go somewhere else and leave this cursed land behind. And once again Don Rodrigo refused to leave. Then, the following night when they saw the spirit of their son more damaged than the previous nights. He warned them that this was the only chance he had to come back and talk to them. He told them that only a person capable to defeat the devil would be one who had served God.
The next morning the devastated couple got out of the rubble to see what they could do to save themselves when they saw a chariot coming over at full speed. When the chariot was close to where they were, without thinking, Don Rodrigo took the bridles of the horse to stop him. The passenger managed to jump out, but the horse kept running, carrying Don Rodrigo with it. After being dragged for miles, the horse finally stopped, but it was too late for Don Rodrigo. He was dead. The passenger, who happened to be a monk, prayed for his soul and told the widow he had to be buried as soon as possible. Doña Lorenza immediately understood everything: Don Rodrigo’s last breath was given serving God by saving the life of one of his most devoted followers. She explained what had happened, and together they buried Don Rodrigo’s body, standing up with a cross pointing at the sky.
Some believe that, finally, Don Rodrigo managed to defeat the devil and that he was resting in heaven together with his son. Others believe that despite the sacrifice, the devil can’t be defeated and that every time the wind blows strong, it's a reminder that he’s lurking and looking for evil people to punish. As someone who has passed by at night, I can assure you that it looks nothing like a holy and spiritually peaceful place either. Anyway, if you ever happen to be there, I recommend praying a bit while you walk by.
For more on the series:
Sinister Colonial Ghost Stories: The House of the Fleshless Indigenous Woman
Sinister Colonial Ghost Stories: The Priest's Bridge