Have you heard about La Llorona or The Singing Forest? Listening to these terrifying legends from Latin American folklore under the proper circumstances will put your courage to the test.
When it comes to fright and superstition, human imagination knows no bounds. In trying to make sense of little-understood phenomena, humans will often appeal to the supernatural as a general tendency to project onto the world those intimate features of consciousness and intelligence where perhaps there is none. Nevertheless, there’s something deeply appealing about such folk tales that have captured the imagination of communities and individuals across the globe. Among them, Latin America stands out for providing rather frightening characters and stories that would surely be paralyzing should you hear them in the right atmosphere. Just imagine standing near a river on a foggy night in the remote countryside and hearing about La Llorona… Well, let’s just say it would have a rather intense effect. So, if you want to scare your friends (or yourself) on such occasions, here are seven of the most popular horror legends from Latin America.
La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)—Across Latin America (with slightly different versions)
Once in a small town there was a young couple whose house stood near a river. They had lived there for a while and the wife had recently given birth to their third child when a poisonous suspicion began to brew in the depths of her fears. Her husband left early and came back late, sometimes not even spending the night, constantly leaving her alone to take care of house and children. He argued he was working all the time, but in her mind she knew better. Heartbroken, she fell into a deep depression and increasingly began to experience mysterious blackouts.
After a few weeks of a worsening condition, one night under a full bright moon, she took her children towards the river—her gaze lost and her eyes almost dead—in the regular absence of her husband. One by one, she held her children’s heads under the water and drowned them.
Soon after the deed, she reacted, and in realizing what had happened, she screamed to the heavens a curse of despair and agonizing pain as she held her three limp children. “Oh, my children!” she shouted over and over until she was drained of strength. Finally, the grieving mother took her own life in an attempt to follow her children and meet them in the afterlife.
Her spirit rose in everlasting pain, and now it wonders around bodies of water looking for her little ones. Often, you can hear her echoing lament as a sign of the coming doom she brings with her. “Oh, my children! Where are my children?,” she says before kidnapping young kids whom she drowns after realizing they’re not her own. She often wanders the streets and people's homes, wearing a white nightgown; her pale lifeless face covered with dripping dark black hair that’s been left forever wet.
El Coco (The Boogeyman)—Across Latin America
When night falls, a monster wakes up and watches all children. On a dark road or behind the closet, it’s all the same: el Coco can come and go as it pleases, shifting in size and shape and stalking anyone for whom it develops an appetite. Deep in the woods or in the busy heart of the city, a subtle hissing will precede it and without further warning it will snatch its careless victim.
Any lonely child, especially those who misbehave, is in danger, as the ghostly creature will succeed often hidden in the shadows and under the bed. When it comes, it either takes children away into the supernatural realm of the dead to be eternally tormented, or it eats them, leaving no trace behind but an empty bed.
As a shapeless monster, el Coco’s appearance varies to fit its purpose, often becoming a mere shadow or otherwise guising itself as monstrous animals to ambush children wherever they may hide. It’s regularly represented as a vague figure with a skull or pumpkin head—always waiting and forever watching. It is the primordial stalker.
The Singing Forest—Eastern Mexico
It is said that certain forests are cursed with the primal evil of its supernatural inhabitants. A person unlucky enough to travel through the haunted woods at night can often be lured by an irresistible chant echoing across the trees. As they walk, they will suddenly hear a seemingly sweet and angelical voice coming from deep within the woodland, and they’ll be inevitably drawn to it like sailors to a siren.
Soon after, they will suddenly hear a tree falling nearby, and then they’ll be truly lost. The voice will quiet, and strange appearances from tormented ghosts will drive the person mad. And then she’ll come; a look at her eyes devastates the victim’s mind as they share in a million torments from all those who have suffered before.
The most terrible visions and painful dread will forever remain as they run in a frenzy trying to find a way out, only to always return to the same spot, the very center of the Singing Forest (no matter which direction they take). Their screams will be silenced by the trees and those few who are actually found won’t be able to utter anything else but the endless repetition of their torture. They will re-live the ordeal over and over, so while they physically escaped, their mind remains forever trapped in the forest with the rest of the victims.
La Viudita (The Little Widow)—South America
After years of living in fear of her abusive husband, who would hit and rape her whenever he drank, a woman decided to fight back. She killed her husband, and afterwards herself, but she was not done.
On any given night, always after midnight, she can be seen dressed all in black, her face covered by a mysterious veil. Those who try and walk her home, often drunk and driven by lust or other nefarious purpose, will be encouraged to touch her body, to kiss her hands and to get intimate without lifting the veil until they reach the privacy of a bedroom.
There and then la Viudita shows her true appearance. As her would-be abuser lifts the veil, she reveals a horrifying image: a faceless skull with no lips, eyes, nose, or hair, as she lets out a maniacal bone-chilling laughter. Unable to handle the sight and the scene’s sheer terror, men faint and are left traumatized thereafter. If their heart managed to take it, they often wake up covered in thistles, forever haunted by the image of the Widow.
El Chupacabra (The Goat-Sucker)—Across Latin America
On lonely roads and unguarded grasslands, there lurks a creature in the dark who feeds on blood and kills unfazed. Any time it surfaces, the morning after finds the corpses of livestock all around, drained of fluids and with an agonizing gaze. The chupacabra hasn’t yet been reported to feed on humans, but its sight is nonetheless terrifying for those who claimed to have seen it.
It’s usually described as a heavy, imposing creature, often the size of a small bear, with amphibian-like traits and a row of sharp spines in its back. From afar it can look like a hairless canid, except for the spines, as it walks on its four legs for increased speed. This legendary predator is feared mostly for its almost supernatural elusiveness and thirst for blood, which can drive a farming family to ruin.
La Ciguapa—Dominican Republic
Somewhere deep in the mountain ranges there lies a mystical being with the appearance of a beautiful girl who can lure her desperate victims from the safety of the road.
The men who fall in love are taken to a den to have sex with the creature, who then kills them after revealing her true shape: that of an ugly monster whose feet are unnaturally turned backwards.
La Luz Mala (The Evil Light)—Argentina
Soon after dusk, a series of mystical lights appear suddenly throughout marshes and swamps to haunt the area with a horrendous splendor. It is said these glowing appearances are the supernatural manifestation of lost souls, wondering the world after rejecting God or otherwise performing evil.
Most of these have interesting cultural and scientific explanations, but let’s not ruin the fun with real-life spoilers.
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