10 Creepy Myths from Spanish-Speaking Countries
Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, you gotta admit there’s some thrill in being shaken up by good old-fashioned scary stories or myths!
Feeling a little bit spooked is an exciting and fun experience, especially when shared with others. In Spanish-speaking countries, scary stories are a big part of our family upbringing—they’re the tales and myths we pass on from generation to generation. We call them leyendas (legends).
When the Spanish arrived in the American continent in the 15th century, they brought with them a collection of new knowledge and beliefs, including their own superstitions and myths.
This unique blend of Spanish and Indigenous storytelling turned Spanish-speaking countries into the birthplace of scary stories that combine the supernatural, mysticism, and morale.
A colonial city like Antigua, Guatemala is the perfect example of where these oral traditions and myths come alive. Having grown up in this quaint yet spectacular city, my abuela told me the myths that haunt Antigua’s cobblestone streets and, now I’d like to share a few of those with you.
Turn off the lights, grab a blanket, and get ready for these 10 creepy myths from Spanish-speaking countries!
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1. Los Aluxes (The Elves)
In the Yucatán peninsula, the legends of los Aluxes are a big part of Mayan culture. Aluxes are spirits who look like tiny children who wear sandals, a hat, and live inside caves. Interestingly, a dog usually joins them. They are playful and naughty keepers of the forest who also protect farmers’ fields.
Mexican farmers believe that Aluxes treat you as you treat them. If you enter their territory, you should be nice to them and offer them food. If you want Aluxes to take care of your crops and harvest, you should also build them a tiny house.
But some say that their mischievous nature eventually rears its ugly head, leading people to believe that after 7 years, you must seal the doors of the tiny house or they will start acting up against you.
How do you know if they turned against you? Well some of your most precious belongings go missing out of the blue or you’ll have uncontrollable nightmares and sleepwalk in the middle of the night.
Of those who claim to have interacted with these playful characters, some report having found good fortune through them, while others haven’t been so lucky.
If you don’t do as the Aluxes expect upon encountering them, they might make you ill and delirious. Among the Mayan, this illness is known as mal aire (bad air) and in order to be cured, you must visit a specialized healer. Whereas if you were to visit a regular doctor, he might also become ill.
In the end, Aluxes are not bad spirits—they’re like children who want to be respected and you should try to stay on their good side.
2. El Carruaje de la Muerte (The Carriage of Death)
According to Guatemalan myths, el carruaje de la muerte tells the legend of a black chariot led by black horses with fiery red eyes. People claim to have heard it charging down the streets of Guatemala City, as it seeks out the souls of the dying. Don’t be fooled though! Some say if you come across the carriage, you’re at risk of having your soul taken right then and there, so you shouldn’t hang around it very long!
According to legend, the driver of the chariot is dressed entirely in black and has the power to make you pass out through eye contact alone. What’s more, the charge of the chariot rumbles loudly and clearly, but instead of hammering its wheels to the ground, it floats by you at full speed.
Other myths say that the carriage parks itself in front of houses where people lie on their deathbed as it awaits for the moment of death to take their souls. No matter that this myth isn’t proven true, most Guatemalans will go inside if they happen to hear any sounds of a chariot nearby!
3. La Tatuana (The Tatuana)
Unlike other scary stories or myths, la Tatuana isn’t a spirit or ghost. Rather, the locals of Antigua, Guatemala believe her to have been a powerful witch who was purchased as a slave by an old warlock during the Spanish Inquisition. He taught her all kinds of dark magic and tattooed a small ship on her arm, instructing her that if she was ever caught only the ship would save her from the inquisitors.
After a misunderstanding with some neighbors, they accused her of witchcraft, imprisoning her, and sentencing her to death. Legends say when la Tatuana was locked up, she went crazy and delusional.
Upon the day of her execution, she made a final request for a piece of coal, candles, and white roses to be delivered to her cell. With these artifacts, she made an altar and drew a ship on the wall with the piece of coal—which appeared identical to the vessel she had on her arm. Very quietly, she spoke a few words, then boarded her black, chalky depiction of a ship, and disappeared!
She was never seen or heard from again.
4. El Cadejo (The Dog with Red Eyes)
Countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico
One of the most popular myths in Central America and Mexico is the legend of el Cadejo.
Legend explains that two separate entities exist with this same name. The first Cadejo takes the shape of an evil wooly black dog with fiery red eyes and goat hooves, while the other Cadejo materializes as a noble and friendlier looking wooly white dog, also with goat hooves.
The black Cadejo stays close to men who live a life of excess (including drunks or drifters). Once he clings to them, he licks their faces to prevent them from escaping their precarious life situation, and ultimately leads them to their death.
The white Cadejo on the other hand, is a protector of the weak. He takes care of women and children in the streets, sheltering them from evil.
The white Cadejo is the only hope for men being haunted by the black Cadejo, as both are natural enemies and do not hesitate to battle one other—especially since it’s in the white creature’s nature to protect any victim, including these men who’ve lost their way.
Legends also say that el Cadejo cannot be seen, but that the people for whom it stands guard can feel a supernatural presence around them as well as a strong smell of sulphur and rottenness.
5. La Niña de Negro (The Girl in Black)
Since the early 1900’s, an annual supernatural event repeats itself in the Guatemala City Cathedral:
A mysterious, frail, and delicate young woman dressed in black appears with a look of anguish and concern.
According to some, she also appears in the church of San Sebastian, which is also in the city center.
Her identity remains a mystery to most, unless she decides to approach you after you’ve seen her.
Scary stories about the behavior of this young woman say that she offers a gold chain to those who witness her—and upon the chain is a piece of paper with her address written on it.
To top off this already creepy tale, legend says that anyone who accepts her offering will lose their mind once they see the paper. Why? Because the address on the paper will lead you straight to Guatemala City’s General Cemetery.
6. El Mohan (BigFoot)
Perhaps the most popular Colombian legend is that of el Mohan. Like many creatures depicted in scary stories, el Mohan can be two separate entities.
Many people believe it takes the shape of a robust man with golden skin and long hair or it can appear as a tall hairy creature with big hands and feet; resembling another well-known mythical creature—Bigfoot.
El Mohan resides near rivers in large caves with underground entrances. He’s mischievous, treacherous, and collects jewelry and gold that he uses to attract and lure women.
Legends say that those women who follow him are never found or heard of again. In some parts of South America it’s also believed that el Mohan steals bait from local, hard-working fishermen and scares away their potential catch, making their day-to-day job unbearable.
When someone drowns in a river and their body is found, many suggest this creature is responsible. Some believers of el Mohan say salt will turn him into a gold statue.
He sounds terribly gruesome and I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly glad to learn there’s a way to keep him away!
7. El Chupacabras (The Goatsucker)
Countries: Latin America and the Caribbean
If you grew up in the 90’s, no doubt you saw news about this creature in the mainstream media. I definitely remember it as one of the scary stories of my childhood. Currently, the tales of el Chupacabras are still popular and some believers are positive that it’s as real as it gets.
The name Chupacabras comes from the Spanish words chupar (to suck) and cabra (goat), in reference to its common description as a bloodsucking, four-foot-tall, reptile-like creature with huge red eyes and sharp quills on its spine. Many who’ve seen it with their own eyes say that it’s similar to a vampire, kangaroo, or wild dog.
The first reported sighting of el Chupacabras was in Puerto Rico in 1995, when a local woman discovered dead livestock that suffered from peculiar puncture wounds and their blood had been completely drained from their bodies.
Shortly after the first incident, reported sightings began popping up in other parts of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Mexico.
In 2011, the book “Tracking the Chupacabras” by Benjamin Radford concluded that the eyewitness from the incident in Puerto Rico had based her description of the creature on a sci-fi horror film she’d seen. After the author’s five year investigation, Radford officially denies the existence of such creatures.
Nevertheless many people still believe that the scary stories of el Chupacabras are real and sightings continued to surface afterward in 2018 and 2019.
8. La Siguanaba or La Cegua (The Siguanaba)
Countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua
An important part of Central America’s collections of myths is la Siguanaba. This creature appears at night in isolated roads and ravines to traveling men who are unfaithful or are up to no good. To them, she materializes as a beautiful, long-haired woman. Legends say she lures her adulterous victims onto nearby cliffs and pushes them to their death so she can take their souls.
Other scary stories tell of her appearance close to bodies of water, where she bathes and brushes her hair with a gold comb. The men who happen upon her are immediately bewitched and drawn by her beauty. It’s also believed that when they finally get a closer look at her, she has the face of a horse with red eyes, wrinkled skin, and releases a sudden, terrifying laugh.
Others claim that if a man is haunted by la Siguanaba, he must bite a cross to send her away. In Guatemala, you can find plenty of people who swear they have seen her wandering around.
9. El Sombrerón (The Man with the Big Hat)
Countries: Mexico and Central America, mostly known in Guatemala
Legends say el Sombrerón is a short man dressed in black with boots, a thick belt, and a shiny buckle. He stands out for wearing a disproportionately large hat, which he uses to cover his face. Although legends say he roams the streets of Antigua with four mules and a large guitar, others say they’ve seen him in the roads of Santa Rosa and other areas of Guatemala.
Believers claim he aims to woo young, long-haired women by playing captivating melodies with his guitar that he accompanies with his sweet-sounding voice. This makes his targets fall under a spell of love as he serenades them.
El Sombrerón then clings to the women and haunts them, stopping them from sleeping and eating as he tightly weaves long braids in their hair.
If a woman becomes a victim of el Sombrerón, she is doomed to her death. The only way to send him away is by immediately chopping off the woman’s hair.
After hearing this story as a child, I got scared every time I heard the sound of a guitar while I was walking around in Antigua! I recall one incident that still gives me chills today:
One night, I was staying at a family ranch where my grandparents were stirred awake in the middle of the night by the agitated racket of three restless horses. Nothing anyone did could calm them down—not even the caretakers could sooth them. The next morning, my cousins and I went to check on them and to our surprise, each horse had its mane perfectly braided!
No one could explain who had done such an intricate job in a matter of hours during the night. To this day, the ranch workers still claim it was the work of el Sombrerón.
10. La Llorona (The Wailing Woman)
Countries: Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and other Central American countries
One of the most famous legends of the Spanish-speaking world is the tale of la Llorona whose story varies depending on the country where it’s told.
In Mexico and Colombia, she was an indigenous woman who fell in love with a wealthy, married Spanish conquistador. While in Guatemala, she was a wealthy woman that belonged to high society. No matter how the stories change, each version has a few major elements in common, but for now, we’ll focus on the Guatemalan legend.
Legends say she was married to an older man with whom she had two children and together they lived a life of excessive luxury. Unexpectedly, her husband died, rendering her a penniless widow with no means to feed and support her children. Eventually her desperation drove her mad and took her kids to a river where she drowned them.
Soon after, her madness grew to extreme proportions as she spent her nights wailing and crying for her children, and ultimately took her own life by drowning herself in the very same river.
To this day, you can hear her spirit come out at night looking and screaming for her kids. Stories also say if you can hear her cries close to you it’s because she’s actually far—on the other hand, if you can hear her cries from far away, she’s even closer to you than you think.
Time to Share Some Scary Stories!
These are just a glimpse of the many myths you’ll discover in the Spanish-speaking world. Many legends continue to evolve over time, provoking new adaptations, such as feature films like The Curse of la Llorona to famous literary works such as Leyendas de Guatemala by Nobel Prize Winner Miguel Angel Asturias.
I hope the creepy myths you’ve read about in this blog post don’t keep you up all night! If you enjoyed them as much as I hope you did, do you think you’re ready to tell ghost stories in Spanish? Sign up for a free class with us at Homeschool Spanish Academy and master the art of telling your favorite scary story in Spanish!
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