Hey, y’all. It’s time for another Mystery Monday. I hope you’re enjoying these weekly posts. I’m certainly enjoying writing them.
Sometimes the most intriguing mysteries are ones passed down within your family. As a child, I was fascinated by stories my mother told me of things that happened to her or her relatives. Such is the case with a story about an ancestor who encountered a woman in white.
My grandfather’s brother, Hez, was on his way home one night after visiting his fiancée. He traveled by horseback, and the route required him to pass by a country cemetery. As he approaced, he saw a woman standing beside a gate. When he spoke, she did not return his greeting. Feeling a bit unnerved, he started the horse in a trot.
The woman was able to keep stride, and Hez coaxed the horse to go faster. But even when in full gallop, the woman remained beside him. When he reached a second gate, she turned and went back into the cemetery. Hez died unexpectedly three weeks later.
Imagine my surprise when I first heard of the legend of La Llorona, the crying woman dressed in white. Supposedly, the legend dates back to the Aztecs when a white-adorned goddess left a cradle with the Aztec women. The cradle was empty except for an arrow which was shaped like a sacrificial knife. Supposedly, the tribe could hear her crying at night. Then she would vanish into a river or lake.
In the sixteenth century there was a story of a peasant woman named Luisa who bore three sons to an upper-class man named Don Muño Montes Claros. When he abandoned Luisa to marry a woman of his stature, she killed the children, then ran through the streets wailing and screaming. Upon hearing the news of his children’s death, Don Muño committed suicide.
Over the centuries, the legend evolved along the Texas-Mexico border into The Legend of La Llorona. As the story goes, she was once a loving mother who went crazy and drowned her seven children. Unable to rest, she wanders at night in search of her babies.
As expected, there are many variations to the story, each adapted to fit a specific geographic locale. La Llorona supposedly is seen in cemeteries, one of which is St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Fort Stockton, Texas.
There are also accounts of a similar sighting in Henderson County which is deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas.
But the tale that intrigued me most was one I read in Patrick Dearen’s Portraits of the Pecos Frontier. According to local residents, the woman in white was seen as late as the 1960s. She would wait beside Highway 1053 between the towns of Imperial and Fort Stockton.[i]
A man who resided in Imperial often made the drive. On his return trip from Fort Stockton, the woman would “attach” herself to the man’s car and ride for about ten miles. His attempts to distract her, including driving at speeds up to 100 MPH, were futile. He never saw her on the trip to Fort Stockton, only when he returned to Imperial. Residents say the man died in a plane crash in the late 1960s. Apparently, this man was the only one with whom the woman would “hitch a ride.”
That account is the closest I’ve heard to the one involving my ancestor. He lived in rural Alabama, having never visited Texas. Methods of communication were scarce in the early 1900s, so it’s doubtful he knew of the Legend of La Llorona.
I found it interesting that both men died unexpectedly after having seen the woman.
Coincidence? Imagination? Something else? I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Oh, and don’t be surprised to find a variation of this mystery in an upcoming short story.)
[i] Portraits of the Pecos Frontier by Patrick Dearen