La Llorona #MysteryMonday

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.

The Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park near the Texas-Mexico border. Fort Stockton is about 100 miles from Big Bend.

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

22 thoughts on “La Llorona #MysteryMonday

  1. Very cool, Joan. I just love folklore. I think most legends come from bits and pieces sewn together that grow and evolve over time. It sounds like that may be the case with the La Llorna. It’s interesting that threads go back to the Aztecs, yet remain as current as the 1960s.

    I’ve heard of tales of women in white who haunt cemeteries and back country roads. It’s interesting that someone in your family actually had an encounter. I’m sure it really shook him up.

    I’m loving Mystery Mondays!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You told me this story before, and I still got chills reading about it here. I love lore like this, even if it’s scary, and especially if we can tie it back in some way to people we know. Great post, Joan. Can’t wait to see how you use it in your upcoming work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If Wilkie Collins could only have known his 1859 novel The Woman in White would still be fascinating readers today, imagine what he would have thought! Of course, tales of similar apparitions surely started long before he penned his version, which, btw, is considered to be a very early example of a “mystery novel,” and featured multiple POVs of all the characters involved. (Also a new concept for the times.) The many adaptations of his story in print, film, and television are somewhat amazing. And yet variations of the legend persist so doggedly, it leaves you wondering if at least some of them don’t have a nugget of truth in them, somewhere. 😯

    Different locations, different approaches to the hapless person who sees the spirit, different outcomes, and different reasons for why the woman is doing the supposed haunting. I love it! And I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with this age-old legend! Great post, Joan! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I read it when I was very young ( but NOT when it was released, this time!). In the early 2000s, I think, The Observer named it #23 in the list of 100 Best Novels of All Time. There is currently a TV series running based on it, and quite a few movies, dating all the way back to silent film. And there was an Andrew Lloyd Webber stage adaptation in the early a decade or so ago, and even–ready?–a computer game! Even my beloved Preston & Child Pendergast series re-imagined the villainous count in their novel Brimstone.

        I didn’t know those last two, either, though I’ve seen several of the films and read the book. When I was 12, I spent a lot of time devouring all sorts of gothic novels, from Dracula to Lovecraft and everything in between. Ghost stories were my favorites. 😀 I’m glad you learned something new, because I learn new things reading your posts all the time! It’s great to share something with you in return. 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating, Joan. I’m sure you’ve produced a great short based on this. I reckon these stories come from somewhere, and when they come out of a time with limited communication, I tend to think there’s something to them. Unlike these days with instant communications all around the world … that makes it harder to differentiate in the same way. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. These days it’s not difficult to replicate a story. We have instant access to everything. But back then was a different matter. And yes, there will be a short story coming!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Perhaps she is the angel of death? When you get several stories that are similar with same outcome I tend to believe in it or at least entertain the idea. Scary about your relative.

    Liked by 1 person

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