The Legend of La Llorona
Is said to date from the time of the conquistadors in America, being the spirit of a tall, thin, weeping woman. She had long, flowing black hair and wore a white gown. She is said to be looking for children to drag away into the night, so that they may join her in her watery grave.
La Llorona was once a peasant girl, called Maria, who married a wealthy man and produced two sons. Her husband was supposedly a womanizer and an alcoholic and had long since ceased to care for her. He threatened to leave her one day and marry someone belonging to his own class.
Maria was left largely to her own devices: one evening as she was out strolling with her children beside the river, they saw their father in a carriage with an elegant lady. Maria’s husband stopped, spoke to the children, but ignored his wife before driving off. Maria was so enraged that she grabbed the children, rand down to the river, and threw them in. She was immediately remorseful and did all that she could to save them, but to no avail.
Maria refused to eat, growing thinner and thinner until she finally died. Her ghost can still be seen, doomed to be left crying eternally beside the Santa Fe river at dusk. She has also been seen floating among the trees along the river bank, crying out for her children, while others have seen her further afield, on the banks of the Yellowstone river in Montana.
The tale sometimes becomes that of a phantom hitchhiker. On several stretches of road, close to the Santa Fe river, solitary drivers have reported seeing a weeping woman, standing beside the road. The driver pulls up, offers her a lift, to whom she tells her brief story before vanishing.
The fact that La Llorona is seen in so many different locations might partly explain the phenomena of phantom hitchhikers across the United Stated. On different occasions a young girl, wearing a white party dress, is seen. It is usually a rainy night on a deserted road, and the girl appears real enough, being wet through and shivering.
The driver takes her to the address she gives, but during the journey the girl disappears. Puzzled, the driver knocks on the door of the house, only to be told by the occupants that, yes indeed they had a daughter, but she had died in a car accident ten years before. Drivers have been been known to locate the daughter’s grave, and having given the girl his jacket to keep her warm, it is sometimes found, neatly folded, beside the same grave.
There are three similar versions of this story. One, in fact, appeared in December 1890 edition of Russian newspaper, in which a priest, claiming to have been sent by a woman to an address to administer the last rites to a dying man, finds a young man instead. The priest recognizes a photograph or painting of the woman who directed him to the house, and when he asks who she is, the young man replies that it was his mother, but that she has been dead for several years. The man prays with the priest, thus sealing his own fate, and dies that very evening.
Similar incidents have occurred on numerous occasions in the United States, but they usually involve a doctor rather than a priest. The victim is always an otherwise healthy person, but as soon as the dead mother has sent the doctor to the address, they rapidly fall prey to disease.
It seems that this kind of legend appears all over the world. In Armenia, the tale is told of a rider who passes a cemetery and sees a young woman crying. She tells him she is too tired to travel, but needs to be far away by the morning. As luck would have it, the rider is always going to that particular destination. He gives her a ride on his horse and the girl does not speak. After a while, she appears to be growing heavier, as if she were falling asleep. Suddenly the horse stops and the girl falls off. The rider discovers she is dead and that for some time he has been carrying a corpse. The Armenians believe the tale signifies a girl who has died some distance from her home, and that on the anniversary of her death each year, she tries to return to her native village.
There is a German version of the La Llorona story, which involves the famous Lorelei Rock, situated on the River Rhime. At dusk, the rock transforms into a beautiful maiden, who sings a haunting song, luring anyone sailing on the river to certain death on the treacherous rock. Many ships and their crew have been lost here over the years.
Perhaps the story holds a grain of truth. Legend tells that Lorelei lived many years ago, and that she was in love with a knight who left her to go to war. Many others courted her, but she could think only of this one man. Many men whom Lorelei spurned killed themselves, but her knight never returned. The Archbishop of Cologne decided to send her to a convent. On the way, she asked if she could stand on the rock, so that she could gaze for one last time at the knights castle. Just as she was doing this, a small boat came into view with the love of her life on board. She shouted his name and, transfixed by her beauty, the knight let the boat hit the rock and he subsequently drowned. Full of grief, Lorelei threw herself into the waters of the Rhine to join him.
As Bizarre as the Phantom hitchhikers are the stories of the radiant boys, believed to be the ghosts of children who were murdered by their parents. Tales of such children are told throughout Europe, but one of the best documented involves Viscount Castlereagh, an English statesman.
While hunting in Ireland as a young man, Castlereagh managed to find cover in a house just as a violent storm began to break. The house was full of fugitives from the storm, but the host assured Castlereagh that there was enough room for him. In the end, Castlereagh was given a mattress on the floor beside a huge fire. He fell asleep, and after a few hours was awoken by a bright light. By now the fire had died out, but the light was in fact coming from a beautiful young man. Castlereagh was terrified and in the morning told his host that he was leaving, explaining the reason why. The host swore he knew nothing of the apparition, and neither did the servants, until the butler was called.
The butler told Castlereagh that he had been sleeping in the boy’s room and that he had taken the precaution of lighting a fire to keep him out. It then translated that many years before, a boy of around nine or ten had been murdered by his mother, and that it had happened in that very room.
The host was terrified to hear this, especially when he heard that every time the apparition appeared to a person they were destined for a period of great success followed by a violent death. Castlereagh was the second son of the Marquis of Londond, but soon afterwards his elder brother died, leaving Castlereagh as heir. In a short period of time Castlereagh became one of the most powerful men in Europe, even though he was a hated and deeply troubled man.
On 12 august 1822, having been confined to his country home because of his erratic behavior, Castlereagh cut his own throat with a pocketknife.
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