Friday, June 28, 2013

Costa Rican Ghost Tales

Costa Rica located in Central America has many rich traditional ghost stories. These ghost tales normally impart some kind of morale lesson and they often reflect religious beliefs. 

Three of these stories are entitled, Ox-less Cart, Cadejos and Headless Priest.

A nice animated video at the end of this post shows parts of each of these stories--plus a scene from one other classic Costa Rican ghost story. This video is in Spanish but since the main character is running from one fright to the next without words, no translation is necessary to understand the action.

 The Ox-Less Cart

When Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose was still a small village a thief incurred the wrath of the church, which condemned him to ride an ox-less cart for eternity. 

The villagers were busy repairing their church-- it needed new columns, altars and saints. The men went out one night under a waning moon when the sap on the trees is at the lowest point in order to cut down several Sour Cedar Trees. They brought the wood back to the village and had it blessed and then laid it out to dry. 

Shortly after this a man who was a loner from the mountains came into town and stole the wood. He needed it to build a house for himself.

But a strange thing occurred when he finished loading the wood on his cart, his oxen refused move. The man whipped them until they bled and could take no more. 

Slowly the oxen pulled the stolen wood up the mountain. The man then built himself a house and used the extra wood to build a new cart. But the blessed wood only brought him bad luck and his oxen would not pull the new cart. 

The man became ill and died. Ever since, people say Saint Jose cursed him. His lifeless corpse is often seen in a cart as it careens down the road. No oxen pull it--for they were blameless.


Cadejos is the name of a demon dog that appears at night. The sound of chains is heard being dragged behind it but they are never seen. This dog is the size of a small calf with matted hair, giant fangs and sizzling red eyes. 

This apparition when seen scares people but it is actually benevolent, for it is said it helps drunken men at night arrive home safely. This dog protects these men from other night threats, such as, La Llorona or common thieves. 

In other Latin American countries this demon dog is good if it is white in color, bad if it is black in color.

Headless Priest

Once again this tale is about drunken men. This headless priest is know as, “ El padre sin cabeza”. One late stormy night during colonial times a peasant wandered the deserted village square. Too drunk to continue walking he sat down upon a bench. 

The wind picked up dead leaves landing them on his feet. As he bent down to brush them off he noticed there were lights still on in the church. He was startled to hear music coming from its open doors. 

He slowly entered the church and quietly passed by the rows of benches. Near the front of the church he spotted a figure of a priest giving a mass in Latin.

Finding himself in a trance he approached with an urgent need to relieve himself of the burden of his sins. As the priest turned he was horrified to see where his head should be was a stump. 

The peasant cringed as the priest held out its bloody head in his direction. Struck dumb, the man fled the church overwhelmed by what he had seen. With time he regained his voice and changed his sinful ways.

Here is the short animated video film entitled, “Asusto” meaning fright or scare. Pablo and Francisco Cespedes created this film.

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