Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Ghost of El Muerto

This story of El Muerto meaning “headless horseman” is a ghost legend from South Texas.

A Mexican bandit by the name of Vidal plied his trade in South Texas in the mid-1800s. He like many Mexican outlaws spent his days on a strip of land between the Nueces and the Rio Grande Rivers rustling cattle and stealing horses. 

The Texas Rangers--basically wondering posses--were formed to drive out all the thieves and murderers that plagued frontier Texas.

A dispute between Mexico and the U.S. over the land between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers had been resolved in 1848 when the U.S. had won the Mexican War. 

But the strip of land between these two rivers known as “No Man’s Land” was still overrun with Mexican bandits. By 1850, Vidal had a high price on his head and was wanted Dead or Alive.

Stealing cattle and horses was considered a worse crime than murder. 

Two Texas Rangers, Taylor Creed and William “Big Foot” Wallace had spent a great deal of time in No Man’s Land trying to rid the area of Mexican bandits. 

They and their peers had resorted to some brutal means to try to dissuade the bandits from coming back. Finding that shooting them and hanging them from trees had no impact, they had even chopped up the bodies and left them for animals. But the cattle rustling continued.

Vidal and several of his companions became Creed’s and Big Foot Wallace’s target when they stole a heard of cattle and horses that belonged to Creed. 

The two Rangers had been away defending a white settlement from a Comanche raid when Vidal’s group stole the livestock. When Creed returned, he found several of his prized mustangs gone. 

He and Wallace joined with a neighboring rancher by the name of Flores and proceeded to track Vidal and his fellow bandits.

When these three men caught up to the outlaws, they waited until they were asleep to attack. They then killed Vidal and his men. But this was not enough. 

Taylor and Wallace wanted to set an example to deter future bandits. Big Foot beheaded Vital and lashed his body to a saddle on the back of a horse. He attached Vidal’s severed head with its sombrero to the seat with a strip of rawhide. 

He then turned the wild mustang free to wander the hill country.

Soon, stories started to circulate about a headless rider that was seen with his head swinging back and forth as a wild horse galloped by. 

This apparition so scared cowboys and Indians that soon Vidal’s mutilated body was riddled with both bullets and arrows. People began calling this headless horseman El Muerto. 

As time passed a legend grew that people must avoid this strange apparition, for if seen some evil misfortune would befall them.

In the end, a group of ranchers caught up with this poor burdened horse near Alice, Texas. They buried Vidal’s body in an unmarked grave near the tiny community of Ben Bolt. 

As soon as his body was laid to rest, soldiers at Fort Inge began to see an apparition of a headless rider. Travelers and ranchers in No Man’s Land also reported seeing this strange sight. 

One written account that was recorded in 1917 mentions that a couple traveling to San Diego made camp for the night near a Texas stream. As they sat at their fire that night, they saw a grey stallion speed by with a headless man atop it. 

They heard him shouting, “It is mine. It is mine.” 

Yet other witnesses saw a similar sight in 1969, outside the town of Freer, Texas. 

Even today, people still claim to see El Muerto galloping through the mesquite in the bush country on moonlit nights.

1 comment:

Leona Joan said...

What a spooky tale. Thanks for sharing.