Showing posts with label legend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label legend. Show all posts

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Legend of La Llorona

Old Spanish song about La Llorona

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own

She weeps when the sun is murky red
She wails when the moon is old
She cries for her babies, still and dead,
Who drowned in the water cold

She seeks her children day and night,
Wandering, lost, and cold
She weeps and moans in dark and light,
A tortured, restless soul

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own

In another post, I talked about how children in New Mexico are very familiar with the La Llorona story. La Llorona is New Mexico’s most famous ghost. 

If you visit anywhere along the Rio Grande river in my state, you will encounter New Mexicans who will gladly relate their version of La Llorona. This story is told in other parts of the country, but the following story is one often told in New Mexico.

In the early 1700s, there was a young woman named Maria who lived in a small village along the Rio Grande. 

As Maria matured, she began to attract much attention in the village because she was lovely. Her family was impoverished, so her mother encouraged Maria to marry one of the local men. 

Maria with the firm self-belief that her beauty would someday attract a wealthy man refused.

One day a handsome young man rode into the village. He was the son of a rancher in Mexico. He wore tailored clothes and rode a well-groomed horse with a fancy saddle—all the signs of a man of wealth.

Maria started to follow him around, she tried to catch his eye, but he only noticed the better dressed young girls in the village. At night he would play his guitar for the locals, many young ladies swooned at his golden voice. Maria was sure her heart would break.

Then one day as Maria shopped the young rancher stopped near her. Maria blushed with embarrassment because she wore an old dirty, tattered dress. 

But her blush caught his eye, and for the first time, he noticed how beautiful she was. He began to court Maria. 

Within a short time, he had paid Maria’s father a large dowry so he could marry her. Knowing his family would not accept his marriage to a woman from a lower class—the couple settled along the Rio Grande.

Over the next several years Maria’s husband worked as a merchant along the El Camino Real, and Maria bore him three children. But as the years passed Maria and her wealthy husband grew apart. 

He spent less and less time at home, and he showed no interest in their children. Maria began to suspect that he was seeing another woman while he was away.

Maria’s suspicions were confirmed when she spotted her husband riding in a buggy with a beautiful young woman by his side. Her heart was broken. 

She exploded in a jealous rage. Distraught she thought that if only she did not have the children, her husband would love her once more. 

Rio Grand River
In a rage, she dragged her children one by one to the river and held their heads under the water until they drowned.

Her senses lost to reality; she approached her husband and told him what she had done for him. Horrified he ordered her out of his life. 

Numb she wandered the streets of the village for several days crying for her children. The villagers started to call her La Llorona—meaning the wailing woman.

Maria realized she had lost everything dear to her, so she went down to the river and cried for her children. 

She then flung herself into the river. Her body was never found. 

Another view of Rio Grande
People in New Mexico still see a woman dressed all in white walking along paths near water. They hear Maria’s desperate cries for her children and then she slowly fades away.

Many believe she is condemned to wander, weeping and searching for her children. Others believe that she is a harbinger of death—if you see her someone will die.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Deadly Game of Hide and Seek

This classic ghost story has been immortalized in film, short stories, and in a famous song and poem.

It is known under various names. The Lost Bride, Bride and Go Seek and in England as The Mistletoe Bough or The Mistletoe Bride.

This story was first published in 1809 in Germany in an article entitled The Melancholy Occurrence, which tells the tale of a bride who goes missing on her wedding day.

Samuel Rogers’ poem entitled Ginevra, published in 1823, also tells the moving story of how a bride disappears on her wedding day only to be found years later.

“Full fifty years were past, and all was forgot . . .
The mouldering chest was noticed . . .
‘Why not remove it from its lurking place . . .’
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton . . .”

The full text of this poem can be found here.

Roger’s poem inspired Thomas Bayly to write the lyrics for a ballad song entitled, The Mistletoe Bough, music composed by Sir Henry Bishop, in the 1830s. Here is a part of this song.

“They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away . . .
At length, an old chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle—
They raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!”

The entire song lyrics can be read here. A popular version of this ballad is shared below.

By 1859, this song in England was so beloved it was shared in most households at Christmastime. Many knew the heart-wrenching lyrics “by heart.”

This story was retold in two short stories: The Old Oak Chest by Susan E. Wallace in 1887 and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes by Henry James in 1868.

The story was also made into a silent film in 1904 by Percy Stow; this short film has since been restored and is below. Two other movies based upon this story were made in 1923 and 1926.

Percy Stow film
This story has been told for over 2 centuries now. Various versions of this myth have circulated in America. A simplified version was retold in the early 1970s.

Alfred Hitchcock produced his own version of this story in 1948 in his film entitled Rope. In his film the main character, Brandon Shaw hides the body of a murdered son in a chest.

However, most versions of this story are similar so here is the English version -- The Mistletoe Bough.

A young bride was married to Lord Lovell at Christmastime. After the ceremony, she suggested they play a game of Hide and Seek, which the younger members of the wedding party could enjoy as well.

The young bride was picked as the first person to hide. No one suspected as she went off this would be the last they would see of her.

Her husband, father and the wedding guests searched and searched, but she was not found. The wedding guests eventually had to leave, many assured the family as they parted that surely the bride must have just fallen asleep in her hiding place.

The groom, father and the servants continued to search late into the night and the next day but their efforts were unrewarded for the young bride was not found.

The days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months then years, but the bride’s disappearance remained a mystery. Lord Lovell grew old, and the story was now legendary.

The family home was eventually sold, and several years later the home’s attic was emptied. Amongst the old paintings and furniture, there was an old oak chest that appeared to be locked.

The lid was pried open and inside was a skeleton dressed in a wedding gown-- it was holding a withered wedding bouquet. At last, the bride was found.

Chest opened.

Bramshill House
Many stately homes * in England over the years have claimed to be the location for this chest. They include: Bramshill House and Marwell House both in Hampshire. Castle Horneck in Cornwall, Basildon Grotto in Berskhire, Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, Exton Hall in Rutland, Brockdish Hall in Norfolk and Bawdrip Rectory in Somerset.

* Some of these homes lay in ruins today.

A number of these homes also lay claim to the ghost of the unfortunate bride that is said to haunt their grounds. She is seen wearing her wedding gown.

Here is a recording of the song, The Mistletoe Bough.

The following is the restored silent version of the 1904 film version of this story. It is short.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Long Island Sound’s Fiery Ship

A New York legend states that on stormy nights a fiery ship is seen sailing up and down Long Island Sound.

At one time Long Island Sound was a dangerous place for merchant ships to sail. Buccaneers attacked these ships, killed everyone on board and then stole their cargos. These pirates rarely had to pay for their ruthless actions.

One merchant ship laden with crates of expensive furs had sailed out of Pelham Bay on a clear morning.

It was a bright warm day but the ship’s captain could not enjoy it for he had an uneasy feeling. He stood on deck keeping a sharp eye for any unsavory activity.

He had cause to worry for the authorities—Governor Peter Stuyvesant and his 40 men-- could not protect the sound for it had hundreds of inlets and coves where a pirate ship could hide unnoticed.

The captain warned his crew to keep alert and watched as a beautiful white horse neighed and stamped upon the deck. This horse was a part of his cargo, he was charged with delivering it to a harbor further down the Sound.

The captain was distracted by the calls and laughter of several passengers who were sitting on bales of straw playing cards. A chill shiver ran down his spine—a sense of foreboding gripped him.

It was then he spotted a ship sailing quickly toward them. His first mate called out a warning. The captain ordered the passengers below deck as his crew armed themselves.

The captain saw armed men standing on the deck of the other ship leering at them. As they drew near the pirate captain shouted, “Surrender the ship.”

The merchant captain had his first mate fire a warning shot across the bow of the pirate ship. Its crew laughed with contempt and one buccaneer jeered, “Is that the best you can do?”

This one-eyed man then threw a hook across the water and it landed on the rail of the merchant ship. The merchant captain ordered his men fire. A smoke filled battle ensued as the men only stopped to reload.

More grappling hooks caught the rail of the merchant ship and the two vessels came together. The pirate crew leapt aboard the merchant ship and the men now struggled in hand-to-hand combat.

Boarding ship
The merchant captain found himself in a duel with the leader of the pirates the two men slipped in the spilled blood of their men as they fought.

A buccaneer grabbed the merchant captain from behind and held him tightly as his captain stabbed him through the heart with a cutlass.

The captain was the last member of the merchant ship to die. The pirates then went down in the hold and slaughtered the passengers. They stole their jewelry and valuables.

They passed the crated furs to their ship and they even tried to take the white stallion but he reared back and bucked violently so they tied him to the mast instead.

They set fire to the ship and sailed away without looking back.

The horse screamed and tugged—his neighs were almost human in their agony-- as flames engulfed the abandoned ship.

As the pirate ship sailed out of view something strange occurred on the merchant ship—even though the flames were fierce the ship remained intact. The longer the fire burned the better the ship became.

The torn sails mended themselves and her bloodstained decks were washed clean. One by one the captain, his crew and the passengers revived. They stood silently among the flames and then began going about their usual activities.

The passengers sat on the flaming straw bales and merrily gambled but no one spoke. The only sound that could be heard was the dreadful neighing of the white horse.

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled—the waves tossed the ship about as it began to move forward. It followed the pirate ship’s course.

At first the pirates fighting the storm did not notice the burning ship sailing after them through the rain. But when the lookout gave a shout filled with terror and almost fell from his perch the other pirates saw the fiery ship moving erratically through the stormy waters toward them.

The captain ordered his terrified buccaneers to flee. They tried to outrun the burning ship but it drew closer with every minute.

They listened in horror at the sounds of the neighing horse. No others sounds were heard. Several buccaneers dropped to their knees imploring God to save them but the burning ship drew nearer.

The pirate ship finally entered a small hidden cove and the fiery merchant ship passed by and disappeared into the storm. The pirates abandoned their ship to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

They never returned to the Sound.

On stormy nights witnesses state they have seen this burning merchant ship sailing up and down the sound. It is appears the captain and crew are still looking for the pirates that murdered them.

When this ship is seen the captain and crew are observed attending their tasks while the passengers gamble. The only sound heard is the stallion’s neighing as it paws the deck and tries to free itself from the mast.

Excerpts from Spooky New York by S. E. Schlosser

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Jersey Devil

They say . . . in the Pinelands of southern New Jersey there is a monster that haunts-- it is known as the Leed’s Devil. This devil when seen resembles a dragon with a head like a horse, the body of a snake, a forked tail and wings like a bat.

This devil—the Jersey Devil—wrecks havoc upon farmer’s crops and livestock, it poisons water sources-- pools and creeks and when it is seen on the Jersey shore—it is considered a harbinger—for soon after ships wreck.

So beware of this monster with the flashing red eyes.

This well-known legend is rooted in New Jersey’s past. It began with a woman’s curse.

Deborah Smith emigrated from England in the 1700s to marry a man named Leeds. The couple settled in the New Jersey Pine Barrens in Galloway Township, Atlantic County.

Their life together was not a happy one. Mr. Leeds was a lazy drunk who rarely worked. Deborah put food on the table for their twelve children by sewing shirts.

When Deborah discovered that she was pregnant with her 13th child it is said she snapped. She cursed her ner’er-do-well husband and invoked the power of the devil.

It is said she wished her thirteenth child “may be the devil.” So revenge could rain down on Mr. Leeds.

She got her wish for soon after this child was born it turned into the dragon like creature described above and flew off. The legend states that her family was truly cursed for the Leed’s Devil not only killed her husband but several of her other children.

One dipiction of the Jersey Devil
Some believe the origin of this legend is actually rooted in a superstition widely believed in the 1700s. People during this time believed in witchcraft and they felt a child born with a deformity—which might have been the case with the Leed’s 13th child—was a sign God cursed the child.

Regardless, the belief in the creature known as the Jersey Devil has persisted ever since. For over 200 years, there have been numerous sightings of this flying devil.

In the 1870s a Long beach fisherman claimed he saw the Jersey Devil serenading a mermaid.

A famous sighting occurred in 1909 when a councilman, E.P. Weeden in Trenton claimed that he was awakened by the sound of flapping wings outside his bedroom window. He stated he found cloven hoof prints in the snow after this.

Soon, other residents stated they also saw similar hoof prints. Within a week thousands of residents in the area stepped forward to say they had seen the Devil. Local newspapers wrote several stories about these sightings.

It wasn’t long before sightings were also reported in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In 1978, two teens ice-skating in Chatsworth near the Barrens claimed to smell an odor of “dead fish” and then they spotted two red eyes staring at them. They didn’t stay around to see the rest.

Many more witnesses have come forward to state they did not see the Jersey Devil but instead heard it “rampaging through the woods, or emitting blood curdling cries.”

In the 1960s, strange tracks were discovered near May’s Landing—rumors stated it must be the Jersey Devil. When loud shrieks were also heard in the area local Camden merchants offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the creature. They stated they would build a zoo to display it.

This reward remains unclaimed.

Excerpts from Spooky Campfire Tales, by S.E. Schlosser and The New Jersey Historical Society.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Removal of Black Aggie, Part ll

Black Aggie statue.
In Part l of this post here, several legends are shared that resulted in the Black Aggie statue being removed from the grave it marked in Druid Ridge Cemetery. Large numbers of people entering this Cemetery in Pikesville, Maryland at night illegally plus ongoing vandalism spurred its removal.

The Agnus Family donated it to the Smithsonian in the 1960s. They are related to the general whose grave displayed the Black Aggie statue.

The following is just one of the many scary legends that were told about this statue—which spurred its removal.

Three teens were sitting on a slope overlooking Druid Ridge Cemetery in the 1950s. They were there because they had heard rumors about one marble grave marker dubbed—Black Aggie.

One boy in the group, Nathan had heard the stories from his mother so he was regaling the other two with what he knew.

“At first glance Black Aggie looks harmless-- but her angelic face is deceiving for she has a demonic nature. They say it’s her eyes-- during the day they are pale and blank but at night they turn fiercely red and glowing.”

The other male in the group, a boy by the name Josh laughed. “So she is a statue that gives you an evil eye. Come on you don’t actually believe that?”

Nathan placed on the defensive stated, “It is not just an evil eye, witnesses state when you look directly into Aggie’s eyes you go blind.”

They say she is a particular threat to males. She hates them because of the way she died.”

Josh’s girlfriend asked, “How did she die?”

Nathan relishing his role continued, “My mother told me she was left at the altar. She then died of a broken heart.”

Josh laughed again. “This is all hogwash. Has anyone witnessed her red eyes or evil nature?”

Nathan worried he was losing face, got up off the grass. “It’s getting cold, time to leave.”

Josh ran down the hill. “Not until we visit Black Aggie.”

Nathan reluctantly showed the other two the way to the statue. It was located in the oldest part of the cemetery—Black Aggie sat with her arms stretched out and a shroud draped over her—in the shadow of an ancient oak.

Josh moved in close, “So this is Evil Aggie?”

As a chill ran down Nathan’s back, he glanced around and nodded yes. “It is cold and late, let’s go.”

Josh reached out and poked the statue. He quipped, “So many men to blind and so little time.”

Nathan now nervous but not wanting to show it feigned boredom. “Hey, you’ve seen her—now let’s go.”

Josh ignored Nathan and stepped up onto the base of the statue, he then jumped into her lap. “You go, I want to visit with Aggie for awhile.”

He leaned back against one of the statue’s arms and dangled his legs over the other. His date looked up at him, “You shouldn’t do that, it is disrespectful.”

A cold chill slammed into the center of Nathan’s gut. Frightened now, he said, “this isn’t funny.” When Josh once more ignored him he shouted, “Get down, let’s go, I mean it.”

Josh looked over at the other two teens. “You are chickens. You should go, I don’t feel like hanging out anymore.”

Nathan grabbed Josh's girlfriend by the hand and escorted her out of the cemetery.

The next morning she called Nathan. “Josh’s mom called me this morning—she is in a panic because he didn’t come home last night.”

Nathan blew it off, “He is just trying to freak everyone out.” But several hours later when Josh still had not made an appearance the two teens met back at the entrance to the cemetery.

When they came within sight of Black Aggie Josh’s girlfriend sighed in relief, “There he is, still in her lap.”

Nathan shouted Josh’s name but he did not respond. As the two drew near they found it odd he didn’t acknowledge their presence. Nathan then reached out and touched Josh’s arm.

Josh moved slightly, “Is that you guys?”

Nathan said, “It’s us, why didn’t you go home last night?”

Josh turned to them and they drew back in horror as they looked upon his face. His eyes were coated white—he was blind.

“I couldn’t find my way . . . and she wouldn’t let me go.” He held up one of his arms and there the other two teens saw dark purple and blue marks in the shape of Black Aggie’s five stone fingers.

More legends are shared in Part l The Removal of Black Aggie, here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Good Spirit: Grey Robe

The stories about Grey Robe and why the Navajo’s believe in him were highlighted in the May 1969 edition of Frontier Times in an article written by John R. Winslowe.

In Robert F. Turpin’s 2014 book, Old West Ghost Legends he includes a chapter on stories that have been told about encounters with Grey Robe.

In more recent times some Navajos have referred to Grey Robe as a “good spirit.” But traditionally, he was never referred to as what other cultures call a ghost.

Instead, the Navajo considered him simply a mysterious entity or benefactor that saved many Native American lives.

All the sightings of him occurred in the Red Valley near Tuba City in Arizona.

Descriptions of Grey Robe state he glides instead of walking, his facial features are rarely seen and some accounts state his form when seen was surrounded by a grey mist or fog.

He is seen wearing a grey robe tied at the waist with a cord—hence his name. Witnesses state he never talks instead he points or gestures.

This entity was first seen in the early 1800s and reports of encounters continued into the late 1940s.

He is credited with saving lost children, an isolated crippled woman who had fallen and a boy that broke his leg on a remote ridge.

It also is stated Grey Robe warned many people of impending dangers—such as washed out roads and flood waters heading their way.

It is said he led a sheepherder to water during a drought so he would not lose his flock.

Black Hat’s Encounter

One Navajo named Black Hat who was new to the Red Valley in north-central Arizona had never heard the stories about the mysterious Grey Robe when he encountered him.

He was traveling through the valley when his horse slowed down and perked up his ears. He saw a grey figure up ahead standing near the trail he traveled.

The figure was wrapped in a robe and a grey mist or grey smoke seemed to surround him. Black Hat stopped his horse and asked, “Who are you?”

The shadowy figure did not speak but instead motioned for him to follow him. Black hat noticed the figure made no sound as he moved through the sagebrush—his body appeared to float instead of walk.

Several hundred yards further down the trail the figure stopped and turned toward Black Hat. It then pointed toward a rocky ridge in the distance.

As Black Hat turned back he saw the figure slowly fade away. He realized this encounter had not scared him but instead he felt a feeling of serene kindness settle over him.

Black Hat headed to the rocky ridge where he found an unconscious Indian boy. He saw that the boy’s leg was broken in several places.

He gathered dry brush and made a signal fire. It wasn’t long before a party of Navajos rode in. They lived nearby and had seen the fire.

It was discovered later that the boy had been thrown from his pony when a rattlesnake frightened it.

If Black Hat had not found the boy he would have died. The other Indians asked him how he had happened upon the boy since the ridge was quite a distance from the trail he traveled.

Black Hat hesitated and then told then about the grey figure. The others seemed not to be surprised by his description—especially the part where he stated the figure wore a grey robe and was faceless.

The elder of the group nodded and said. “It was Grey Robe.” He then told Black Hat about the friendly spirit that helps the Navajo people.

This legend is not lost today for the Navajos remember the stories about Grey Robe fondly.