Cuentos de fantasmas literally means “ghost stories” in the Latino tradition, and also refers to a kind of Mexican American pulp fiction combining folktales, legend and popular culture. I share with you the cuentos as they were told to me of El Cucui (Bogeyman), El Diablo (devil), and La Lechusa, (owl woman).
In the Southwest El Cucui has been helping mothers keep children in bed and out of trouble for decades. A description is very hard to come by because he keeps to the darkness and the shadows and those who have encountered him cannot take a good look from under the covers.
At any rate he’s not a nice guy, unlike El Diablo. This smooth talking, papi chulo is always well dressed and can dance the night away with the single women who have chosen to go out alone against her families’ wishes. Once on the dance floor she takes a look at his fast moving feet and discovers that her partner has hooves. He vanishes without even asking for her number. She may faint or awaken in the morning with a scorched handprint on her shoulder, and certainly no call from him, all painful reminders to “keep single women home”.
At night in Texas, especially under a full moon, things start moving, and La Lechusa soars silently over the treetops looking for her prey. Sometimes she is half woman, half owl, other times she transforms into the owl at sunset. Some say she is the spirit of a woman betrayed, annoyed by a faithless husband or a widower who has remarried. Men who stay out late drinking may encounter her and those cheating may be visited. This creature of the night can only be called off if you know the remedy. Tie a rope with seven knots in it and say a prayer each time, if you make a mistake in the process, the result is anyone’s guess and listen for the scratching on rooftops.
I have been warned as most children of the Southwest have been so I added a little protection to this work, wax from prayer candles, safety pins keep things in, shredded areas where the spirits have surfaced have been stitched shut, and a carefully tied rope with seven knots holding seven prayers…just in case.