A legend heard by the informant in Guatemala, El Viejito is an old man that abducts children.
EO: “In Latin America, um, they tell stories to scare children into behaving. So there’s this old man, they call him “El Viejito”, and he just always stealing kids. So if you’re misbehaving, he’s going to come and get you…steal you forever.
EO: El Viejito, “The Old Man”. My mother told me about it many times to keep me polite and well-behaved.
The informant also told of other legends that were used as precautionary tales in order to use fear to keep children behaving. Others include La Llorona and La Sihuanaba.
Although “El Viejito” is a legend of Latin America, it literally translates to “little old man”, so there is bound to be confusion between the folklore and basic application of language. For example, “El Viejito” is a nickname Latinos use for Senator Bernie Sanders.
Informant (L.P.) is an 18 year old student. I had heard her enthusiasm for telling ghost stories the week before, and set up this interview. L.P. has spent some time in NYC over the past several years. This interview is conducted at my house one Saturday evening.
After sharing several ghost stories, L.P. casually adds “one time I almost got abducted by aliens.”
L.P.: “I was in New York at aunts apartment asleep and this Alien screamed into my ear really loud, and I woke up & saw a white flash but my eyes were closed. I felt light inside of my brain but nothing was there. Then my Aunt came into the room all freaked out and told me I screamed, and I didn’t even know.”
I suggest this sounds like sleep paralysis
L.P.: “I had a mark on my arm, it was red & had dots in it.”
While the alien abduction was likely a memorate from a severe instance of sleep paralysis, L.P. firmly believes in the supernatural from ghosts to aliens, and enjoys the thrill of firsthand experience. In my findings, people who believe in, and actively search for these mysterious entities are the most likely to encounter them in one form or another.
My friend was born in the U.S. He is currently a second year at USC.
The riddle goes like this:
Q: There are three people who were abducted by an alien. They are each blindfolded and put in a straight line. They are told that there are two black hats and a white hat. Each one of the abducted people is wearing either a white hat or a black hat. The last person in line can see both people’s heads in front of him, the second person can only see the first person’s head, and the first person can’t see anything. The alien then says that if they can guess the correct color of the hats, then they will be let free. Who speaks up and what answer would he give?
A: The person standing last in line would speak up only if he sees that the hats in front of him are the same color. If the colors were opposites then person in the middle would speak up. The middle guy would know that the person behind him is quiet because the hats in front of him are two different colors. By this deduction, the man in the middle knows that whichever color hat he is wearing is the opposite of the hat color he sees in front of him, and the same as the color of the hat color behind him.
Me: Where did you hear this riddle?
J: My friend, Daniel Chun.
Me: When did you hear it?
J: I heard it about a month and a half ago. After sophomore accountability, we were just chilling in another friend’s room.
Me: Do you guys do this often?
J: Oh yeah, we just chill, share stories, talk, and stuff.
It should be noted that there was a similar riddle to this one about hats and prisoners but without aliens.
The informant (L) is a 22 year old film student at California State University Los Angeles. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma before coming to Los Angeles for college after high school. Her family is Mexican and Catholic. At the suggestion of our mutual friend who had heard the story before, she told me the legend of the Cihuateotl. She mentioned prior to telling me that the story was not told often within her family because of how sad it is. She was told the story by her grandmother when L’s fourth cousin died in childbirth, when L was around seven years old. Though L does not tell the story often within her family, L does tell the story when other urban legends are being discussed among her friends in Los Angeles, which is where I heard some of the story prior to beginning to collect folklore for this database. The story involves the following legendary figures:
In “native ancient Mexico,” the cihuateotl are the spirits of the women who died in childbirth. Their sadness is the reason the sun goes down at night. Once a month, the spirits haunt the streets to hold the children they were never able to hold. After sunset, they try to abduct children. Because ‘good’ children should be inside and safe by the time the sun goes down, the children they were trying to abduct are the bad, misbehaving children. This is also used to scare children into behaving, as the cihuateotl would not give the children back.
This mix of ancient myth and urban legend is an interesting intersection between old and new. Though the spirits make sense in both modern and ancient contexts, the haunting of streets does not make as much sense in ancient Mexico, which probably did not have the sort of streets and highways L referred to in her retelling.
The story also presents some interesting contrasts. The fact that the cihuateotl only abduct bad children seem to say something about how either those children do not deserve a real mother or the mothers who allow their children to be bad don’t deserve to have children when there are mothers who died trying to have them. While these ideas are in the background, the practical use of scaring children into behaving probably plays more of a role in why the story is told than the more subtle themes.