Tag Archives: ghost stories

La Mano Peluda

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

MR: So La Mano Peluda translates to “hairy hand.” It’s basically an old legend that my parents used to scare me with when I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do, like not taking out the trash or doing chores. So I would literally crawl into a ball at night and make sure that my legs weren’t hanging out of the covers because I genuinely thought that this terrifying hand would come out from under my bed and drag me by my ankles out of my room to who knows where.

HR: Hahahaha. So how old were you when you heard this story?

MR: It went back to when I was probably like 5 or 6. Because I was in school already, and if I didn’t do my homework my mom would be like, “If you don’t do your homework La Mano Peluda is gonna come and get you!”

HR: And do you know where this legend came from?

MR: Well my mom got the tradition from her family in Mexico, but after you asked me about it I did a little googling. Apparently, it was a man’s hand that had survived from the Spanish Inquisition. He wanted to seek revenge on the people who had pillaged his home or something like that. But when I was little, I didn’t really care about the origin and just got freaked out when I thought about an old hand hiding under my bed.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She used to be intimidated by the legend of La Mano Peluda as a young child but grew to see it as a funny way that her parents made her do her chores. 

Context: 

The legend of La Mano Peluda was brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. She had told me about the legend before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers. 

Thoughts:

The story of La Mano Peluda is a classic legend that is prominent across a wide range of Latin-American cultures. I would equate it to classic American campfire stories where the goal is to scare and entertain the audience. I have heard multiple recollections of this folk tale and they all seem to stem from having a fear of something hiding under one’s bed. For particularly young children, the legend of La Mano Peluda is used as a sort of scare tactic to get them to do their chores, while in older adolecents it is seen as an entertaining folk tale. What is interesting is that there is a pattern of “hairy hand” stories across the globe.

For another “hairy hand” story, see:

Mary Curtis Special to The Star. “Dartmoor Nights and Scary Tales Stir Imagination: SA2 Edition.” Toronto Star, Torstar Syndication Services, a Division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited, 1990.

The Lake Arrowhead Hand

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my friend/informant (DS).

HS: So what’s your take on The Hand?

DS: Alright so first of all we’ve gotta explain how this lake story came to be. In water skiing, there are different ways of holding the cable that are more efficient than other ways. In some cases, some ways of holding the cable are more dangerous than others. So there’s this way of holding it where you kind of wrap it around your back, but it’s really risky because there’s a risk of you losing your hand if things go wrong. So back in the 1980s, there was this girl who was water skiing in that risky position, right. And she messed up and her hand came right off. My parents talk about this story all the time and I’m pretty sure that it is a true story. The girl even lost her wedding ring because she was wearing it on the hand that she had lost.

HS: So what stories did people start to tell after she lost her hand?

DS: It kind of turned into a ghost story. People around the lake have reported seeing walking hands and all that kind of crazy stuff. They see the old, rusted wedding ring on the hand. They say the hand is still trying to find the body that it used to be a part of. It haunts all night swimmers at Lake Arrowhead and whenever you’re out on the lake at night, and you see a sparkle off in the distance, people wonder if it’s the shine of the ring on the walking hand.

Background:

My informant is a friend that I went to high school and now college with. He spends a lot of his summer in Lake Arrowhead and has a lot of folk stories and traditions that he has gotten from the area.

Context:

So I was visiting my informant up in Arrowhead last summer and I was with him and seven or eight other people. It was late at night and we were all on a boat in the middle of the lake. Besides us, there was no sound coming from anywhere- complete silence out on the water. It was also almost pitch black, with only small amounts of light coming from the surrounding docks. We were all winding down for the night, kind of relaxed sort of vibe. We all started telling ghost stories and legends that we knew in an attempt to scare one another. Amongst the stories was that of the Lake Arrowhead hand. A year later, I was in need of folklore stories and so I asked my friend to act as an informant for me.

Thoughts:

This is the second collection that I have done regarding ghost stories that involve hands, which is an interesting coincidence. I’ve gotten the chance to do a decent amount of reading on the subject of ghost hands in the process and found this example to be compelling for a few reasons. First, this folklore is unique to a small, concentrated population that lives on the crest of Lake Arrowhead. But even though it is local folklore, it still had properties of similar legends from around the world. It is almost as if we take stories from a predisposed list and then augment them to fit our local context, which is a trend that I found to be extremely interesting. I also found it interesting that these folk stories can be generated from true events. The fact that a woman lost her hand in Lake Arrowhead was true, but for some reason, we as humans find it fascinating to add all of this superstition to scary events. Why is that?

El Cucuy

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

HS: So tell me about El Cucuy.

MR: El Cucuy was a lot like other legends that my friends and parents used to scare me when I was little. A lot like La Mano Peluda, my parents would say things like, “El Cucuy is going to come and get you!” When I was really little, probably 5 or 6, I would be scared to get clothes out of my closet at night because that’s where I was told El Cucuy was waiting to get me and eat me. I honestly don’t even know anything about El Cucuy, he was kind of just like a boogeyman type thing that I use now to scare kids into behaving.

MR: *Googles El Cucuy on her phone for the first time*

MR: Oh wow. This story is crazy weird. Hahahaha. Apparently, a father was cursed after forgetting that he left his kids locked in the closet while their barn burned down, so all his kids were killed. After years of looking for his kids in other families’ closets, he grew an appetite for them? That makes no sense but it’s nice to finally know where the story of El Cucuy came from after all these years.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She comes from a devout Catholic family and has taught me a lot of traditions that I didn’t know pertain to Catholicism, seeing as to the fact that I myself was raised in a Catholic family. She also knows a lot of Mexican urban legends and ghost stories from her childhood.

Context:

This story was brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. We had just finished talking about La Mano Peluda and other legends such as El Chupacabra. She had told me about these traditions before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers. In a lot of the audio recordings, you can hear us having a conversation and then stopping abruptly because a customer walks in.

Thoughts:

Something that I found interesting, and I don’t know if this applies on a broader scale, is that there was a significant difference in my coworker’s response to talking about El Cucuy as opposed to other legends. In the case of La Mano Peluda, she recited many childhood experiences where she was genuinely afraid of it, along with talking about her scare-filled experiences of searching for El Chupacabra. She was not as passionate or enthusiastic about El Cucuy, perhaps because the legend wasn’t as effective at scaring her as a child or because it wasn’t used by her parents as much. Regardless, El Cucuy is a typical urban legend. My coworker’s comment on how El Cucuy is similar to the boogeyman made me realize that, like many other legends, it is part of a global pattern of stories made up to scare children into behaving.

To see how El Cucuy links with these other boogeyman stories, read:

Hayes, Joe., and Honorio. Robledo. El Cucuy! : a Bogeyman Cuento . 1st ed., Cinco Puntos Press, 2001.

The Blue Light

Background:

My informant for this piece grew up in rural, northern Wisconsin. I know from personal experience that living in an isolated area such as this one can cause serious boredom, especially during adolescence. Because of this, people who grow up away from the city often make their own fun, creating games and exploring the landscape. Occasionally, in the dark of night, strange things tend to occur.

Context:

As a teenager, looking for “the Blue Light” was both an exciting pastime and rite of passage in my informant’s hometown; everyone knew about it. On late nights, those individuals who thought themselves daring enough would go out in an attempt to experience the lore themselves. Luckily–although I may never get to experience it myself–I was able to live this tradition vicariously while he told me about it during an over-the-phone interview for the USC folklore archives.

Main Piece:

“When we were in high school… It was called the blue light. And there was a bridge on a country road, and you would go park on the bridge at night and people would go there all the time. And if you look out off the bridge sometimes people would see a blue light moving through the woods, and I saw it once, and my friends did too. The rumor was that there was an old farmer who hung himself off the bridge and his ghost haunted those woods.”

Analysis:

A few years ago, I remember hearing about some kind of phenomenon similar to the Blue Light that was supposedly proven false. Instead, these strange colors that people were seeing in the woods at night were reasoned to be the release of natural gas from a swamp, which would have a luminescent glow for a few seconds before dissipating. While this seems a more likely explanation, it hasn’t stopped the legend hunters who, apparently, continue to go out in search of the Blue Light even to this day. Though I would like to believe in the story and to pursue the Blue Light for myself, this continued interest in the phenomenon as the embodiment of a ghost is probably due to the human tendency of belief perseverance. In other words, teens in that region may have been given the information to know that the Blue light is probably just swamp gas, but they continue to believe in the story because it’s what they’ve always known.

For a Similar Narrative, See:

Carlisle, John. “Mysterious Light Draws Thrill Seekers to a U.P. Forest.” Detroit Free Press, 9 July 2018, eu.freep.com/story/news/columnists/john-carlisle/2016/09/04/mysterious-paulding-light-upper-peninsula-michigan/89275134.

The Black Stallion and Creature With Three Red Eyes: Don’t Walk Alone at Midnight in Guatemala

I heard this legend while many of my housemates were gathered around a table and drinking. The first time the speaker shared this story, he mentioned that his grandfather never drank after he saw a red-eyed figure in Guatemala. When I asked him to retell his story for collection, he gave much more detail about the two creatures his grandfather feared.

*

The speaker’s grandfather used to tell this story when he would get drunk: he saw two creatures. One was a being with red eyes, the other was a black horse. In 1960 in San Rafael, Guatemala at exactly 12 am, neighbors in a village of only 15 or 20 houses could hear a black stallion. And if stragglers outside a home were caught alone, they would hear a horse running after them. They wouldn’t see the horse. If they managed to slip inside their house and close the door, they would hear the horse pounding at the threshold until 12:01. Then they would not hear it anymore.

If the horse caught stragglers, they would die of an underlying disease like cardiac arrest or drug overdose, something “easy to explain.” In those days, a lot of children went missing in the wilderness because the area was “unexplored.”

One night, the speaker’s grandfather and his friend left a larger group of friends playing soccer to walk home around midnight. They were both drunk. Suddenly, the speaker’s grandfather felt dread. Every step they took felt “like mud” and the speaker’s grandfather felt like he was being watched. Both friends turned around to see a seven-foot-tall humanoid figure with three red eyes watching “like a little kid goes onto a tree and just sticks his head sideways and stays staring at you.”

The speaker did not know how his grandfather got home that night, but the friend went missing for over a week. “They did find the guy, his friend, my grandpa’s friend. And so he just told me that this dude was torn. Like torn apart. “

When asked what this creature was, the speaker said that “It’s from the time before even that place was colonized by Spain… around the Mayan time… the Mayans just disappeared one day. They were so advanced for their time.” He went on to say that his grandfather believed that the Mayans, who the speaker mentioned were polytheistic built massive pyramids, disappeared because they were killed by these strange creatures. “These things that they [victims] see now are from times that we can’t even comprehend because he’s like, yeah, they’re from the future. And I was like, What the hell do you mean the future?” The speaker trailed off.

“I’m not sure if it’s real or not, I’m going to believe because the way he will talk to me, he would stare me down in the eyes,” the speaker continued. “And my grandma would also support that, because even she would hear the black horse because that another story my grandma told me when my grandpa was asleep, was, he couldn’t sleep at night, most of the time in Guatemala, because he said that that’s the human figure would haunt him because of his friend.”

The speaker noted that black stallions were also a status symbol in Guatemala reserved for members of the military.

When asked why he first told the story, the speaker noted that ” Usually when I’m under the influence, then the story comes out But usually, when you’re impaired or under the influence, you see, I wouldn’t say another dimension, but you see something else? Like you see? We see different.”

The speaker’s grandfather worried that these two creatures would come for him after he moved to the U.S. He later died of a heart attack.

*

This speaker is a good friend but he embellishes stories a lot. He later told me that he believed that he’d seen the red-eyed creature in the U.S. even though he called both of these creatures “just legends” in the recording. I also happen to know that in telling these stories, he was trying to get me to trust him again after a breakup. After, he often offered to tell similar stories. But I think he was being genuine when he told me what he knew and what he had seen.

This speaker also struggles with drinking alcoholic beverages. Telling this story may be a way for him to express the fear he feels drinking to suppress emotions or escape responsibility.

He later asked me not to tease him about ghosts because to him, these stories are very real. I might not believe these stories in the daylight, but I will never walk alone at midnight in Guatemala.