Tag Archives: mexican ghost stories

Memorate: My Great-Grandparents’ Joaquin Murrieta Sighting


Informant J is a 73 year old Mexican-American man and is the collector’s grandfather. He is from San Jose, California, but his family moved there from parts of Texas and Mexico. For the majority of his life, J was a manager at a regional grocery store, and studied art in college with a focus in jewelry making. J is now retired and his hobbies include guitar playing, metal working, and reworking vintage cars.


(Please excuse typos, this is an unaltered text message from the informant): “My parents said they were just finishing up a picnic at Alumn Rock park on the East side of San Jose and were getting ready to head home when a man who looked like he had been dug up (his clothes was old and tattered and resembled clothes from the cowboy days. He came up to their car window and just stood there not saying a word but staring in a daze. They believe it was the ghost of Juan Murrieta who lived during the late 1900’s. He was famous for robbing people in that area of the park. My dad started the car and got the hell out of there! My parents were very scared and they were familiar with the legend of Juan Murrieta and never stopped talking about the incident!”

“Ps: The cowboy did have an old style revolver as well!”


I’d like to note that people often confuse Juan and Joaquin Murrieta, and that my grandpa was almost certainly referring to the latter. I did some research after being told this story, as I hadn’t heard of either figure until now. Juan was a pioneer, whereas Joaquin is a Mexican figure commonly known as the Robin Hood of the West. More specifically, stories about Murrieta rose in California during the Gold Rush. I find it interesting that my great-grandparents claim to have seen Joaquin Murrieta, because they associated something strange with something they already knew about (ghosts), and their knowledge of it is heavily influenced by culture. Even though my family was Mexican-Texan, they had heard enough about this specifically Mexican-Californian legend in the little time that they lived there that they assumed the figure was him. What’s more, this story hints at a combination of folkloric beliefs, as my great-grandparents claim to have seen a kind of undead version of Joaquin Murrieta, who is more of a legend than a popular ghost. There are debates over whether he existed, but stories of seeing him are rarer. But my great-grandparents seem to have believed in ghosts in general, so this memorate only furthered their personal view of the world.

The Lady with the Pearl Necklace


“My mom told me a story about when she saw a ghost/dead person before, she said that she was walking down the street with her cousin, and then she saw this woman and she had a pearl necklace. The lady was like ‘oh would you like to buy this from me?’ and she said ‘oh I can’t buy the necklace let me go just tell my mom and see if she has any money’. Then the lady was like ‘no just like, like you can have it, you can have it you don’t have to pay for it I just want you to have the necklace’ and my mom said ‘ no no I can’t take it for free let me go see’. So then my mom remembers that this like elder lady had a green sweater on. Then she goes back into her house and there were a bunch of people surrounding her dining room table and she was very confused so she goes in and she’s like ‘oh mom this one lady like she was asking me to buy her pearl necklace, can I have some money to give to her?’ and then her mom was like ‘oh what did she look like, who was this woman, have you ever seen her before?’ and my mom was like ‘no I haven’t seen her’ so then my grandma was like ‘okay what did she look like’. My mom starts describing this woman and telling her like that she had a green sweater on and then the entire room goes silent, and just goes quiet, and they’re like ‘okay go to the other room’ and then my mom was like ‘okay that was weird’ so then she goes to the other room but stays near the door. Then my grandma was telling her sister that the woman that my mom had described had just been like, they had just had her funeral mass. Like the woman was dead and they were going to put her body in the ground and my mom was freaked out and she got chills and everything and then they never saw the woman again, obviously, because she had died.”


M is a 19 year old student from a town right outside of Chicago, IL, and she explained to me a ghost story that her mother told her about when she was younger. M explained that her mother grew up ‘not wealthy’ which is contextual to the story where she declines to buy the necklace, as this was when she was younger. M’s mother grew up in a small town in Mexico, El Sauz, Guanajuato. She thinks that this was around October when she was very young, probably about 9 or so. Although her mom experienced this and fully remembers it, M doesn’t think her mom fully believes in ghosts. M also doesn’t fully believe in ghosts herself, she thinks she would first try to explain a situation with logic and reasoning, before fully believing that it was a spirit.


M’s ghost story reflects a complex interplay of personal beliefs, cultural narratives, and family dynamics. It highlights the enduring significance of folklore and tradition in shaping individuals’ perceptions of the supernatural, while also underscoring the human capacity for skepticism and rational inquiry in the face of mysterious encounters. It encapsulates the tension between belief in the supernatural and skepticism. While M’s mother experienced a seemingly paranormal encounter, both she and M approach the story with a degree of skepticism. M’s mother’s hesitation to accept the pearl necklace for free and her subsequent confusion when she learns about the woman’s death reflect a blend of belief and rationality. The story takes place in a small town in Mexico, where beliefs in ghosts, spirits, and the afterlife may be deeply rooted in cultural folklore and traditions. The encounter with the ghostly woman wearing a green sweater and offering a pearl necklace resonates with traditional ghost stories that often feature encounters with benevolent or unsettled spirits. The story unfolds within the context of family interactions, with M’s mother consulting her own mother about the encounter. The family’s reaction to the description of the woman and the revelation of her death underscores the importance of familial connections and shared experiences in processing supernatural events. The story’s setting in a small town in Mexico adds layers of historical and cultural significance, contextualizing the encounter within a specific geographic and temporal framework. The time of year, possibly around October, may also carry symbolic meaning, aligning with cultural traditions such as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) when the boundary between the living and the dead is believed to be particularly porous.

Erlina and Irene: Epic

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American college student. He believes strongly in his superstitions and magical energies. This story takes place in Las Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico. It’s a village right outside of an area with hot springs. This happened when the informants grandmother was 7, so in the 1960s. 

Informant: My grandma, she had her best friend – so say you’re like my best friend, okay? And we make a promise because, you know, best friends, they wanna stay together forever, so, like she said “if I die, you come with me, like I’ll take you with me. And like, if you die, you take me with you so that we could be in heaven together, okay?” So then, her best friend Erlinda said, “if I die, I’m going to take you by your feet! I’m gonna take you by your feet to heaven with me, like your going to die with me.” And my grandma Irene was like, “No, no don’t pull me by feet!” 

So this was happening in this village. It’s called Las Grutas Tolantongo. It’s a little village, it’s like hot tubs, like little hot springs, but outside of it is this village. And they would always play under a tree with their neighbors. So, since Irene and Erlinda were neighbors, they could always see into each other’s houses, and like when the time came that Erlinda wasn’t coming out anymore to come play with her, Irene would always see Erlinda laying out on the bed.
So, witches exist. Like, in Mexico… you might not believe in witches but like, they’re definitely a thing in Mexico. So, I guess the village– they had a lot of envy towards Erlinda’s mom. Cause’ Erlinda had her little business, she had to send her workers out early in the morning. So, it was revealed to Erlina’s mom, her name was Doña tele– it was revealed after they found out that Erlina got sick that someone had tried to put a curse on her! But, it was intended for whoever woke up first and left the house, and since Doña tele always woke up at 3 in the morning to send her workers out, it was intended for her. So, Erlinda had to use the bathroom late at night, and because they had communal bathrooms outside of the house, Erlinda got sick instead of Doña tele, who the curse was intended for. Like, when she crossed the doorway, they put dirt in front of her doorway like in the Conjuring. So, whoever crossed over it, like whatever bad energy would go to them.

So, fast forward a few months later in July which is the end of the school year in Mexico, Erlinda died! Like, she died! But Irene realized when she went to her funeral that she made a promise that if she died she was going to take me! And I promised that she was going to take me! And she was like “Noooo! I’m so scared, like no no no no!” And the scary part is, they didn’t have morticians so the viewing– like her mouth was open, her eyes were cloudy, like have you seen a dead person? 

So, Irene, like after she saw Erlinda dead she kept having nightmares of Erlinda. Like, one time my grandma told me that she saw Erlinda in a dream. Like, you know how sometimes dreams feel real so you wake up in the dream? So, she woke up and saw Erlinda playing in her room through the window and she was like “*gasps* Erlinda, you’re not dead?” And Erlinda is facing away from her ignoring her. And then, Erlinda turns around and the face that she had in the casket was the same face she had when she turned around. And Irene freaked out because Erlinda said “If I catch you, you’re coming with me.” So, Erlinda would chase Irene throughout the whole village and Irene would float like a skywalker. And Irene would always wake up sweating like crazy, afraid she’d go into cardiac arrest every night. The dreams happened from May 12 to August 18th, like she just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I forgot to mention this part, but her brother Chava would always come from Mexico City because that’s where he worked. So when Erlinda died, he came to pay his respects. But when the time came for him to go back to Mexico City, Irene was like “take me with you! Because maybe if I go, I won’t be able to dream of her anymore.” So, she went and she never dreamed of her again. But, like, the scary part was when my grandma was telling me this story we were in the lounge of my dorm and the lights went off. And I know they’re motion sensors but I was moving around! So, I was like, “Erlinda? Is she here?” Like, that’s scary!

Reflection: I absolutely loved hearing this story from my roommate. They were so animated as they told me the story and it was entertaining to hear it from them. I especially liked the way they told the story, as they were really unfiltered and imperfect in how they told it, which was fun to watch. This story was so entertaining, and it was so cool to learn about their culture through an anecdote like this one. The part where they say that magic exists in Mexico was so cool, as they acknowledge that in American culture we don’t believe in magic, but how in Mexican culture it is accepted.

Taviano’s curse

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American college student. He believes strongly in his superstitions and magical energies. This story takes place in Las Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico. It’s a village right outside of an area with hot springs. This happened when the informants grandmother was 7, so in the 1960s. 

Informant: There was this guy, his name was Taviano. They would come to give this woman bats to counteract a curse. So, Taviano would always come at night because that’s when they caught the bats, and my great-grandmother Josefina would always let Taviano sleep in their house, but Taviano would always sleep in the kitchen. And after a while they got suspicious like, “why would he always want to sleep in the kitchen?” And, turns out that when my grandmother went to a medium to kind of find out because– instead of going to the doctor’s– they don’t like the doctors, cause the doctors always try to– the scientific part. Like, over there it’s more spiritual, like they believe in more the spiritual world. So, they always go to mediums and those kind of things, yeah like mediums. So when the medium revealed to my grandmother why her daughter was sick, he mentioned that a guy who was your neighbor got her sick. So, Josefina guessed it was her neighbor because he was the only guy, but since he wasn’t there she didn’t know. So Taviano, even though they like don’t have pronouns, Taviano was still a guy, so suspicions went to Taviano. So then like, sleeping in the kitchen, what is he doing in the kitchen? So, um there was like uh, flame. There was one night where she had a flame in the kitchen, right. And, like, you know when dust kind of hits metal. Like dust particles are kind of hitting metal, the sound it makes, so she heard that in the middle of the night and she was like, “wait what’s going on”. And then she got up and she saw Taviano sitting in front of the oven with all this like, Carbon stuff and burning things and he had dead bones with him, and she was like “I got you!” And grabbed him by the ear asking “who told you to do this? Why are you doing this?” And they never found out why he was doing this but they found out that it was him who was doing the curse. 

Reflection: This story was so interesting because the informant talked me through the entire process of the creation of the curse. I loved seeing how they lighted up as they told the story, and how emotional they were. The part where the informant talks about mistrust of doctors told me a lot about their culture and community. Their community relies on folk medicine and ritualistic practices done by mediums rather than Western medicine, and it was evident in their account. I learned so much more about cultural differences and how they affect people’s problem-solving throughout the world.

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.


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. 


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. 


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.