This series on terrifying mythological creatures from around the world has been a lot of fun! But I’m running out of alliterative synonyms for Creepy Creatures…
Thank you for joining me on another exploration of local monster legends. It’s our last stop before Halloween and today we’re visiting South America! This continent is also way too big to have its cryptid fauna narrowed down to a measly top 5 list. But I’m going to try anyway!
#5 Luz Mala
La Luz Mala, or simply the “bad light,” is a legend that dates back to the gaucho era of Argentina and Uruguay in the mid 1700s-1800s. La Luz Mala appears as a bright beam of light in the darkness which terrified local villagers and wandering gaucho cowboys. It was believed that these bad lights were the souls of the unbaptized dead.
For the adventurous, though, la Luz Mala offered the promise of riches. Stories tell of those who hunt down the source of the light to find human bones and ancient artifacts. Even the bravest were loathe to go searching for the bad lights, however, for anyone who took the treasures from the source of the light were doomed to die.
#4 El Culebrón
El Culebrón is a big, hairy snake with a cows head.
Yeah. I said what I said.
This Chilean creeper comes out of its cave at night to slither across the countryside and devour everything in its path. These creatures are particularly drawn to buried treasure and are said to appear at the site exactly 40 days after the burial. If you are burying your own stash of treasure and you want to be able to come back and claim it some day, you can pour alcohol over the site in hopes of repelling El Culebrón, or perhaps getting him drunk enough that you can sneak past him to retrieve your loot and high-tail it out of there.
Better yet, El Culebrón is said to attract riches to anyone able to tame it. Unfortunately this is not an easy task. The agreed upon method of domesticating a giant, hairy bovine reptile is thus:
- Find El Culebrón in the wild, perhaps luring it with your own treasure?
- Pluck the three longest hairs from its body without becoming a snake snack.
- Place the three hairs into a bowl of milk.
- Watch patiently which the three hairs transform into baby Culebrón. The biggest will kill and eat its siblings and tada!
- Enjoy your gold magnet.
Sounds simple enough.
#3 La Llorona
La Llorona is a tragic figure, but she’s no less dangerous for her sorrow. There are many variations on this legend and none of them are pleasant to read. La Llorona is the ultimate scorned woman.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful maiden. Unfortunately, she fell for the wrong guy. After marrying the man of her dreams and bearing his children, the woman discovers that he has been unfaithful. In a fit of grief and rage, she murders her own children (usually by drowning them in a river) in order to get revenge on her philandering mate. Then, realizing what she’s done, she kills herself too.
But the tragedy doesn’t end there, of course. In order to get to the afterlife, La Llorona must find her children. Their souls are long lost, but in her desperation this spirit will grab any child she sees and pulling them under the water, too. La Llorona is often seen and heard, wandering along riverbeds, weeping for her lost children.
#2 La Ciguapa
This fiendish being haunts the deep forests and mountainous highlands of the Dominican Republic. It appears as a woman with long, thick hair and tanned skin which help it to camouflage as it stalks its prey. La Ciguapa is identifiable from your average wild-woman-of-the-woods by its backwards facing feet. But by the time you notice this little detail, it’s probably too late for you. La Ciguapa has a hypnotic stare and can compel you deeper into the forest, toward her lair, where she… well, we don’t really know. But if we’ve learned anything on this tour of mythological monsters, its that women who lure their victims anywhere are pretty much guaranteed to have one thing on their minds. That’s right. Roasting your liver on a spit.
There are many vampiric legends in South America. The most commonly known is the urban legend of El Chupacabra, which is actually a very modern myth only dating back to the mid-90s. The so-called “goat sucker” is certainly a creepy creature, but it lacks the depth of history.
I’m giving the Peuchen an honourable mention here. This shape-shifting blood sucker myth originates from the Mapuche people, indigenous to Southern Chile. The Peuchen seems to be a kind of flying snake-bat with hypnotic powers, and it is bent upon one goal only. To feast upon your blood. The only people capable of defeating a Peuchen are the Mapuche medicine women. This pretty much hits every item on the terrifying mythological creature checklist.
Now, back to the main event. Pishtaco are creatures similar to the vampire, but instead of your blood, they are after your body fat.
Legends of pale-skinned vampiric demons lurking in the Andes began to surface in Peru and Boliva during the 15th century. The creatures were said to attack unsuspecting travelers, draining them of their body fat, and leaving only an emaciated body behind. Interestingly, these demons were able to disguise themselves as colonial priests and doctors (and later aid-workers, archaeologists, or any other white interlopers)
The scariest part of this myth is the way it reflects the every day horror of living under Spanish colonialism for the indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. Starvation and disease ravaged the local populations and seemed to spare the white colonizers. How else could indigenous people explain what was happening to their children? Beware the white-skinned people, they may be demons in disguise. History shows us how true this “myth” actually was.
Well, that’s our wrap up of the pre-Halloween creature feature! There are some conspicuous absences from the regions we’ve covered so far: I still haven’t looked into the United States, China, Russia, Japan, the Caribbean, or much of southern Europe. So that means, I’ll probably have to continue this exploration in the coming months. I’ll aim for once a week, and get back to my usual posting schedule with book reviews and posts about creativity, entrepreneurism, and–of course–the joys of science fiction.
Thank you for joining me on this tour! If you missed any of them, please check out the other posts in this series here:
- 5 Creepy Canadian Creatures You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
- 5 Ghoulish Monsters of Serbian Folklore to Haunt Your Nightmares
- 5 Fearsome Fae of the British Isles
- 5 Hair-Raising Haunts of Korean Folklore
- 5 Petrifying Persian Monsters You Don’t Want to Meet in a Dark Alley
- 5 Blood-Curdling Beasts of Norse Mythology
- 5 Uncanny Indian Creatures to Spice Up Your Nightmares
- 5 Startlingly Strange Cryptids of African Myth
- 5 Ancient Creatures of Australia and New Zealand
What is your favourite mythological creature?
Did I cover it during my tour, or is there somewhere else I need to explore? Let me know in the comments.