11 Spanish Supernatural Characters


November 4, 2020

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If you’re anything like me, and you get some weird thrill out of freaking yourself out, then this is the article for you.

Turns out there are heaps of creepy supernatural characters in the folklore of Spanish-speaking countries all over the world, ranging from stalkery hairdressers through to goat-sucking beasts!

Supernatural Characters

Some of these entries might be distressing for some readers, so we’ve given each one a Scare Factor rating, meaning you can choose what you do and don’t want to read. 

Content Warning: Child abuse, sexual assault, violence, murder

Scare Factor Scale:

1 star (*)—Only mildly threatening. More likely to make you say, “you ok, hun?” to the Spanish-speaking world than to actually scare you.

2 stars (**)—Pretty creepy, you wouldn’t want to think for too long about these, but they’re not horrific.

3 stars (***)—Top-of-the-range nightmare material. I wouldn’t want to run into these guys in a dark alley, let’s put it that way!

We’ve also tried to pin down where each story originates from, but, being folklore, it’s difficult to get details from different sources to match up perfectly, so take everything you read with a pinch of salt!

Okay, brace yourselves, let’s get into this!

La Ciguapa

Scare Factor: **

Origins: Dominican Republic

Bonus vocab: guapa = pretty

Simply put, a ciguapa is a mythological woman with her feet on backwards. She appears beautiful to some people, but a horrendous sight to others.

In her beautiful form, a ciguapa is usually depicted as an attractive, nude woman with a long, smooth mane of hair. She normally has blue or brown skin, and enchanting, black eyes. She only comes out at night, and makes no noise except for the occasional whine.

For those who see the pretty version of the ciguapa, she uses her mystical superficial beauty to lure men into the woods, where she sleeps with them and then shows her true colors by killing them. The fact ciguapas have backwards-facing feet makes it super difficult to trace them or find their victims.

Moral of this story: if you’re going to follow a mystical woman into the woods, check her feet first.

El Cadejo

Scare Factor: ***

Origins: Central America

The cadejo comes in two varieties: the white and the black. The white one represents good, and the black one is evil. The cadejo is said to be a kind of mixture between dog and deer, which can grow up to cow-size.

The cadejo appears to people (particularly drunk people) traveling at night. The white cadejo is basically a fluffy flower-eating doggo, and tries to protect these people from harm, whereas the black cadejo is much more sinister, taunting and killing its victims.

There are three types of black cadejo, but they’re all basically not very nice guys. Picture a red-eyed creature with the features of dog/deer/goat/bull/weasel, which could be an incarnation of the actual Devil. It may have a chain or necklace around its neck, so if you hear rattling then you’re in for a rough time.

It can make its victim see or hear unpleasant things, and is said to drive people to insanity—that is if it doesn’t kill them first.

It’s said to be almost impossible to kill a cadejo, but if you manage it, the body will smell foul for a few days, then just disappear. Which is probably for the best, seeing as it stinks of goat, urine, and burning sulfur even when it’s alive.

El Coco

El Coco

Scare Factor: ***

Origins: all over

Ever heard of The Boogeyman? This is basically him. He’s a ghost/monster used across the Spanish-speaking world to scare kids into obeying their parents, and he has plenty of aliases. If you hear about El Cuco, El Cucuy, or even El Viejo del Saco (The Old Sack Man), you can go ahead and assume it’s the same guy. 

He supposedly hides under kids’ beds and will take them away and eat them if they misbehave, so go to sleep when you’re told. He can also do this to kids out late at night when they should be in bed. So stick to your curfew.

There’s a lullaby that parents sing to their kids to get them to sleep:

Duérmete niñoSleep, my baby
Duérmete yaSleep, baby, do
Que viene El CocoElse The Boogeyman will come
Y te comerá.And he’ll eat you.

If you heard it sung to a relaxed lullaby tune, you might not find it problematic, but wait until we tell you the sinister backstory. I don’t know about you, but those lyrics are keeping me awake if anything.

It’s believed that El Coco is based on a real man named Francisco Ortega, aka El Moruno (The Moor), who got diagnosed with tuberculosis in early 20th-century Spain, and started desperately seeking a cure.

He was told that he’d be cured if he drank the blood of a child and rubbed the child’s fat on his chest. So he kidnapped a seven-year-old kid, put him in a sack, and we’ll let you imagine the rest …

El Sombrerón

El Sombrerón

Image Via

Scare Factor: *

Origins: Guatemala

Bonus vocab: el sombrero = hat

El Sombrerón is basically a short, well-dressed, big-hatted stalker. If you’re not a young woman with long hair and big eyes, you’re safe. If you are, then watch out. 

He has a bit of a thing for braiding hair. Why he doesn’t just set up a YouTube channel and start making hair tutorials, I don’t know, but to each their own.

What he chooses to do is go out in his all-black, well-accessorized outfit, and braid the manes and tails of horses, or even dogs with long fur. This also explains why he likes girls with long hair.

When he finds a lady who takes his fancy, he ties up a pack of mules outside her house and sets up shop, serenading her every night with a silver guitar. He also feeds her dirt, which apparently stops her from sleeping. (I don’t know about you, but when I truly love someone, I let them sleep!)

If you’re at a career crossroads and you’re wavering between stalker and online influencer, I personally would recommend going for influencer. Always influencer.

La Llorona

Scare Factor: ***

Origins: Mexico

Bonus vocab: llorar = to cry

La Llorona, often depicted sporting a white gown and long, black hair, is the protagonist of one of Latin America’s most well-known tales. The story goes that a woman named María fell in love with a man, and they had children together.

However, the husband traveled a lot, and he began to give less and less attention to his wife. When he was home, he focused only on the children.

In a blind rage, one night María took the kids to a river and drowned them. Legend has it that she can’t go peacefully into the afterlife until she finds their souls, so she roams the Earth to this day, weeping for them, and sometimes kidnapping children, mistakenly thinking they could be hers.

El Duende

El Duende

Image Via

Scare Factor: *

Origins: all over

The duende is a small, child-like goblin/elf creature which wears a pointy hat and is draped in animal skins. The duende can be either helpful, guiding people who have become lost (e.g. in a forest), or mischievous.

Like El Coco, the mischievous version is often used as a scare tactic to get children to do as they’re told.

The story of the duende is widespread, and Mexican folklore states that duendes live within the walls of children’s bedrooms, and come out to clip their toenails if they’re overgrown. I’m all for a free pedicure, but apparently sometimes they go overboard and cut off entire toes, which isn’t ideal.

Some people have reported seeing real duendes, but others have dismissed the reports as hoaxes.

El Chupacabra

Scare Factor: *

Origins: Puerto Rico/México

Bonus vocab: chupar = to suck; la cabra = goat

The Chupacabra is like the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster, in that it’s genuinely believed by some people to exist. The difference is that the Chupacabra is a new kid on the block, with the first report being made in 1995, just 25 years ago.

Its appearance is uncertain, with a wide range of vocabulary used in descriptions. It’s difficult to envisage the creature, when different accounts use phrases including ‘small bear,’ ‘winged,’ ‘dog-like,’ ‘alien-like,’ ‘row of spines,’ and ‘heavy.’

Luckily for us humans, the Chupacabra hasn’t attacked one of us yet, preferring to suck the blood of livestock, leaving animal corpses in its wake.


Scare Factor: ***

Origins: Peru/Bolivia

Not to be confused with the famous nut, a pishtaco is a legendary Andes-based creature that’s said to drain the fat, a vital substance for life, from humans.

Pishtacos are kind of like vampires, but look less like teen heartthrobs and more like ordinary men, albeit with proboscises (extensible feeding tubes) protruding from their mouths for said drainage.

In different parts of the Andes, the pishtaco is known by different names, most of which come from the word meaning something along the lines of ‘to cut,’ ‘to butcher,’ or ‘to slaughter,’ in the respective local indigenous language.

One theory says that the pishtaco is based on the real-life horrors that indigenous communities suffered at the hands of European colonizers in the 15th and 16th centuries. 

In light of this, the pishtaco is often depicted as a white male stranger, and can look as innocent as a tourist, a priest, or an engineer.


Scare Factor: **

Origins: throughout the Amazon

Bonus vocab: la mamá = mom(my)

Yacumama is said to be the mother of all aquatic creatures, and resides in the Amazon river. 

It takes the form of a giant, horned snake and can grow up to tens, if not hundreds, of feet long, so it can be a pretty dangerous beast.

In order to protect themselves from being eaten, it’s said that indigenous people blow a horn before entering the water, to warn the creature of human presence and hopefully keep it away.

El Silbón

Scare Factor: ***

Origins: Venezuela/Colombia

Bonus vocab: silbar = to whistle/to hiss

Legend has it that El Silbón (The Whistler) is the lost soul of a young man who disemboweled and killed his own father. He did it to avenge his mother or wife (depending on who tells the story), who the father allegedly sexually assaulted and/or killed (again, depending on the version of the tale). 

El Silbón’s grandfather isn’t happy with this, and sentences him to be whipped and killed. His spirit wanders the Los Llanos region carrying the bones of his father, taking the lives of new victims, usually drunks and womanizers, and collecting their bones in a sack with those of his dad.

He gets his name from the creepy whistle that he gives off. It’s said that if the whistling sounds close, then it’s actually far away. You need to worry when it sounds far away, because that means it’s actually close!

If you hear the whistle, it’s thought that the only things that can save you are chili peppers, a whip, or the bark of a dog, as these all played a part in his torture and death.

La Viudita

Scare Factor: **

Origins: all over

Bonus vocab: la viuda = widow

It’s unclear whether ‘La Viudita’ (‘The Little Widow’), ‘La Viuda Negra’ (‘The Black Widow), and ‘La Viuda’ (‘The Widow’) all refer to the same tale, but they all have a similar premise.

Some versions describe her as the ghost of a woman whose husband would drunkenly abuse her, so she killed him and then herself. Other versions say that the woman was overcome with grief when her husband died, which she channeled into a hatred toward all men.

She wears an all-black outfit, including a veil, so nobody can see her face unless they’re up really close. She waits around for drunk men stumbling around alone after midnight, and lures them home with her.

When they’re about to get intimate, she removes her veil (or lets him remove it) to reveal that she doesn’t actually have a face! All that’s there is a horrifying skull, accompanied by a chilling laugh.

The victim faints, and eventually awakens covered in thistles. So, if you’re going home with a woman, you should not only check her feet in case she’s a ciguapa, you should also check that she actually has a face in case she’s La Viudita.

To sum up…

The Spanish-speaking world has some pretty creepy myths and legends! Have we missed any? Let us know your thoughts! 

It’s always interesting to read about the folklore of other cultures, but don’t freak yourself out too much. Go watch some wholesome cat videos to counteract the weird stuff you’ve just read.

About the author 

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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