Part sorrowful banshee, part angry spirit, part cursed creature, La Llorona is known to almost every Latin culture. The first story dates back all the way to 1550. The name, pronounced "la yo-ro-na," literally translates to "the crier," which is exactly what this spook is said to do for all eternity. There are different versions of the story depending on the region in which it's told, but all of them center around a woman who murdered two children hundreds of years ago.
In one of the more popular versions, a widow, who lived in a poverty-stricken town with her two children, fell in love with a wealthy man. The man returned her affection, but wasn't interested in being a father and so would not marry the young woman. In her desperation to be with him, the woman led her children down to the river that ran near her town, and in the dead of night, drowned them both.
As the bodies of her children floated away into the darkness, the woman raced to her lover's house to tell him what she had done. She explained to him the lengths she would go to in order to be with him. The man was horrified and turned his back on her. When she realized the irrevocable act had been for nothing, she went mad. The woman ran back to the river, hoping to save her children, but it was too late. God then condemned her to walk the earth for all eternity, searching for her drowned children.
La Llorona is known to haunt many locations throughout Texas, as well as the rest of the American Southwest. It’s said that she steals the souls of living children, and she’s often invoked by Mexican mothers to frighten naughty ninos. Legend also has it that if you see her, you or someone close to you will die within a week. The origin of the story is unknown, although some folklorists believe it may date back to Aztec times.
Many modern Mexican-Americans believe in La Llorona, and swear that she bedevils the living. They say she walks at night, jet-black hair and white dress blowing in the wind. But where her face should be, they whisper, there is the head of a horse.
La Llorona has been reported all over Texas in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods. Just about every river or creek is rumored to be the spot where the wicked woman drowned her children in the distant past. And on moonlit nights, they say, you can see her ghostly form bending over the creekbed, her pale arms elbow-deep in the waters, searching for her drowned children.