From an angry banshee lady haunting the Rio Grande to the famous Bragg Lights deep in the heart of the Big Thicket, Texas offers plenty of tales about strange beasts, ghosts of women searching desperately for their children, and sightings of unexplained lights to keep your friends and family from out of state entertained for days. Be warned, though; these will probably leave you with more questions than answers.
1) La Llorona
Almost every Latin culture knows the story of La Llorona. The people of El Paso are no exception to that. The name Llorona translates to "The Crier," which perfectly describes the behavior of this angry spirit. Part banshee, part horse, and fully creepy, La Llorona haunts the riverbanks of the Rio Grande, searching in vain for her two children she stabbed and threw into the river after her wealthy boyfriend told her he didn't want to marry her because of her children. After killing them, the woman went back to her lover's home, still wearing her bloody nightgown, to show him what she was willing to do to be with him. He was not impressed, but heavily disturbed, and immediately ended their relationship. The story goes in two different directions here, as some people believe she stabbed herself and drowned in the river, while others think an angry mob of people came along and threw her into the Rio Grande. Either way, the heartbroken woman died, and her spirit came back to look for her children. Soon after her death, people began to hear a wailing sound coming from the river, and some have even reported seeing a figure wearing a bloody nightgown, except the head is not that of a human, but a horse. As punishment for her unforgivable sins, she was given the head of a horse. To this day, people are warned about going to the river at night, saying that La Llorona will force you to stay there with her and keep her company.
2) Donkey Lady
Somewhat similar to the first story, the Donkey Lady is said to haunt the Woman Hollering Creek in Seguin between Houston and San Antonio. A young woman had been in a fire supposedly started by her husband, and she lost her two children in the fire. The woman became terribly disfigured, her skin drooping and her fingers turning into dark stumps, or hooves. Instead of a horse head, she was given a donkey head, and some people have reported seeing her along the creek, angry and looking for revenge. One person claimed that the deformed creature even climbed on top of their hood and smashed the windshield, all while screaming and snarling in rage.
3) Hell's Gate at River Legacy Park
In Arlington deep in the forests of River Legacy Park, you will find an ancient trail surrounded by boggy swamps and overhanging trees. At the end of this trail, there's supposedly a large dirt mound in the exact spot where members of the Union Army were executed. If you dare to venture to the spot, you will find parts of the posts that once formed the gate that opened to a tree where the prisoners were hanged. Because of all the tormented spirits still lurking here, it was deemed "Hell's Gate." If you walk along the trail, you can still hear the desperate cries and prayers of the men and women who took their last steps on Earth here.
4) The White Lady of Rio Frio
This story involves the makings of a classic haunting, complete with love, betrayal, and heartache. The White Lady of Rio Frio can supposedly be seen today as a strange wisp of fog near the Frio River in the small community of Rio Frio. The story dates back to the 1900s, when Maria Juarez and her sister lived in the canyon. They were two of the most beautiful senoritas in the land, and Maria hoped to find a loving husband to have children with as her older sister had. Her sister was married to a man named Gregorio, and they had several children together. As Maria grew older, Gregorio couldn't help but notice the beauty of the young woman, but he couldn't have her since he was married to her sister and already had children. However, Maria's overwhelming beauty also caught the eye of a young vaquero named Anselmo Tobar. He began to court Maria, bringing her flowers and professing his love for her. She knew that soon she would be married and have the life she longed for. One summer afternoon, Gregorio pulled her aside, and to her surprise, confessed his feelings about her. She merely scoffed and told him she loved Anselmo and that they would soon be married. This made Gregorio very angry, and his temper scared Maria. She feared for her sister and her children, but ran to the safety of her home where she waited for Anselmo to visit later. However, when she heard a noise outside that night, she assumed it was Anselmo and went outside to greet him. Unfortunately, it was Gregorio, armed with a pistol and a broken heart. He fired a shot straight into her heart, and she died right there, never having the children or husband she so wanted. Her spirit is a kindly one, and people have said she will cover a child on a cold night, or just sit by their bed to protect them. Many claim to have seen a woman dressed in all white roaming the canyon, but no one knows how long her spirit will stay there.
5) Bragg Lights
Perhaps one of the most famous tales of East Texas, many people drive down the gravel logging road late at night in hopes of seeing the Bragg Lights. The Saratoga Lights have been discounted by some as merely swamp gas or headlights, but many argue that if it was swamp gas, wouldn't there be more brushfires reported in the Big Thicket? The most popular story regarding this legend is that the ghost is that of a railroad worker who was decapitated in an accident while at work, and the lights are from his lantern as he forever searches for his head. I myself have seen mysterious lights on this road, and they always appear and disappear very quickly. We can't say for certain what causes the lights, but that's what makes any legend more interesting, anyway, is to not know all the answers!
6) El Muerto
The story goes that a man named Vidal, a Mexican bandit and horse thief, stole horses from the ranch of Texas Ranger Creed Taylor in 1848. He soon discovered the horses were missing, and took off with a neighbor who had also lost horses in order to find the thieves. They both ran into Bigfoot Wallace near Uvalde, and he agreed to join in the hunt. Also a ranger, he had a lot of experience and little forgiveness when it came to horse thieves. Soon after their search began, they found the horse thieves and killed them all. Bigfoot cut off Vidal's head and mounted his body firmly on the saddle of a wild mustang. He also put his decapitated head in a sombrero and secured it with a strap, attaching it to the saddle. The wild mustang roamed South Texas, scaring everyone who encountered it. The duo was named El Muerto, and was blamed for all sorts of misfortunes. A small group untied the man from the saddle, freeing the horse from its grisly rider. Though the corpse was shot many times with both bullets and arrows and buried in a small cemetery, people still claim to see a headless horseman wandering the plains late at night.
7) Blood-Sucking Chupacabra
The chupacabra, or "goat sucker" is a well-known legend in Latin American countries. However, many Texans have reported seeing a four foot tall creature with spikes, claws, and scaly skin ravaging their ranches and killing thousands of goats and other farm animals. The livestock have been found with strange puncture wounds, and their bodies fully drained of blood.
Bigfoot sightings have been reported all over the world, including in Texas. People have claimed to see a large, hairy ape-like creature in the Big Thicket, along the Brazos River in Robertson County, and many other places. We even have a Texas Bigfoot Research Center to investigate all the bigfoot sightings throughout the state, so is it just a legend? Or is there really a prehistoric hairy creature lurking deep in the woods of Texas? I'll leave it for you to decide...
What other urban legends in Texas do you know of that people still talk about today?