As a child growing up in rural South Texas, I have always been fascinated by the local ghost stories and urban legends that have been been told for many, many years around our region. What is unique about South Texas is that we have a blend of two very distinct cultures that have their own history of ghost stories that date back hundreds of years. Throughout time, these two cultures have given South Texas an array of urban legends such as Dancing with the Devil, The Devil's Lagoon, The Lady in Black, and the most famous of all though out the South West region, La Llorona.
I grew up listening and reading about these amazing stories from my father who had this interesting yet mysterious looking book titled Stories That Must Not Die, written by Dr. Juan Sauvageau in the mild 1970's.
As the years past it was getting harder to aquire this book from any local library or book store, yet I managed to find a hard copy online at an educational book store in San Antonio a couple of years ago, (Texas Educational Systems) for about $25.00...a great buy for such a classic book! I did a little more digging into the book and found out that it is currently in its 15th edition since 1975! What I found odd was the lack on info about Dr. Sauvageau and his interest in developing this book back in the day. So, if your keen on folklore and the paranormal, this is one you don't want to pass.
In this series of works titled, South Texas Lore, I wanted to capture the spirit of some of these famous stories with vibrant colors and a whimsical approach in terms of style. As much as I love the simplistic renditions in Dr. Sauvageau's book (they were done by artist:...., I wanted to create my version with a bit more depth in terms of color and line quality, as I have been influenced heavily by such great illustrators as Author Rackham, Max Ernst, and Peter DeSeve. I have been drawing and painting for almost twenty years now and it was just logical step for me to create this series as a token to my love of the paranormal. Along with my illustrations, I have developed short stories that accompany each image. A lot more are on their way as soon as I get better at developing my site. So for the meantime, I hope you all enjoy the artwork and the insiparation behind them.
There have been many accounts of this strage creature throughout the Southwest and Mexico for the past century. The Lechuza has its origins in the rural communities in Mexico and till this day, people still have wicked encounters with the "Owl Lady". In one of my works titled La Lechuza de Linburgo, Tejas (2010), I wanted to illustrate the story of certain indigenous women called “Brujas” or Mexican Witches who are known for practicing both ancient medicine and black magic plus at times have the power to transform themselves into giant owls and prey on those who have done them wrong or steal children for ritual purposes. Apart from the traditional European witches we are familiar with, these Lechuzas have their origins in the rural parts of Mexico where old communities still believe in their power of witchcraft and transfiguration. (Tingle, Moore. 2004.p171) It is believed that they work for Satan to lure or capture children for rituals. They have not only have the power to transforms themselves into giant owls, they can also change their voice as that of a baby crying outside as to lure you to step outside for a brief moment.
There are several ways to keep them adrift from you or your loved ones. One way would be to lay blessed salt (exorcism salt) around your house as a means of preventing them from entering or attacking you inside. Another would be to close all your curtains and windows tight with a religious relic like a rosary or a cross. And I have also heard from some elders to use deep prayer and tying knots on a handkerchief to extinguish them and their cries.
The work itself was done with basic watercolors but the image had been in my mind since childhood when my grandmother used to tell me about her neighbor being a real Bruja and always keeping an eye out for bad kids! You can only imagine how scared I was when I had to sleep over and my bedroom window was facing directly opposite of the old burjas house!
This particular story is about a young couple who were to get married sometime in the late 1800's in the outskirts of Raymondville, Texas...a small community called San Perlita, formally known as San Rosita. Supposedly the couple were late to their own wedding and were looking to find the fastest route to the small chapel where a small group of family members were anxiously awaiting for their arrival. For some strange reason, they had different stagecoach handler ready to assist them to their wedding. They were too busy and concerned to ask him any questions a proceeded to quickly enter the stagecoach. With a strong whistle and crack of his whip, the black horses took off as fast as they got there. The young couple were so anxious to get there they did not notice the speed they were traveling, but suddenly the groom noticed that they were not going towards the usual direction of the chapel but confided in the stage handler's path, hoping it was a short cut. Well, it was a sort of shortcut but not anywhere near the chapel. They got to an old white bridge that went over a shallow lagoon and as soon as they got towards the middle of the bridge it suddenly started to collapse and the couple were in deep fear of not making it to their wedding...but most of all their lives! They tried very hard to escape the sinking coach, but the doors were hard to open with all the mud creeping in. It was getting helpless and both were yelling for some help. They looked out once more before they completely sunk in and noticed that the stage handler's face was that of a demon! The couple knew their fate and held each other tight an began to pray for one last time. They also took their own vows and promised to be together in the afterlife. Eventually, the lagoon consumed them and the stagecoach and were never seen nor heard of again until the 1960's when a group of boys were partying by the lagoon right after a Friday football game. It is rumored that on moonlit nights you can see the apparition of a ghostlike carriage coming out of the lagoon with two eerie looking passengers yelling for some help. They had heard of the tale by some of the locals and decided to see for themselves if it would appear on moonlit nights...but as the 'ol saying goes, be careful what you wish for...it might come true. In this case, all the boys were spooked and quickly ran towards their cars never to go again. Over the years, these boys have told their account of that frightful night to many people who are curious about the Devil's Lagoon, and have not changed their story. Take it as it is, the town kept having party goers, ghost hunters, toursits coming over to have a chance to witness this apparition, but the city changed its name to San Perlita as away to divert the attention away from it's paranormal history.
Well it so happens that I, myself, went to the Devil's Lagoon while in college with a group of friends after a summer night of cooking BBQ, laughing, and telling ghost stories. The night was perfect with a full moon out and a slight cool breeze coming from the east. I'll spare you all the beginning details, but as soon as we got there the sheer look and "vibe" of the lagoon was that of eerie and "not good" as one friend put it. As we left (ran!) back to our cars, a local cop stopped us and asked us why were we riding out of San Perlita so fast. We told him the truth...that we came to visit the 'ol Devil's Lagoon. He gave us a smile and asked for our driver's licences. We came out clean, thank God! Before he released us, he asked us if we saw anything. We said "no", but felt a weird vibe from the area. He told us that it's very common people come out this late just to visit the site and has heard multiple people seeing the apparition. Just to be friendly, I asked the officer if her ever went to the Lagoon...he just smiled and told me that the couple who died were his great grand parents. We were shocked to say the least. So as we took off, we were quietly driving back home in the wee hours of the morning then all of a sudden my cousin began freaking out at what the cop said to us..."how can that cop say those were his great grandparents if they died in the stage coach over a hundred years ago!?" We seriously began to wonder about that in the car. Why would he say that? Well, with a little digging in the yellow pages (before internet) the following day, I called the police department at San Perlita about a certain cop who stopped us on the way back home. I described his features because I did not catch his name and the secretary did not have a clue of who we were describing. Towns that small don't have many cops and would have known who I was describing. Could it have been a ghost we were talking to? Who knows, but what I did find curious about the cop was not him, but his car...it was kind of outdated, almost like a cop car from the late 70's. It also had the original name of San Rosita on its side doors. Hmm....
Here's one for the die hard urban legend fan! Who has not heard of this story?! If you haven't, you need to look it up ASAP! There have been many versions of this particular story circulating throughout South Texas. Again, Juan Sauvageau's version is probably the most read about, but if you dig in and do your research through old books or the web, you'll find many articles and postings of various stories dealing with a young woman who happens to go to a cantina, disco, or dance hall against her mother's will and ends up dancing with a handsome stranger who eventually happens to be the devil himself! Really great moral for those who like to sneak out of the house during the wee hours of the night.
In my version titled, "El Diablo in la Zona" (The Devil at BoysTown), he is seen in a Mexican Strip club waiting for the right woman to get a table dance from and most important...her soul! It is believed that the Devil did actually appeared at several bars simultaneously yet in different locations across Texas and Mexico. One famous account, which was posted in The Monitor (McAllen's local newspaper) in October of 2010, we hear the story of a local DJ who was working in a night club called 'Boccaccio's 2000' in 1979 and happens to be there on that fateful night! He recounts the story of seeing a stranger walk into the club and begins to dance with a young woman. The club eventually started to smell like sulfer...the scent of evil, and people began to run out of the club as soon as they saw the stranger's legs change into hoofs. In other stories, most notably in San Antonio, people actually saw his legs in the more traditional manor of having chicken's foot on his left and a goat's hoof on his right. This difference in the DJ's story is that the woman survives as still lives in South Texas. I have done my research and yet to have any leads to whom this woman is. I hope someday, she will provide the public her account of the story to set the record straight...but do we really want that? Probably not, the story itself is alive and rapidly becoming one of Texas's biggest urban legend. Its also a wonderful story to pass down from one generation to another.