Creepy Costa Rican Lore
¿Who Needs Halloween?
by Ellen Zoe Golden • photos by Sean Davis
Halloween in Costa Rica is still considered a pagan holiday, a “gringo” import designed to seduce small children with candy towards the greater sugars of consumerism. To most, it’s not really an acceptable celebration, nor should it be if, according to the freaky legends that abound in this country, every night is haunted with fierce specters and vengeful ghouls.
A better-known Costa Rican legend originally spun by old peasant folk to scare youngsters away from moral vices like drunkenness is El Cadejos. It seems a long time ago, a young man named Joaquin from Cartago loved to party. It irked his father so much that finally, after Joaquin got wild drunk on a weeklong binge at local bars, Pops cursed and transformed him into El Cadejos, a terrifyingly huge black dog with fiery eyes destined to wander Costa Rica forever, scaring those who don’t know when to call a halt to evening liquor fiestas.
An equally compelling phantom, La Segua visits the roads and alleys around any town that has a young man who needs to learn a lesson about going directly home at dark. Also originally of Cartago, La Segua is a beautiful woman with porcelain, white-skin blessed with black eyes and long black hair. Yet, because a Spanish officer broke her heart, she became a cursed seductress who entices travelers into giving her a ride. Once aboard their steed (or car), the man who turns toward her sees the babe become a beast, with the face of a horse with large yellow teeth and bloodshot eyes.
Throughout the countryside, La Llorona’s screaming an annoyance. She’s María, who during Colonial times lived in a small town by the Reventazón River on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Unfaithful to her decent, yet absent, husband, she gave birth to a lover’s child and went loca, screaming “va a venir” (it’s coming!) as she tossed her new baby in the river. Regretting both her infidelity and the disposal of her infant, María set off around the country searching every river for her dead child, alarming other young women who might be considering making unwise decisions regarding promiscuous sex with her loud sobbing.
La Mona – the half-monkey, half woman from Puntarenas province that preys on the minds of men – was last heard living in the forest near the Gulf of Nicoya, laughing like a child, hysterical and horrifying in order to entice curious hombres her way. Word has it, when La Mona touches her male victim’s head he’s immediately driven crazy. Just like that.
Of course, there are other Costa Rican creatures that may (or may not) go bump in the night, including the straw-hat clad young girl La Tulevieja, the Witch from Asserí, the Oxcart without a Driver, and more. So take care: Men, women, children and dogs aren’t always what they seem to be in the dark!