Generation after generation of Mexican children have run scared of La Llorona, the weeping or wailing woman depending on who you ask.
The legendary figure apparently committed such a horrific act when alive that her spirit was trapped on Earth when she died. It’s said she now roams the Earth tormenting children, or at least that’s the story whispered into kid’s ears before bedtime.
The legend dates back hundreds of years, from ghostly sightings to folklore tales and appearances in TV shows and films. The latest version came in The Conjuring spin-off The Curse of La Llorona starring Linda Cardellini as a woman who finds herself tormented by the spirit. The film may be fairly straightforward, but the reality is a little more complicated.
Is The Curse of La Llorona a true story?
The most common version of the La Llorona story begins with Maria, a beautiful, but vain woman who marries a very rich man. The pair have two children, but after a few happy years together, their marriage hits the rocks.
Her husband apparently began to spend less time at home, ignoring her but pouring his attention on the children. Then, one day when Maria was walking with her children she sees her husband with another woman. Enraged by what she’s seen she throws the children into the river staring on as they drop into its murky depths. She suddenly realises what’s she’s done and is filled with regret.
Maria runs down the riverbank, wailing: “Ay, mis hijos! ” which translates to ‘Oh, my children! or Oh, my sons!’ She desperately tries to rescue them but to no avail.
Tormented by what she has done Maria drowns herself – some stories argue she died from grief. She’s buried in the village the next day. That’s not the end of the story though, it never is when it comes to spooky myths.
That very night the villagers hear a woman crying and it sounds like Maria’s voice asking “Where are my children?” An eerie figure in a long white robe, like Maria’s burial clothes, is seen walking along the riverbank.
Some versions of the myths claim when she arrived at Heaven’s gates she was refused access and banished to Purgatory on Earth until she could find the children she killed. Later she was dubbed La Llorona meaning the Weeping Woman and apparently roams near rivers, oceans, and bodies of water, but always after dark.
The story has developed over the years with people now saying she kidnaps children who look like her own little ones. Others say she goes after the children that misbehave, which sounds suspiciously like a parent trying to scare their child into being good. Others also say she attacks cheating husbands, but they all have something in common – when she cries, you better start running.
How to keep the Weeping Woman away
People have shared their many traditions for keeping the Wailing Woman away. In some cultures, they use crosses, lights, and prayers to protect their children. The ‘real’ La Llorona, however, doesn’t come into your home or car, like in the movie, she’s a mother in pain.
Maria’s story is the most common telling of the horror tale, but the mythology goes back even further to ancient Greece.
The Greek tale tells of Hera discovering Zeus’ affair with Lamia and forcing the demigoddess to eat her children. Lamia wanders the Earth devouring all the kids she gets her hands on. There’s also the tale of Medea who had two children with Jason the Argonaut. She kills the children after Jason leaves her for another woman.
Apparently, sightings of a weeping lady walking the streets were also reported more than a decade before the Spaniards arrived in the Valley of Mexico in 1519. “This folkloric myth of a woman lamenting the loss of her children was and is a powerful message rooted in the values and cultures of the people. A myth,” Carmen Tafolla, president of the Texas Institute of Letters, told ELLE, “that transmits a valuing of children above all else, of regret and a search for redemption. Her haunting nature and ever-present wails serve as warning signs of danger and the imminent loss of future generations.” Her story became so powerful it was made into a love song ‘Llorona’.
La Llorona sightings
Whether you believe it or not, there have been several sightings of La Llorona. Isla de La Muñecas in Mexico is a common spot where people claim to hear her crying. Woman Hollering Creek in Texas and Launa Canyon in Arizona were named after her because of apparent sightings.
The Paranormal Files team went to visit some of the places La Llorona has apparently been seen and shared their footage on YouTube.
La Llorona movies
The Conjuring’s film isn’t the first cinematic take on the tale. A Mexican film in 1933, called La Llorona, switches between past and present versions of the myth.
The 2006 KM 31: Kilmoetro 31 follows twin sisters dealing with the consequences of a car accident as they call on her spirit. There’s also the 1963 film La Maldición de la Llorona ( The Curse of La Llorona ) and 2013’s Mama, from Andy Muschietti and Guillermo del Toro. The TV series Supernatural even included her in its very first episode.
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Patricia Velásquez, who plays Patricia in the film, knew the story as she grew up in Mexico. She said: “It’s really how our parents make us do what they want to.”
It seems the tale followed her on to set, or rather the Weeping Woman did. Director Chaves told The Los Angeles Times about some “creepy supernatural occurrences” on set. The Conjuring films seem to be surrounded by such tales. The crew who worked on The Nun said they felt and saw ghostly figures when filming. “Half the crew actually does believe the house that we shot in was haunted, and there might have been something to that,” Chaves said.
Velásquez has her own theory. “I think [La Llorona] was there just making sure we were doing right by her,” she added.