Costa Rica, like many countries, is quickly evolving and moving forward. Villages grow and become towns. San Jose, the capital city, looks more and more like any metropolitan area each year.
However, Costa Rica used to be a collection of small villages not too long ago. Much of Costa Rica still has this lovely village culture. Part of this culture involves some unique ghost stories and legends.
The Cadejos is a fantasy animal described as a specter with the shape of a big dog with thick, black, long hair, red-hot eyes, jaguar teeth, and goat feet. The ghost appears at night, dragging its chains in the street.
Traditionally, the Cadejos is the companion of drunkards and any who go out late at night. While the description might make this ghost sound like a scary beast, it actually isn’t. As the stories go, it never attacks or kills anyone. If the Cadejos shows itself to you, it is probably there to get you to change your life.
Origin of El Cadejos
Some versions say it appears specifically to children who don’t want to go to bed. Kids might hear the sound of its claws on the streets or its breath at the window. They might also hear its chains rattling against the road as it walks.
In other versions originating in Escazu, the Cadejos is a young man who drank too much. In some versions, his father cursed him, and in others, God did, for this debauchery.
And in yet another version, a young man was suffering because of his father’s alcoholism. Disguising himself as a black dog, the son surprised his dad as he came home drunk one night. When the father discovered it was his son who had scared him, he cursed him to walk as a dog for eternity. As the legend goes, he goes around scaring any drunk people he finds in the night.
La Cegua, Segua or Tzegua, is a popular specter who appears to lonely men walking through the deserted mountains in the form of a beautiful lady. Traditionally, the Cegua appeared to men on horseback, though nowadays, they say it can appear to men in their cars or motorcycles. As the story goes, the men are usually in committed relationships.
After the victim agrees to give the beautiful girl a ride, her face transforms into a horse skull with rotten meat, red eyes, large broken teeth, and rancid breath. She either kills them with a kiss, or they die of fear. If they do manage to get away, they’ll have a bite on their cheek, marking them as adulterers.
The Cegua has been one of the most terrifying monsters you could encounter throughout Costa Rican history.
There is another version where the Cegua takes the form of a child crying in the mountains. When the horseman picks him up to help him, the child becomes a monster with a horse face.
Origin of La Cegua
As the story goes, the Cegua was a young woman who hit her mother when she wouldn’t let her go to a party. Talk about a tantrum with long-lasting effects!
There are Llorona (crying lady) stories from countries all over Latin America, dating back to prehistoric roots. It is a legend that is particularly easy to apply to many different myths or mysterious appearances.
The indigenous Bribris people of Costa Rica have a version of the Llorona story. They used to say the spirits of rivers and waterfalls sounded like crying mothers. The Bribri name was “itsas,” translated to llorona in English.
Another Costa Rican story talks about a young girl from the country who leaves her town, travels to the city, and gets pregnant. Anguished and lost, she gives birth and throws the baby in the river. Upset about what she has done, she starts wandering along the river, searching for the child she abandoned. While searching for her child, she passes away but doesn’t realize it. Her ghost continues to wander around bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers, looking for her child.
Another popular story is about Tulirá, a beautiful indigenous princess. Her father, the king of Pacacua, promised her to another chief, but she fell in love with a Spanish soldier. They met in secret, and she got pregnant, though her father found out eventually. He challenged the soldier to a duel and killed him. Tulirá fell into despair. Some say she threw her baby into the river, though other stories say her father did. Either way, it drove her insane. As with previous versions, she has been looking for the baby ever since, wandering along rivers and lakes.
Latin American Legends
One of the cool things about legends is how they can change and adapt to each people and culture. Whenever people see something mysterious out of the corner of their eye at night, they know how to explain it. The Cegua or the Llorona has been blamed for all sorts of sounds heard in the night.
Do scary legends like this make you more suspicious or at peace, knowing there’s a reason for the mysterious things you hear and see.