La Lechuza may be a bit obscure when it comes to mainstream monsters, but for residents of Central Mexico, Southern California, and South Texas, the owl-witch is a well-known and frightening cucuy. In the first half of a two-part episode exploring monsters of South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, we examine the tale of the vengeful woman believed to have exchanged her soul for the ability to transform into an enormous barn owl. Having risen from the grave, she carries away and devours unsuspecting men, always searching for the lowlife drunk of a husband who murdered her. Her story is passed down mostly through oral tradition, but here’s a taste of the folklore surrounding La Lechuza:
“Servando Reyes grew up on a ranch in Mexico. At the age of 15, he’d regularly see large white owls peacefully circling the skies above the ranch. He’d grown accustomed to their presence, and paid them little mind.
One night, however, one of those owls swooped down out of the sky and began clawing at his face. His dog attacked the owl, allowing him to flee toward safety. Once he was clear, the dog followed, and the two ran for the ranch house with the owl tearing at their backs. Once inside, they locked the doors. The owl lingered around the doors and windows for a while before finally flying off.
Now this event is out of the ordinary, but not impossible. It’s not so unbelievable that an owl might attack a person. However, once Reyes was confident he’d safely escaped the owl’s wrath, his dog became unusually distant. He called the dog to come eat, but it remained still as a statue, Soon, he realized the dog had died, despite having sustained barely more than a few scratches in the attack. In that moment, Reyes understood he’d been visited by a lechuza. Had his dog not interfered, he too might’ve been killed by the owl-witch.”
Of course, barn owls don’t need much help to be scary. They’re pretty terrifying on their own:
Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys by Xavier Garza
Terror In The Trees: Did Abuela Warn You About La Lechuza? by Backpackerverse
Mexico Unexplained: The Lechuza by Robert Bitto
Beware the Witch-Owl, La Lechuza by Latino USA
Museum theme by Michael Guy Bowman
Listen to more at: bowman.bandcamp.com
Rachel: Designer #UkuleleWitch @rachelvice
Tour Guide: Emery Coolcats
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